How Focusing on Grit Can Backfire

The Washington Post recently published an article I wrote with information every parent and teacher needs to know.

The big idea?  Focusing on grit can undermine kids' achievement.  Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post:

Jennifer and Doug were in my office to talk about their 10-year-old son, Jason. Jason had tried (and rejected) more than half a dozen activities that his parents had tried to interest him in. Dad had been an avid baseball player, but Jason tried it and quit.

Soccer? No. Gymnastics? No. Piano? No again. Jason’s parents were deeply worried about his apparent lack of grit and had consulted me for guidance.

They were loving parents who wanted the best for their son, wanted him to excel and be happy. They had tried almost everything: encouraging, cajoling, rewarding, bribing and eventually insisting that he pick an activity and stick with it.

They read about grit, talked with Jason about grit and reminded him that failure is part of the journey to success. Nothing seemed to work for long, and Jason was now starting to withdraw emotionally from his parents.

Everyone seems to be talking about grit these days. From best-selling books to popular TED talks, grit — “the tendency to sustain perseverance and passion for challenging long-term goals” — has been making headlines. According to Angela Duckworth, the psychologist and researcher most closely associated with the concept, grit is a better predictor of success than intelligence or talent.

It sounds like we should all get more grit, doesn’t it? But our collective emphasis on grit is causing us to overlook other critical skills, and that oversight is having real consequences for our children.

Kids like Jason remind us that focusing on grit alone is not the recipe for success, and may even backfire.  Continue reading....

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