Author Archives: gritmoms

Exit on the Resilience Road


I came across this great site called Fostering Resilience ( ) after a wonderful discussion with a mom looking to start a Grit Moms hangout group.  The bottom line is that if we want young people to succeed and grow to become resilient (and gritty) adults, we as parents need to believe in them unconditionally and, “hold them to high expectations of being compassionate, generous and creative.”  The entire site contains very helpful resources but I particularly like the “parents” tab that has some very grounding questions we all should ask ourselves as we promote resilience in our kids.  It was eye-opening for me to see answer the questions honestly as I asked myself, “Am I modeling healthy resilience strategies with my children”

The website talks about the 7 C’s: The essential building blocks of resilience.  They are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.  For each of the C’s, there are critical questions we need to ask ourselves.   Take some time to answer them yourselves and share your “a-has!”  with us.


Competence is the ability or know-how to handle situations effectively. It’s not a vague feeling or hunch that “I can do this.” Competence is acquired through actual experience. Children can’t become competent without first developing a set of skills that allows them to trust their judgments, make responsible choices, and face difficult situations.


In thinking about your child’s competence and how to fortify it, ask yourself:

• Do I help my child focus on his strengths and build on them?

• Do I notice what he does well or do I focus on his mistakes?

• When I need to point out a mistake, am I clear and focused or do I communicate that I believe he always messes up?

• Do I help him recognize what he has going for himself?

• Am I helping him build the educational, social, and stress-reduction skills necessary to make him competent in the real world?

• Do I communicate in a way that empowers my child to make his own decisions or do I undermine his sense of competence by giving him information in ways he can’t grasp? In other words, do I lecture him or do I facilitate his thinking?

• Do I let him make safe mistakes so he has the opportunity to right himself or do I try to protect him from every trip and fall?

• As I try to protect him, does my interference mistakenly send the message, “I don’t think you can handle this?”

• If I have more than one child, do I recognize the competencies of each without comparison to siblings?



True confidence, the solid belief in one’s own abilities, is rooted in competence. Children gain confidence by demonstrating their competence in real situations. Confidence is not warm-and-fuzzy self-esteem that supposedly results from telling kids they’re special or precious. Children who experience their own competence and know they are safe and protected develop a deep-seated security that promotes the confidence to face and cope with challenges. When parents support children in finding their own islands of competence and building on them, they prepare kids to gain enough confidence to try new ventures and trust their abilities to make sound choices.


In thinking about your child’s degree of confidence, consider the following questions:

• Do I see the best in my child so that he can see the best in himself?

• Do I clearly express that I expect the best qualities (not achievements, but personal qualities such as fairness, integrity, persistence, and kindness) in him?

• Do I help him recognize what he has done right or well?

• Do I treat him as an incapable child or as a youngster who is learning to navigate his world?

• Do I praise him often enough? Do I praise him honestly about specific achievements or do I give such diffuse praise that it doesn’t seem authentic? (More information about praising effectively is in Chapter 6.)

• Do I catch him being good when he is generous, helpful, and kind or when he does something without being asked or cajoled?

• Do I encourage him to strive just a little bit farther because I believe he can succeed?

•W Do I hold realistically high expectations?

• Do I unintentionally push him to take on more than he can realistically handle, causing him to stumble and lose confidence?

• When I need to criticize or correct him, do I focus only on what he’s doing wrong or do I remind him that he is capable of doing well?

• Do I avoid instilling shame in my child?



Children with close ties to family, friends, school, and community are more likely to have a solid sense of security that produces strong values and prevents them from seeking destructive alternatives. Family is the central force in any child’s life, but connections to civic, educational, religious, and athletic groups can also increase a young person’s sense of belonging to a wider world and being safe within it.


Some questions to ponder when considering how connected your child is to family and the broader world include:

• Do we build a sense of physical safety and emotional security within our home?

• Does my child know that I am absolutely crazy in love with him?

• Do I understand that the challenges my child will put me through on his path towards independence are normal developmental phases or will I take them so personally that our relationship will be harmed?

• Do I allow my child to have and express all types of emotions or do I suppress unpleasant feelings?

• Is he learning that going to other people for emotional support during difficult times is productive or shameful?

• Do we do everything to address conflict within our family and work to resolve problems rather than let them fester?

• Do we have a television and entertainment center in almost every room or do we create a common space where our family shares time together?

• Do I encourage my child to take pride in the various ethnic, religious, or cultural groups to which we belong?

• Do I jealously guard my child from developing close relationships with others or do I foster healthy relationships that I know will reinforce my positive messages?

• Do I protect my friends’ and neighbors’ children, just as I hope they will protect mine?



