As parents, the majority of us probably feel that we must, as part of the job of being a parent, protect our children from experiencing pain or disappointment. We don’t want our kids to feel sadness or rejection. We want them to live happily and at peace with the world. Unfortunately, it turns out, we might actually be doing them more harm than good. Apparently, the boo-boos and bad guys actually teach our kids that you can’t win them all, and it’s ok. A valuable lesson, all in all.
Parenting experts talk about how to raise happy and well adjusted kids. They give pointers about what to do and what not to do. What works best, and what to try to avoid. Spanking? Bad (teaches kids that hitting is ok). Time outs? Depends on how you use them and the age of the kid. The ‘wait-until-your-father-gets-home’ threat? Bad. Disassociates consequences from the actions. What’s the right way to show a kid how to act? By focusing on the positives. As a parent coach, I learned the mantra ‘what you focus on, grows’. The more you concentrate on good behaviors and positive attitudes, the more likely you will see more of them. What parenting experts are saying now is that in our efforts to save our children from any angst or discomfort, we are setting them up for a misguided understanding of the world; they need to know that they can’t always win, and they can’t always get what they want. In other words, they need to know how to cope with failure. Ouch. That’s a hard pill for a parent to swallow.
So what’s a helicopter mom to do? Let your kid fall on the playground. They may get some scrapes and bruises but they will also learn that they can fall, and then they can get up, brush themselves off and get back to playing. They need to know that they can try to build the highest tower of blocks, and that sometimes it might fall, or someone else might knock it over, and it’s ok. Or someone might even build one higher, and that’s ok too.
It’s through making errors that kids (and big people) learn.
So what is grit? It’s stick-to-it-iveness in the face of a challenge. It’s perseverance, endurance and the capacity for hard work. When it comes to predicting success in multiple arenas, researchers say grit is more important than SAT scores, extracurricular involvement and high school rank. When we try to cushion our kid’s world, he learns that he can’t cope with life’s difficulties, and may come to fear challenges.
C’mon folks, let’s let our kids get gritty.