Developing Persistence in Children and Adolescents
GRIT. It’s the ability to persist on tasks towards long-term goals, without being easily distracted or discouraged by obstacles. Scientific research has shown that early persistence can even predict outcomes in adulthood, such as performance in school, sports, the work place, and the military.
What if a child does not naturally demonstrate “grit”? Can parents help? Luckily, persistence is not a fixed trait, but rather one that can be shaped over time. Dr. Alan Kazdin (Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and Director of the Yale Parenting Center) describes four concrete techniques parents can use to help build persistence in their kids:
Modeling – Show persistence during effortful tasks in the presence of your child (for example, try to get an object out of a tight container, and narrate out loud what you are doing to overcome obstacles);
Systematically Praising Effort – Keep a lookout so you can catch your child showing effort and staying with a task, and then enthusiastically praise them for their persistence;
Practicing Behaviors and Consequences – Provide opportunities where your child can practice persistent behavior, and use modeling to begin the process;
Mental Contrasting – Increase the likelihood of completing a goal by moving through these steps with your child: 1) Wish – select a goal, 2) Outcome – visualize the best outcome, 3) Obstacle – identify potential obstacles, and 4) Plan – develop a concrete plan to overcome each obstacle.
Click here to watch Dr. Angela Duckworth’s TED talk – Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.