Children need a fundamental sense of right and wrong to ensure they are prepared to make wise choices, contribute to the world, and become stable adults. Children with character enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and confidence. They are more comfortable sticking to their own values and demonstrating a caring attitude toward others.


Some basic questions to ask yourself include:

• Do I help my child understand how his behaviors affect other people in good and bad ways?

• Am I helping my child recognize himself as a caring person?

• Do I allow him to clarify his own values?

• Do I allow him to consider right versus wrong and look beyond immediate satisfaction or selfish needs?

• Do I value him so clearly that I model the importance of caring for others?

• Do I demonstrate the importance of community?

• Do I help him develop a sense of spirituality?

• Am I careful to avoid racist, ethnic, or hateful statements or stereotypes? Am I clear how I regard these thoughts and statements whenever and wherever my child is exposed to them?

• Do I express how I think of others’ needs when I make decisions or take actions?



It is a powerful lesson when children realize that the world is a better place because they are in it. Children who understand the importance of personal contribution gain a sense of purpose that can motivate them. They will not only take actions and make choices that improve the world, but they will also enhance their own competence, character, and sense of connection. Teens who contribute to their communities will be surrounded by reinforcing thank yous instead of the low expectations and condemnation so many teens endure.


Before we can foster this sense of contribution, here are some things to consider:

• Do I communicate to my child (at appropriate age levels, of course) that many people in the world do not have as much human contact, money, freedom, and security as they need?

• Do I teach the important value of serving others?

• Do I model generosity with my time and money?

• Do I make clear to my child that I believe he can improve the world?

• Do I create opportunities for each child to contribute in some specific way?

• Do I search my child’s circle for other adults who might serve as role models who contribute to their communities and the world? Do I use these adults as examples to encourage my child to be the best he can be?



Children who learn to cope effectively with stress are better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. The best protection against unsafe, worrisome behaviors may be a wide repertoire of positive, adaptive coping strategies.


Before we begin teaching children this repertoire of coping and stress-reduction skills, here are some basic questions to ask ourselves:

• Do I help him understand the difference between a real crisis and something that just feels like an emergency?

• Do I model positive coping strategies on a consistent basis?

• Do I allow my child enough time to use imaginative play?  Do I recognize that fantasy and play are childhood’s tools to solve problems?

• Do I guide my child to develop positive, effective coping strategies?

• Do I believe that telling him to “just stop” the negative behaviors will do any good?

• Do I recognize that for many young people, risk behaviors are attempts to alleviate their stress and pain?

• If my child participates in negative behaviors, do I condemn him for it? Do I recognize that I may only increase his sense of shame and therefore drive him toward more negativity?

• Do I model problem-solving step by step or do I just react emotionally when I’m overwhelmed?

• Do I model the response that sometimes the best thing to do is conserve energy and let go of the belief that I can tackle all problems?

• Do I model the importance of caring for our bodies through exercise, good nutrition, and adequate sleep? Do I model relaxation techniques?

• Do I encourage creative expression?

• As I struggle to compose myself so I can make fair, wise decisions under pressure, do I model how I take control rather than respond impulsively or rashly to stressful situations?

• Do I create a family environment in which talking, listening, and sharing is safe, comfortable, and productive?



When children realize that they can control the outcomes of their decisions and actions, they’re more likely to know that they have the ability to do what it takes to bounce back. On the other hand, if parents make all the decisions, children are denied opportunities to learn control. A child who feels “everything always happens to me” tends to become passive, pessimistic, or even depressed. He sees control as external—whatever he does really doesn’t matter because he has no control of the outcome. But a resilient child knows that he has internal control. By his choices and actions, he determines the results. He knows that he can make a difference, which further promotes his competence and confidence.


Some questions about control:

• Do I help my child understand that life’s events are not purely random and most things happen as a direct result of someone’s actions and choices?

•On the other hand, do I help my child understand that he isn’t responsible for many of the bad circumstances in his life (such as parents’ separation or divorce)?

• Do I help him think about the future, but take it one step at a time?

• Do I help him recognize even his small successes so he can experience the knowledge that he can succeed?

• Do I help him understand that no one can control all circumstances, but everyone can shift the odds by choosing positive or protective behaviors?

• Do I understand that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling? Do I use discipline as a means to help my child understand that his actions produce certain consequences?

• Do I reward demonstrated responsibility with increased privileges?


Our children live up or down to the expectations we set for them.  If you are not happy with some of your answers to these questions, what can you realistically do to change that?  Check out more information about resilience at

Grit Games in the Shade

Summer weather has been taking its toll.  If you live where I do, we have been melting in triple digit heat.  That is why almost every house here has to have a pool.  We spent nearly every waking hour in the pool last week which was fun but quite tiresome.  The blazing weather isn’t letting up as it’s continuing this week.  I have tried a few indoor games as the AC is cranking today just to break the monotony of never ending pool play.  Some worked out really well and coincidentally promoted the characteristics of grit.  I have shared some great grit inspired indoor activities in past blog posts like chess and building a card house.  Those still work really well.  But I looked up a few to try out and these are some favorites.

