According to the U.S. Department of Education, grit is one of the key skills children need to succeed in the 21st century.
Educators and parents alike are always striving to understand what our children need to succeed now and in a future society we cannot even imagine. For decades, we have used IQ tests to predict which of our students will be the most successful. Research now shows us there are other factors aside from cognitive skills that are just as important as IQ.
Major universities have made the news recently by announcing they are eliminating entrance exams for applicants. The reason? The tests measure educational background, but not other factors that predict success.
One key factor that predicts success: grit. Grit is the ability to persevere in the face of challenges and setbacks. It means, as parents and educators, we teach and model for kids that life is full of challenges. Those challenges must be faced with confidence. Set goals and do not give up when things do not go as planned.
These sound like adult attributes and they are. Adults set goals, make plans, and often adjust those plans when the unexpected occurs. Share this process with your children.
It does not have to be complicated. Is there a family project that needs to be planned? Include your kids in the project. Set specific goals, set a timetable for each step, post the plan where everyone sees it. Then the fun part! Make it a family celebration when the hard work and planning pays off and the project is complete.
If your children are old enough to make commitments to learn a new skill, such as music lessons, or athletic skills, they need a plan for success. Involve them in planning for the cost, the practice required, a time frame and measurable final goal.
Most importantly, once the commitment is made, quitting is not an option. What will you do as their parent if the music lessons are for one semester and they want to give up halfway into the semester?
Listen, and ask them to identify why they want to quit. Encourage solutions for the obstacle. Encourage them to find ways to continue until the end of the semester. Then celebrate with them when they complete the class!
Need more inspiration? Just type the word GRIT in a Pinterest search and you will find numerous creative ideas for parents and teachers.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Dr. Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the foremost researchers and author on this subject.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
This American Life: How Children Succeed
How Do We Teach Our Kids About Grit?
Ellen Mooney is a retired principal and teacher with more than 45 years of experience in K-12 education.