It’s all over the web, that “grit” thing. Seems like every day, I get some promo for a webinar on how to get more grit, project more grit, or get in touch with your inner grit. So, allow me to enlighten the reader on how to help your child acquire grit.
First, what is grit? Grit is equal parts determination, tenacity, and emotional resilience, which is the ability to withstand setback and even failure. Grit is nothing new. Marco Polo had it. Edmund Hillary had it. Navy Seals have it. I know that leaves lots of people out, but this is a newspaper column, not a history. You get the picture. Grit is hanging in there and getting the job done when failure is a looming possibility. Grit is in short supply today, as I and many folks of my generation fear.
Grit is in short supply because it doesn’t fit the postmodern narrative, which is all about getting in touch with how special one is. The current narrative is about getting in touch with one’s feelings and other human persons’ feelings as well (or at least attempting to carry off the pretense). For most of the last 50 years, we’ve tried raising emotionally intelligent children and it’s been a disaster. As a consequence of our collective good intentions, child mental health is in the toilet. Time for some good old retro-childrearing, I’d say, so here comes the fail-safe formula for endowing a child with grit:
• Let your child fail. Stop the enabling. Stop being your child’s personal reality buffer. Stop trying to solve every problem that comes up in his life and let him do the lifting for a change. Don’t even help him with his next science project. (OMG!) Let him experience what it’s like to live an authentic human life, one with its fair share of disappointment, loss, and failure. The best lessons in an authentic life are often the consequence of falling short of the mark.
• Stop authenticating every feeling that bubbles up inside your child. Stop talking to him about his every feeling and let him know, in no uncertain terms, that dwelling on feelings interferes with solving problems, which is what life is all about, every day of it.
• Don’t allow your child to receive participation and “good spirit” trophies. Let him know that in the real world of everyday problems, which you are preparing him for, mere participation doesn’t get one an award. Awards are for merit, which is earned through setting yourself to a task and doing all you can to accomplish it.
• Incorporate the three C’s of competent childrearing into your parenting program. They are chores, courtesies, and compliance. Chores should come before after-school activities. Their benefits last a whole lot longer. Courtesies are the means by which a child learns respect for others, which is vastly superior to high self-esteem. Lastly, the research finds what commonsense affirms: obedient children are a lot happier than disobedient children. Calmly insist upon calm compliance with your rules and expectations.
• Let your child know he’s a small fish in a big pond. Too many children today think they are the biggest fishes ever. Keep in mind, always, that the best way to demonstrate respect for your child is to expect of your child. Set the bar reasonably high and don’t help him get over it. For more on that, go back and re-read “Let your child fail.”