Marble Relays

This is a game combines speed and balance as well as precision.  It requires4 or more players so parents can join in or siblings of all ages.  The materials are simple:  cardboard tubes, such as paper towel or wrapping paper tubes, scissors and a marble.

Here’s how to play:

  1. To get started: Cut the cardboard tubes into equal-length troughs, one for each player (ours were approximately 1 foot long). Have players line up 2 to 3 feet apart.
  1. To play: The first person in line sets the marble on one end of his trough, then, without touching the marble, rolls it the length of her tube and into the next player’s (it’s okay if troughs touch). That player passes the marble to the next, and so on. As each player passes the marble, he moves to the end of the line, eventually catching the marble again and passing it on. If someone drops the marble, she’s out and the marble goes back to the beginning of the line. Whoever’s left is the winner.
  2. Our testers’ twist: For larger groups, divide the players into 2 teams. Give each team a marble and have them race to pass it around the group 3 times. If a team drops their marble, they must start all over again.


Psychic Scavenger Hunt

This variation of the classic party game has a fun twist: competitors have to guess which items they’re supposed to find.  It’s a great game that reinforces persistence and patience.  The materials are simple.  All you need are 5-10 objects that can easily be found in a room (bowl, brush, bottle, etc.).

Here’s how to play:

  1. One player writes out a secret list of 5 to 10 objects that can easily be found in a room, such as a bowl, a brush, and a bottle.
  2. He then announces the number of objects he’s looking for, and the other family members have one minute to gather that same number of items.
  3. If anyone brings an object that’s on the list, she gets a point. And, of course, players have to put their items away before the next round. Try varying the game by limiting the objects to things that begin with the same letter or are a certain shape.


Pulling together

This is a great building game that promotes creativity and teamwork.  The materials you need are: 1 large ponytail holder, 12-inch lengths of string or yarn (one per player)and small cans or boxes.

Here’s how to play:

  1. To make your lasso, tie 12-inch lengths of string or yarn, one per player, to a single large ponytail holder.
  2. Players sit in a circle, each holding their string taut, then work together to stretch the holder so that it encircles a small can or box. They then lift the object and stack it on top of another, trying to create the highest tower they can. Our testers liked stacking cat food cans, small boxes, and even stuffed animals — nothing too heavy!


Making Butter

Another great game particularly for preschool aged kids involves whip cream and a container.  Provide your child with a small container filled half way with whipping cream. Have them put the lid on and shake the container until it turns to butter. Reinforce that this is a task that takes some time to complete, but the outcome provides butter that they will be able to spread on bread to eat.


Frozen Coins

For older kids this activity kept my son busy for awhile.  I call it frozen coins.  Give your child an ice cube with a penny frozen inside. The goal is to get the penny out of the ice cube without smashing it or putting it in their mouth. Try adding color to the water too for fun visual effect.  This encourages kids to use creativity and discuss options with their peers to complete the task. There can be strategy involved as well as lots of laughter.

Try these fun grit activities while you stay cool in front of a nice fan or in nicely air conditioned room.  Happy Summer!



Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’…


We had a momentous occasion in our household last week.  Our 11 year old child left to attend sleep away camp for a week. It was the longest I had ever been apart from my first born and it was painfully hard (for me of course, not for him).  I was just barely getting use to him being gone for weekend campouts and regular sleepovers at his buddies’ houses.   But he had been preparing for this camp trip for months.  It was his Boy Scout camp week and he was thinking about all of the classes he wanted to take to earn certain merit badges.  As the campout approached he shared with me that he would be taking a swim test at the campsite’s lake and going through a battery of swim activities he needed to pass in order to earn a merit badge for it.   I thought, I wonder what he is going to have to do?  So I asked him to share the requirements with me.  After reviewing the achievements I grew somewhat uneasy.  After reading the number of laps he’d have to do, how long he’d have to tread in the water and the other rather treacherous tasks, I wondered how he would do.

I have always felt safe with him in the water, he had swimming lessons as a young boy and he loved being in the pool.  But, he had yet to learn proper strokes.  So I felt that he was an ok swimmer but definitely not a strong swimmer.  So I told him when he gets to camp, “Just do your best and if you are not able to pass everything on your first try, just keep trying and have fun.”

