Category Archives: Blog

Grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint

The one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing was a few days ago and this Monday, thousands of runners will convene for Boston’s 118th event. Around 9,000 more are registered to race this year compared to last year. I’ve always admired endurance athletes and their ability to train for such grueling activities. I have even more admiration for the heroes of last year’s marathon. Not just the runners, but the participants who helped total strangers in need, the first responders and the medical professionals. There is no better example of resilience and grit than the city of Boston. Over the last week, I have been collecting quotes from colleagues and friends on their definition of grit. As I compile those, I wanted to share some of my favorite inspirational quotes from last year’s Boston Marathon survivors. Their messages are that of grit but also healing, hope and love. To see the images of the authors of these quotes go to:

“I’m Celeste Corcoran from Lowell, Massachusetts. My message is ‘Still Standing.’ I wrote still standing because the bombers hurt me—they took my legs—but I can still stand on them. I just love the play on the message. Writing it on my naked legs, seeing those words and having the prosthetics next to me. I’m still standing.”

“My name is Sydney Corcoran, I am 18 years old, and I live in Lowell, MA. My message was ‘You Can Scar Me, But You Cannot Stop Me.’ I think that everyone has scars, and we should embrace them. I’ve learned that we can overcome the obstacles that gave those scars to us.”

“Every day my wife and I try to move on with our lives. We try to get back to where we were before this terrible incident took place after 36 years of marriage. Some days are easier than others, but we are reminded every day now about what we went through by some part of the media/news. All we can do is ‘move on’ to the next chapter of our lives together. We are also reminded of what we went through by the pain and suffering we still go through every day both physically and mentally.”

“What I’ve found as I’m running and as I’m out on the course, I find myself both thinking about last year’s marathon and then next year’s marathon, and trying to replace in my head the images of horror with images of triumph.”

“I’m extremely proud to be running again this year in an attempt to reclaim the true meaning of the Boston Marathon, that being the celebration of a proud and committed sporting community. I am excited to go back to this great American city and show the world the resilience and resolve of runners across the world.”

Boston Strong!

Grit House of Cards

card house

Any Brady Bunch fans out there? Remember the episode when the the kids are building this enormous card house? The episode is called “54-40 and Fight.” The girls and boys fight over 94 books of trading stamps ; the boys want to redeem them for a rowboat while the girls want a sewing machine. The stamps must be used quickly as the trading stamp company is going out of business. Chaos ensues as attempts to reach a compromise are nowhere in sight. So Carol and Mike decide on a competition to be held in order to settle this: the building of a house of cards, with the winner being awarded the power to decide. The girls win because Tiger comes running in and bumps into Peter; who knocks the cards over (my brain holds the memories of such random things sometimes). But in the end, the girls’ sense of compromise wins out and they buy a portable color television set.

There was always an abundance of playing cards in my house growing up. Competitive games of War, Go Fish and more were a regular occurrence among me and my family. We also used the cards to build houses as well. Now, our creations were nothing like the card house built in that Brady Bunch episode as I am certain those cards were glued together. But I can remember spending countless hours trying to perfect a decent one-story card house as a child. Then I came across the website The Family Dinner Project. Their recent newsletter talked about fantastic activities that reinforce resiliency. One of them was to spend time with your kids to build a card house. So guess what we did today?

The Family Dinner Project was absolutely right when they said this activity, “…offers a few simple, old-fashioned lessons in patience, frustration, hope, disappointment, faith, and starting over.” As my six-year old daughter and I dove into our card house there was a rich mix of frustration and satisfaction. Laughter followed by yelling followed by high fives! I must commend my daughter though in that she didn’t once try to walk away from the activity after spending a good half hour with no results. There were numerous iterations of, “Oh, man! This is taking forever!” But after much time passed and we completed our first simple house (photos attached), she stayed the course even after I stopped and she kept building her own house design.

Build your own house of cards with your kids and send me your pics! Remember, it’s about learning how to bounce back from our setbacks and finding ways to enjoy the journey along the way!

card house audrey







Grit Moms Playlist

It’s amazing how the brain works. I can be walking from one place to another to get something and then when I get there I have completely forgotten what it is I am doing. But for whatever reason, if a song comes on the radio or on the TV that I haven’t heard in years, that ability to recite every single lyric and act out every single guitar solo via air guitar comes back like it was yesterday.

