Saturday, February 4, 2017

Grit Part 6

Growing Grit from the Outside
         The Latin meaning of the word parent is ‘bring forth’. We need to bring forth interest, practice, purpose and hope in all the people that we care for and care about. We have to show our children, according to Dr. Duckworth, that it’s not about us and what we need, but that it’s truly about giving the kids all that we got. We have to do this, even when it’s not easy because kids need demanding and supportive parenting or other words, ‘tough-love’ in order to build some grit of their own.
            However, remember that we don’t need to be a parent to make a difference. If we just care about them and get to know them and what’s going on in their lives, we can make a positive impact. I’m sure that we have all heard the old African proverb, that it takes a village to raise a child, right?
            Besides parents growing grit from the outside in their own homes with their children, extracurricular activities is another great way to build grit. With extracurricular activities there is usually a more objective adult standing in for the parent who is also demanding and supportive. In addition, this other adult and the extracurricular activity itself is designed by nature to cultivate interest, increase practice and produce purpose and hope. And the beautiful thing is that it really doesn’t matter what the extracurricular activity is because all extracurricular activities are playing fields of grit. So, let’s sign our kids up for something so they can spend at least part of their week doing hard things that interest them.
            You see, this is how it works… School is hard for our young ones, but for many it’s also boring, or at least not intrinsically interesting. Texting their friends is interesting, but not hard. Extracurricular activities, on the other hand, can be the best of both worlds… They can be hard and fun. In addition, kids who participate in extracurricular activities fare better on every conceivable metric.
            Dr. Duckworth talks about a study began in 1978 by Warren Willingham who was the director of the Personal Qualities Project, and which still remains to this day as one of the most ambitious studies ever done to discover what determinants help young people become successful young adults. What he found was the extracurricular activities are a great indicator of future success.
But here was the real secret though… Kids who participate in more than one extracurricular activity and took part for more than one year, who also somehow made great strides became the most successful young adults off all, regardless of what their S.A.T. scores were, or what their grade point average was.
Harvard University has picked up on this fact and bases at least part of their admissions on this. Bill Fitsimmons, the former Dean of Admissions for Harvard says that kid who was consistent and succeeded on one of the extracurricular playing fields of grit, could use that energy and determination for something else purposeful like getting good grades at Harvard, even if that kid no longer participates in that extracurriculars. Sadly, many high schools are facing budget cuts today and are cutting their extracurricular programs…
            According to Dr. Duckworth, without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward that seems to go hand-in-hand with extracurricular activities, all animals, humans included, default to laziness. Calorie-burning effort is after all, something evolution has shaped us to avoid whenever possible. Taking away extracurricular activities and then accusing kids of being lazy doesn’t seem to add up correctly though. We are the adults. We need to do better.

            Are you doing everything in your power to make sure that our children have opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities and build some grit of their own?
 Dan Blanchard is an award-winning author, speaker and educator. You can learn more about him at: