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  • Toddlers Already Have Grit: How to Make Sure the Trait Stays With Them

    Grit does not just happen to famous people who do amazing things. It's part of our child's daily life.
Toddlers Already Have Grit: How to Make Sure the Trait Stays With Them
  • Grit is defined as a personality trait that makes one keep working toward a goal despite setbacks or failures. It values effort and persistence rather than IQ and ability. Examples of grit are everywhere, and there is probably a no better model of persistence than toddlers.

    I see it in my now 2-year-old son as he discovers, fails, and succeeds. Those little bumps he got because he was trying too hard to steady his gait and walk, all the spilled food when he was attempting to eat with his spoon and fork, even those doodles on our wall — true grit!

    Having grit does not just happen to famous people who do amazing things. Grit is part of our child's daily life and healthy growth.

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    Psychologists are now focusing on grit as a critical element to success and happiness. Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania found that grit, not intelligence or academic achievement, was the most reliable predictor of a positive outcome. The kids who were more likely to succeed in life were not necessarily the smartest ones — they just worked a lot harder.

    There is a lot we can do to develop grit in our kids. Here's what I have learned so far.

    Let your child get frustrated!

    Most parents hate to see their kids struggle, but taking risks and failing is sometimes the only way to learn really. Let us not be scared of their feelings of sadness, frustration or anger.  These emotions toughen them up and build their character.

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    Do not let your child quit because of a single bad day.

    Instead, let us teach her how to build alternatives and how there is a need to view situations differently sometimes. They have to learn problem-solving and bouncing back when it a solution fails. 

    We should teach them that failure is not permanent — there are grace and greatness in it always.

    Praise good effort, not the award.

    We need to praise our kids not for winning or their intelligence but for their hard effort. Merely praising their "smartness" suggests that talent and skill are the small measures of success. Focusing on the process helps them see how good determination and diligence leads to more significant accomplishment.  

    Our kids need to understand that the goal of all tasks is not perfection. They have to feel that we have 101% confidence in their ability and it is all right not to get that perfect grade as long as he did his best.  What really matters is the learning experience that comes with it.

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    Let your child discover his passion.

    Let your child pursue his own interest in academics, sports, arts, music, etc.  An activity he chose will most likely motivate him to engage in the hard work and perseverance needed to succeed in it.  Continuously encourage him even if he trips and falls.  Self-encouragement will also be a good trait to cultivate.

    Encourage your child to step outside his comfort zone.

    Always playing it safe does not really do much but emphasizes one's inability to take new risks. Encourage your child to try new activities and to never give up on the challenging ones. Give him a chance to prove that he is capable of doing anything, even the difficult ones. Dr. Duckworth suggested that children be given the opportunity to pursue at least one difficult thing; an activity that requires discipline to practice.

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    Be 'gritty' yourself, Mom and Dad.

    We can tell them a lot of things we want to be done or how we want them to act, but the real lesson is us.  So much of what we do as parents come down to setting a good example. They actually learn a lot when watching their parents. 

    Sometimes, it's good to let our children watch us struggle with a task and see that we don't give up easily. We do not have to feel sad or embarrassed — they are not judging us. They are learning from our persistence. Whether you like it or not, we need to be their standard of resilience. If we want them to handle setbacks with grace and determination, we need to model them ourselves.

    Dr. Gretchen Agdamag-Calderon, an ophthalmologist and the woman behind Kartera Manila, a local brand of handwoven bags and purses for the modern Filipina. She is also a mom to a precocious 2-year-old named Cyrus. She doesn't like to waste time, believes in planning ahead, and knows that moms can still chase their dream.

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