What's more important for success than talent, social skills, motivation, IQ, or practice? It's a scrappy little quality called "grit." This week, the Savvy Psychologist offers 8 tips to cultivate grit in kids--or yourself!
Tip #4: Teach Courage
Courage is closely aligned with grit. Courage isn’t merely doing challenging things--it’s being afraid, and then digging in your heels and trying anyway. In other words, fear is a prerequisite to courage.
Tip #5: Encourage Long-Term Commitment
The specific activity—piano, gymnastics, chess—doesn’t matter as much as the effort. Let kids try out different activities until they find one they love and want to stick with. And by ‘try out,’ I don’t mean one lesson: ask them to hang in there for the season or the semester. If, after that, the activity really isn’t a match for them, don’t re-register--but do ask them to try something else.
Tip #6: The Growth Mindset
This concept has been all over popular psychological science recently, but it bears repeating.
In short, in a fixed mindset, kids believe that their intelligence or abilities are set traits that render them successes or failures, regardless of effort. However, in a growth mindset, kids learn that their intelligence or abilities can be developed through—you guessed it—gritty hard work and perseverance.
So, teach kids that the brain is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Initial failures and struggles are just the brain pumping iron on the way to success.
Tip #7: Use Visual Reminders to Encourage Perseverance and Delayed Gratification
For example, for little kids saving for a big purchase, ditch the piggy bank and save coins in a clear jar, so they can see their progress. For kids trying to change a habit, or to encourage practice, use a visual token system—for instance, they get a marble in a jar every time they practice piano, or for every day they don’t bite their nails. When the jar is full, they get a previously agreed-upon reward (and, of course, the satisfaction of a job well done.)
Tip #8: Grit Won’t Apply to Every Situation
Kids won’t be particularly gritty at something they hate. So don’t overstate grit as the cure for hating algrebra or hating sports—grit is about hanging in there for the passion, not about, “you’re going to do it no matter what, and you’re going to like it.” Passion increases grit, but grit allows kids to pursue their passion..
Burkhart, R.A., Tholey, R.M., Guinto, D., Yeo, C.J., & Chojnacki, K.A. (2014). Grit: A marker of residents at risk for attrition? Surgery, 155, 1014-22.
Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverence and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1087-1101.