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Grit: Why it Matters and How to Foster it in Children

Grit: Why it Matters and How to Foster it in Children

Posted By: Lindsay M. Klimik, Psy.D.

Leading researcher and psychologist, Angela Duckworth, defines gritas the “perseverance and passion towards long-term goals.”Achievement of difficult goals requires not only talent, but also the sustained and focused application of talent over time.

Grit is the ability to work towards goals and through challenges over time, without giving up, even when faced with adversity, plateaus or failure.

In psychology research, grit has been found to be related to successful outcomes in a variety of situations, including the following:

  • Educational attainment
  • Grade point average among Ivy League undergraduates
  • Retention in two classes of West Point Cadets
  • Ranking in the National Spelling Bee

Some researchers even argue that grit is among other important predictors of success, such as intelligence and talent.

So if “stick-to-itiveness” is so important, how do we help our kids become “grittier?” The answer here, is less clear.

Research about how to enhance grit to help individuals succeed is just beginning.

However, the following strategies have shown some promise:

1. Help kids find greater meaning in their goals.

2. Work with the kids to develop a “growth mindset” rather than a “fixed mindset.”

  • The brain is constantly developing and making new connections.
  • Experiences, especially failure, help new connections grow.
  • Teach children that their talents, including intelligence, can be developed.

3. Teach kids about how important thoughts and beliefs are on the ability to succeed.

  • Use positive self-talk.
  • Teach kids to “coach” themselves, rather than criticize when things get tough.

4. Model grit yourself.

  • Show your kids how to handle setbacks without giving up.
  • Lead through example and talk aloud about ways you push yourself toward your goals, and solve problems, especially in the face of failure or plateaus.

5. Focus on the process instead of the end product.

  • Praise kids for how hard they worked on something, rather than on outcome, such as grades.

6. Focus on states, not stable traits.

  • Say, wow, “You stuck with it, even though it was hard.” Rather than, “You are so smart, I knew you could do it!”