“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas. A. Edison
In this day and age of one-click shopping and binge-watching TV shows, our desire to want and have things NOW is stronger than ever. It works fine for certain aspects of life like food, movies, even dating; while others need significant time, effort and patience. The stuff that really matters in life – joy, fulfilment, love, achievement – all require perseverance and sustained efforts.
In a culture where we seem to value and celebrate “natural talent” over hard work and persistence, raising children with grit would need the parents to believe otherwise. We cannot choose our child’s level of intelligence or talent that he or she was born with but we can facilitate and equip our children to choose what they are passionate about and know how much amount of effort they want to put into it.
Lionel Messi says it took him 17 years and 114 days of hard work, toil, discipline, homesickness, illnesses, family issues and much more – to become an overnight success. Tesla’s first attempt to land a rocket at sea failed, Thomas Edison failed several times before inventing the light bulb and 12 major publishers rejected the Harry Potter script. There are numerous such examples of persistence and grit in the face of struggle and failure.
Angela Duckworth is the world’s leading expert on “grit”. As Duckworth defines it, grit is passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way. It combines resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades.
We can grow grit from the inside out by focusing on interest, practice, purpose, and hope, and from the outside in by creating an environment for our children that values discipline, provides support, and encourages learning.
- Interest: Find your child’s area of interest or activity that she loves or is passionate about. Even if you or your child hasn’t found your passion or life’s calling yet, you can still work on the habits and traits that build grit. It is hard to stick to something in the long-term if you don’t care enough about it.
- Practice: Practice, or more specifically, deliberate practice, helps develop skill in children. Coined by cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson, deliberate practice includes setting a clearly defined stretch goal, giving your full concentration and effort, seeking feedback to improve weaknesses, making it a habit through repetition and refinement. The idea is to commit children to something for a significant amount of time and work hard at it.
- Purpose: The difference between a person who simply works hard and a gritty person is a sense of purpose. It is about knowing why you do what you do. And often, the purpose is higher than just self. For children, it can be difficult to find their purpose or calling until they turn teenagers and sometimes even after teenage years. As facilitators, we must encourage and guide children towards self-awareness to find the ‘why’ of their actions.
- Hope: Duckworth says you need an active type of hope. You must believe that things will improve because you will improve them. You know you will get better because you will work hard and keep at it. As she mentions in her book, “The hope that gritty people have is nothing to do with luck but everything to do with getting up again.”
Paul Tough, author of ‘How Children Succeed!‘ says, “Lots of parents don’t want to talk about their failures in front of their kids, but that’s denying kids the potentially powerful experience of seeing their parents bounce back.”
To teach children to be gritty and resilient, we need to show them real examples of how failures and setbacks can lead to success—by talking about them regularly, sharing our own experiences, and most importantly allowing them to fail.
As parents, it is important that we don’t let our protective instincts rob our kids of experiences with hard-won victories. When we value effort and celebrate the process, we are walking the talk “Success is a journey, not a destination”.