raising gritty kids :: perseverance wins the game

for those interested in learning more about raising kids with ‘grit,’ this is a very interesting discussion.

Angela Lee Duckworth from University of Pennsylvania has some great insights that paint a picture of why grit is found in the most successful people in today’s world.

however, i ask myself “what is success?”

as a woman with both an undergraduate and graduate degree in business, i continue to struggle with life/work balance.

each time i see an update on LinkedIn from someone i know, i can’t help but be a bit envious.

thank goodness i’ve got boys.  it doesn’t seem that men struggle with this balance nearly as much as women do.

i see many of my very talented female friends put aside their illustrious careers to be home with the kids, which, for my entire life, is what i promised myself i’d do.  i know, it sounds nuts.

yet it still is a challenge for me as i weave in and out of the corporate world, all while trying to stay focused on the kids.

Ms. Duckworth has compelling data that show how ‘grit’ is found in ‘successful’ people.  if a person is able to stick with a project for 10+ years, they’re more likely to get into a real groove and reach their pinnacle. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaeFnxSfSC4] while i find this TED talk interesting, she doesn’t share any tactics for parents to get kids to be more ‘gritty.’  i believe that Ms. Duckworth will have some clearly-defined suggestions in her 2014 publication.

since that’s a few years off, and after this week’s lunch with some sharp parents at a local school, i’m getting a fairly good idea of what we as parents can do to nurture this in our children.

1. don’t over-praise outcome. praise effort.  i’ve heard time and again from friends that their eldest kids gets very frustrated and want to walk away from challenges when they meet any obstacle.  these are very accomplished children.  smart, athletic, and outgoing.  we’ve all made the seemingly innocent mistake of saying “GREAT job on scoring 8 of 9 goals today!” rather than “you played your best and your efforts paid off!”

2.  let your child struggle; let your child figure it out.  i love to coddle my kids; it feels good in a really selfish way.  but in the long run, i know too much of it is a disservice to my kids.  let them struggle, learn to problem solve, and work things out on their own.

turns out i score very high on the ‘grit’ scale.  shocker.  i’m sure it has just about everything to do with being a latchkey kid since i was 7.  i had to figure stuff out on my own.  sink or swim.

3. model for your kids.  if we’re honest with our kids and own up to mistakes, struggles, and difficult times, our kids will see that they’re not the only ones who have hurdles to overcome.  talk to them (age appropriate, of course) about the issue, how you plan to approach the solution, and how your perseverance will eventually get you to the outcome.

4.  delay gratification.  i struggle with this…oh do i ever, especially with our younger son.  my patience wanes when i should be teaching him to have patience.  have you ever watched this super interesting video from 60 Minutes on delayed gratification?  kids aged 3-5 are given a choice of marshmallows, pretzels or Oreos.  they’re in an empty room.  adult puts the treat of choice on a plate next to a bell.  kids are told “If you wait 15 minutes, you can eat all of these treats.  If you want one before then, ring the bell.”  Kids who are able to wait out the full 15 minutes are better at delayed gratification and are supposedly more successful in school.

5.  use technology.  raise your hand if you have 4 terrabytes+ of video footage of your kids?  revisit them and the millions of photos you’ve snapped with your kids to ‘remind’ them of the fact that they’ve already overcome many obstacles in their short lives.  that’s right.  you couldn’t jump over the two mats at tae kwon do, but you kept going, and trying, and guess what?  you can do it now.  you didn’t give up.  great effort!

6.  put your kids in martial arts.  we started lil G in tae kwon do over a year ago mainly for socialization and self defense.  the fruits of the sport have been amazing for him.  the 4 tenets he rattles off at the beginning of each class are: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, indomitable spirit.  sounds like the makings of some true grit.  we are grateful for Master D for his patience and grace with these rowdy toddlers!

grit.  success.

any thoughts on all this recent ‘grit’ discussion?  what’s your definition of success?

About meesh

Meesh has a passion for people, creative projects, and technology. She enjoys painting furniture back to life, gardening, playing with her kids, and connecting people.


  1. Hi Meesh.. Great entry. I haven’t started with martial arts for my kids yet. Here is recent NY article about an secret success factor that I think think it’s similar to “gritty”. You might like it. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/opinion/sunday/secret-ingredient-for-success.html

  2. Love this post and loved the article about Duckworth in the Gazette last year. Thanks for your tips. Teaching grit to some very loved (aka spoiled) kids is a challenge but one well worth the effort!

    • imeeshu says

      indeed, Peg! thanks for being such a great supporter of imeeshu. 🙂 xxoo