Is Grit the Secret Ingredient to Successful Relationships?
How gritty are you?
Is your marriage gritty?
Do you teach your kids to be gritty?
In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Harvard-trained psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth examines what it takes to stick things out and accomplish long-term goals.
Grit has everything to do with how we do family relationships.
Don’t mistake grit with talent (which Duckworth describes as the rate at which a person improves a skill). Grit isn’t how intensely you want something. Instead, grit is an attitude. It is a relentless, determined work ethic—despite setbacks, defeats, and hard days.
It’s a “never-give-up” attitude.
Who do you know that is truly gritty? Grit is what drove Thomas Edison to succeed as an inventor. As a boy, teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Edison was fired from his first two jobs for being “unproductive.” He reportedly experienced 1,000 failed attempts before successfully inventing the lightbulb. (Edison reported that, rather than failing 1,000 times, the lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps. Now that’s grit.)
Great things are achievable in ordinary people through gritty determination.
Duckworth quotes sociologist Dan Chambliss, “…the main thing is greatness is doable. Greatness is many, many individual feats, and each of them is doable.“
Grit is more than just a trait for inventors, athletes, or business leaders; grit is a significant family value.
Duckworth’s research points to a high correlation between grit and marital longevity. People with a gritty determination have a can-do attitude toward building a healthy, strong marriage—despite struggles, conflict, and tension. Gritty couples say, “No matter what we have to do, we’re going to make this work. We’re committed to this marriage.” [Note: There are some situations in marriage that are unhealthy and unsafe. “Grit” is NOT enduring a dangerous relationship. See the note at the bottom of the article.]
For parents, the nagging question is, how do you teach grit to your children? Duckworth offers some great answers.
First, grit is best taught with a balanced parenting style. In other words, parents who connect through affection and encouragement, while also creating structure and appropriate expectations, have a parenting style that fosters grit.
It’s a balance between love and support with accountability and parental toughness.
Second, gritty kids want to take after gritty parents. Duckworth explains that “if you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals.”
Third, Duckworth suggests that extracurricular activities are especially beneficial in developing grit in kids. An organized activity requiring a child to overcome challenges or criticism from peers, coaches, or teachers fosters grit. Bad days, lack of energy or motivation can help teach kids to push through and be gritty.
Let’s get practical. Do hard things.
Duckworth shares a very practical strategy for developing grit in her teenage children called the “Hard Thing Rule.” There are three parts:
- Everyone in the family, including the parents, has to do a Hard Thing. A “Hard Thing” is anything that requires deliberate practice. For a parent, in addition to the skills they use at work, it might be yoga, running, or completing a degree. For kids, it might be ballet, piano, or soccer.
- You can quit your Hard Thing. But there’s a catch. You can’t quit until “your season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other ‘natural’ stopping point has arrived.” In other words, you can’t quit on the day your coach yells at you, or you have to miss a party because you have practice.
- You get to pick your Hard Thing.
As a family and relationship educator, it makes me wonder: If grit was a more common character quality, would we see more successful marriages, healthier parenting styles, and overall relationship satisfaction?
Perhaps it starts with you.
Maybe it means you are more intentional about pressing through your small, doable feats even when you’re not motivated. Maybe you model more grit for your family and lead by example. Perhaps this week, you and your family can pick your Hard Thing to practice.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands gritty.
I’m convinced—and I hope you are, too—grit is a good thing and something we all can use in our family.
10 Things Healthy, Happy Families Do
How To Encourage A Growth Mindset In Kids
The Blessing Of The Skinned Knee
Got some gritty thoughts on grit? Share them in the comments below!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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