A recurring theme we have seen as we have looked at grit is that its characteristics can be learned. One of those characteristics is tenacity, and it is not just something people are born with. So how do we help grow tenacity in our kids? That stick-with-it, keep going, never-give-up attitude.
As a generation of parents, we have gotten very involved in the lives of our children. For the most part, this is a good thing and has come from the right heart. But unfortunately, along with the over-involvement, many of us have actually hindered the growth of grit in our kids. Too often we have removed them from adversity, protected them from failure, and helped them too much with the difficult tasks in their lives. Out of our love and care for our children we have limited, even removed, the opportunities for our kids to develop and strengthen their grit “muscles.” Right now close to one third of adults 18–34 years of age in America are living with their parents, unable to fully launch out into independence and adulthood.
So what can we do to help our kids develop their tenacity muscles?
Model It: The best way for our kids to learn is to see us do it ourselves. Show them that you do not give up. Show them that never-give-up spirit and that you are tenacious yourself. Seeing it in you is one of the most powerful ways to develop it in them.
Allow Adversity and Failure: We need to allow our kids to face some adversity. If we smooth out the path in front of them, and take away all the difficult situations as they grow up, they will struggle mightily when you are not there to help them. I am not suggesting that you just throw them to the wolves and walk away, but sometimes it is okay to let them struggle and learn how to deal with it themselves.
Keep Hope Alive: Tenacity dies when hope dies. The key to people not giving up is that no matter how difficult it is, they still have a small ray of hope that says they can do it, that it will get better. When they have failed or are struggling, let them deal with it, but at the same time help them keep the hope alive.
Don’t Let Them Quit: Too many of our kids quit when things get tough, and often we as parents let them. We saw this often when we had our AMD (Advanced Merit Diploma) program in the high school. Students were not allowed to quit the program unless they got parental permission, but almost every time they did. When a child is allowed to quit, this often becomes a habit that is difficult to break.
Small Steps Towards Big Goals: Often we quit or give up because the task seems impossible or overwhelming. Helping our kids learn to break up big and daunting tasks into smaller ones is a great life skill to teach. If they can achieve some small steps, then they can build momentum and eventually achieve the large goal that earlier they were about to give up on.
Celebrate Their Tenacity: When you see them being tenacious, celebrate it.
Show Them What Tenacity Is: Watch movies with them that show tenacity, have them read books on people who have been tenacious, even send them articles or YouTube videos that show what a tenacious person can do.