Turning Achievement into GRIT

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By Daniel Linscott, PsyD
Psychologist, Co-founder of Angeles Crest Psychological Services, Inc.
Thank you to Dr. Melissa Johnson of the Institute for Girls’ Development for her support with this article.

Parents often ask us, “how can we help our child/teen develop resilience and grit in the face of all the challenges they face today?” We want our children to develop grit and resilience. These qualities will benefit them throughout life – and include things like persistence, passion, and the ability to bounce back through the use of inner skills and outer support. In his book, How Children Succeed, Paul Tough reports on a study that identified a strategy for creating a higher threshold of GRIT. In the study, students are asked to write of a time they used personal strengths to overcome a challenge. Afterwards, the students took a test. The students who participated faired significantly better than did the control group.1 Furthermore, the students that wrote about overcoming challenges ended up having significant long-term benefits over the course of their high school career, compared to the control group.2

This activity can be adapted to your dinner table conversation or other shared family time. To get started, talk to your child about what they identify as their strengths. They are not sure? That’s not uncommon. It might be fun for you and your older child or teen to take the Values-in-Action (VIA) quiz on the website: authentichappiness.org.3 Then, you all can reflect on your strengths and how you use them to get through daily challenges. I encourage you to be curious and ask about the strengths your child used to get the A, or deal with their friend drama, or get through that class with the teacher “that hated them.”

Be sure to ask about the outer resources they’ve used as well. Who did they turn to for help? How did they ask for assistance? What did they find most supportive?

Continue to check in about what they’ve overcome during the week, after report cards, or during your celebratory milestones (birthdays, New Years, graduations, etc.). Share observations of your own use of strengths and skills (appropriately, of course). Then the next time your child is faced with a challenge, invite them to think “strengths, skills, and support” – three great steps to building resilience and grit.

Dr. Daniel Linscott, clinical psychologist (PSY2576), hails from a diverse professional background that has contributed to his unique developmental approach with clients – children, teens, adults, and families. Through his research in positive psychology as well as his private practice, Dr. Linscott has developed specialized skills for working with individuals and families to effectively navigate crisis, depression, burnout, parenting issues, as well as transitional and vocational difficulties.

 

1. Tough, Paul. (2013). How children succeed: Grit curiosity, and the hidden power of character. Mariner books.
2. In his book, Flourish, renown positive psychology researcher Martin Seligman, PhD, describes a similar exercise he created called the “Strengths in Challenges.”
3. Seligman, Martin E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Atria Books.