Grit helps children push on through. Find out how to raise kids with grit and perseverance — and increase their chances for success.
Most people would agree that how children succeed comes from hard work. Reaching an achievement requires practice and effort not for the lazy. But we forget one underlying factor essential for success: pure, simple grit.
Every one of us—including our kids—will fail. Despite hard work, we won’t always get what we want or what we strive for.
But grit keeps us from giving up. With grit, we bounce back. We grieve expectations and losses. We learn from mistakes. And we try again, and again.
Kids are better suited to grit than most adults and are some of the most resilient among us. Think about the baby learning to walk despite a zillion falls, bumps and scrapes. Or the preschooler who will park himself in front of a puzzle until he completes it.
How to raise kids with grit and perseverance
Somewhere along the way, we sometimes lose this skill. We get down on ourselves when we don’t know all the answers. Or we’d rather be complacent than learn something new.
How can we raise kids with grit, resilience and perseverance?
1. Embrace struggle and mistakes
The only way to develop grit is to be able to face the struggles and mistakes to bounce back from.
When you see your toddler trying to piece the two Lego together, don’t interrupt. He might not figure it out, even for weeks or months. But he’ll have learned to build the resilience to keep trying and to know when to let it go.
And treat mistakes as some of the best teachers that they are. They’re not something to feel ashamed of, but areas to improve.
We all want to hear our kids are brilliant. When their teachers say they’re reading above grade level, we beam. But when we hear they struggled with their long-vowel sounds, we panic for a moment.
Don’t. Your kids won’t master everything and will fall short of something for being the humans they are. Treat shortcomings as markers for where to focus on. Mistakes aren’t terrible—we can learn so much from them.
This outlook has offered me a new way to look at easy versus hard, especially with my kids’ abilities. I don’t praise my child for breezing through homework. Instead, I make a note that he needs more challenging work.
2. Let kids take risks
If you’re like me, your heart races when your toddler climbs on playground equipment. Why don’t they put more metal bars on the sides? I think. They could fall right off!
But I try not to hover over my kids and let them take appropriate risks instead. I also try not to say, “Be careful!” every 10 seconds and instead offer my help, or a suggestion.
Because risks are good. Kids need to feel like they can master difficulty and yes, even danger. In taking risks, kids overcome the doubt that comes with trying new things.
3. Expose kids to new experiences and environments
Routine is good. But once in a while, expose your kids to new experiences and places. With you nearby, they’ll learn that the unfamiliar can be something exciting. Or at least, something to learn from.
Is your child afraid of something, like the beach for instance? Before you write the beach off as a place you won’t ever go back to, consider returning once in a while. Let your child gradually acclimate herself. She needs time to explore on her own terms, not on your expectations. With enough exposure and gentle guidance, she’ll learn that the beach can be a fun place to visit.
The same is true for different environments. Take them to festivals, libraries, and the pool. Introducing new experiences helps them overcome initial wariness and face it with confidence.
4. Let kids pursue a passion
Encourage self-motivation through your child’s passions. If she’s already interested, she’ll likely stick with it, even through its challenges.
What do you do if your child is interested in something you’re not? Or one that other kids don’t typically like? Don’t judge—everyone has their own interests. Kids don’t always have to play the “right way.”
Support your child’s passions and inklings, no matter how different they may be from your own. This thirst for more will prepare him for better focus and grit.
5. Encourage effort, hard work, finding strategies.
I’m not a fan of typical praise, and prefer the ones that focus on effort. When kids believe they’re “a natural,” they’re more likely to avoid trying. Why try, if they’re supposed to be good at it already?
Praise effort and hard work: “All right! You didn’t give up when the puzzle got hard, and look at you now—you’ve gotten so many pieces together.” Or praise them for finding new strategies and correcting their mistakes. “I like how you found a new way to stack those blocks. Now the roof is holding up well.”
Focusing on effort instead of innate skills teaches kids to keep trying, even when it’s hard. They’ll embrace challenge, not complacency.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth writes in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (affiliate link):
“In my view, the biggest reason a preoccupation with talent can be harmful is simple: By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows. We inadvertently send the message that these other factors—including grit—don’t matter as much as they really do.”
6. Love the journey, not the end
Back in high school and college, I used to dance in groups. I was part of the dance team, and I also belonged to cultural dance and hip hop groups. In all those years, I can barely remember my time on stage.
But the process of getting to that stage… amazing. I loved bonding with folks I wouldn’t have known. Busting your butts to finally do a splits (wish I could still do them!). Laughing, eating and sharing stories. Inside jokes.
Life experiences are like that, aren’t they? You remember the hard work of getting there the most. You practice and work and improve, and you build resilience.
Yes, the goal is to “win” or perform or solve a puzzle or create an art piece. But you’ll get there much wholesomely—and have more fun—with hard-earned grit.
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Get more tips on how to encourage grit:
- How to Teach Our Kids to Embrace Mistakes
- How to Respond when Your Child Makes a Mistake
- How to Raise a Smart Child
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- How to Prepare Your Child for College (Because It’s Not Too Early)
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tips on how to raise kids with grit and perseverance? How does teaching resilience and perseverance helped your child?
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