How to raise kids with grit

Helping your child be well balanced and resilient can be a tough job

Parenting Commentator / July 18 2018

The more I parent, the more I believe we’re focused on the wrong things. We’re trying to make our kids happy. We’re desperate for them to have opportunities and we want them to discover their skills and talents. But there’s one word we don’t hear much – yet it’s being credited with creating a well-balanced, resilient child: ‘Grit’. Grit To Great author Robin Koval says helicopter parenting, coupled with the belief we should never let our kids fail, have given rise to children ill-prepared to cope with life’s challenges. Robin and her co-author Linda Kaplan Thaler believe that modern culture is so full of instant success stories that kids no longer see you have to work really hard if you want to achieve something. Follow their five tips for developing grit.

1 Make your kids make their beds

Robin tells the story of the Navy Seal who says his top lesson was making his bed every day. She says we’re so focused on creating lovely environments for our kids, we don’t push them enough when it comes to chores.

2 Anyone can learn grit

While some kids are born grittier than others, it’s a trait you can develop. Letting your child fail occasionally helps them learn grit, as does helping them find things they love to do and are successful at. Linda points out it’s all about the work ethic and what you put into a job. As she says, the successful people are those still standing when their boss tells them to ‘do it over, do it over, do it over’.

3 Don’t pack their camping gear

When your child is going on school camp or away with friends don’t pack for them, advises the authors. "So what if they forget the flashlight," Linda says. "They won’t forget it next time when they are walking around in the dark."

4 Praise the effort, not the end result

In our ultra-competitive culture where kids are constantly tested, they need to learn that effort is as important as the result. They need to feel that your and their own self-approval comes from the effort.

5 Encourage your kids to solve small problems

Kids get overwhelmed then paralysed by a problem so try to break them down, Linda advises. She suggests saying: "You say that you can’t do the science project, but what can you do?"

I grew up in New Zealand, moved to London in my early 20s to work on British newspapers then moved to Australia when I was pregnant with my first child. I write a newspaper column, celebrity interviews and a parenting page. I also do TV and radio commentary, podcasting and host corporate events. I’ve also published a book on parenting, The Smallest Things. However, my greatest role ­­– and the one I’m most proud of – is parenting my daughters, Eliza and Lilibelle, who are 17 and 14.