Grit is one of the most important qualities we can help children develop. It is the quality that will sustain them long after their schooldays are over. Achieving dreams, not being de-railed by adversity, facing challenges head on all, of these things require grit. In fact I would go so far as to say if there was only one element of Positive Education taught in schools I would make it grit, but I’d very much prefer we used all of the elements.
Psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth defines grit as
“sustained passion and perseverance for especially long term goals”.
What a great skill to teach our children. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly how to develop it, but thankfully Duckworth and her team are full of grit and they are working on it.
We do know some of the things that can help. Teaching children how to concentrate for example. Concentration is a skill that needs to be practised and grown. A simple exercise for this is to have the children pay attention to sound. Firstly, sounds close to them, then increasingly far away. Their minds will wander of course but bringing their focus back to the sounds is a great way to exercise those concentration muscles.
Hearing stories of people who have overcome hardships and kept on going are also great grit builders. Often children get the impression that those who success have simply floated their way through life borne up by their talent. They don’t see the setbacks and challenges along the way. There are figures in every walk of like who’ve found their way to success because they refused to quit.
Another way to build grit is to make the objective of a task to keep in trying, not just succeeding. Throwing a ball at a target or, my personal favourite, balancing a raw egg on its end both work well. The point is to keep going for the allotted time, all the while developing grit.
When I’m teaching positive education in schools, I always set teachers the same tasks. After all it is not just children who need grit.
You can find out more about the work we do in schools here.