Grit, meaning to have courage and resolve, be tenacious, and able to persevere through adversity is not only used to describe the toughest warriors and soldiers but has become the hottest term in child development today.
Parents everywhere are trying to figure out how best to ensure their children are filled to the brim with grit. They all want the grittiest kid on the block and are looking to experts everywhere to show them the way.
The Washington Post even goes so far as to say that grit is the key ingredient to success and happiness in children.
But how can parents effectively teach grit? Well, they can’t exactly.
Grit is intrinsic and cannot be achieved through traditional methods of a token economy. Working toward a reward, adding stickers to a chart, or getting a prize at the end of the game doesn’t achieve the personal meaning and significance needed to encourage grit.
In order to grow strength of character, internal determination, and stamina parents should seek programs and instructors that embrace the following coaching methods. Through these methods children gain confidence, build on successes and failures, thus creating a heartier disposition that can power through difficult situations.
1. Start with a child’s interests. Parents should seek out activities and programs that their child wants to participate in. This seems like a no-brainer, but so often children are pushed into activities that their parents are interested in and not ones that actually interest the child. When a child is naturally interested in pursuing something, their internal motivation to succeed is higher. Piggybacking on these initial feelings of success and motivation can naturally begin to grow into persistence for difficult tasks.
2. Have a plan. In gymnastics, a trained coach, developed curriculum, and prepared environment are precursors to a successful student. Parents should be sure to select a program that is intentional in its curriculum. Having clear end goals and milestones will allow children to see what needs to be done in order to succeed.
3. Communicate goals clearly. It doesn’t simply end at the plan, instructors, teachers, and coaches must be able to clearly articulate what is necessary for success in order for children to succeed. Goals and objectives should be clear up front, with measurement milestones included. Children should be provided with clear instruction, repetitions of small successes, building to bigger goals and achievements.
4. Use rewarding language. Celebrating individual successes in children are important to growing their confidence. Programs should emphasize individual improvement and achieving personal best over the “winning” mentality. Also, instead of handing out generic praise, coaches should be specific, and make it personal to the child. Instead of stating “I really like how you did that!” something more precise, placing the achievement on the child is more beneficial. “You really got your leg up high during that kick. Nice job!” The child gets specific feedback and the focus of the praise less about pleasing someone else and more about achievement.
While grit cannot be taught formally, it can be achieved though the right programs and instructors. Parents should talk with their child, attend an introductory class, and talk to other parents, if necessary before selecting a program.