Is teaching our children the value of perseverance overrated? Or is teaching tenacity what will help bring out the best in ourselves and our children?
Intelligence and talent matter but without effort they are just a promise of what’s possible and not a guarantee for future success. So how do we teach our children the value of grit?
First, we must agree on the fact that when referring to grit, it is not just working hard at something. It’s also about working on something that you are passionate about and choosing to continue because it feels meaningful.
As a parent, you may find it difficult to find ways to help children discover value and meaning behind life’s challenges. As a teacher, I often find it challenging to help my students find value behind every lesson or task I present them with. However, I have decided that it is part of my job description to prepare children for the unpredictability of life, where challenges are around every corner.
The question still remains: How do we give the gift of grit?
While expecting children to perform well is healthy, expecting them to be perfect will surely backfire. I teach my students that it’s OK to fail because it’s normal to not be great at everything. I am aware this is not a common message in a society that is competition-based, where the weak are left behind.
By that same token, I believe that this philosophy presents them with the gift of grit: Encourage kids to strive to become the best version of themselves, rather than the best at everything. This will ultimately increase their self-worth to a level where comparison is no longer the thief of joy.
When children can finally grasp the idea that you can succeed by increasing effort will change their mindset to: “People might be smarter than me, faster than me or naturally better at this task than me. But they aren’t going to outwork me. I can persevere.”
Part of teaching tenacity to our children means we have to stop preventing them from making mistakes. Science has even shown the importance of students struggling and making mistakes, as these are the times when brains grow the most. This means if students are not struggling, they are not learning.
Natural consequences and productive struggle can be some of life’s greatest teachers. Letting my students mess up sometimes shows them how to learn from their mistakes, ultimately molding them into wiser, stronger, human beings.
Every kid will respond differently to struggle, but I believe that as a teacher it is important to reach every student where they are. Children were not born without curiosity, motivation or the desire to learn. By giving them the gift of grit, teaching them the power of perseverance, we are not allowing our children to think that the hand life dealt them gives them any excuse not to try, to stop working on becoming the best version of themselves.
Grit is one of the keys to success both inside and outside of the classroom. As adults, we can’t forget that we must have grit in order to give it. We can get upset, frustrated, annoyed, angry or even lose our minds at times. We can take breaks by walking away or catching our breath. But we cannot quit on our kids, ever.
Perseverance is a necessary life skill and experiencing setbacks or failures are all necessary steps toward developing it. Perseverance enables us to take risks, learn from failures and move forward to new opportunities.
Find a way to teach the value of perseverance. Your child will thank you one day.
Emily Dixon is a teacher at McAllister Elementary School and a regular contributor.