Songs have always had that ability to capture my attention, motivate me and teach me. I remember waking up on Saturday mornings to my pop blasting his plethora of all time favorites in the living room like his Freddy Fender album or the We Are the World album while he made breakfast. It seems as though the song gift has spread to my kids as well. The Frozen CD is permanently burned into the CD player of our car with no plans of going anywhere. On a recent car trip, my kids and I all started belting out Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail” as it played on the radio – the clean version of course. Songs can move you. They can motivate you. They can even sometimes give you that last push you need to run your last leg around the block.

So for fun, here’s a list of some of my all time favorite, old school, 80’s songs that are not only totally awesome but believe it or not; motivate the grit qualities in all of us.

  1. “ Flashdance….What a Feeling” by Irene CaraTake your passion and make it happen! Are you picturing yourself dancing the last dance sequence of the movie right now?
  2. “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersSong came in 1989 so not a super 80’s dance track but a good one nonetheless. There’s a story about how Tom Petty was feeling when recording the song. He had a terrible cold that day, and George Harrison who was playing guitar for the track went to the store and bought a ginger root, boiled it and had Petty stick his head in a pot to get the ginger steam to open up his sinuses, and then he ran in and sang the song. Nice.
  3. “Fame” by Irene CaraThis is my last Irene Cara song I promise. But how can you not think of grit when you hear this song? I mean, it’s playing while Debbie Allen is walking around with her dancing cane and saying, “You got big dreams? You want fame? Well fame costs. And right here is where you start paying, and sweat.” Totally awesome!
  4. “Cry Tough” by PoisonBefore Bret Michels did those crazy reality shows on VH1 he was lead singer for an awesome glam rock band I proudly saw TWICE in concert while in high school. I’m not sure what’s more 80’s. This song or the video. You must google it and watch it after reading this.
  5. “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran DuranWhile it’s a bit of a stretch to find the grit theme in this song, it’s just a rad 80’s song nonethless. I also guarantee that you could easily recite all of the lyrics if it played right now.
  6. “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel with Kate BushYou can’t have a top ten list of 80’s songs without a good ballad. Peter Gabriel will always hold a special place in my heart with his unforgettable song “In Your Eyes.” The verses for “Don’t Give up”, sung by Gabriel, describe a man’s feelings of isolation and despair; the choruses, sung by Bush, offer words of hope and encouragement.
  7. “Workin’ Day and Night” by Michael JacksonSo technically, this song was released in 1979 as part of MJ’s Off the Wall album. The music is really fast but the lyrics are memorable. Actually every Michael Jackson song is.
  8. “Eye of the Tiger” by SurvivorDermination. Reslience. Rocky Balboa. Keeping focus on those long terms goals; the eye of the tiger. Admit it, whenever you run to the top of a hill or stairs, you are compelled to raise your arms up in victory!
  9. “Sweet Dreams” by The EurythmicsHold your head up (Movin on). Keep your head up (Movin on). Hold your head up (Movin on). Great grit words to live by.

    Any finally,

  10. “You’re the Best” by Joe EspositoSaved the best the last! Best. 80’s. Grit. Song. Period. No one can possibly forget when this song played while Daniel LaRusso proved himself to be a formidable contender who wins the championship in the All-Valley Tournament in the Karate Kid. “Never doubt that you are the one. And you can have your dreams!”










My head’s underwater but I’m breathing fine

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

It seems like each day brings on new challenges. There is the struggle to get the kids up and then to school. Then trying to regroup and focus on your work day for those few hours your kids are at school. Then pick up time, after school snacks, co-curriculum activities, clubs, homework, class projects. Once that hurricane blows through, there is dinner to make, baths, book stories to read and hopefully some quality family time. Then the crazy cycle starts up again the next day with what seems like the blink of an eye. But we persist determined to be the best parent and person we can be to ourselves and to our family. When I come up for air, I sometimes get asked, “You seem so busy. Are you happy?” To that the answer is always yes! Each day is never perfect. There are problems, but happiness is relative. And like all things in my life, I remind myself and my kids that just as you persist to strive and attain goals, we have to strive to be happy. Strive and persist to find the positive things. Those positive things are ALWAYS there.

