Developing Grit: How to Raise an Olympic Wrestler

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6 Helpful Tips to Teach Children Persistence

There’s a new buzzword flying around in the education community: Growth Mindset. It’s the idea that your talents, intelligence and ability are not fixed traits, but that these things can be honed and developed with grit and persistence. And here, I believe, lies the key to raising successful children who will become successful adults; the important word for me is Persistence.  

Research has shown that high achieving children know that success comes from hard-work as opposed to pure talent. I mean, how many times have we heard that “hard work beat’s talent when talent doesn’t work hard”? (Tim Notke, Basketball Coach).  Maybe it’s just me, coming from a sports-loving family, but I heard this over and over again as a child.  

The truth, however, is that persistence is not an easy trait to develop. After all, it’s much more pleasant to just do what’s fun and easy and our default most of the time is the path of least resistance. This is exactly why I think it’s so important that we teach our children this powerful quality from an early age. And there are many things that we, as teachers and as parents, can do to help children develop persistence.  


Help them discover (and stick to) a hobby 

Nurture a hobby and give them the opportunity to work on something and to get better at it over time. Practice, practice, practice! This will give them opportunities to see hard work paying off as they become better at their chosen hobby. It’s also very important to let them choose something of their own liking. This will greatly increase their chances of follow through.  


Give them opportunities to succeed 

It’s important to help children decide on small, achievable goals (sound familiar?). Successfully completing small tasks builds the confidence and self-esteem needed to complete harder ones. Giving them age-appropriate responsibilities is a great way to achieve this. However, you need to remember to try to push-them ever so slightly to do just a little more and just a little better.  


Let them fail 

This may seem cruel and it can be excruciatingly hard to do, but it’s important to let your child fail. Resist ‘helicopter parenting’ and  always coming to their rescue when things don’t go their way. They need to know that sometimes, they won’t be able to accomplish things right away and that it’s okay. It also gives them opportunities to try to figure things out for themselves, which is a big and valuable lesson in self-esteem.  



Don’t give up on them, even if they have given up on themselves 

We all have that moment when we just want to give up. If I am being honest, it’s a feeling I often fight. But from personal experience, I understand the power of having someone who won’t give up on you and will encourage you to get back to it. That, my friends, is crucial for our children! They need cheerleaders! They need someone who will be there to say “It’s okay that you failed. You learned something from it. It’s also okay to take a break. But, it’s not okay to give up. So, now it’s time to try again!” 


Remind them of their hard work 

Whenever your child thinks that something is too hard, remind him (or her) of the times before when they have worked hard to accomplish something. Everything from crawling, to walking, to learning to read or ride a bike at one stage seemed impossible to them. Then hard work, practice and persistence came together and ensured that they could accomplish things that were once very difficult.  

Praise effort over achievement 

I think this is one that takes a concerted effort. When we love children, we want to praise them and see their faces light up as we serve a compliment. However, we may be doing them a disservice. It’s easy to say “Oh, you’re so smart” but think about what that may do to your child. It may encourage them to think that they already are everything that they need to be! Instead, we should try things like “You are such a hard worker!” or “I am so proud of you when you don’t give up”. This will encourage them to try hard and will help them see that even when they fail, they still have value, they still have a lot to offer, and they still have hope that they will one day be able to achieve success.  


What Persistence Looks Like in Real Life 

Part of the Learn Safari Team at the Annual Reunion in Bogota, Colombia.

Part of the Learn Safari Team at the Annual Reunion in Bogota, Colombia.

So, I have a confession to make: I am not exactly someone you would describe as “having grit”. Persistence has never been my forte. I have gone through life usually doing the things that come easy to me. I was a history major, because I love to read and stayed away from science, because, well, I thought it would be too hard. I didn’t play sports, because I wasn’t good at them and I looked foolish. Instead I danced because it was easy for me (But not hip hop, because that was too hard, and I looked awkward). See the pattern? 

So, when I started working at Learn Safari, I was very excited. I was going to work with languages, reading and writing. Right up my alley! Super easy! Well, let me tell you how not easy this has been! I have had to hustle, grow, learn new things and PERSIST! And it wouldn’t be fair to not acknowledge that the reason for this has been great leadership. So, at the risk of annoying him and causing a rather awkward conversation when it’s time to edit and approve this blog, I have to give a shout out to our founder and CEO; Tanvir Chowdhury.  

He’s very much a behind the scenes kind of guy and I have only been able to convince him to appear on social media once! But, he’s the quintessential definition of “Gritty”. Tanvir and I started this journey over 4 years ago and we have failed and learned and gone back to the drawing board so many times! But, at so many moments where anyone else would have called it quits, he has never given up on our project and he has always motivated us to keep going. And when I think about it, he has quite literally used the tactics above to keep us moving forward.  

We have re-written the education content for Spanish Safari at least 4 times now (this time we really do think we have a winner!). We have created countless 3D characters; built, dismantled and rebuilt our 3D world; made countless test builds; run countless playtests and have failed several times! However, every time we have failed we have learned something valuable, picked ourselves back up, and made something even better. I am very glad we haven’t quit when the times were tough, and the fact that Tanvir has been able to help me develop persistence, really encourages me to know that I can help my students and my own children to do the same!