Guest Blog Post: What Parents Can Do to Increase Grit in Their Children by Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman (Book Excerpt)

You may be wondering what is grit and more importantly, how do I grow grit in my children? Grit as defined by Dr. Angela Duckworth, the psychologist and researcher who coined the term is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.”  The ability to be gritty—to stick with things that are important to you and bounce back from failure—is an essential component of success.

Here are five ways to cultivate grit in your child.

  1. Help your child find his passion. Children feel that they should excel in everything: the arts, academics, sports, and socially. However, most of us are not wired to be strong in every area. That’s why it is essential for you to help your child find his strengths and grow his passion in an area that is important to him. It is when we feel passionate about a goal that grit can grow. For example, if your child loves animals, you can help him find work at an animal shelter or pet store. What if your child does not have a passion? Expose your child to different activities and see if something sticks. Also, remember this is about growing your child goals and passions, not yours.


  1. Its about growth. Send the message to your child that with challenge comes growth, and that failure breeds learning. Tell your child that the neurons in her brain actually grow stronger when she engages in challenging tasks, and watch her become more willing to take on and stick with hard things. For example, if your child is a swimmer and a certain distance is difficult for her, you can send the message that by swimming more she will build the stamina necessary to go a longer distance. Instead of sending the message to your child that she has a “fixed” level of skill and talent that does not change, let her know that her talent and skills actually grow with experience and when faced with a challenge.


  1. Establish goals and habits. Help your child establish goals that are specific and measurable. It is best to make gritty behavior a habit as opposed to using self-control or willpower. Because goal setting is such an important part of developing grit, and because children sometimes need help following through on their goals, it would be great for you to collaborate with your child to turn her gritty beliefs into action.


  1. Be a buffer of stress while letting your child skin her knees. It is natural for us to want to protect our children so that they never have to face the sting of failure or disappointment. However, never dealing with the consequences of failure can make it more challenging when it does occur. Support your child during stressful times, but give her a chance to fail, especially during these years when she has a safety net. Soon enough she will be living independently, and wouldn’t it be best if she learned how to deal with challenges and setbacks while still under your wing?


  1. Finding purpose and community. Help your child find purpose for his gritty behavior by showing how it can benefit others. See if he can find a way to use his strengths, passion, and personal skills to address problems in the world. Furthermore, help your child establish a community and/or a culture of grit. When children surround themselves with people who are interested in helping others, the passion they see can rub off and inspire them as well. Creating a family culture of service is an excellent way to gain a sense of purpose by working toward something that benefits others, not just ourselves.


Raising a child requires grit. It takes passion—because there is no job we are as dedicated to or find as important as being a parent; perseverance—because being a parent is a job you can’t quit, no matter how tough things get; and purpose—because at the very heart of being a parent is caring about something and someone beyond yourself. Keep this in mind as you help your child grow his or her grit.

Excerpted from The Grit Guide for Teens by Caren Baruch-Feldman with the permission of New Harbinger Publishing. Copyright © 2017 by Caren Baruch-Feldman.


Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman is a clinical psychologist and a certified school psychologist. She maintains a private practice in Scarsdale and works as a school psychologist in Westchester, NY.  She has worked for 19 years in schools. Providing in-services, interactive workshops, and now writing her first book, The Grit Guide for Teens, are the highlights of Dr. Baruch-Feldman’s career. Dr. Baruch-Feldman received an undergraduate degree from Barnard College of Columbia University and a doctorate in Clinical-Child Psychology and School Psychology Certificate from St. John’s University. She trained at the Albert Ellis Institute and is a Fellow and Supervisor in Rational Emotive Behavior, a type of CBT therapy.