Grit isn’t just about persevering through the rough times but it’s also about navigating that road of happiness and striving to keep a positive attitude through it all.

Here’s an awesome top 10 list from Dr. Laura Markham on how to help your child begin to develop the habits that lead to happiness. I love how much of it echoes Grit Moms’ guiding principles of Change, Power, Systems and Relationships/Connections. For the full article go to:

1. Teach your child constructive habits to control her mind and create happiness: managing our moods, positive self-talk, cultivating optimism, celebrating life, practicing gratitude, and appreciating our connected-ness to each other and the entire universe.

2. Teach your child the self-management habits that create happiness: regular exercise, healthy eating, and meditation are all highly correlated with happiness levels. But you and your child may have your own, more personal strategies; for many people music is an immediate mood lifter, for others a walk in nature always works.

3. Cultivate fun. The old saying that laughter is the best medicine turns out to be true. The more we laugh, the happier we are! So the next time you and your child want to shake off the doldrums, how about a Marx brothers movie marathon?

And here’s a wonderful tool: smiling makes us happier, even when we force it. The feedback from our facial muscles informs us that we’re happy, and immediately improves our mood. Not to mention the moods of those around us, and that feedback loop uplifts everyone.

4. Help her learn how to manage her moods. Most people don’t know that they can choose to let bad moods go and consciously change their moods. But practice in doing this can really make us happier.  Of course, we aren’t talking about denial. The first step is always to acknowledge the bad feelings, and let ourselves feel them. So with your child, simply empathizing with her upset feelings will often allow them to dissipate.

But there are times when we just stay in a bad mood, rather than nurturing ourselves through the upset, or choosing to change it. So if you can practice monitoring your own moods and shifting them through self-nurture and self-management, you can teach this skill to your child.

Of course, the hard part is choosing to change our bad mood. You don’t have to go from desolate to cheerful. Just find a way to help yourself feel slightly better. That empowers you to actually face what’s upsetting you, and try to solve it. Sometimes just changing our the way we’re thinking about a situation really shifts things. So, instead of “How can he be nasty to me like that, with all I do for him?!” you might try “It’s normal for children to get angry at their parents.”

How to help your child with her moods?  Sometime when she’s in a good mood, talk with her about strategies for getting into a better mood: what works for her? Share what works for you. Then, when she’s in a bad mood, start by empathizing. After she’s had some time to feel her upset, ask her if she wants help to change her mood.  Even if she’s able to choose a better mood only one out of ten times initially, she’ll soon start to notice how much better her life works when she does it.

5. Model positive self- talk. We all need a cheerleader to help us over life’s many hurdles. Who says we can’t be our own? In fact, who better? Research shows that happy people give themselves ongoing reassurance, acknowledgment, praise and pep talks.

6. Cultivate optimism, it inoculates against unhappiness. It’s true that some of us are born more optimistic than others, but we can all cultivate it. Click here for “How you can help your child become more Optimistic”.

7. Help your child find joy in everyday things. Studies show that people who notice the small miracles of daily life, and allow themselves to be touched by them, are happier. Daily life overflows with joyful occurrences: The show of the setting sun, no less astonishing for its daily repetition. The warmth of connection with the man at the newsstand who recognizes you and your child. The joy of finding a new book by a favorite author at the library. A letter from Grandma. The first crocuses of spring.

As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Children learn by our example what’s important in life.

  1. Help your child develop 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 Brendon 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.

  1. Counteract the message that happiness can be bought. As parents, we need to remember that we are not the only ones teaching our children about life. They get the constant media message that the goal of life is more money and more things. Ultimately, what we model and what we tell them will matter more, but we need to confront those destructive messages directly.

10. Leave room for Grief. Life, as the 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, and doesn’t cause lingering unhappiness. Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean repressing our feelings. It means acknowledging and honoring our feelings, and then letting them go.

11. Help your child learn the joy of contribution. Research shows that the pride of contributing to the betterment of society makes us happier, and it will make our children happier too. Our job as parents is to find ways for them to make a positive difference in the world so they can enjoy and learn from this experience.





Think you got skills?

I watched the movie Turbo with my kids awhile back and this is one of my favorite lines courtesy of Whiplash the snail, “You’ve clearly got the skills to pay the bills….if snails had to pay bills that is.”

