Why “Grit” Is Important For Kids

By Susan Howard


My 2 year old son is crying and screaming to be held, Up, I need up! He is upset because he got in trouble after the third time of being told no, he proceeded to put his trucks in the dogs water bowl.  He has of late been doing the opposite of what we ask, including squirming out of a hand and racing off into the street, throwing toy cars at his sisters and all around testing us.

He has this pattern of making mistakes, when reprimanded crying to be held. 

No, I say, I know what you are doing.  He continues to cry.  Stop crying, it’s not going to work with me, I say.  Then I hold both of his wrists and I get close to his face.  He immediately stops crying.  What?, he asks flatly.  He is working me.  You know what.  What he asks again.  You put your truck in the dog bowl.  Whose bowl is that?  Bailey, he says remorsefully.  That’s right.  Should you be putting your truck in his bowl?  No.  That’s right.  You know better.  You are a big boy now.  With a high five we are done with the exchange.

My son is so cute and charming he has a special way with people, women especially, that will no doubt offer him a blessed life.  Although only two and change, I want to teach him mental toughness.  Even writing this it seems weird to say, but I want for my kids what I want for myself, to be the most I can be.  It is truly depressing not living my ultimate life as my most self.  When I am down and off my game, in an energetic slump it’s usually because I am not maximizing my own potential and it leaves me feeling empty.

I write a lot about fitness and that is an easy example in maximizing your efforts, one day you pick up one weight the next a bigger one, or you try and run faster than the last time, etc.  This concept can translate to how you are in your day.  Can you eat a little bit better, or be a more patient parent, or be amazing in your job? 

Being good or O.K. gets to be a bummer.  How can I be great?

When the going gets tough the tough get going.  It’s easy to be discouraged by blips on your path.  It’s is hard not to give up when you feel all hope is lost.  Grit.

Grit is a buzz word that is thrown around in parenting circles.  The importance of grit is rivaling high IQ’s and test scores.  I want grit for my kids and I am working on it for myself.  I hear well-meaning parents on the playground coach/talk their children through issues being overly compassionate and it makes me mad.  Listen, your kid messed up.  Don’t process it away for them, you are steeling tools that they will need in their lives to learn about mistakes and consequences.  They can handle it, it’s you that can’t.

Now I seem mean, and maybe I am the mean Mom, but I want to teach my son to swim, just not in the dog bowl.

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