When I picked him up from camp at the end of the week, I couldn’t help but notice that he looked like a young man (and super dirty).  As he was telling me about his activities and the merit badges he earned he began to tell me about the swimming achievements.  He told me that how on the first day; they got into the freezing lake water and tried his luck at the basic swim test.  He told me he failed it.  He could barely complete two laps.  I said, “That’s ok. You can always try it again.”  Then he proceeded to tell me that he did and was able to pass all of the requirements by the end of the week.  Before he could tell me more, we were interrupted by a few of the adult leaders who wanted to tell me just how proud they were of my son during the week.   I asked them why.  They said that he really struggled in the beginning of the week with the swim requirements as did a few other boys.  But then they told me that each day after that; during much of their free time; my son would ask the leaders if he could be supervised in the lake to practice so he could try the swim tests again.  When one adult leader said he couldn’t supervise him at that time, he would ask another adult leader to supervise him.  So each day, he managed to get his practice in and even pass a few of his swim requirements along the way.  Towards the end of the week, he had to finish one last big requirement to earn his swim merit badge: to complete at least 8 laps across the length of the lake area nonstop.  As he prepared for that, he practiced like he normally did but this time some of his scout buddies joined him to work with him and give him that support he needed.

When I gave him a hug as I arrived to pick him up, remember how I said that he looked like a young man?  He looked so happy and was standing so tall.  So as the adult leaders finished telling me the story of his swimming work during the week with my arm around my boy, the leader said, “He passed all of the swim achievements.  He really earned it.”  I turned to my son as I heard this and he said with a huge smile, “I didn’t give up. Just like you taught me.”

A grit attitude isn’t always about working to get the best grades in school.  It’s about finding something you want to accomplish, striving to accomplish it and usually experiencing setbacks along the way.  Whether it’s earning a scout merit badge or getting to the county finals for the spelling bee, grit moms must celebrate what matters to our children and celebrate their hard earned accomplishments when they achieve them.

Finally, I didn’t want to make this blog just about my proud and braggy Grit Mom moment.  I wanted to also end with some great information about how important it is make sure your children know how to swim. It is essential not only as a tool to teach grit but also for health and safety reasons (during the summer especially).

Read more:

Swimming produces a wide array of health and social benefits for kids of all ages. It provides children with a fun aquatic activity that also promotes good health and social development skills. It’s an aerobic form of exercise that also produces advantages for kids with disabilities. But as with any athletic activity, some risks do arise, especially with young children. Preventative measures help reduce these risks and allow swimming to be a safe, fun activity.

Health Benefits

    • Swimming provides a good source of exercise with minimal chances of bodily injuries common in other kids’ sports. Swimming offers a good source of aerobic exercise without placing added stress or impact on growing bones and joints. According to, swimming promotes good health, increases endurance and develops stamina. The long-term benefits of swimming, according to, include improving the cardiovascular system by allowing the heart to work less strenuously through more efficient ways using the body’s oxygen.

Social Benefits

    • Swimming helps children socially develop as they interact with kids their own age.

In addition to the health benefits, swimming also taps into the social development of kids. Children swimming competitively or participating in swim clubs learn the importance of perseverance, sportsmanship, self-discipline and goal-setting. They develop relationships with teammates and learn the importance of responsibility and teamwork. In addition, it allows kids to socialize with their peers.

Children with Disabilities

    • Many children with a variety of disabilities benefit from swimming. It’s a non-contact sport that requires no equipment and helps children with disabilities exercise their muscles. Swimming in particular can be extremely beneficial for kids with cerebral palsy. According to, swim therapy provides relief from muscle stiffness, enhances muscle relaxation and builds muscle strength. In addition, swimming also helps kids with disabilities develop coordination, as it requires movement from just about every muscle in the body.

Swim Classes

    • Parent and child swimming classes help create a stronger bond among family.

Taking swimming classes becomes one of the best ways for kids to learn how to swim. In addition, it also helps kids socialize with children their age. Learn-to-swim national organizations provide ample opportunities for kids of all ages to take lessons. For example, the American Red Cross presents authorized providers certified to teach parent and child aquatics or “Learn to Swim for All Ages,” a program catering to children five and under. In addition, according to, YMCA facilities across the nation operate about 2,600 pools and offer lessons year-round. The YMCA offers youth progressive, infant-parent and preschool swimming classes.



    • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is ranked as the second leading cause of unintentional deaths in kids ages 1 to 14. Parents and other adults caring for children must take precautionary measures. Never leave children unattended in a pool regardless of their swimming abilities, as drowning can happen quickly and adults may not hear a child’s cries for help. If boating, fishing or rafting on lakes or rivers, make sure kids always wear a life jacket. Construct a four-sided isolation fence around home pools to prevent preschoolers and toddlers from entering an unsupervised pool area.


    • Children should always use the buddy system when swimming.

