The Road to Success – Instilling Grit in Your Children (part 2 of 2)

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By Joel Fehsenfeld, LCSW, Courier & Press, Nov. 1, 2016 –

In last week’s column we discussed what many people believe to be the secret to their success: grit. In short review, grit is the balanced combination of passion and perseverance but not one without the other.

According to Angela Duckworth, awarded the MacArthur Fellowship for her research on success, one of the first steps to instilling grit in your child is to put a challenge in front of them. Give your child the opportunity to pursue at least one difficult task that requires discipline and practice, like playing a musical instrument or a sport.

Once given the challenge, have your child follow through. Feelings of frustration can surface at times, but resist the urge to take over or let them quit. Learning isn’t always easy, so helping your child think through the steps teaches them to deal with and overcome adversity.

If your child fails at the task at hand, it’s okay. Being able to pick yourself up after hitting a low moment is a crucial skill a child should learn; that is how perseverance is instilled. Remind your child it is possible to be smart, accomplished and successful and still lose or fail at times.

Share with your child your own hard-fought battles and challenges. Some feel the most important skill a child needs to learn is the ability to get back up after a fall.  Encourage them and model that failure is nothing to be afraid of. A simple do-it-yourself project in the home can be a great opportunity to show a child some of the challenges grown-ups face.

Another way to build grit in your child is to develop a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” describes a growth mindset as the journey of improving and strengthening your abilities through hard work, effort, good strategies and/or help and input from others. This mindset opposes the belief that your talents, intelligence and abilities are set in stone.

Dweck has come up with some tips to encourage your children to develop a growth mindset. The first step is to praise their effort, strategies and choices rather than their ability or intelligence. Kids will be more apt to take on challenges and stick with something if the praise they receive is directed toward the work they put in rather than their natural ability or intelligence. Demonstrate that a little bit of elbow grease goes a long way toward improvement.

Responding positively to failure is a critical lesson to learn. They also need to learn that not being perfect is okay. Helping your child set goals teaches them a step toward success and equips them with the skills to achieve the task at hand.

Instilling grit in your children does take effort and consistency, but in the long run the results will benefit them in many aspects of their life. If you would like to learn more about grit, check out Angela Duckworth’s website and take the grit scale at angeladuckworth.com or check out this TED Talk presentation by Angela Duckworth at youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8.