Last week, we talked to mother, entrepreneur and writer Rayna S. about developing grit in our daughters. As Rayna told us in part 1 of How to raise your daughter to have GRIT, “Grit, simply defined, is one’s perseverance towards a goal. Someone with grit is someone who is passionate in mind and spirit and will not let failure get the best of him. Or her, in this specific context, since I’m talking about my daughter.”
She started out with her first tip, wherein she said, “Coach, don’t control,” is her motto in raising her daughter to be resilient, which is where we left off.
2. Let your child try things out early
Me: Okay, your first tip is coach, don’t control. I like that. What’s next?
Rayna: I have also learned to let my child try stuff out early. Putting anxiety aside, allowing your child to try out new things even at an age that you might think is too early (when in reality, it isn’t), is another excellent way to develop grit. We usually let our imaginations run wild like them cutting off their fingers when they try holding a knife or falling as they try to go through the monkey bars. Instead, stand nearby, cheer them on quietly to not add unnecessary pressure and let them try. Only step in when really needed.
Kimmy likes to experiment. And I love this, and I actually want to encourage her in it. She has a curious mind, which will serve her well in the future. But it also means that she wants to make things like her own slime, she likes to unearth things in the garden, and even help me cook. Of course, she needs to use sharp implements like scissors or a trowel.
My husband and I oversee her working with these tools, of course and encourage her with her experiments. Our inside joke is that she’ll grow up to be a scientist/researcher/doctor who will end up curing some form of cancer.
Speaking of letting our daughter do things early, this should not just be recreational things. Kids should be doing chores early too—having this responsibility, and both their successes and failures at these chores builds resilience.
Me: Sounds great, but how do parents know which chores their kids are ready for?
Rayna: Good question. Let me direct you to a list of age-appropriate tasks that you can let your child take on. Don’t forget that chores instill discipline which is another ingredient to success.
3. Use smart goals to encourage grit
Me: I’ve heard that goal-setting is also important in a child’s development. What does this have to do with grit?
Rayna: The answer to that is everything! Using smart goals is one way to encourage grit in our children. Similar to a business setting wherein short-term goals are set, and action steps are planned, we must help our children think about achievable goals every year.
This does not mean getting high grades in all school subjects but more of bite-sized feasible targets such as reviewing the day’s lessons for 20 minutes each day, learning a new instrument and being able to perform five pieces or choosing to go to tuition classes to advance in a subject.
Get your child involved during goal-setting and have them write their goals down, make a schedule or mark their calendars.
A study by the Dominican University of California shows that those who wrote down their goals and shared updates with others had a higher success rate of achieving their goals successfully compared to those who kept them private and did not write them down.
Me: Wow, this is brilliant. I’m sure the mothers would be excited to start applying this.
Rayna: That’s why there’s a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. We learn from each other’s wisdom and experience.
Me: Oh, absolutely. Any other nuggets of wisdom in helping our daughters develop grit.
Rayna: I have three more for you, actually.
4. Non-stop encouragement
Rayna: The first is so important that I will say it three times: encouragement, encouragement, encouragement.
We are creatures who function on encouragement. Doing so for our children will not only boost motivation and morale, but it will also teach them self-encouragement. One way to develop that inner voice is to provide mottos or mantras which they can easily recite during moments of messing up. Some examples are, “Practice makes progress!”, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again!” or “I know I can, I know I can!”
Through non-stop encouragement, this inner voice becomes louder than the harsh criticising voices triggered by disappointment and sometimes even from other people.
Me: Very positive and uplifting.
Rayna: It is! And it’s better for kids, especially daughters, in the long run. We women have such a perfectionist streak, that often does us harm. Developing that inner encouraging voice when things are rough, or when she fails at something, will help her not just when she’s a child, but for the rest of her life.
5. Less evaluating and more empathising
Rayna: When developing grit in our children, we need to steer away from traditional methods of evaluating results and focus more on effort and empathising with the journey your child went through toward achievement. Phrases like, “I knew you could do it” and “I see you worked hard on this” should be used instead of “You did well because you’re smart” and the like.
Me: So we draw attention to effort rather than natural abilities?
Rayna: Definitely, and don’t forget to mention specific things like hard work, perseverance and other things that your child has control over rather than talents or affinities.
Remember that grit is developed in the trying, in practice and in never giving up. Empathising with the process and not the result will significantly help.
6. Limit the talk of a cold, cruel world
Me: Excellent! I love this: grit is developed in the trying.
Rayna: It really is. And this brings me to my next point. You’ve noticed that in developing grit we encourage and emphasize the positive. One thing we also do is we limit the talk of a cold, cruel world.
Telling your child that the world out there is hard and that he or she must compete with others who have three O-level passes will only scare your child instead of developing grit and resilience.
Yes, we live in a constantly changing world with safety becoming more and more compromised while frustrations are on the increase, yet your 5-year old does not need to hear the details. Kyle Pruett, M.D., a clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center and School of Medicine suggests that generalising the bad and ugly about religion or the government and society while they are young will be healthy in keeping the dread away.
Me: This makes perfect sense. Kids don’t need to hear tales of gloom and doom.
Rayna: They really don’t. Do you know what they need, though? They need you.
7. Just be there for your daughter
Rayna: Lastly, building and developing grit in your child starts with you. Create a supportive environment for your child to bloom in. The more support from positive adults your child has, the more resilient he or she becomes. With my daughter, I make sure that she grows up surrounded by a diverse group of people from kids her age to teenagers and adults. Seeing her eyes glow with excitement as she learns new things from a graphic artist and hearing her rant about her “unbearable friends” are all situations that I encourage.
Resilience is honed not from failure but from one’s ability to pick himself up and try again until success. This is especially true in the current state of the country today wherein competition has never been higher and harder. Research has shown that having developed grit into one’s character is critical in establishing stable relationships and becoming successful in school and at work. In fact, psychologist Angela Duckworth said that “the secret to outstanding achievement isn’t talent. It’s a special blend of persistence and passion (grit).”
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