7 Ways to Develop Grit in Your Kids

“Grit” has recently become a popular buzzword in parenting and education. It’s defined by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

According to Duckworth, grit is a better indicator of future success than IQ or talent. It’s a combination of determination, focus, passion, and resilience. It’s the ability to persevere in the face of challenges and failure.

If you want to help your child develop the all-important tool of grit, here are seven ways to do it.

  1. Be a positive role model.

Children are often mirrors of their parents, so model “grittiness” for your child. Here’s how:

  • Handle your mistakes with positivity and/or humor.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to face challenges and persevere.
  • Discuss mistakes and setbacks with your child, even asking your child for advice when appropriate.
  1. Allow your child to make mistakes, and teach him to accept them.

It’s tempting to cushion our children from failure, but doing so only prevents them from learning valuable coping skills.

Instead of preventing your child from failing, teach him how to handle failure appropriately.

  • Teach your child that failure is only an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and devise new and better strategies. “What went wrong this time? How can we prevent that from happening next time?”
  • Take a cue from the father of Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx: He had his children share their mistakes at the dinner table each night. These mistakes were then celebrated, because if Sara and her brother hadn’t failed that day, then they hadn’t tried anything challenging enough.
  • Or follow the example of Kelly Holmes, author of Happy You, Happy Family: When her child gets a spelling word wrong as they practice, Holmes gives her a high five and says, “High five, you’re learning!”
  1. Help your child set goals.

Work with your child to set at least one long-term goal, and then help him stick with it.

Here are some goal-setting strategies you can use with your child:

  • Let your child choose the goal, so it’s something that is meaningful to him.
  • Break the big goal down into incremental steps that will make it more achievable.
  • Discuss potential obstacles, and make an action plan for how your child will handle these obstacles if they occur.
  • Write it all down: Professor Gail Matthews found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you just put it in writing.
  1. Teach your child to problem solve.

When your child does struggle with problems or setbacks, brainstorm ways to solve the problem. You can offer suggestions like, “What if you stayed after school to get some extra help from your teacher?” or, “What if you started your homework a little earlier?”

But it’s important to let your child contribute ideas too. This shows your child that problems are solvable, and it gives him a sense of power and control in the face of challenges.

  1. Praise effort, not ability.

Stanford University psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck emphasizes the importance of teaching your child a growth mindset by praising effort instead of ability.

When you praise effort, your child learns that he can achieve anything through hard work and practice.

When you praise ability, your child receives the message that traits like intelligence are “fixed.” If he encounters a setback, he’ll feel that he’s reached the limit of his ability and is more likely to give up instead of exerting increased effort.

  1. Nurture your child’s passions.

Passion is a major component of grit, so help your child find and pursue his passions.

Be supportive: You may want your child to be a star athlete, only to find that his true passion is chess. If that’s the case, be accepting and encouraging. This will nurture both your child’s grit and his self-esteem.

  1. Be a family that embraces challenges.

Angela Duckworth’s family follows the “Hard Thing Rule,” which specifies that each member of the family must do one “hard thing.” It must be something that requires practice, and that allows for feedback and opportunities to get better.

Family members must “try again and again” and continue improving.

By using any or all of these seven strategies, you’ll help your child develop the powerful tool of grit!

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