Dubai: It may surprise you to know that the best predictor of success in both academics and later life is not IQ. Nor is it talent, social intelligence, looks or even physical health. Rather it is how a child deals with adversity. Can they be tenacious and persevere in the face of difficulty? How do they view failure, as an important part of the learning process or as something that highlights their own inadequacies?
Developing grit has never been more important. In recognition of this the US Department of Education has acknowledged that grit, tenacity and perseverance as “critical factors for success in the 21st century”. These “non-cognitive competencies” are now viewed as perhaps the most important skills to prepare the child for long-term achievement.
Luckily there is a great deal that parents can do to grow their child’s grit. The first is to develop a “growth mindset”. Many children (and even adults) tend to see themselves as fixed in their strengths and difficulties. “I’m no good at maths”, “I am rubbish at football”. They see their ability as mostly unchangeable. By developing a growth mindset the child is able to recognise their skill as something that can be improved through effort.
When I work with children to develop this skill, I ask them to tell me about the hero in their favourite video game. I explain how they, like their hero, are on their own quest to level up, become stronger, smarter and able to face all the exciting challenges to come.
If your child is into sports find a hero there. Lionel Messi was shorter than all his teammates but would practice for hours on end to develop the skills that made him one of the best footballers in the world. For a number of my students Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has been, in one boys words, “a game changer”.
There are few activities that combine extreme difficulty and fun as well as BJJ. After their first class they cannot wait to return to the mats. In Jiu-Jitsu we have a saying that can be an important life lesson: “There is no losing. You win, or you learn”.
-The author is head of Occupational Therapy at Autism Rocks