4 Stages for Building Grit in Your Children

UPDATED: November 28, 2016
PUBLISHED: November 28, 2016

One of the most significant indicators of how successful someone will be is his or her level of grit, or dedication to and passion for pursuing a long-term goal in the face of setbacks and failures, says Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., positive psychologist and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Grit has little connection to talent, she says, and most times people with more grit (and not necessarily natural talent) go on to be the most successful. Duckworth used a questionnaire to measure the grit in high school juniors in Chicago and found it was the most important factor in determining who would be successful as young adults.

Related: Top of Mind: 6 Ways Having Grit Improves Your Life 

“People with grit are not driven by pleasure or fun as much as they are by the gratification of being excellent at what they do and realizing that excellence benefits other people,” Duckworth said at the International Positive Education Network’s (IPEN) Festival of Positive Education.

The best part? “Grit, like any other aspect of your character, can change.” Below are Duckworth’s stages for building grit in your child.

1. Interest

Develop your child’s interests before training his or her weaknesses. The interests develop intrinsically, but children need external support.

2. Practice

Know the science of deliberate practice, which is 1) setting a stretch goal; 2) focusing 100 percent on the goal; 3) getting feedback on your progress; and 4) refining your skill and reflecting as necessary. “These four things in combination are what it means to practice like an expert,” she says.

3. Purpose

Cultivate the purpose of the interest. Your child should see his or her pursuit goes beyond self-motivation. In this stage, children should fully realize what they’re doing is connected to other people. Ask your children questions, such as: Do you take into account whether this will benefit other people? Do you feel a responsibility to make the world a better place?

4. Hope

Your child should develop resilience in the face of setbacks and failures throughout his or her journey. This is where you can foster a growth mindset (in which a person’s abilities can be improved through hard work) instead of a fixed one in your child.

Related: How to Make Sure Your Children Become More Successful Than You


This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.