Although swimming offers great health benefits, parents and children should be aware of the dangers as well. The CDC states that if kids swim in contaminated water found in public swimming pools, lakes, rivers or oceans, they can be exposed to recreational water illness (RWI). The most common systems of RWI include diarrhea, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. RWI spreads by swallowing, breathing or coming into contact with contaminated water. According to the CDC, prevention includes swimming in clean, clear water, avoiding swallowing pool water, taking children on bathroom breaks often and refraining from swimming when you have diarrhea.

It’s here!  What are your plans? Hopefully it involves family time and some relaxation. That is the hope right?  Summer reading is an essential activity and like many of you, I have received great book recommendations from my kids’ teachers.  But what about book recommendations that promote the themes of grit?  Well, it’s funny you ask.  The Grit Moms Hangout Guide contains a list of Grit book recommendations for kids in grade Kindergarten thru Eighth grade.  Each book in our list includes a book summary, word count and grade level.

Below is a little flavor of the many books in our guide that promote the themes of perseverance, character and determination.  Take some time to read a few with your kids this summer.  Then let us know what you think of them by sharing some of the discussions you had with your child on the various books.


Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen


Author: Cari Best Book summary:

Sally Jean has outgrown her old bike, Flash. She decides to make and collect old bicycle parts to make a new one.

Book Themes:





First Grade:

The Little Red Hen and the Ear of Wheat






Author: Mary Finch






Book summary

The little red hen finds a grain of wheat and works hard to plant, water, and knead the dough. But, none of her friends will help her. She reaps the benefits of all her hard work with a yummy loaf of homemade bread.


Book themes:





Reaching Long Term Goals


Second Grade:

Playing Right Field







Willy Welch




Book summary:

A young boy is positioned in right field when the more athletic players share center field. He dreams of making the catch of his life and being a hero. Then he hears the crowd cheer and sees the ball coming his way…

Book themes:






Third Grade:

Oh the Places You’ll Go








Dr. Seuss






Book summary:

Dr. Seuss gives out life lessons as he directs a boy through life’s up and downs.





Book themes:








Fourth Grade:

Wilma Unlimited







Kathleen Krull






Book Summary:

Wilma Ruldoph had polio when she was a child that left her paralyzed in one leg. She overcomes many obstacles and proves her critics wrong when she runs in the Olympics and wins three gold medals.



Book themes:








High quality summer learning like reading is essential to preventing “summer learning loss” and  improving students’ academic achievement and readiness/grittiness to learn.   In addition, quality summer learning programs are changing students’ lives for the better each and every summer. For more information about the value of quality activities with your child in the summer months, check out:

Keep reading and keep finding opportunities to model grit qualities with your child this summer!


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:

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.

Grit Gratitude

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” — Frederick Keonig

Many people think they can’t be grateful until they’re happy. But look closely and you’ll find that it’s the opposite: people are happy because they are grateful. People who describe themselves as consciously cultivating gratefulness are rated as happier by those who know them, as well as by themselves.

Children don’t have a context for life, they don’t know whether they are lucky or unlucky, only that their friend has more expensive sneakers. But there are many ways to help children learn to cultivate gratitude, which is the opposite of taking everything for granted. The most obvious is modeling it.

The excerpt above is from an article from Dr. Laura Markham on developing happiness.  Grit is connected to happiness and gratitude in so many ways.  Keeping a positive and happy attitude when things don’t go your way is essential in order to “stay the course.”  Those who stay positive often are those who can persist much longer in the face of adversity.  Finally, those who understand and practice gratitude better appreciate their surroundings and their journey to reach long term goals.

This Monday is Memorial Day.  For many families, it is a time to enjoy a three day weekend and hang out by the pool.  But it’s important to take to the time to remind your kids the value of Memorial Day.  Not only teaching them to be thankful in everyday life, but to remember the sacrifices made by those who died defending our country and the grit they exemplified.

Try a few of these things this weekend as you better appreciate your hot dog eating and swimming:

  1. Discuss the true meaning of Memorial Day as a day of national awareness and respect to honor Americans who have died while defending this country. Talk about the courageous acts of those who have died and how they made sacrifices for others they didn’t even know.
  2. Take part in a Memorial Day activity locally. This can be something you do in your neighborhood or with a few other families. My son worked with his boy scout troop this week and they placed flags on the graves of veterans in a local cemetery. Flowers could be placed as well.
  3. If possible, talk to a Veteran. Take the opportunity to speak with a relative or friend who has served in the armed forces and find out what it meant to them. Follow up with your child about that conversation and ask how they could continue to honor that individual each day (not just on Memorial Day).

