NPR Interview with Angela Duckworth on Grit and the Power of Perseverance

Tinkergarten Blog: What is Grit and Why is it Important for Kids?

Grit – it’s the power of perseverance.  Not just persevering mindlessly and with brut force, but rather, grit is persevering with intention–it’s trying to improve something specific AND work hard.  According to Angela Duckworth, it’s not giving up on something that you feel is intrinsically meaningfully to you– and, not just not giving up, but working mindfully to improve.

An interesting point Duckworth highlights is that grit really has little to do with talent and more to do with your will to work with focus and intentionality.  She also says it’s only partly due to your “gritty nature”, or what you inherit from your parents and has a lot to do with your life experience and what the people around you and your experiences teach you about being “gritty”, or getting back up and going again because of intrinsic motivation.

What does that mean for kids and early childhood education?  Duckworth talks about how grit is built into little kids–think about how many times a little one falls down while learning to walk.  What would happen  if the child decided not to get back up?  In order to master these necessary life skills, the child gets up again and again and again.  Why do some lose that ability, particularly in school settings?

Duckworth talks about how grit is a necessary component to success in school and in general.  However, she also recognizes the need for great teachers, interesting curriculum and classroom management.  She interestingly points out: the grittier the teacher, the more likely he or she is to bring that out in those he or she teaches.

She discusses parenting kids to inspire this “inner grit”.  Perhaps to instill grit, parents need to remain present and be “gritty” themselves with their kids.  Often, grit is used synonymously with stubbornness.  It’s interesting because something that has occurred to me during one of my early years of teaching is that really, kids need someone who not going to give up or lose presence–maybe another way to describe this is someone who is going to be stubborn.

I think every year, there are multiple kids that I work with that become a little wide-eyed when they see that I’m not giving up on them.  Whether it’s with writing a long sentence or sitting and talking with them for a long period of time when they’ve made a choice to do something that wasn’t so great.

When the child writing sees that no matter what they say to try to procrastinate or avoid the task all together that I am unrelenting and that I believe they are capable, they try.  And then, they do it and they are proud of their accomplishment–and so am I.  We celebrate their hard work.  They see that it’s a part of something greater, since everything we do has some sort of purpose to a larger picture.  When the task at hand is bland and uncolorful, I try to inject some excitement into it with my words, face and tone.  At the end, they see they can do the task and it’s fun because of the interactions but more so, it’s important because it’s an integral part of the bigger picture.  Hopefully, they take that experience with them and apply it again and again.

And then, when the child that made the poor choice sees that I am going to sit– and sit and sit and sit and talk–and talk and talk and talk, maybe for an hour–maybe two–when they see this, they see that there really are consequences to actions and words.  They see that their poor choice is not just going to get brushed under the rug with a “ok, let’s say you’re sorry now” and they are past it.  Now, this can be tough to do every time, every day, for sure.  But for the larger issues, it’s important because the time you put in the first time will be a deposit for all of the rest of the times a child is faced with making a choice.

In the NPR interview linked above, Howard Gardner discusses not only the need to grit and a growth mindset, but coupling those with citizenship and being a kind person.  This is important since we need to consider the outcome when someone applies grittiness to destructive or negative behaviors.  So, yes, “grittiness” is a major component of success, and we need to consider the skills and knowledge to which we apply this character trait.

Grit is something so vital to success.  We need to do what we can to be gritty and instill grittiness into our kids, along with providing a safe, inspiring and thoughtful environment.  From there, anything is possible.

 

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