I just read a story on NPR about grit … (http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead?) It was shared by a friend on Facebook. I wasn’t sure what the term “gritty” meant in the context of this article. Getting gritty meant applying yourself while attempting something that didn’t come easily to you. There are some schools adopting a “new” concept based on a new idea of Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. After reading it, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my son and daughter recently.
We were discussing this very thing, as we have several times in the past. I guess we revisit this issue on occasion because I come from a generation where we weren’t raised to expect praise for everything we did. And my children are from a generation who believe all children should be rewarded for participation … period.
I have felt that children know when they haven’t done well or done their best. They know when they’ve been slackers. Does it make them feel good about themselves when we praise them for their effort, when they know they haven’t put forth much effort? Does it make them feel like a fraud?
The reason for this revisited conversation … my granddaughter was a participant in her Regional Spelling Bee. She won her school bee and therefore, was the school representative. She is a naturally good speller. She was a self taught reader when she was four. Words come easily to her. But, because of that, she gets lolled into thinking she doesn’t need to put forth the effort to study for these kinds of events.
Last year, she lost her school spelling bee because she didn’t prepare and was very disappointed. So this year, she studied for her school bee and was successful. But, I think she was feeling, once again, that she was good enough to not to have to put forth additional effort, and as a result, she lost. Once again, she was disappointed — in the result and herself, I think. I really hope she is able to take this important and valuable lesson and run with it. If there is something you want, you need to apply yourself. You can’t leave it to chance.
Which takes me back to the premise of the NPR article — do people who have to put forth effort become more successful than those who have the natural ability or intelligence? It depends on what that natural ability is. If it requires artistic or athletic ability, you can’t teach that. But, I do believe people who put forth the effort, will achieve some success. I think they learn to handle their setbacks better. If you get knocked down, you need to learn how to get back up. If things always go your way, without effort on your part, what happens when things suddenly don’t go right? I’ve seen this with family members who as adults are confronted with their first failure in life. They never really recover. It just takes the wind out of their sails.
If we want to raise strong, confident children, we need to have them learn disappointment throughout their formative years. The idea that schools need to teach “grit” is amazing. Do your children the favor of letting them fail. Let them be disappointed. Let them learn that life is seldom fair. That oftentimes the least worthy is the one who gets the reward. It is what it is. If they learn these lessons, they will be able to stand on their own two feet as adults. And isn’t that what our job as a parent is all about?