There are two very different kinds of skills that we often think about when we think skills. There’s the skills related to academics. This is the skilled individual who is a merit scholar, the one who wins first place in the spelling bee, the individual who earned a full academic scholarship to the school of her choice, or the individual who is able to accomplish all of these things and more – they have the skills that pay the bills. But there is another set of skills that are critical but often not weighed as more important – life skills. I can remember leaving for college and really not having a clue how to do my own laundry, how to balance my checkbook and budget or even what the heck I wanted to do with my life. But I figured it out eventually.

I can remember coming home to visit from college and learning about some of my high school friends who were brilliant academically and left to some prestigious college but then came back home after a year because they missed home. It shocked me. I thought to myself – these people had it so together and were extraordinary in school. They could leave and do anything extraordinary somewhere else. Why did they come back? I learned the reality was that they didn’t just miss home. I learned that when they left home for college, they were so prepared to make it through their academic life with ease, that they were not prepared with the skills to make it through regular everyday life. Their food was always cooked for them, their laundry done for them, their school supplies and materials they needed for their projects were bought and ready for them. Their parents brought them to every event and made sure they had everything they needed. My parents were guilty of this as well in that they tried to take care of all of those things for me and my siblings so we could focus 100% on exceling in our school work. I remember not having my first part time job until I was 19 or 20 because my parents didn’t want a job to distract me from my academic work in high school. But by doing this to such an extreme, they allowed us to miss out on a ways to learn the essential skills to promote confidence in independence. But what my parents did do was teach me how to ask clarifying questions and seek out the answer to things when I didn’t know something. That is what kept me from not picking up and moving back home – that and luckily being surrounded by friends and peers who had those great life skills. I can remember asking some friends in my dorm room to watch me as I did my first load of laundry to make sure I was doing it right. I also remember asking them to help me as filled out my first job application.

Grit is so much more than teaching our kids to persevere academically and involving them in every single school activity and club with vigor and tenacity. It’s also about teaching our kids to fold their own laundry, to make their own lunches, to pack their own sports bag and pull some weeds in their front year with that same amount of energy.

Below is an excerpt from an excellent 2009 article by Melissa Matter in the Yahoo Contributor Network that discussing these same skills. Here is the link to the whole article:

These days children are quite proficient at using a tablet computer and a cell phone. Hopefully, they learn how to read and write at school. Yet, there are many life skills that aren’t taught at school. In my opinion, it is up to parents to teach kids certain life skills. Here are some I believe all children should learn.

Take Public Transportation
I didn’t have a car until I was 21-years-old. Until then, I took the bus to my job and the shuttle to my classes. For a while, I remember having to ride my bike across campus at 5:30 in the morning to catch a bus to take me to a school I worked at. Learning how to use public transportation was an important skill. It allowed me to be independent. When I finally got a car, I really appreciated it. Using public transportation is vital if you don’t have a car. It can also help college students visiting another country.

Do the Laundry
In college, I remember coming across individuals who would wait until the weekends to do their laundry at home. Typically, their mother would do their laundry for them. Doing the laundry is pretty easy. Simply, teach kids how to sort darks and lights. One of the most important laundry rules I have is to never put a towel or fuzzy blanket in with your regular clothes.

Balance a Checkbook and Stick to a Budget
I’ll admit that I hardly ever write checks anymore. However, I believe writing a check and balancing a check book are important financial lessons. Give kids play checks or an old checkbook to practice with. Equally vital is the idea that kids need to be able to stick to a budget and learn how to spend their money wisely. If kids are not taught about finances, it’s easy to overspend and even easier to get yourself into credit card debt.

Check out a Library Book
Yes, digital books are on the rise. However, the library has a ton of free resources. Kids can read to their hearts’ content. They can also find resources for information.

Write a Letter
I always love when I get a card or letter in the mail. Writing a letter seems to be a lost art. Even if you are writing a letter through your email, it is good for kids to know the difference between a friendly and a business letter. Writing a letter is much different than sending a text. Children need to know how to write formally.

Learn How to Use a Word Processing Program
In my 20’s, I remember going to an agency to try to get a temp job. The first thing I had to do was do a typing test. Then, on my application I was asked what word processing programs I was familiar with. Your child may be great at using social media or playing “Angry Birds.” However, being proficient with typing, spreadsheet and PowerPoint programs is helpful for future career endeavors.

