What is grit and why they need it?

Grit is simple and one of the most important traits for kids and aspiring to achieve great things. Grit is a combination of motivation, perseverance, determination, resilience, willpower, and the ability to overcome great obstacles to progress towards one’s goals and achievements. Grit is essential for the simple reason that kids need a driving force and intrinsic motivating power to tackle difficult challenges and press on, even when things don’t go their way. Grit will give them that steadfast, unrelenting dedication to move forward in pursuit of their goals.

Related: Activities to Help Your Teen Discover Their Passion & Purpose

Activities outside of their comfort zone

There are various ways to help your child develop grit. Still, one very helpful method is to put them in unfamiliar, uncomfortable situations and allow them to pull themselves through. This might be trying a new activity, entering a challenging competition, or simply placing your child in a new environment for an extracurricular challenge. The whole point of getting your child outside their comfort zone is so they can dig deep within themselves and find a way to overcome the discomfort and thrive in the unfamiliar environment. Kids who are resilient, confident, and determined enough to do this demonstrate clear grit and will have a much easier time attempting larger, more difficult, and more consequential opportunities and circumstances in their futures.

Help them find their passion

Since grit must come from within, a great way to foster grit in your kids is to encourage them to explore and discover their passion(s). Since grit is a product of intrinsic motivation, it will come much more naturally from a child pursuing a task or project they genuinely care about. For that very reason, exposing your child to a wide variety of new, unfamiliar topics, hobbies, and opportunities is an excellent way for them to stumble upon a surprise interest or talent. Once children develop a passion for something, they’ll be driven by their motivation to set goals, practice and improve, and progress in that passion.

Set an example of a growth mindset

a woman working off a laptop

A growth mindset is not only necessary to foster grit in your child, but it’s also very important to keep their confidence and self-esteem high, even when trying new things. A growth mindset means believing they are capable of more, as long as they put in the time and effort. A growth mindset acknowledges that they can do almost anything they put their minds to, so long as they’re willing to put in the hard work. As a parent, it’s important for you to model a growth mindset yourself so your child will follow your example and see how confident you are in your ability to try new things, grow, and improve.

Related: Why High School Students Need a Growth Mindset

Teach that failure is okay and not the end

We can’t really talk about grit and growth mindsets without talking about failure. Anyone who has ever tried something new or challenging has likely had to deal with failure. Failure is simply a part of the learning process and offers us the feedback we need to regroup, practice, improve, and try again. To develop grit, kids need to know that failure is okay; in fact, it’s a normal, healthy part of the process of trying new things and taking on big, impressive goals. In fact, if your child isn’t failing at all, it’s possible they aren’t challenging themselves enough. It would be better for kids to take on those big challenges and fail but learn something along the way than always to take the easy route and never live up to their full potential.

Validate their feelings of disappointment or frustration

While failure is healthy and normal, so is a feeling of disappointment or frustration in response to it. If your child falls short of a goal, you should be there to validate that disappointment and frustration they must feel. However, it would be best if you also use your empathy as an opportunity to deliver a learning lesson that can put them back on the determined path to success. Rather than sulking in disappointment or, worse, reprimanding your child for not achieving the goals, your child would be better served by your helping hand in assessing what went wrong in this situation and formulating a game plan to address and improve the problem at hand.

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Focus on efforts, not accomplishments

teen working on a homework assignment

Since grit isn’t about what you accomplish, but rather having the motivation and drive to continue to work towards those goals, it would be more effective to focus on those efforts than the accomplishments themselves. Sure, the accomplishments are a significant motivating factor to keep your kids engaged and ambitious, but in order to continue any task and have the grit to pursue it long-term, they’re going to need to embrace and enjoy the journey, not just the destination. As a parent, you may be used to talking about and measuring yourself on outcomes and accomplishments as well. It may be to your child’s benefit if you reframe those conversations and put more emphasis on your journey rather than your destination, too.

Let them see you take risks

Since kids see parents as role models and build their paradigms around what they observe, parents must allow their children a glimpse into the risks they’re taking as well. It might seem strange or uncomfortable to let your kid know about a failure or a risk that may not end up in your favor, but it’s the best way to prove to them that you, too, have the confidence and drive to pursue lofty goals with unknown outcomes. Your kids will gain confidence seeing that their parents have the confidence to put themselves out there for new challenges. This will also teach your kids that things don’t always go your way, but hard work does pay off, and even those that result in failures (or undesired outcomes) offer some valuable lessons to be learned.

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Final thoughts

a teen graduating from high school

Kids these days have so much untapped potential. With a world of opportunity at their feet, they must develop the grit, determination, and confidence to go after those goals, no matter how lofty or challenging. As a parent, you can significantly influence your child’s development and confidence, which is an excellent opportunity to support them towards high aspirations, even at the risk of failure along the way. While it might seem uncomfortable, your ability to open up and be vulnerable and honest with your kids about your own failures and shortcomings, as well as the way you’ve overcome various obstacles, could be the very motivation they need to develop the grit to succeed.

Related: 10 Best Podcasts for Teens