Remind your children that Memorial Day is just one day to honor our veterans and to be thankful. Point out things to be thankful for in everyday life in order to teach children gratitude everywhere. A home to live in, food to eat and a bed to sleep in are things that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Teach children gratitude by allowing them to see that there are people in need of help and teach your children to share what they have by modeling it. The great thing about the words, “Thank you” is that it never hurts to use it.


Celebrate Grit Times C’mon!


I posted a recent quote about grit on our facebook page that said, “Grit is sticking with your future day in, day out and not just for a week, not just for a month, but for your years.” – Angela Duckworth.

The end of the school year is here and summer is just around the corner.  For many; kids and parents alike; we start to lose steam at the end of the year.  Those big class projects and papers are done.  At the end of each week, our children seem to be bringing home grocery bags full of their classwork and projects.  You think to yourself, “Wow, they did a lot of work.” And “Where am I going to put all this stuff??”

But the end of the school year is a great time to really take a moment to reflect and celebrate the completion of another school year with your child and others.  Here are some things I have done over the years that is starting to become routine as the end of the year approaches:

Make some quality time to reflect on the school year.  


Ask your children to share with you about what they learned this year, the different ways they learned it, what was challenging them, how they handled those challenges, what made them proud, how they felt they changed, what advice they have for kids entering that grade next year and their best memory of the year. Give several different types of opportunities for them to share. This can be part of your casual dinner or Sunday morning breakfast conversation. If you want more structured ways, give them time to write freely (with no expectation to use perfect punctuation or spelling) about these things or make scrapbooks with pictures taken throughout the year. You can also record a video about it, or create drawings.

Re-identify or Identify Academic Goals with your child.

Did you child have a goal of trying read one million words this past year? Did they strive to get a B+ in their most challenging class? Did your child meet those goals? If so, celebrate! If not, talk about why it didn’t happen and determine what needs to be done to accomplish those things the following year. This is a good time to talk about persistence and how goals take time to accomplish. For older kids, talk about what kind of G.P.A. they hope to have by the end of school year or their high school career. For all ages, make sure goals are written, present, personal, and positive. This can be the case for both academic, career and extra-curricular goals.

Take any failures and turn them into successes. 


Think of a few failures your child had this school year. Talk about them openly and without judgment. Discuss how those failures can be reframed into positive experiences. This may require creative thinking at first; especially if failure is given the stigma of being bad. Frame these failures more as a “fail forward.” What did you learn from those experiences that can help you avoid further issues? How can take what you learned and put it into action?

Practice gratitude.

I always remind my children to give their teachers flowers on the last day of school along with a hand written note thanking them for the year. In addition to your teachers, have your child thank others. They could thank another parent who helped take them to school or to an after school activity throughout the year. Remind them that there are many people who would love to be where they are right now. Encourage them to look around and discover just how blessed they are. In every family’s situation there are hardships, but there is always a silver lining if you really look for it. Teaching your children to be thankful and gracious will empower them when they get older to praise all those who have helped get them to where they are.   My children have written a nice email, drawn a nice picture and handwritten notes to simply say thank you to those important to them at the end of the year. This practice makes everyone involved feel good.

In true Grit Moms fashion, we must remind ourselves and our children that the end of another school year is not the end of it all.  Sure, another great year has passed where goals were accomplished and your child gave her all which is reason to celebrate and recognize.  BUT it’s also a time to remind her or him that their great work is not finished, that their long term goals and dreams are still out there and that they must continue to work towards them.

Let It Go, Let It Go!

It was bound to happen sooner or later that there would be a Disney reference as this blog is more of a reflective piece today.  Mother’s Day is tomorrow.  I think about all of the sacrifices my mom has made for her kids and how blessed I am to be able to celebrate with her tomorrow.  I think about all of the gifts I made for her as a child and the emotions she felt on that special day to honor moms.  I think about the headaches I caused her. The times I didn’t call to let her know where I was when I was a teenager and the times I just ignored her when she tried to ask me questions about what I did at school or with my friends.  I also think about the time I told her when I was going to become a mom and how she was there in the hospital when both my babies were born.

It’s funny how things come full circle.  This week, I got to attend my daughter’s Mother’s Day luncheon in her kindergarten classroom.  She escorted me into the classroom.  She sat me down in my chair at a table that was decorated with nice silverware and a placemat with her hand print next to a poem.  She was so excited to serve me a salad on a glass plate, and place my napkin on my lap.  It was a lovely day. Of course, I cried.

As the weekend approached, my 5th grade son went about his plans.  We went to a baseball game where he saw all of his friends and asked if he could sit with them.  I said sure.  He hung out with his innocent group of homies the whole game.  Coming over to me occasionally to where I sat with my daughter a few rows back.  Often times, the check ins involved requests for money so he could join his friends at the concession stand for ice cream or to tell me that he and his friends were going to walk around the ballpark area.  The next day, another homie calls and asks if my son can come over to his house to hang out.  I barely put the phone down before my son was dressed and sitting in the car while playing his DS waiting for me to drive him to his friend’s house. Then I get the call after a few hours from him.

