It’s time to confess. Working to instill grit in our kids is hard. Really hard. It’s especially hard when it comes to fostering grit in my pre-pubescent 6th grader. I don’t know if your middle schoolers are the same but mine seems to have a nano-second’s worth of patience and gets upset at just about everything.
So when I started Grit Moms, I wanted it to be a place where moms could talk about their experiences in teaching perseverance and that “I’m-not- gonna- give-up attitude” with their kids. I wanted to share successes and the failures as well as validating that teaching grit takes time. A LOT of time. Grit talks a lot about failure and how experiencing it is not the end of something but the opportunity to try again and sometimes again (and sometimes again). There are many fails I have experienced in my journey to teach grit to my kids and it has involved a lot of tears. Some I may call epic fails. Here’s a recent one.
My sixth grader was notorious last year for forgetting a piece of homework at school after we had gotten home. So I often did a very non-grit act which was drive him back to school to get his missing homework. Each time I would scream, “This is the last time I am driving you to school to get your work. Enough already. You need to be more responsible! I’m getting really tired of this!” Each experience involved yelling during car ride there and back of course which just became a mess.
As a new school year started recently we were doing great! Homework was getting done; papers were coming home for me to sign. And then it happened this week. A test that was graded came home and needed to be signed. That day, my son very casually said, “I have my test, but I am going to finish my other homework first.” No problem. So the afternoon was going fine. Both kids were quietly doing homework while I was cleaning out their lunch boxes. About a half hour later, I heard screeching sounds coming from my son’s room and the thrashing of binders and notebooks.
“What on Earth is happening in here?” I said as I walked into his room. He turned to me in tears and cried hysterically, “I thought I had my test in here but I looked all over my back pack and I can’t find it! It must still be in desk at school!” When I say tears, I mean tears with the red face, the hands reaching for the hair on his head and pulling it. Just madness. First I thought, Ok, he’s going about this like a typical pre-pubescent kid right? I mean he was upset the other day about something completely random in a similar way.
But then the continued self-loathing started, “Why did I do this again? What is wrong with me?” His words took so long to come out because he was seriously hyperventilating in between each word. At that moment I took a step back and said to myself, “What the heck is wrong here??” This is what I have instilled in him? Through my convoluted lens of grit, I have caused him to put this much stress and pressure on himself about what? A piece of paper?? Seriously?
So once he calmed down and we set all the homework aside, we had a real talk. A real dialogue about grit. Not about the need to be academically successful and the consequences involved for not doing everything well in school, but about focusing on our strengths, progressing one step at a time through things, about the type of person he wants to develop into, and how to have grit when things get difficult. His crying episode just showed me that I all taught my child to do when things go wrong is to freak out, get frustrated and get upset before even starting to think about fixing it. That it is if he is too traumatized to even thing about fixing the situation. That’s not grit! Those aren’t life skills that will enable my kids to succeed. So I promised him I’ll do better and he in turn promised to do better.
Here’s a great video from Good Morning America for parents reminding us to talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to grit.