Grit Smoke and Mirrors

 

We are closing in on the end of another school year.  Excitement is brewing as summer activities are being planned and culminating activities are in full swing.  Now most of these posts have been positive for the most part, but I can’t help but post about a situation I encountered that quite simply got me annoyed.  Grit can present itself in many ways.  It can be the child interested in guitar who is striving to master playing a complicated song.  It can be a child making the year-long goal to read over a million words at school.  It can be the child spending tireless days and nights working to build a robotic car in the garage to present at a maker fair.  It can also be the child who had a dream of playing collegiate sports when very young, and spent years practicing her craft.  In each of those situations, they encounter frustrations along the way.  They may not get to a million words that year but there is always next year.  They may complete their robotic car and present it at the maker competition just to find that another student created something far more complex and is recognized instead.  The message in the end is always the same – keep striving.   Often times that message resonates stronger when you have the support of those who love you like your parents. As Grit Moms, we must support our children and teach them to strive to reach their goals (whatever those goals may be).  There is nothing wrong with being involved in their journey.

However some parents who are too involved tend to not teach Grit qualities at all.  Instead, they are shielding their children from anything negative and giving them every advantage possible. While doting on your child and wanting the best for her is only natural, going to bat for her to remove consequences, to speak for her when she are very capable of speaking for herself, allowing her to have anything she wants and skipping over discipline to save her feelings could result in your raising a self-centered, entitled and overindulged child, teen and eventually, adult. Negative experiences and conflict management are hard lessons for a child to learn, but they’re important for character development and grit development.

My children’s school community is interesting.  Parents are involved in a good way and a bad way.  Recently, I learned of a parent who received the news that her child was not going to receive the top in honors as part of the 8th grade graduating class. While this child is very smart, has excellent grades and works hard, she didn’t earn that coveted spot. Another great student did.  Instead of taking the time to make this situation a teachable moment about failing forward, about practicing graciousness, about celebrating the accomplishments this child did receive, the parent chose to make this a negative experience.  She took it upon herself to talk to her child’s teacher in hopes they would reconsider the award announcement.  When that didn’t work, the family chose to not participate in the school’s graduation ceremony.  Their child did not get to receive her diploma and celebrate the end of this wonderful phase in her life with friends.  A moment she will never to get to have back.  There was no painful situation like this child had no family or this child couldn’t afford to attend her own graduation.  They simply didn’t get what they wanted so didn’t go.  To make this even sillier, when I talked with the parent, she believes that she is a grit mom like me.  All I have to say to that is, “Girl, we are not the same!”

Grit it teaching your child to strive for excellence and not perfection.  Grit is showing your child perseverance when times get tough; not to hold your breath until you get what you want.  Grit is teaching your child to be independent by choosing his own experiences. Choosing your child’s extracurricular activities, micromanaging play dates, solving social problems, doing his homework and being nosey or intrusive can turn your child into a puppet who only knows what he’s been taught to like. He misses out on developing his own habits, hobbies, likes and dislikes when instead, he’s pressured to conform to your standards and interests, however well-intentioned they may be.

We are involved in our children’s lives.  We should be because we all want is best for them. But for Grit Moms that involvement needs to include allowing our children to make decisions, and experience the whole continuum of emotions.  I know I am overstepping or being that overinvolved mom instead of a Grit Mom when my child feels he has to be perfect to fulfill my expectation of him.  I have to check myself constantly with that.  It happens more often than I would like to admit. There are times when we as parents veer off course and forget what it is we are teaching our children.  But when we recognize that, correct it, and get back on the right road then we are exhibiting grit ourselves and our children will notice.

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