“(Friend’s name) is asking me if I can sleep over tonight.  Can I?”

“Do you need extra clothes?  Toothbrush?”

“No, I’m good.  So I can stay the night?!? Great!  Love you mommy!

“Are you sure you will be ok?

“Yes, I’ll be fine.  Bye mommy!”

I hung up the phone.  Of course, I cried.

While both moments with my children involved tears, oddly enough both were tears of joy.  For my daughter, they were tears of happiness and joy through and through.  She was so proud to show me her Mother’s Day art work and I was so looking forward to the lunch that day.  For my son, it started out as tears of sadness as I was just devastated these moments of independence for him were growing more and more frequent.  Something I have not been looking forward to. But later (much later), those tears for my son turned into tears of joy as well.  While I selfishly want him to need me all the time and not want to leave my side, as his mama I want him to grow independent and content with the fact that I trust him to be responsible and respectful.  But man, that trust part, that letting go part; however big or small; is so damn hard.

I posted an article on our facebook recently that talked about 5 characteristics of grit.  The first one is Courage.  Courage is directly proportional to our level of grit.  It takes courage for children to overcome fear in order to grow and accomplish things they have never accomplished.  It takes courage for a parent to let go and let their child independently thrive.  There were moments when I watched my son struggle whether it was getting up on his own after falling, or it was figuring out a question on his homework or it was some other project. Every time, I reassured him that he could do it and that was why I wasn’t helping him.  So now, he is reassuring me.  Reassuring me that he can be ok when I am not around.

On this Mother’s Day, be courageous and be content with the fact that our children love us whether they are attached to us at the hip or whether they barely notice we are there.  We mean the world to them because they mean the world to us.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I Got 99 Problems

There are times when it feels like problems come at you left and right. Some days do you think to yourself, “Seriously, what else can go wrong today?” Life, as Buddha said, is full of suffering, and we have daily reasons to grieve. Acknowledging our sad feelings actually gives us more range in feeling our happy ones. Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean repressing our feelings. It means acknowledging and honoring our feelings, and then letting them go. The important word here is “choosing” as many of the “problems” we encounter really depend on how we choose to react to them. We can choose to let these problems consume us negatively or choose to acknowledge it, cope with it and as Elsa says, “Let it go!”
In past blog posts, I have talked about the importance of being resilient and how that contributes to fostering grit. Resiliency and learning to cope with stressful situations and problems that arise in your life and in your child’s life can be a learned trait. I came across an interesting website that focused on brain-based research and how important it is to understand how our brains work and grow in order to properly develop coping ability. Below is a very informative article from their website on how young children develop coping skills. For more information go to:

Introduction: Principles for Developing our Coping Ability

The pre-teen years are the best time to learn these skills and begin to use simple, brain-based coping tools. During this time our brain is rapidly developing and our thinking ability becomes more like an adult. These skills and tools give us the power to control our stress and get over daily upsets. We learn coping skills like we learn math, English or music. Coping is like learning a new language. Many of the terms are quite simple to learn, but only through practice can we improve our coping ability. Let’s start by introducing some basic coping principles.

These principles are the same basic concepts that pre-teen students learn in Brain Works for Kids classroom education projects in grades 4, 5 and 6. Our ability to effectively cope with challenges and upsets requires learning and practicing skills so they become everyday coping tools. Just learning about these principles is not enough. Pre-teens need to use these skills and tools in times of stress. Coping skills become stronger the more we use them to overcome challenging experiences. Pre-teens are able to gain these skills now to prepare them for middle school life when we’re more likely to be stressed, angry and sad due to normal brain changes during teenage years.

Humans are born with instinctive coping IMPULSES, but we have to learn coping SKILLS. All of us are born with strong survival brain instincts that help us to stay alive when we were helpless and totally depended on mother (and dad). While our reptilian and emotional brain coping impulses are pretty well developed at birth, our thinking neocortex needs time to develop since it’s what we use to learn difficult things including coping skills. For helpless babies, crying is emotional and reptilian brains’ instinctive way of getting attention and help when we had too much gas in our tummy or our bottom was cold or irritated by a soiled diaper. When we were a bit older toddlers and got frustrated or upset while playing with other children, hitting playmates became our other main protective instinct. These same emotional and reptilian brain impulses were important to protect our self when our bodies or feelings were hurt. But by the time we’re nine-years-old, pre-teens and their brains are far more developed. We are able to learn and use higher thinking abilities of our neocortex to “manage” those childhood emotional and reptilian brain instinctive responses when we were frustrated or emotionally upset. Research studies show that by about the age of nine, pre-teens become capable of managing upsets by themselves.

