by Meghan Fitzgerald
That’s why we’ve become so interested in grit. Psychologist, Angela Duckworth, defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Duckworth studied how a wide range of people fared in challenging situations, from cadets entering West Point to teachers starting out in struggling communities. Across all, grit was the one characteristic that emerged as a significant predictor of their success. Not to mention, high school GPA, something that requires sustained effort, is also more predictive of success in college than either standardized tests or measures of IQ.
Whether you’re in, curious or a bit skeptical, you can get a sense of grit by listening to Duckworth speak about her research. You’ll likely come to see that grit is more than just “stick-to-it-iveness,” although that is part of it. It’s about passion, genuine interests, and motivation that comes from within. Grit also involves learning, seeing setbacks as opportunities, and responding to whatever challenges you face in pursuit of something you love. It’s what people need to reach for their dreams.
The people studied in grit research were older than our children. But, kids start building a foundation for this characteristic at birth. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers have no shame and very little fear of failure. Without persistence and true tolerance for setbacks, they would never walk, talk, climb, run, or even learn to nurture close relationships. Small humans are designed to try, fail, revise, repeat—all in order to learn. It’s often an adult's reaction to their setbacks that leads a child to associate failure with loss or lasting disappointment. So, the early years are a perfect time to hold back our reactions, let them push themselves, and promote grit in our kids.
How can we promote grit? Here are a handful of promising practices:
If you feel like passions took a back seat since you had kids, you are not alone! Maybe grit is a great reason for us to dust off an old passion and start showing our kids how great getting ever better at something we love can be.
Or, maybe, for now, we shouldn’t forget to see parenting as a passion—something that we love unlike any other pursuit, to which we are utterly committed and at which we can always get better. Setbacks aside, we can stay curious, keep learning and persist!