5 Ways to help children develop GRIT

5 Ways to Help Children Develop GRIT

Prepare the child for the path; not the path for the child.  (author unknown)

Over fifty years ago, Emmy Werner, a psychologist did a groundbreaking four decade study of hundreds of children living on the Hawaiian island, Kauai. One third of the kids were born into poverty or faced problems such as family discord, parental mental illness, and substance abuse. As expected, any of these children developed serious problems themselves such as behavior issues, substance abuse and mental health problems. 

But a surprising number, developed into competent, confident, and caring adults despite the adversity. What made the difference? Despite enormously different trauma, the resilient children shared two strengths:  they all had a strong bond with at least one supportive adult and they each had a set of learned traits that helped them meet the world on their own terms.  They learned to rely on themselves not others to solve their problems. It is possible for children who face adversity to develop into adults who are adept at handling hardship. These are children who develop GRIT, passion and persistence, both necessary ingredients for success. 

How to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child

Here are five ways as educators and parents we can develop children with grit who are not only successful but capable of handling failure or disappointment as well.

1 Connect–Take time to listen and develop the relationship.  We all need to know that someone cares about us, our feelings, our experiences and our perceptions of the world. You don’t have to always agree  but do take the time to listen.

2.  Believe– Teach children to believe in themselves by believing in them first.  Let them know the potential, the strengths, the talents that you see in them.  Especially in the face of failure,  you may need to remind them of those abilities that you see so clearly. Teach them to be problem solvers who learn from failure instead of giving up. 

3. Expect achievement-Don’t settle for less than you know your child can deliver.  Encourage them to set big goals and then stretch to reach them. Help them relish the challenge and obstacles involved. Encourage them to develop problem solving mental muscles and to see failure as a time to learn and grow.

4.  Hold them accountable– Some of the best lessons learned are those that are the hardest.  Help them develop persistence and perseverance by encouraging a never give up mentality. Don’t accept excuses and rationalizations.  Remind them that even when they don’t feel motivated, the team, the community, their family is counting on them to give their best. Sometimes we don’t experience success until we learn to push past our own resistance.

5. Celebrate effort— Recognize the goals accomplished and the effort involved in reaching them.  Even in the face of failure show your excitement and approval for the energy and focus that it took to stay the course. 

Looking for an excellent read on resilience? I recommend:

Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings


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