Have you ever made a huge mistake that turned out to be a great learning experience? As parents, we can teach our children that it’s not the failure itself that leaves the greatest impact, but how we react or respond to that failure.
Children tend to be pretty black and white, so they think of everything in terms of success or failure. Young people need to know that it’s entirely within their power to not only turn a failure around, but to benefit from it. Rather than being discouraged by setbacks, children can learn to view failures as tools to learn what to do differently in the future.
In reference to his many failed attempts at his light bulb invention, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” I, for one, am extremely thankful for his tenacity!
What predicts success?
Some may think that probability of succeeding is directly related to IQ or talent. However, research is showing that success is much more about grit. Grit is passion, dedication to long term goals, stamina, and tenacity. Grit produces kids that are ready to take on challenges and rock our world!
The great news is that more and more research suggests that kids aren’t born with grit, but it can be taught and developed. Studies show that the most successful are those who focus on the current task at hand, persevere through difficulty, and don’t have the “grass-is-greener” mindset. Those who thrive and flourish tend to be those who are motivated, have self-control, and most importantly, a positive attitude!
Tips for developing grit.
Here are some ways to nurture the stick-to-itiveness in your child that will help him/her succeed in whatever they choose to pursue:
- Read books and watch movies about people who overcame, then celebrate it! Steve Jobs is a great example of perseverance in the face of trial.
- Talk about grit. Empower them by helping kids put their problems in perspective.
- Challenge them intellectually and academically, keeping in mind age and maturity appropriateness.
- Develop intentional habits—acting with purpose.
- Acknowledge that grit often requires sacrifice. Frequently, the sacrifice is time or money, but it can also mean losing sleep or social opportunities and even stepping out of your comfort zone.
- Teach discernment—knowing when to quit.
- Start early—for young children, scripted play/drama can help teach them to control their urges and desires by staying in character and sticking to the rules of the drama.
- Teach students to anticipate and plan for possible obstacles.
- Encourage activities that develop self-discipline and perseverance, like Taekwondo, sports, or drama.
- Let your kids take risks. Unfortunately, grit is often squelched (especially in boys) as mommas are sometimes afraid, when in reality, taking risks is an important way that kids learn. Psychologists say that kids who aren’t allowed to take risks grow up to be adults with fears and phobias and are likely the cause of so many young adults still living at home and having that dreaded ‘failure-to-launch’ syndrome. We need to encourage them to try new things, even when it’s a little scary.
- Teach the art of conflict resolution. Assist them in navigating difficult circumstances, but don’t do it for them.
- Promote perseverance—even naturally gifted people have to work hard. Make sure they follow through for whatever they signed up for. Encourage them to push through the difficult thing.
- Encourage your child, but don’t push too much. Yes, it is a tricky balance. Renee and Mike Mosiman’s The Smarter Preschooler describes this as creating an intellectually stimulating environment vs an intellectually demanding environment.
- Being bored, confused, and frustrated sometimes is normal. Struggling can make a kid feel that he is “stupid” or “dumb,” but don’t be too quick to offer a solution. Instead, give him time to figure it out. It is very empowering when a child realizes that he can solve problems and figure out solutions.
- Praise effort, perseverance, focus, and strategies. In Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, she discusses the adverse effect of praising intellect or physical attributes. Dweck suggests telling students that “every time you push out of your comfort zone to learn hard things, your brain grows new connections and you get smarter.” This truth alone may give hope to and motivate a disengaged or discouraged student.
- Set an example and model calmness and determination with your own struggles. We tend to want to hide our struggles and failures from our kids, but our kids greatly benefit from watching us handle a frustrating situation well. Make a point of mom or dad sharing how they overcame an obstacle at work.
- Find what motivates your child. Kids tend to work hard on things that they are interested in and care about.
- Teach that effort strongly influences outcome.Don’t forget that Biblical truth, ‘we reap what we sow.’
The world needs innovators and inventors, so teach your child some grit!
Homeschooling is not just filling an empty cup, but igniting a fire.
For further reading:
- Larry Ferlazzo’s Helping Students Motivate Themselves is one of his many books on teaching students to be self-motivated.
- “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”
- How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character