The authority on grit

You are probably wondering if this will be an article on Angela Duckworth's ground breaking research that correlated Grit as the single biggest factor in a child's eventual success academically, professionally, in life and family. While I'm a big fan of...

The authority on grit
Looking for grit

You are probably wondering if this will be an article on Angela Duckworth's ground breaking research that correlated Grit as the single biggest factor in a child's eventual success academically, professionally, in life and family. While I'm a big fan of Duckworth, she neglected to provide a prescription for endowing your children with grit. I am providing that prescription, so this article is about me.

The writing program is a small part of our grit activities. I've got something time consuming, mind numbing, and grueling in mind. The writing program is delayed, however, because my 7th grader's home room teacher, who teaches the class reading, has been giving the kids all day writing assignments starting with the topic after first bell and concluding with turning in the assignments at the last bell. Curse you, home room teacher, for beating me to it.

The secret formula for grit, or if you have multiple children like I do, grits, is to provide your children with fun, engaging, role playing projects at age 4, and slowly take the fun out of them and replace it with a sense of growth and accomplishment as the years go by. Throw in chores and band, and you've got grit. Also scouts or life guard camp, and painful sport like wrestling, cross country, or similar endeavor. Or all of the above. We chose all of the above. Please refer to the url for this website if you doubt me.

There is debate among authors whether band or chores are a bigger determinant of grit. I'll take them both.


To find the time in our busy weekend schedule to do test prep or weekend math, I made the kids follow me around the house with their assignments while I cleaned. I used to set up a desk and chair outside the bathroom while I cleaned it for one kid when he was 4 years old. He would do his phonics, and I would clean the toilet. I used to get the whole house vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned, kitchen cleaned, and everything picked up. It was a break for mom, my exercise, and a good way to build up tolerance against my kids whining about the insane work I assigned. Dude, you have to add 2 digit numbers, and I have to clean the toilet in a house full of boys. Quit complaining.

Little by little I started to assign chores that don't involve harsh chemicals. I'm still left with toilets, but today everything was picked up, the kitchen cleaned, all rooms vacuumed (properly, finally), and I only glared at them from the bathroom for nostalgic purposes. I think they know I'm proud of them. They didn't earn their chore grit from nagging. They earned it from watching me do it, with drama and various speeches I give from time to time. Numerous parents told me I should just hire someone to clean my house once a week. It's not expensive - maybe $80. (Forget for a moment that the $80 a week adds up to $72,000 by the time the child goes to college). I wonder what type of lesson this parent wants to teach their child.

I've also assigned dirty plumbing tasks, rewiring the electricity, sealing a flat roof when it was 120 degrees out, picking up every cigarette butt on the block, painting, and fixing the car tail light because my hand couldn't reach the bulb. We've taken many 5 mile walks just for the fun of it, and one 50 mile bike ride. Last month I announced that we would no longer go out to eat as a family unless we walked to a restaurant a minimum of 2.5 miles away. I can't say for a fact that these rub off on other activities, but I've witnessed my kids spend upwards of 5 straight hours without a break doing school projects and papers.

There's plenty of mystery to grit for people sitting around pondering what could cause grit, but there's no mystery for those who do grit.


This year was the 4th year for band for the older one and the 1st for the younger one. It's not a high pressure endeavor. Other than daily practice, like 20 minutes, it's more about not quitting. No kid wants to practice, and most kids want to quit. In fact, most kids do quit. Colleges are not looking for kids like this. It takes some effort on the part of adults so that kids aren't told 'you have to practice because it's really important' and than show 'you'd should quit because this is so unimportant that your parents don't do it.' I started practicing daily myself until I mysteriously got so bad that my kids banned me from playing. I bought books full of musical and movie music. I threatened my kids to get them a real teacher. I threatened to practice with them. And most importantly, i forbid quitting.

The human brain develops the part that is in charge of decision making at age 25. By the teen years, the immature, undeveloped brain learns to use the part that is in charge of emotional responses to make decisions. A parent who lets their child make decisions before age 25 on issues that impact the child's future has their own problem with decision making.

In 7th grade, children are just learning to use their emotion brain lobe to make decisions and promptly decide to quit everything. This is normal. I was a 7th grader for a whole year. I know 7th grade. Of course you want to quit. But you can't, because I also know 8th and 9th grade, when you wish you didn't quit. In fact, future you just visited me last night in a time machine and forbid me from letting present you quit. So you can't.

7th grade just ended, and the 7th grader is downloading jazz sheet music and practicing twice as long now, at his own volition, because he is interested in joining the jazz band at the high school he qualified for. Are you writing this down? This is your recipe for grit.


Academic work qualifies as grit if it is advanced, confusing, time consuming and hard. This year, it's going to be writing. Unfortunately, my child just spent 3 straight hours on his computer working on a weekend writing assignment for his insane teacher, so I'm going to have to raise the bar.

With the little time that we had, we read the first 2 chapters in our book. I asked 3 questions:

  • What did it say?
  • What is it really saying?
  • What do you think about it?

He identified a few subtle elements of the passages. A good start. He failed to notice the really broad obvious themes, but so do most adults, including me. And best of all, he commented on the text without using the word 'lame'. It's a start. When you read the writing article in this issue you'll see how quickly we made progress.