We recently wrote about talent and how to recognize it at an early age. Today's article will be about another personality trait, one that is just as important (if not more so) as talent in determining future success for children and adults. This trait is grit.
The original meaning of grit in English is sand, small pebbles and the clenching of teeth during effort. In psychology, grit refers to a particular type of endurance or perseverance: one which, combined with passion for a goal, will enable you to make a long-term effort to reach what you want. American psychologist Angela Ducksworth has been researching the topic for a long time: she went to schools, colleges, a military academy and children's spelling bees to measure participants' psychological profile and try to determine who will be ultimately successful and who will drop out. The results were surprising: measurable intelligence, IQ, was not a decisive factor; in fact, higher IQ individuals sometimes did worse. The only measurable personality trait that could predict future success or failure was grit.
Grit is also connected to another pair of concepts: fixed and growth mindset. These come from psychologist Carol Dweck's research, and express a person's subconscious attitude towards the nature of abilities and skills. People with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence, talent or any other similar ability is a constant: you're born with a certain level of it, and that level will not change during your life. Growth mindset people, on the other hand, feel that abilities can be improved, and you can become smarter or more skillful than you were born as long as you're willing to work for it.
This fundamental difference in thinking already manifests in childhood, and can be observed from the age of 4. It determines how a person relates to challenges, success and failure; and, in fact, to work at large.
If a fixed mindset child fails at a task, they'll conclude that they're not clever or talented enough, and that there's nothing they can do about it. They'll start avoiding challenges: they'll only attempt things they know they can do without effort, since harder tasks carry the possibility of failure – and the feeling of worthlessness.
Growth mindset children, however, instinctively realize that abilities can be developed with constant use and effort. If they succeed at something, they seek a new, slightly more difficult task so they can grow up to that one as well. They dare to ask questions and ask for help: they consider these not a sign of weakness or lack of talent, but a tool which helps them study and get better.
So, children's path to success goes hand in hand with grit and growth mindset. Every parent must be thinking the same question: how can I change my child's mentality and grit? How can help them become more successful?
One useful thing you can do is talk to your child about these two mindsets. Explain how growth and fixed mindset people think; that we can change our mentality and have an effect on our own lives; and that we are not defined by whatever state, situation or performance we have right now. A school experiment has shown that classroom behavior indicative of growth mindset became more common after teachers had a talk with kids about the two mindsets. It seems like growth mindset can be learned.
Another important tip: if you praise your child (and you should!), praise their effort, not their abilities. Don't say "you did great on that test, you're very smart". Say "you did great on that test, you've been really studying a lot for it". Praising talent and intelligence suggests to children that these are in-born abilities which determine their worth – in other words, it encourages a fixed mindset.
Also teach your child that failures and mistakes are not the end of the world. They can be overcome, and our abilities and mentality related to the task at hand can be improved. Since children learn most of their behavior and worldview from their parents, the best way you can accomplish this is by handling your own failures calmly, without bitterness, hysterics or blaming others.
Logiscool does not only teach children valuable knowledge, it also gives them a regular feeling of accomplishment and long-term motivation through our project-based curriculum. Children will make mistakes while working on their tasks, but they'll also learn that these can often be overcome in multiple ways, and that they can further improve their finished projects any time.
They will regularly come face to face with difficulties to defeat, but they'll also learn through experience that beating these challenges will make them better in programming, robotics or any other subject of their choice. It's important for us that the children get the important knowledge, which can make them successful in the digital world, in a positive, reinforcing, experience-rich environment. Our courses, camps and workshops await children who wish to grow!