Sitting around a camp fire with an 80-year-old friend of mine last night, I shared that I had been wrestling with the notion of GRIT. My youngest son, 18 years old, has a new job that requires him to work outside digging and bending rebar for up to 10 hours a day. He comes home completely exhausted, dirty and spent. A huge Muma part of me wants to soothe and nurture him. My child is sore and depleted. I want to say, “No, no darling, you don’t need to go there. Just rest here and let me take care of you.”
My 80-year-old friend said, “Michele, this hard work is perfect. Your boy is building perserverance, determination and grit. How many workers do you know that don’t show up for work or work a few hours and leave? I can’t get anyone to do a day’s labour anymore. They haven’t learnt perseverance. You are building in him what it takes even when it is hard to watch. Trust me.” And quite honestly I do. He is a man that has lived 8 decades, and has 7 children of his own who still bucks up wood for the “old lady down the road who is chilly.”
My own father used to say to me all the time, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” And he would. Countless hours I would watch him at his workbench, fixing a broken radio or appliance that my Mum had sent down to be mended. Try, try again is an age old saying. And yet I think we in this generation want our children to never face adversity or even difficulties. I have had parents come into my class saying, “This was hard for my kid. He needs something easier. He just gives up and wants to play his video games. I don’t want to stress him.” There is a difference between hard and not understanding the concepts needed to master a subject. Hard can just mean it takes time and effort when we understand the underlying concepts. I want to be sure I am teaching the underlying concepts and aiding children in the hard work of mastery.
So researching grit this week has given me some insight.
Angela Duckworth has been a leading researcher on the topic. She outlines the following characteristics of someone with grit.
- Courage- the ability to manage your fear of failure—You learn from your mistakes rather than see them as a road stop.
- Conscientiousness—It is better to go for the gold than just show up time and time again.
- Long term goals—Keep reviewing and moving towards them.
- Resilience—The ability to get up, brush off the dust and try again.
- Excellence—Not perfection.
My friend, Dr. Rick Hanson shares this practice in his course, The Foundations of Well-Being. So sit down and read this little session slowly. It really is very powerful. If you can practice “feeling” the sense of strength in your body, when you need that capacity in your life you can call on it.
“Bring to mind a time when you felt strong. Feel that time in your body. Feel that sense of strength, endurance or power. What does it feel like in your eyes? Your face? When things matter to you? Feel it in your body even if there is pain or illness. Feel a sense of strength. Notice if there is any fear of embodying the fullness of your strength. See if you can let go of those fears. Bow to them and move on. Claim and reclaim the experience of strength. You can use strength for a good purpose. Rest in the felt sense of your strength. Feel that strength move into the parts that feel weak and ease those places with the positive experience of strength. Rest only in the positive sense of strength. You can also imagine your life from this experience of strength. Bring the feeling in as you imagine situations where you need to create safety or establish boundaries with others.”
So how will I translate this into my classroom this week?
I will do the above practice with the children and have them not only embody the feeling but also draw and write about the experience. This will help them truly anchor the experience inside themselves. I will let the kids see the little things that are growing. A few minutes a day reading a difficult book leads to reading a whole novel. I will encourage the children to take the long view and set goals. Sometimes we just have to endure, stay with something and get through it.
We might illustrate these age old sayings too, reminding ourselves and our families of the qualities that build grit and strength.
- You get knocked down 8 times and you get up 9.
- Keep on keeping on
- You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. — Maya Angelou
- Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before. — Jacob A. Riis
- It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. — Albert Einstein
- When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn. — Harriet Beecher Stowe
- You go on. You set one foot in front of the other, and if a thin voice cries out, somewhere behind you, you pretend not to hear, and keep going. — Geraldine Brooks
Every year the salmon run up a stream near our home. The boys in the video are absolutely amazed by the perserverance of these incredible creatures.
Click on this video link p1060382
If you would like more lessons on teaching patience and persistence click here.
In our book, Awakening Joy for Kids, James and I give a full chapter of practices for both adults and children to build the muscles of getting through difficult time.
Here are some books that you may enjoy reading to your children to support this notion of perserverance.