Apply for a Job
At some point before kids go out into the “real world,” I think they should have a part-time job. Filling out a job application and going on a few interviews will help prepare them for when they have that big interview for their dream job.

Teaching kids how to prepare healthy meals is essential for their future. Go to the farmer’s market and pick out fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, choose a recipe and make dinner for a whole family.

Swimming is a skill that can save your child’s life. At a young age, get your child familiar with the water. When they are ready, consider swim lessons. Keep practicing and teach your child about water safety too.

Small Household Repairs
Changing a light bulb may seem like a simple task. However, when children move out on their own, they should know how to unclog a toilet or turn off the gas. I don’t know how to repair as much as I should. However, I do have a good home warranty program that has been essential in repairing my appliances.

Grit is in the eye of the beholder

Do you often find yourself talking to your friends about your wacky family?  Do you have a unique uncle or aunt who always wants to tell you the longest story about when he/she and your dad were kids?  Do you have the relative who always stirs up trouble or kills the mood with their controversial comment just when everyone is laughing and having fun?  What about the awesome relative who always has gifts for everyone?  Or my favorite, the family member who just shows up to eat? Hmm, that may be me…

Regardless, do you try to convince your friends that you have the craziest family members when in fact, everyone’s family is crazy, wacky, dysfunctional , impatient,  funny and loving all at the same time and all in their own way?  That’s what makes them a family.  While different and diverse, there is such beauty within a family dynamic because there is a common sense of connectedness.   Often times it’s a beauty and connectedness that only family members can see and appreciate.

The growing Grit Moms family is no different than my own family. There is a sense of connectedness that is focused on cultivating grit for our children.  Since our launch about a month ago, I have had the opportunity to get to know so many people who share and believe in the mission of Grit Moms and who themselves live the Grit Moms mantra every day.   While the definition of grit is consistent; firmness of mind and spirit; unyielding courage in face of hardship; perseverance and passion to achieve long-term goals; it looks different to different people.  All families are different, thus moms are different, and thus kids are different.  The way grit is cultivated within different families is also different and that is so exciting for me to learn.

I love talking to the mom who teaches grit her child through sports and physical fitness, the mom who teaches grit to her child through volunteerism and service, the mom who teaches grit to her children through survivalist training, the mom who teaches grit by encouraging her kids to tell her their one accomplishment of the day no matter how big or small and how they could make the next day even better, and so many more!  When I made a goal to develop this site, I had a vision for what grit would look like for other moms and families but my eyes have been opened wide to so many other new experiences that I would have never discovered had it not been your willingness to share.   That is simply beautiful and we have only just begun.

I bring it back to the mission of Grit Moms: we believe that all children learn differently and are motivated by different things.  As such, we believe there is no silver bullet or cookie cutter way to cultivate grit in our children. To start, we need to recognize what matters to our children, when we should step in and when we should step back. Grit talent takes time and patience to develop and requires continuous effort on both the children and the parents.

Thank you moms for taking the time recognize the unique needs of your children, what drives them and what matters to them.  In doing so, you are cultivating grit talent in them based on what they value which is often times different than what another child values. While the foundation/basis for what grit is remains constant, the lens through which so many of us cultivate and sustain that grit talent can be different.

Below is a great article about Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed.  Our Grit Moms Hangout Group guide provides great discussion questions for each chapter of this book.  This is my favorite excerpt from that article and ties in well to this blog:

“’Nobody really has a good answer’ on how to kindle motivation or build grit,’ Eskreis-Winkler said. But some MCPS educators have ideas on how to go about it, and recognize that character development doesn’t happen through afternoons spent in school assemblies.

‘There’s no packaged program to teach character traits that you can just implement,’ said Pyle’s Webster. ‘There’s no one way to do it.’

Instead, we all need to focus on building relationships at home and school that will give our kids the confidence to persevere and take risks.”

For the full article go to:



It’s about principle

For the last few weeks I’ve been surrounded by principles.  No, I haven’t been walking around with a bunch of adults who run schools around me or principals. I mean principles; a general truth or main way of doing something.  I spent some time working with afterschool professionals last week and training them on the “Learning in Afterschool and Summer Principles,” which focus on innovative ways to promote young people’s learning when the school day ends.

