I have a child who is very difficult to talk to. The two of us can shoot the shit and discuss minor issues he may be having, but when it comes to situations where he is in the wrong, or needs to dig in and learn from his mistakes, we struggle-big time. He refuses to take responsibility; it is always someone else’s fault or there were circumstances out of his control that resulted in the outcome. He rides the excuse train hard, it is exhausting. He is never wrong and when he fails, it always hinges on what someone was or was not doing. Every so often I am back in the same situation, where I am trying to have a discussion with him and I end up wanting to shake him. My frustration mounts and the conversation leaves me feeling very dissatisfied and annoyed that I lost my temper.
I have started to pump myself up for these little chats. I can’t avoid them, I am his mother, it is my job to guide him on this “journey”. I spent the last week reflecting on our encounters and how to deal with him in these situations. I’ve realized what bothers me the most is his aversion to failure, his unwillingness to be wrong. I don’t know much, but I do know failure is the gateway to success. You have to fail to succeed. You have to be willing to pick yourself up, to keep trying, over and over again. This is the secret to success and it is called grit. Can I teach my kids grit?
I wonder if my expectations are too high? This is a young boy and he is learning, of course he is not going to have it mastered. On the other hand, I have to start at some point. I can’t hope this will come to fruition by some other means. The reason I feel frustrated is the lack of progress. Just show me baby steps in the right direction.
In times like these I wish I still had my dad’s ear, I crave his guidance. Luckily I have three alternative forms of him in Leigh, Jeff and Ross; who interestingly would all score differently on the grit scale. They are great when it comes to seeking advice. In this instance I turned to Ross. We discussed it at length on his drive home, when he is usually looking for someone to talk to. When I asked him “How do you think I teach my kids grit?”, he offered me this nugget, “How do you teach your kids grit? You set them up to fail. You send them out into the world, putting them in situations where they are not going to succeed and you do not coddle them or make it better. You have to give them the opportunity to fail and pick themselves up and try again. Let them discover the beauty in perseverance.”
Although my child is unwilling to admit when he is wrong and fears making mistakes right now, if I keep giving him the chance to discover on his own that mistakes and failing are part of the process, then perhaps it will require less discussion from me. I can help him see that struggle and disappointment are temporary and that we can always learn. I am going to look at this as a long-term project. It is not a place that he will be at in a year from now, this is part of growing up. While I don’t see our conversations making a total about-face, I am going to be gritty and stick with it.
If I want anything for my kids I want them to have grit. What about you? Any insights or advice?
A short TED talk on grit: