Grit: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By: Renie Contento
What character trait is said to be one of the most important in determining your child’s future success? Elementary principal, Renie Contento shares the research and three, seemingly counterintuitive ways we can help our kids even more this year!

Twenty years in education has allowed me to observe how trends in education and parenting have changed year after year. Over these years, Calvary Christian Academy (CCA) has made great progress in understanding the differences in our childrens’ learning styles, using technology and creativity to make learning come alive for them in the classroom. We have also learned so much about how to streamline and simplify how we collaborate with our families. Tools like MyCCA (CCA’s parent portal) and online educational resources have connected school and home so seamlessly that parents can now access their child’s grades, assignments, textbooks, and teachers from their phones! These conveniences allow us to manage time better and provide instant access to things that make our lives run smoothly, but how do advancements in technology affect our children?

One of the unanticipated downsides that I have become aware of over the last few years is that these conveniences can sometimes become so helpful, that they actually decrease our childrens’ ability to cope or persevere when things don’t go smoothly. This skill has been labeled “Grit” in the education community, and it has become a topic of much research and discussion. Jenny Williams2 describes grit as “a distinct combination of passion, resilience, determination, and focus that allows a person to maintain the discipline and optimism to persevere in their goals even in the face of discomfort, rejection, and a lack of visible progress for years, or even decades.”
conveniences . . . actually decrease our childrens’ ability to cope or persevere when things don’t go smoothly.
Additionally, research tells us that it’s one of THE MOST important traits in determining a person’s success in life. Angela Duckworth1 has done extensive research studying students from a variety of backgrounds, educational settings, socioeconomic dynamics and family make-ups. She tracked these students through graduation and then tried to pinpoint the commonalities in those that successfully completed school and went on to be successful in college and careers later in life. The one thing that each of these students shared was that they had grit. They were able to endure trials, stick with a task even when things did not go smoothly, and persevere to reach a goal even when it seemed impossible.

So what can we as parents do to help our kids become gritty? 
  • Make time for things that invigorate you

God has designed us to each have a passion for things that we were designed to do well, and will therefore be fueled by when we engage in those things. Help your child find that passion for something and then encourage them to work hard to do it well. Sports, writing, music, dance, art, academics . . . Whatever they love, help them to see that practice and hard work can be combined with their passion to help them be the best version of themselves for God’s glory.

  • Allow frustration and chaos to happen for your child.

    Don’t always rescue!
 We love our kids so much and never want them to suffer. This often results in us swooping in whenever our kids show signs of trouble or frustration. Letting our children solve problems, work through difficult situations, and even experience things getting worse before they get better is going to stretch and grow your child in ways that our rescuing will never allow. Most importantly, this hands off approach to your child’s struggles will allow you to be praying for them behind the scenes, while you encourage them to seek God for guidance and wisdom. Creating grit encourages our children to fully rely on God, instead of looking for mom or dad to come to the rescue.
    . . . tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
  • Change your mind about failure

    “Failure is not an option.” WRONG! Erase that quote from your memory if you want to raise gritty kids. So much growth, strength and courage can be gained when we are forced to walk through failures. Allowing our children to experience the pain of working hard for something and then not seeing it end the way they had hoped, allows them to experience the sorrow of the failure (which we so often try to shield them from). But after the sorrow, there is the opportunity for your children to pick themselves up, figure out what things went wrong to cause the failure and strategize for future success. It also allows them to be an “underdog” and build the drive and fight that comes from wanting to achieve a goal that they have failed at in the past. This life lesson can’t be taught any other way than by experiencing the failure. Why would we deprive our children of such growth-producing opportunities? Let them fail. Pray with them, and encourage them to take steps to try again.

    “Failure is not an option.” WRONG!
The Bible verses that remind me most of the importance of allowing my kids to experience the hard or painful things in life with the goal of making them gritty is Romans 5:3-4 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Letting our children experience trials and suffering, and encouraging them to persevere through them will not only help them to be successful now, but will build grit for them to become successful adults with the strength to change the world for Christ. 
Renie Contento is the elementary principal at Calvary Christian Academy. She has been an educator for over 20 years, and has been on staff at CCA since 2008. Renie and her husband Bryce have two juniors who have attended CCA since kindergarten.

  • Olga Gustavson
    Grit is for sure a gift that ALL kids should have if we want them to be successful in life. Great article for sure.
  • Sasha Katz
    Great article!

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