The principles don’t just stop there.  More and more, I am finding so many instances where I have been applying the Grit Moms guiding principles to situations with my kids AND learning that other moms are applying them as well!  Who knew principles could be this exciting!?!  Just me I guess.

Take these last few weeks for instance.  My son had a project due for school.  His dad and I are working hard to get him to focus on the process through which he does his work as opposed to just the end result.  As I work with him to guide him on this project and projects in the past, I realize how often I use the Grit Moms guiding principles of – Change, Power, Systems and Relationships/Connections – and how I am seeing him utilize them more.  Like for this project, he didn’t have all of the materials he needed.  Instead of asking me (again!) to drive him to the store to get bunch of materials that would be costly, he took initiative to find what he could use around the house (Change and Power).  He has always had a problem with not organizing his thoughts and thinking through his school projects in steps.  He’s a rusher and just wants to finish.  So I always tell him, “Now think through things in steps.  Ask yourself, ‘What do I need to do before I start this project?  What do I first? What are the rest of the steps before I get to the end?’”  This is a big challenge for him and true test of patience for me and his dad.  He’s starting to make strides towards this more and more which is great (Systems).  For instance, he made himself a check list of to dos for his last project. Yes!  Finally, he is making more and more connections to what he is learning and how it’s important to him, his family and his community (Relationships/Connections).  If anything, this principle is the most important – family, community and our world matter.  Parents must build quality and meaningful relationships with their kids because I believe that will give them the confidence to persevere through any obstacle.  As we grow increasingly busy with work, activities and any attempts to sleep, this is harder and harder to do.  But we have to.  Our kids deserve that from us because it matters too much.  It’s a matter of principle after all!

Take some time to review the Grit Moms guiding principles below.  Please feel free to share with me how you model any or all of these with your kids to promote grit qualities!


Grit Moms guiding principles

Grit moms support four core concepts to help foster the grit qualities in others. We encourage making connections to all of these concepts as you experience various activities and stages of life with your child. We also encourage:

  1. Change: Our daily lives are affected by change. It’s inevitable. Kids must learn to accept change and adapt to changes that come their way.  For some parents that may mean changing perspectives for measuring success by praising effort just as much if not more than achievement. The more comfortable kids are with change, the more they can become adaptable and resourceful.  Adaptability and resourcefulness are skills they will need throughout their lives.


  1. Power: Power can be harnessed and contained.  Kids (and adults) experience a variety of different feelings depending on the situation.  Kids don’t have the power to control all situations but they do have the power to control how they handle it.  They can either get upset and give up on a goal if they experience failure or they can learn from that failure and keep working towards that goal.  Kids have the power to give up or to persevere.  As parents, we must remind ourselves and our kids of this.


  1. Systems: Systems are made of parts that make a whole.  There is a way of accomplishing things – a system, a path, a process.  Ask yourself and your kids, “What are the steps needed to accomplish a particular goal or task?”  Talk through those things with your kids.  Help prepare them to navigate through the steps needed to accomplish something but in the end let them actually navigate that path on their own.  Along the way, continue to show your support for them all the while staying out of the way. This understanding and practice helps reinforce drive and determination.


  1. Relationships/Connections: Everything is connected.  Kids’ attitudes and behavior not only affect them but others. The same is true for parents.  But it is also connections that allow others to achieve.  For example, we often hear adult share stories like, “If it wasn’t for that teacher who believed in me, I wouldn’t have achieved this.”  Relationships are important. We are social beings and need to interact to share ideas and connect.  Kids need to understand that what they do and accomplish affects those around them.  Achievement should be a form of self-betterment.  It should be something that contributes positively to one’s family and society.  In the end, achievement should promote harmony for oneself and for all.  So kids need an understanding of the importance of family, their community and their world.

Making what matters count

I have been having great conversations with friends and colleagues about grit ever since I launched the Grit Moms website. So many of these conversations have been enriching with some similar emerging themes. Two of the biggest themes in these conversations have centered around personal motivation and support systems as it relates to grit. My kids are often motivated by what matters to them personally and by what they are emotionally connected to. Rarely do they exert a huge amount of energy and action in doing things that they don’t really care about. Along those same lines, my kids are often seeking that positive support. “Mommy, watch this!,” “Mommy, did you see me just now?” I have found myself focusing more on praising their effort and their traits when they finish an activity as opposed to the end result. The more I say, “I love watching you play in your game,” or “I am so proud of how hard you worked on that project,” the more I see the qualities of grit emerge in them.

