Let them choose but don’t let them quit

‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth is an excellent book and if you haven’t read it, you really should. It is full of real life case studies and short anecdotes with real tangible lessons for what it takes to succeed. Not just in sport or skill acquisition, but in life.

An idea that really struck with me was towards the end of the book where she spoke about the notion of how preventing her daughters from dropping out of the extra curricular activities that they had chosen has actually lead to them developing some very important traits.

Duckworth pointed out she would allow her children to choose the activity and leave this very much up to the them to decide. Upon allowing them their own choice there is an initial sense of pride, ownership and accountability from them. But, once the choice is selected and the activity begins, the parent steps in and acts as the accountability figure when those initial positive feelings invariably start to fade.

From the children’s perspective, reasons for quitting stem from the fact they no longer see the fun in the activity and are no longer intrigued or excited by it. This can be from a multitude of reasons. But standing firm as a parent, really helps build resilience early on and if everyone follows through to the activities natural end, we can see this perseverance blossom into some very positive fortitude for later years.

Whether a child or adult, overall the benefits of ‘hanging in there’ and saying no to quitting make for a strong case;

  • It builds self respect in the person.
  • It builds self esteem.
  • It builds self confidence.
  • It builds self awareness.

When we look at the effect of ‘giving in’ when faced with an unhappy child wanting to quit, Duckworth noted that we see the opposite patterns occurring and a series of weak resilience habits formed. This of course, is very damaging long term.

Now of course. It will be difficult to stand by and be a pillar of strength in the face of seeing children visibly down and see them ‘suffer’,’unhappy’ and’struggle’. However the lessons they stand to learn by sticking to their own decisions and following through will likely far outweigh any short term benefit that could be gained by allowing them to quit. So have the patience and the reassurance that telling them to ‘march back out there and show them what you got’ is actually the best seed to plant in their fertile minds.

In conclusion, the telling tale to see if the effect will be long lasting or fleeting is simply found by looking within:

If we want to create the foundations of grit in children, first we need to honestly establish what gritty our own approach to life is. i.e. how much drive and perseverance we have when it comes to our own goals. Then we must ask how likely is it that our approach to life is one that is likely to be replicated by the children. If the answers to both questions correlate, we are on the right path to developing grit.

CALL TO ACTION: Go get ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth