You’ve probably heard the word grit mentioned several times in the recent years in the context of raising kids who go on to fulfill their potential.
While the word grit may conjure images of Rocky Balboa or Dirty Harry, in the past decade or so it has taken on a whole new meaning that has stolen the attention of parents and educators alike.
That’s because according to University of Pennsylvania psychologist and MacArthur ‘genius’ Angela Duckworth, grit, defined as a child’s “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” is a better indicator of future earnings and happiness than either IQ or talent.
Today’s mounting research on grit suggests that your child’s ability to work hard, endure struggle, fail, and try again may be the key to determining his or her long-term success and happiness.
So, What Is Grit and Why Does it Matter?
When we are in pursuit of a lofty goal, we don’t know when or even whether we will succeed. Until we do.
Grit is a distinct combination of passion, resilience, determination, and focus that allows a person to maintain the discipline and optimism to persevere in their goals even in the face of discomfort, rejection, and a lack of visible progress for years, or even decades.
Through extensive research, Angela Duckworth and her team have proven that the common denominator among spelling bee finalists, successful West Point cadets, salespeople and teachers who not only stick with, but improve in their performance, is grit.
And according to study after study, people who are smart, talented, kind, curious, and come from stable, loving homes, generally don’t succeed if they don’t know how to work hard, remain committed to their goals, and persevere through struggles and failure.
Can We Foster Grit in Children and How?
As word of Duckworth’s research has spread, grit has become a hot topic in education and parenting circles, and supporters want to know how to build grit in children. Although Duckworth herself says she doesn’t know definitively how to increase grit in young people, she is hopeful it can be taught, and she and her team are working with researchers and schools across the country to find out how.
In 2004 and 2006, Duckworth and a team of researchers tested the grit and self-control of several thousand incoming West Point cadets before their first summer at school. The summer program, known as “Beast Barracks,” is designed to push cadets to their mental and emotional limits, so much so that about 1 in 20 cadets drops out.