Below is a great article sent to me by a colleague that talks about preparing your middle school child for college. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I particularly like how it touches on personal motivation and parent support. It really supports our vision statement:

Grit Moms see a society of families who incorporate the qualities of grit in their lives passionately every day. A society where children AND parents finish what they start and continue to try even after experiencing failure. Finally, Grit Moms dream of a society where parents build quality relationships with their children that give them the confidence to persevere.

8 subtle ways to prepare middle schoolers for college

By Jay Mathews

Spring is coming, and with it, the most angst-ridden part of the college application cycle. High-schoolers will be logging on to university Web sites, trembling at the prospect of rejection. Parents will look at the costs of schools that accept their kids and wonder whether they can afford it.
Many mothers and fathers with children too young for this ordeal will count themselves lucky.
But they might consider ways to get their kids ready for it anyway. Even middle-schoolers will be exposed to the paranoia of the college search, whether parents want them to be or not. This region has the nation’s highest level of average family income and education, so we are particularly susceptible. Twelve-year-olds hear their neighbors, their friends’ parents, their older siblings and their cousins talking about college. They need help dealing with that.

You don’t have to take them on a tour of the top 50 schools on the U.S. News and World Report list. You don’t have to bring it up at all. But if they ask questions, answer them. If you know they have heard something worrisome, set them straight: for example, “No, it is not true that Uncle Freddie’s life was ruined because he didn’t get into Virginia Tech.

I have asked several college admissions and education experts about positive steps that middle-school parents can take. Some of the ideas don’t sound like college prep at all, but they are. If you help a preteen get ready for life, there will be some preparation for college in there somewhere.
Here are eight suggestions:
1. Notice what they enjoy doing, and help them do more of it. Take your hiker on the Appalachian Trail. Have the kid who is addicted to the Food Network bake something for the county fair. Arrange for the singer in your family to audition for a local choir.
“It doesn’t matter whether the activity is athletic, service, spirit, leadership, journalistic or academic,” said Potomac-based educational consultant Shelley Levine. “Anything will do, as long as they enjoy the activity.” Northern Virginia-based educational consultant Shirley A. Bloomquist said, “If it is history, there are many local places to explore and discuss. If it is nature and/or geology, enjoy an outing to Great Falls Park. . . . A student of mine, now at Barnard, had a book club with her father over many years.”
Embracing a hobby or pastime is the key to career success and life satisfaction, said Zac Bissonnette, author of the recent college admission guide “Debt-Free U.” He advises middle-school parents not to “let yourself or your kid get caught up in the rat race of mindless achievement. Take time to think, and take time to play.”
2. Make sure your child knows that B’s are fine in middle school and that fun is important. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education and an expert on student stress, said each student needs a somewhat different message. The overachiever should be told, “You don’t need to do three different extracurricular activities in middle school to get into college,” she said. The less-motivated child needs to hear, “Yes, you can go to college, but first that means passing your courses in middle school.”
3. Enroll them in Algebra I in the eighth grade. Middle-schoolers must apply themselves to high-school-level courses, such as Algebra I. Many colleges count them as part of the high school grade-point average even though they are taken in middle school. Parents should also ensure that their children have finished Algebra I by the end of eighth grade. “I’ve known dozens of kids who would have been up to the challenge of high school level algebra/geometry in eighth grade,” said Philadelphia-based educational consultant David Ginsburg, but they “didn’t have the chance to take it.”
4. Insist they develop some practical housework skills. This won’t seem to them to have much to do with college, which is good. You can say that’s the way you were brought up (warn Grandma to cover for you if this isn’t true) and that is the way it is going to be. You don’t have to tell them that if they have to remember to get the trash and recycling out on the curb every Friday and make Saturday breakfast for their siblings while you go cycling, the coping skills they develop will be invaluable.
Kathy Kuhl, a home-school consultant based in Herndon, said, “We taught and re-taught our children time-management skills and life skills: washing clothes, cooking dinner and managing money.” Her kids were self-sufficient enough to juggle a college workload while doing all the other necessary chores of life.
5. Flavor family trips with a bit of college atmosphere. “On the way to summer vacation at the Outer Banks, have lunch at the University of Richmond’s student center, with its stately Gothic architecture and picturesque lake,” Bloomquist said.
6. Encourage children who are curious about the world to take a foreign language. This can be with CDs or at school. Most middle schools do not require a foreign language but nearly all offer some classes.“Chinese or Arabic would be two to consider,” Bloomquist said. “Colleges are increasingly international in nature. Twenty years ago, Yale had one in 50 international students. Today it is one in 11.”
7. Character counts. Encourage its development. “The college admissions process doesn’t necessarily screen for this,” Pope said, “but parents should be fostering good character traits along with health and engagement.” Just how you do this with sullen tweens and teens is not always clear. Being truthful and practicing what you preach is a good start.
8. Do everything you can to encourage reading. David Storper, president of Bethesda-based Prep U Tutoring, said, “The common denominator among the very best test-takers is a strong background with books. This is usually a habit that starts at a very early age. . . . The problem that many students face is that they are only reading assigned books from school, which can be less than inspiring.”
So, he said, give books to kids that suit their individual interests. “Do not pressure them to read it,” he said. “Just give it to them. If they read, great. If not, try again in a few weeks with a different book.”
Plan a weekly reading night during which everyone finds a comfortable chair in the living room, popcorn at their elbows, and enjoys a book of their choice for an hour or so. Leave some good paperbacks in the car. Talk about the books you are reading.
If reading becomes a habit for them, that will, of course, make them look good to colleges. But it will have even more impact on the quality of their everyday lives and their children’s lives and so on. It is never too soon to get started on that.

