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Why it’s important to develop ‘grit’ in your kids

/ 05:04 AM February 06, 2019

A recent talk, titled “Developing Grit: Overcoming Inner Obstacles,” was delivered to parents of students at De La Salle Santiago Zobel School. The speaker, Dr. Teresa Gustilo-Villasor, explained how parents today are getting in the way of their children’s character development.

Villasor opened her lecture by asking the audience to think of jeepneys, whose body designs include taglines such as “Katas ng Saudi” and “Pagdurusa, sikap, tiyaga.” Villasor was amused at how the West has relabeled character development or “grit” as something new, when Filipinos “live it, we don’t write a book about it.”


But Villasor pointed out that she would often see well-intentioned parents and their kids lacking drive: “The parents often worry about their kids. I tell them, ‘You have given him too much. He is not hungry enough.’

“One of the biggest problems of children with the best education are parents who give them too many things. Say, for instance, shoes. Before, we had one pair for school, and dress shoes for fancy occasions. Now, a child can have several sneakers. It’s this availability and commercial approach. When parents are not able to provide for children materially, they equate it with not being up to par.”


Passion, perseverance

“Grit” is a buzzword these days, from the 2016 best-selling book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” (2016) by Angela Lee Duckworth.

Duckworth defined grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. It’s having stamina, sticking with your future, day in and day out… for years to make that future a reality. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Villasor asked the audience of mostly parents to question if grit applied to their kids, or to themselves as well.

“When your child shows an interest, don’t be more interested,” said Villasor. “Your child will begin to be suspicious why you are more into it.” If, for example, a son is suddenly into soccer, “make him borrow cleats for the first few sessions, instead of buying him the top-of-the-line model right away.” Villasor suggested enrolling a daughter “only for a few gymnastics sessions and have her beg for more lessons, instead of the other way around… because you already bought the full year.”

Villasor added: “Don’t make life too easy for them, otherwise, don’t be surprised at their inability to persist. More interestingly, do you also show the same behavior? If your kid has ADHD, look at how you and your spouse are.”

She said that people with a growth mindset are more likely to persist when they fail, because they know failure is not a permanent condition, so they are more willing to be wrong.



“The brain is plastic,” said Villasor. “How you think will develop how you learn. Grit is really character, it’s a personality. The idea that we have to have it and we have to study it—this is a problem with the world today. Character development, attitude, belief, values —these are all part and parcel of developing a gritty personality, part of being a human being. But how, in a world that insists on us achieving a certain grade even if we are all different?”

Villasor said that a psychiatrist will look at his patient from a pathological perspective, while a psychologist will see to what degree the child deviates from the norm. She noted that parents can sometimes be too quick to go to so-called “experts” like her when parents, more often than not, are all that children need.

“Maybe my child does not have ADHD, maybe the world requires him to be because of all the stimuli and distractions in today’s world,” said Villasor. “Their future will continue to be infused with gadgets: their learning, social life, etc.”

She observed that many kids these days take four-year courses, but then shift into mobile professions to become a chef, interior designer or freelancer. “That is residue from the past, taking a four-year course to become a banker or other long-term job. We must recognize that our children are different from us,” she pointed out.

Take, for instance, how your child studies. She has the radio on, she’s texting while studying. “You cannot study because it’s not quiet, but she needs all that stimuli. Anyway, the grade will show if she’s doing well. School methodologies are changing,” said Villasor.

Another difference in today’s parents is that they don’t want to hurt their kids’ self-esteem when they fail. Villasor said, “They’d rather their kid go to another school than lose face by repeating in the same school.” –CONTRIBUTED

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