Raising kids with "grit"
November 13, 2013 11:48 AM Subscribe
What can I do as a parent to help my child build persistence, self-discipline, high standards, and work ethic?
posted by Bardolph to Human Relations (44 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
My otherwise-delightful, smart, sweet 4.5-year-old seems pretty low on the "grit" scale, even for her age range. She dislikes sustained concentration on a challenging task (even for like 5 minutes at a time); she doesn't ever show a strong interest in anything (bike-riding/crafting/whatever) that'd motivate her to work on her skills; she generally abandons activities the moment she encounters any difficulty; and she's perfectly happy doing a mediocre-to-poor job of things with zero impulse to go back and improve.
Last year, for instance, she got suddenly very into dance and spent hours randomly twirling around the living room to music. We're not much for dance ourselves, but we signed her up for a (very easygoing, low-stress) preschool dance class at the Y, and she spent the entire semester complaining about how she hated dance lessons because they were too long and boring-- even while continuing to enjoy free-form twirling at home. It wasn't that she didn't like dance; she just didn't like doing any work on it.
I realize, of course, that much of this may just be four-year-old-ness: we're definitely not interested in becoming "tiger parents" (ugh) or making a lot of non-age-appropriate demands. But both my husband and I suffered from classic smart-kid/poor-work-ethic syndrome, and we'd really like to give her some of the resources of perseverance and individual drive that we ourselves lack. She certainly doesn't need to follow our dreams, but we would like her to have strong interests of her own, to set goals and work hard to meet them. I'm interested, then, in hearing whether anyone's had any success raising (or being raised as) industrious and self-disciplined children, and if so, what worked for you.
(Of particular interest: methods for getting extrinsic structure to translate into internal self-motivation. On occasion, for instance, we've tentatively tried introducing little bits of structured work into family life, like sitting down together every day for ~10 minutes and sounding out a couple of pages of a book. But there seems to be absolutely no way to incentivize that that doesn't just backfire by making her resistant to the activity itself (so now, even though we rewarded the phonics time and tried to make it positive and fun, she loudly proclaims at every opportunity that she "hates reading!"). And of course, if we didn't have a structure, the activity just wouldn't get done at all, and we'd be back where we started.)
tl;dr I don't want to rob my daughter of her childhood, but also I don't want to raise her to be incapable of sustained work or self-improvement. What's worked for you to raise gritty kids?