To award or not to award?

To Award or Not To Award?

I was visiting one of the after school program sites I work with recently and I found the site coordinator in a bit of a frenzy.  I asked her what was going on and she said she was behind on getting her paperwork in for a field trip.  She informed me that the field trip to award the after school students who met their attendance goals for the last semester.  Attendance goals?

“Yes, if they attend the program for at least 30 days, we plan a field trip for them. I also print up awards certificates for them as recognition.”   I have encountered this strategy in the past as a technique to give students incentives to attend and stay in their school’s after school program. The rationale is that if they come for a certain amount of time in the beginning, they will eventually grow to like the program, the staff and the activities so much that they will continue to attend for longer.  But to get them to initially come is challenging, so a field trip somewhere new and exciting is the carrot to get them first in the door.  This strategy is also used as an incentive for students to attend these positive programs at their schools in high poverty/high crime neighborhoods during after school hours as opposed to the alternatives which are not so positive (hanging out at home unsupervised, engaging in deviant behavior etc.).   Finally, the field trips themselves are learning opportunities.  In the case of this after school program, the field trip is scheduled for a nearby national park where all of the students have never been nor will they ever likely go because they lack the resources otherwise.  So as I hear this, I am ok with it.

Then there is another attendance awards scenario that I am not so ok with. I received my first award ever which was a plaque when I graduated from 8th grade.  It was an academic award that I still have.  At 14 years old, that was the first time I had received some type of tangible award with my name on it.  Now, both of my kids who are still in elementary school have an entire counter full of various awards/certificates.  I’m not saying I am not proud of my kids and their accomplishments as  I find so much joy in sitting through their awards ceremonies and taking those embarrassing pictures.  In fact, a few of the awards on that counter are for achieving top honors in academics.  But the majority of those awards that fill that counter are in fact participation awards or awards where my kids basically just showed up. My son showed up for a week long summer camp and got an award for attending all five days.  Really? My daughter played soccer for the first time where the games looked like a hilarious mess of herding cats. She received a huge trophy for participating.  So are all of these awards necessary?  I don’t think they are and in fact I find most of them kinda lame.

So why is the field trip award ok and not the herding cats award?  I guess it comes down to one thing – EFFORT.  For students in poverty and crime stricken neighborhoods, showing up to school in the first place is challenging and requires a certain amount of determination and grit. So yes, that should be awarded in my opinion.  For my kids and other families I know, getting them there is the easy part and requires very little work (relatively).   Something that requires little work should not be awarded.  This is summed up best in Edutopia’s “True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach It” @coolcatteacher

“No one celebrates easy, but everyone celebrates championships and winners because those take grit (and more). We need more circumstances to help kids to develop grit before they can ‘have it.’”