There’s a new buzzword in town. It’s called grit. You may have heard of it.
According to the research, people who are bright, talented and kind and come from stable, loving homes don’t succeed if they haven’t been taught the teeth-clenching capacity for hard work, tenacity and commitment.
Grit is perseverance of effort; it is hardiness and resilience and ambition, which we’re told is essential to teach your child if you want them to grow up to their full potential.
Today’s guru of grit, Angela Duckworth, explores the question: if two individuals are equally intelligent and talented, why does one accomplish more than the other? Growing research suggests that your child’s capacity for ambition and competition may be the secret to his or her future happiness and success.
Or is it?
The Waldorf school system developed by Rudolf Steiner paints a different picture of success. Here the core purpose is to send integrated, independent, morally responsible and creative individuals into the world. The Steiner modality promotes building character, not competition. Steiner schools propose that competition enhances self-interest and either inflates the ego or crushes it.
That doesn’t mean that achievement is not encouraged. In fact, they believe that a child’s striving for excellence is actually enhanced by a non-competitive spirit, because they are doing it for the right reasons, which is achievement for achievement’s sake. In adult life this turns into dedication to the task, or perseverance, which ironically, is one of the core qualities of grit.
Same virtues, different approach.
Whether we resonate with flow or grit, it might be sensible to teach our children these 3 things:
In an effort to protect our children from disappointment, we as parents must be careful not to take away their opportunity to build their courage. This means fostering a sense of optimism, not despondency, towards any of life’s challenges. In the Waldorf system children are inspired to persevere even if the odds are stacked against them.
It is being willing to have a go – and another go – to ask for help, to work with others, to solve the problems we’re confronted with and to see things through. Resilience is about allowing our children to fail, but not to quit. As painful and humbling as it is, as parents we need to teach that failure is not the end of something, but rather a natural part of the journey.
Excellence vs Perfection
It’s in the striving for excellence, not perfection, that we achieve success. Excellence carries with it a positive attitude of seeking and finding, whereas perfection calls for rigidity and paralysis. Excellence doesn’t mould the child into a pre-determined form but enables them to become thoughtful, capable and well-balanced human beings.
The question is this: in life’s striving for success, do we as parents encourage in our children an ambitious, achieve-against-all-odds approach in order for them to reach their full potential? Or do we take a gentler stance that fosters a reverence for life and a shift from ‘what can I get’, to ‘how can I serve’?