Teaching Grit

As an individual who grew up in a highly athletic environment, grit and/or mental toughness were almost natural byproducts. You played and worked hard, you didn’t quit and you earned what you deserved.

gritI can’t ever recall just showing up and automatically winning a prize! But I also recognize that the attributes of grit and mental toughness were taught to me, in most instances, positively. There were many adults in my life that instilled those qualities and I’m grateful.

I would like to say that I’ve been forever grateful, but the truth is that it is just been in my later years that I’ve come to understand the importance of grit/mental toughness. My revelation certainly comes from my own learning but sadly I have become more aware from the increase in mental health issues that populate our schools. Grit is not well established in the millennial generation or many of the students entering our schools today. Simon Sinek speaks to this issue in his interview On Millennials in the Work Place. While everyone would benefit from listening to this 15 minute clip, I would suggest that it is a must for every parent, educator and corporate/industry leader.

It is not easy being a parent in today’s society and I certainly wasn’t a perfect parent. I’m hoping that from what I’ve learned I’ll be a far better grandparent. But I know there are some helpful hints to teaching grit and developing stronger and more resilient children. Here are some for you to ponder:

  1. Don’t jump in and save your child when it is not life threatening. Snowplow parents (clearing away all of the issues) or helicopter parents (hovering around all the time) do nothing to develop grit.
  2. Provide children with age appropriate responsibility and expectations. Chores are not mean, child slave labor is! Homework or class projects are their responsibility not yours!  High expectations with support should be the norm.
  3. Every child is unique and will learn at different rates. Don’t put undo stress on your children when they don’t meet arbitrary milestones.
  4. Children need to learn to deal with stress. Protect them from toxic stress and assist them to work through tolerable stress. Know the difference and respond appropriately.
  5. Remember learning is about making mistakes, readjusting and then retrying. Mistakes are part of the learning process.
  6. Reward and reinforce hard work and effort. Focus on improvement not just the end result. Role model a growth mindset to your children.
  7. Become a learner yourself. There are some great resources out there on brain development which will assist in developing strong and resilient children. Check out the resources available through the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative.
  8. Watch your language! “Just suck it up” or “Be a man” are not necessarily your best strategies for developing resilient kids. As an aside, please watch this short trailer from The Mask You Live In.
  9. Spend quality time with your child. They need help in developing human relationships without electronics. Relationships are more than just “likes” on social media.
  10. Let your kids live their own life, your childhood dreams are over. Don’t live your dreams through them…please!

My list contains 10 but there are many more. The challenge however is to share them and to help each other in growing communities full of strong and resilient children.

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