By using neocortex to “figure out” how to cope with challenges we create new brain coping cells.  It’s like lifting weights. Each time we challenge our thinking brain to understand why we feel upset, we also become smarter in the way we act and respond to stress. Each coping success brings greater confidence that tells us we CAN get over our next upset more easily. In the classroom Brain Works Project, pre-teens tell us that once they’ve learned and practiced “thinking brain coping skills” to get over stress, they feel confident they can “bounce back” from upsets more easily. This makes kids more resilient, and may even help us to like ourselves more!

There’s nothing “wrong” with you when your feelings are hurt. Sometimes our upsets are more stressful because we believe “Something is wrong with me” when the only thing that’s happened is your brain feels threatened and that makes us afraid. We need neocortex to help us understand that everyone gets their feelings hurt, but not everyone learns healthy coping skills for getting over it.

Take the example of a crocodile. We know it only has a reptilian brain. That’s why they are mean killing machines. They have no emotional brain or any feelings at all. But even if they did have a feelings they wouldn’t have a thinking (neocortex) brain that helps them understand and cope with their anger.

Taking responsibility for our own feelings. We cannot always control what others do or say to us which bring on our upsets. But we can learn to be responsible for coping and dealing with the emotional pain and stress we feel inside.

Coping skills increase our self-management ability. Once we learn how our coping brains work, we gain a new sense of control over all of our own coping brain functions. The more we practice healthy coping skills, the easier it becomes to get over the next upsetting experience.

Coping takes courage. It takes coping courage to learn how to deal with difficult or painful problems head-on. Just wishing that stress and emotional pain goes away doesn’t work. Neither does trying to “blur out” our hurt feelings and stress by using drugs or alcohol. Drugs are like trying to give our emotional brain a shot of Novocain like dentists use to numb our mouth. It only lasts a short time. After it wears off we still have to cope with the real hurt stored inside our brain. If you have the courage to face difficult situations, you will find yourself growing stronger after each time you cope successfully. We can’t run away from brain strain or pain. If we don’t deal with it directly sure enough it stays there inside our brain’s memory!

Brains Rule! Neuroscientists have used new imaging equipment that lets us see where feelings start inside our brain. Our powerful coping brains are there to tell us when we are upset and need to use our coping skills. Just like emotional and reptilian brains help us recognize when we feel threatened, our thinking brain is always there if we use it to figure out why we’re upset. We have a choice to go on “automatic” and let our instinctive brains – reptilian and emotional – take over and tell us how we should react when we’re upset. Or we can get our neocortex involved to take control of the coping process.

Ignoring or just storing our hurt feelings can be a dangerous coping habit. Once we sense our feelings are hurt by something that happens, trying to ignore it doesn’t make it go away. It only buries the pain more deeply in our emotional brain memory system, where it can challenge and threaten our sense of safety and even the ability to like our self. Since pretending that we’re not hurt doesn’t help us get over it, that same part of our brain that remembers pain is what we need to use to learn, pay attention and remember when we’re learning new things at school.

When we are upset and under stress, so is our brain! Yes our brain can become so stressed when we’re upset for long periods scientists have found the stress chemicals in our body can shrink portions part of our emotional memory. So our brain can lose some of its ability to remember, concentrate and learn. If you’re having trouble paying attention in class your brain may be distracted from learning. Coping skills just don’t make you feel better, they are important so that we learn to deal with and recover from stress and use all our brain’s thinking and learning ability.

Our coping brain has three different and necessary parts, but just one “captain.” We can learn how to make the different parts of our coping Brain Team work together. Learn more about our Brain Team led by Captain Neo, our neocortex. Neocortex is by far the largest and most powerful learning tool in the universe. This thinking brain contains 85% of our total brain cells for learning, six times larger than each of our two instinctive (reptilian and emotional) coping brain functions. So Rep (reptillian) and “Emo (emotional) brains mostly work automatically rather than think.

Our thinking brain can tell us when we can’t cope and need help. We can learn that it’s OK to ask for help when we just can’t get over some upsets, anger or sadness. Coping skills include the ability to seek and use outside help when we know we need to build more coping confidence. People who learn to ask others (friends, parents, counselors, etc.) for help to build coping ability become stronger (not weaker) the next time a challenging experience causes stress. We all need help and support from others sometimes. It’s nothing to be shy about telling others.
Often the most resilient people are those who’ve learned to ask for help when they know they need to build their own abilities to get over upsets more easily in the future. This website has lots of activities and resources you can practice to become better able to use brain-based coping skills.