“Grit”: What is it, and how can it help our children to succeed?

“Grit”: What is it, and how can it help our children to succeed? March 11, 2014

Good morning, friends!

Recently, our school newsletter had a great column about how we can build the quality of “Grit” in our children, which is another way of saying “persistence” or “perseverance.” The column included a link to a Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth, which I found to be excellent. It is only 6 minutes long and well worth your while. I have included some of my favorite quotes below:

…what if doing well in school, and in life, depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

…one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t I.Q. It was grit.

…Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

…there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.

…So far the best idea I’ve heard about building grit in kids is something called “growth mindset”…it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort.

Watch the talk if you have a few minutes, and then share your thoughts with us!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I couldn’t agree more! I think there is a mindset in our culture that parents want to “help” their kids succeed. What winds up happening is that children do not learn to face challenges on their own, and they can develop a fear of failure. Learning to fail with grace is a huge part of grit, and it is hard as a parent to back off and allow that to happen. As type A Princeton grads, we want our kids to succeed and fear than any failure may be a set-back to their future plans. The competitive attitude of many schools does not help at all.

  • Mary Alice

    One thing that I have been reflecting on — children who do “learn easily and quickly” in the elementary school years are vulnerable to missing out on developing grit because they get used to things coming easily. Then, when things get hard, as they inevitably will at some point, they might not know how to respond.

  • That is an excellent point. I think we can mitigate the effects of this a bit by focusing on the process, on the effort, rather than on the end result. That is hard for a child in school, where getting the right answer is praised. But it is possible for a parent to do this at home, and really teach that getting the right answer is not of primary importance, the approach and process is what matters. In the case of a child who is good at math, this can be accomplished through different or challenging word problems, brain teasers, or even computer programming.

  • Harmony

    Katrina, I’m curious what ideas your school column had about how to build this quality? I was reminded of the concept from Stephen Grosz’s _The Examined Life_ about how being attentive to and praising *effort* helps kids keep on working hard, while just praising their result or telling them they’re smart can be counterproductive because they may then be afraid to fail.

    “The kids were then given more complex problems, which those previously praised for their hard work approached with dramatically greater resilience and willingness to try different approaches whenever they reached a dead end. By contrast, those who had been praised for their cleverness were much more anxious about failure, stuck with tasks they had already mastered, and dwindled in tenacity in the face of new problems.”


    I haven’t read his actual book, but I’d like to!

  • Harmony

    Now I see Kellie’s comment below advocating this same approach 🙂