First, grit is immeasurable. There is no standardized test on grit. Secondly, grit takes time to manifest. Thirdly, we often need counterintuitive approaches to cultivate grit. For example, if we have a choice to develop our children’s grit knowing they may need to fail an exam to get there vs drilling our children so they get good grades on next week’s exam, which would we choose? Most of us would subconsciously choose the latter because the results are measurable and matter to the near future. Also, no parent would want a child to fail an exam to know what failing means. Human beings naturally care about the near term, tangible and measurable outcomes.
However, what if our children participate in extracurricular activities such as sports where the outcome is only victory or defeat? What if we allow them to participate in music recitals, so our children know what it means to mess up in front of an audience and deal with embarrassment?
For those who have watched National Geographic about wild animals, every day is a matter of survival. If a predator fails and gives up, it starves. Eventually, it will be eaten by a stronger predator and perish. A baby wildebeest (one of the most coveted preys in Africa) is expected to walk within minutes after birth before the parents have no choice but to abandon it otherwise. If the prey is not gritty enough to outrun the predator, it won’t live another day. In the wild, every minute is a manifestation of grit. In these instances, grit seems to be omnipresent and congenital. It doesn’t need to be taught. But if the exact same animals were put into a zoo and fed, they would lose their instinctive hunger. Sometimes you dangle food in front of their mouths; they would brush it aside and sleep. What happened?
The environment and experiences play a critical role in cultivating grit. So, as parents, what kind of environment and experiences can we provide for our little ones?