In 2007, a research was carried out to see how grit affects the academic success of students. As it turned out, the research shows that students who were gritty, had self-control and ambitious, are likely to do better in school than those who are intelligent but lack these other traits. Since then, more research and books have also reiterated the importance of building grit and resilience in children.
The summary of their findings shows that grit, resilience, perseverance, and social intelligence are more important than IQ. To this end, this article has been written to help parents learn how to develop these vital traits in their children.
How to Build Grit and Resilience in Children
- Resist the urge to always rescue your children when they struggle
Parents, especially mothers, can’t bear looking at their children struggling with anything. As the kids struggle and get frustrated, they get very uncomfortable and just want to jump in to help. This is not a way to build grit and resilience in children.
Obstacles, challenges, and risks are part of life. So when you see your children struggling to learn a new sport or skills or dealing with difficult tasks, resist the urge to assist them.
Instead, pay attention to your level of anxiety, and try to be comfortable with seeing your children going through the feeling of sadness and frustration. Encourage them not to quit because of the discomfort. Doing this helps them to develop the confidence needed to confront challenging situations.
Your children might whine and cry when dealing with difficulties. As long as the task that they are undertaking is age-appropriate, don’t allow any compromise until the task is completed. If you have the habit of rushing in to help your children whenever in a struggle, you are indirectly teaching them that struggles and frustrations aren’t part of life.
Also, you are denying them the opportunity of experiencing the feeling of greatness that comes with overcoming a big challenge and achieving the desired goal.
- Develop a growth mindset in your children
According to Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, people with growth mindsets are more resilient and tend to push through struggles because they believe that hard work is part of the process to success. Such people do not believe that failure is a permanent condition.
From this quote from Dweck, it can be deduced that to build resilience in children, it is important to make them develop the growth mindset. To develop this mindset, the adults in the life of the children must adopt language and behaviours that support constructive thinking.
As a parent, you have to improve your thinking skills and be deliberate about your words and actions when dealing with your children. You want to talk to your children in a way that makes them believe that mistakes are part of the learning process and not something that should prevent them from taking a responsible risk.
In the same vein, choose your words carefully when praising your children. Whenever your children do something brilliant, don’t just say they can do that because they are smart. Saying this makes them think the ability to do something very well is connected to having the talent.
Instead, whenever you want to praise your children, focus on praising the processes and steps taken in completing the tasks. Doing this would make them realize that success is in the effort, not in the talent.
- Make your child realize that difficult skills can be learned
When many people see a person doing a particular thing brilliantly, they tend to believe the person has a flair for doing the thing. If you allow your children to develop this kind of mindset, they will give up on challenging tasks easily, believing they don’t have the skill sets to get it done.
To raise resilient children, allow them to take on difficult tasks and activities that require lots of discipline to accomplish. This would help them learn what it takes to be focused and be determined to find solutions to whatever difficult situation they face as they grow up.
Also, don’t be too protective. Allow your children to explore activities outside of their comfort zone; encourage them to try out new things that build their grit and resilient muscle. Consider enrolling them for paramilitary summer camp such as GCamp.
- Brainstorm with your children
When trying to develop resilience in children, brainstorming is a technique you want your children to know how to use. Whenever your children struggle to deal with difficult situations and are on the verge of quitting, try sitting them down and teaching them how to come up with strategies that will help in solving problems.
While doing this, ensure that your children are at the driving seat of the ideas, with you just being the guide. Allow them to take ownership of the solution. Brainstorming with your children helps them understand that when tasks become confusing and frustrating, taking the time to come up with solution ideas can improve the situation and make them more resilient.
- Become a role model
Just as emotionally intelligent parents tend to raise emotionally intelligent children, resilient parents tend to raise resilient children. Therefore, to build grit and resilience in children, the parents must show these traits themselves. Encouraging kids to show grit and resilience can be very helpful, but it is more effective when parents act as role models.
Show your children how you sometimes take on tasks that you struggle with and sometimes fail. However, because you never give up, you are always bouncing back.
- Make your children realize that failure isn’t the end of the world
As an adult, you are likely to have experienced some failures in that and you were able to move on. To help build resilience in children, it is worth sharing some of your failure stories with them. Talk to them about what happened and how you persevered. Make them realize that those mistakes don’t hurt you anymore, but you only think about the lesson learnt, which has now made you a better person.
Doing this would help your children understand that failure is part of life and isn’t the end of the world. It would also make them see that after failure, people can bounce back and things can get better.
- Be constructive in your criticism
Criticism is the feedback needed for modelling good behaviour, but when you need to criticize for something done wrong, be constructive. As a parent, you should appear to your children as a supporting coach, not a harsh critic. Teach your children self-motivation in doing difficult tasks.
Choose your words carefully. Don’t criticise them strongly to the extent that they become afraid of trying again after failing in the execution of specific tasks. Let all the interaction with your children be positive.
In short, struggle and discomfort when doing difficult tasks or learning new skills shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing for children. It should be seen as an opportunity to develop grit and resilience. Don’t deny them of the opportunity!