Positive Grit Attitudes = Positive Grit Actions

Summer time means BBQ fun, swimming and lively conversation.  That was the start of our lovely evening yesterday as we spent time with friends and their kids.  We were talking about what we were going to do and put in place so that our kids would have plenty of fun things to do the next two months.  We initially thought these fun activities (camps, trips to the park etc.)  could start next week since the kids just got out of school a few days ago.  But we didn’t realize their demands for fun and stimulation would begin literally the day after school got out.

As we are trying to make the smooth transition to summer and find places for their full bags of school work and supplies (oh those pencils boxes), wouldn’t it be nice if the kids would just chill for a few days.  I mean, they just finished school right?

Then my friend said, “The kids have been done with school and on summer vacation for only two days, and I already feel like I’ve yelled at them more than I have all school year.”  Boy did I feel the same. How much yelling will I do the next two months?  Then I thought about a great article I read recently on grit as it relates to feedback and mindsets.  In addition I participated in a helpful training with after school program professionals on a discipline strategy that focuses on positive behavior and interventions.  Both talked about actions that adults can do that promote not only positive attitudes for your children but positive actions as well.  I was even more excited to see common threads in both the research article and the training.  In both, the focus was not so much on praising the skill or the result, but more the character trait that was exhibited by the child.  Finally, both talked about the importance of giving detailed feedback to our children.  We should be giving them more than, “Please stop doing that!” or “Good job!” Kids respond positively to interactions that are clear, appropriate and constructive.

So with the warm weather and summer time madness beginning here are some attitudes and actions you can strive to embrace in order to keep your sanity and that grit mindset:

1. Strive for smooth, effective transitions between the day’s activities:  

As a working mom, I am fortunate enough to have a flexible summer schedule in order for me to spend time with my kids. But that often involves having them accompany me on my work errands or even come to my office for a bit after they participate in their camps/activities with friends. The ideal is that they will go along with this whole plan without a complaint and without slowing down the process right? Our children’s schedules are very different in the summer and we have to remind ourselves of that. Letting them know the schedule for the day as you have breakfast in the morning or keeping a calendar or list up of the day’s activities helps. This way, your kids know what to expect that day. More importantly, this should be an interactive conversation where your children can give input and express their feelings. “After lunch, I will need to organize some items at my office. Then we can have a nice quick dessert treat afterwards. What are you in the mood for?” Too often, I would catch myself driving to one errand after another with my kids and not letting them know what was going on. Then I would lose patience and yell as they would constantly ask, “When are we going to be done already? I want to go home!” Communicating in way that kids feel heard can be challenging at times – especially when you just want to get things done. But investing time in some clear conversations with your child will get these things done more effectively and enjoyably in the long run. Remember that teaching grit is a lifelong process. It takes patience and time to build.

2. Give appropriate and constructive feedback  

My children respond best when I give them feedback that is timely, appropriate and clear. I remember yelling across the field to my child recently as he was acting inappropriately, “Hey, stop that now or we are going to leave!” All that did was embarrass my child and left him with no clear understanding of the appropriate behavior he was to be exhibiting.

Here is a great excerpt from the article I reference below that is echoes this as well:

Born in Ecuador, George’s family moved to the Bronx when he was five. He began school at KIPP in the fifth grade, where a character-based education taught him about hard work, empathy, and the importance of being a good friend. Weekly leadership classes in middle school focused on character values including “grit,” “gratitude,” and “self-control.” “Instead of ‘George, you’re the line leader today,’ it was ‘George can you display leadership and take your class in a line?’” By labeling the behavior and naming the character strengths in context, these leadership classes taught him how to be a nice person, he says—and how to succeed in life.“My teachers didn’t say ‘George, please be quiet; it was ‘George, show more self-control,’” he says. The focus was more on constructive advice, things he could work on rather than criticizing the behavior and commanding him to act a certain way.

3.  5-1 positive interactions

In the training I attended for after school professionals, there was a goal made to engage in more positive interactions between the after school tutors and students. They went further to talk about how supervising students meant talking with students. Not just standing there and watching them from far away. One strategy that worked well at an after school site was the 5-1 approach. For every one negative verbal contact an after school tutor had with a student, he/she had to make five positive verbal contacts to that student before the program day was over. Staff soon realized how often they were using negative comments in the first place and how difficult at times it was to make up for it by coming up with five positive comments/interactions. But this practice not only helped staff members approach their student interactions in a more positive way, but it contributed to making an overall positive program climate. As staff members exhibited more positive communication/interaction with students, students exhibited more positive interaction with their peers. Eventually, this positive culture contributed to students’ attitudes towards school and their abilities to achieve personal goals.

Keep positive and keep cool this summer!

For more information on this article and the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, please go to:



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