I wrote a few week ago about reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. You can read that post here. I still haven’t finished the book, sorry it is going so slowly but it is deep and I feel like I need to read some and then digest it before reading more.
As the title of my blog states, going from being a teacher to being a mother is not always as easy as it sounds. When I read the section on teachers and helping children develop grit and such, I was like… that’s me… that’s how I run my class. I’m not sure I have provided my sons the grit they need, but that too is addressed in the book.
Angela Duckworth addresses parenting and the development of grit. She discussed two different types of parents. One being the parents of quarterback Steve Young. They pushed Steve to excel. They wouldn’t let him quit. Steve Young stated that he became a stronger player because his father pushed him to go beyond the basics. He was never satisfied with ok, he needed to be the best. It didn’t matter what he did, he had to do it to the best of his ability. One could state the Steve Young’s parents believed in the philosophy of tough love, they were there for their children, but the children had to step up and do beyond their best.
The second set of parents were the parents of Francesca Martinez, who is now a comedian in Britain. Francesca was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two. Her parents did not push her in any direction. They allowed her to figure out life on her own. The supported her and the decisions that she made. They allowed her to leave her formal education at 16 and focus on following her dreams of acting on tv. Her brother also dropped out of school to become a portrait painter. Her parents state that they didn’t over indulge the children nor did they spoil them, they believed in “no-nonsense parenting”, “follow your dreams parenting”.
While these parents may seem on opposite ends of the spectrum they have a few things in common. Both parents were child-centered in the aspect of putting their children’s interest first. They were not trying to relive their own dreams through their children. They supported their children and helped them, in very different ways, realize their true potential.
She encourages parents to develop a warm, supportive and respectful relationship with their children. There is a need for rules and high expectations to foster the grit needed for success. Children need to view you being gritty if you want them to become gritty. When children understand that everyone works hard in what they do and love to do they will understand that they too need to work hard.
We as parents need to look at effort, work ethics in their children. They need to show the same passion and perseverance in their own life. We need to model that the effort is just as important if not more important than skill/talent. We need to stop praising children for each step, but instead point out what they could do to make things better. Not being super criticizing, just letting them know you know they can do more.
In the classroom you will often see teachers tell their student that they know they can do more/better than they are doing now. I often could be heard telling my stuggling readers that I know they can read, that I need them to realize they can read. That I need them to do x,y,z to become stronger at whatever topic/subject we are working on at the time. An outstanding teacher sets the bar higher than each child can achieve and pushes the individuals to reach and exceed the bar.
The challenge with parenting is so often you are just excited to see the littler steps in your children. You find yourself cheering the children on for each step instead of pushing them to see where they can grow. As parents we often forget to set the bar high enough so the children have a place to grow towards. Do we show our children what we are working towards? Do they see that even adults need grit? That each step of the process is a step towards a long term goal? She states that we need to create an environment that acknowledges the rule “If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, you won’t”. Parents need to stop making life easy for their kids and start helping their children see that hard work pays off.
Angela Duckworth discusses that with her own children she talks about them each having a ” A Hard Thing” to work on. The children have to pick their own hard task, and they had to stick with it for the whole season/session/ whatever you paid for. She has one daughter who found her hard thing in playing the piano as her hard thing. Whereas her other daughter has bounced around trying a variety of different things, finally landing on the viola. She also explained to her children that her work and her husband’s work were their hard thing and that they worked hard at the things needed to be successful in their careers. The parents also have a physical activity that they consider their hard thing.
Duckworth discovered that colleges and universities look for students who stick with activities. They also discovered through research that students who stick with a given activity for at least two years in high school are more likely to be successful in the college years. This shows an additional level of grit.
How can we help? Stop focusing on and praising the steps. Show how they can improve and get better going forward. Give children specific tasks to work on and improve. Model grit and the understanding that hard work pays off. Provide opportunities for children to choose their hard thing and then have the stick with it. Let them interact with others (teachers, coaches, etc…) who can push them to excel and see their own potential. Recognize that finding the right thing is hard, but it is necessary. When you have passion for something you have the drive to work hard. You want to succeed and move forward in the learning of the activity.
I promise at least one more post on grit once I finish the book!