The secret to helping students develop grit

You are barely into the school year and already you have a sense about which students will be successful in your class and which ones will be slackers… don’t you?

Are you usually right?

How do you know?  What are the characteristics of the children who stay the course and succeed?

How are they different from students who give up and fail?

Angela Duckworth, Ph.D and author of the book, Grit;  The Power of Passion Perseverance, left  a high paying management job to teach math to seventh graders in the New York City Public Schools.  She soon found that the students who were successful were not necessarily the students with the highest IQ or the best home environment.  The deciding factor wasn’t luck or talent.  Instead, she found that they were the students who had an inner strength and resolve that others didn’t, often despite other obvious disadvantages. She named that inner strength grit and has spent the last several years researching and measuring that quality.  Here’s what she has found:  “Grit is about a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.”

So how does that relate to the kids in your classroom?  In the long run it relates to why they are there.  The student who understands and commits to their why is invariably the one who has grit.  They care.  They are invested.  They believe that they are moving closer to their goal even when they experience failure and disappointment.  Even when the work is hard. They have a vision for the future and they are committed.

You Can Help Students Develop Grit

So how do you help students develop grit?  Or is it just something that you are born with? No doubt some of it is determined by  temperament and the role models that students have in their lives.  But as significant adults in our students lives we can also help children understand and develop grit.  Here are two ways:

  1. Help students understand and set goals, in every area of their lives.  Academic goals. Relationship goals.  Physical goals.  Here’s the key though; go beyond the usual setting of goals. Teach children how to reach those dream big goals by setting small goals leading to large goals. Then teach them the importance of learning from mistakes and failure.
  2. Be the encourager in your student’s lives.  Everyone needs someone who believes in them and by seeing the future possibilities and sharing that vision with your students you can help them shape their future as well.

    Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

    Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
    Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)


Portrait of happy boy laughing on a white background

Celebrate Your Child’s Unique Voice

What does it mean to be authentic or real?

Is being authentic something to be achieved or a continual practice?

Can you be who you really are and still show compassion to others who are different?

How do we teach children to recognize and  be their authentic selves?

Teaching children to be authentic ultimately translates into helping each individual recognize that they are enough just as they are.  This doesn’t of course mean that we aren’t all continually striving to learn more and become our best possible selves.  Instead it means that we come equipped with the capacity to to be uniquely and authentically  ourselves; that awesome, fantastic individual that we were born to be.

Understanding Personality Styles Means Accepting Different Personality Styles

One way we are all unique is the personality style that makes up who we are.  A goal of understanding the four basic personality styles is to move from tolerating a personality style  in ourselves or others to accepting and ultimately celebrating that personality style. We are all a unique blend of  strengths and challenges.

In ourselves as well as in our children, we must first come to accept and celebrate those strengths rather than focusing on changing or eliminating those undesirable aspects. No one personality is better than another.  Each one can use it’s strengths to grow and develop.

Four Personalty Styles

There are four basic personality styles and here’s a short description of the characteristics of each one:

D: dominant, determined, doer, demanding

I: inspiring, influencing, interactive

S: stable, supportive, sweet, shy

C: cautious, competent, calculating, concerned

While we are all uniquely wired and more comfortable operating out of our own personality type, it is certainly possible to “visit” some of the other personality traits. In order to do this, we have to recognize the area of need and consciously make a choice to develop those traits.

Steps to Finding and Celebrating Your Child’s Unique Style

What does this mean for you and your child? What is the best way to encourage your child’s strengths while at the same time helping them deal with situations that challenge them?

  1. Recognize your child’s personality style,. Point out to them the strengths and positive attributes that you see every day.
  2. Teach children to recognize situations where they are challenged.  Teach them problem solving strategies so they see themselves as someone who faces obstacles with persistence and thoughtfulness.
  3. Celebrate the unique qualities that make up your child. The differences we all have is what makes our families special and unique.

Want to read more about personality styles and blends?

Parenting with Heart: Understanding your Child’s Personality Style

Do you sometimes feel that your children are speaking a different language?  Do you wonder how to motivate and inspire them?  In this ebook you will D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and how to speak the language of other personality styles to create a winning  environment in all the seasons of your family’s life. parentingheart Click on the link below to purchase the ebook: Parenting with Heart: Understanding Personality Style

Five young friends at a playground smiling

5 Ways to help children develop GRIT

Prepare the child for the path; not the path for the child.  (author unknown)

Businesses today are dealing with the effects of our parenting styles from the 80’s and 90’s. Because I do coaching and training with businesses, I hear the results of those indulgent parenting styles everyday. Children who got participation trophies for just showing up at an event, now expect careers that reward the same type of behavior.  While we focused on developing self-esteem in our children, in many ways we developed an entitlement mentality instead.

Today looking back, there are important lessons that have been learned about self-esteem and it’s connection to affirmation and achievement.  Parents and educators today can benefit from our experiences.  Here’s what we know now: Hollow affirmations about how smart and talented children are without regard to the outcome, create an entitlement mentality.  Realistic affirmations and encouragement based on a children’s abilities and efforts develop children with grit. What is Grit?  Grit is made up of passion and persistence,  necessary ingredients for success.

How to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child

Here are five ways as educators and parents we can develop children with grit who are not only successful but capable of handling the occasional failure or disappointment as well.

1 Connect–Take time to listen and develop the relationship.  We all need to know that someone cares about us, our feelings, our experiences and our perceptions of the world. You don’t have to always agree  but do take the time to listen.

2.  Believe– Teach children to believe in themselves by believing in them first.  Let them know the potential, the strengths, the talents that you see in them.  Especially in the face of failure,  you may need to remind them of those abilities that you see so clearly.

3. Expect achievement-Don’t settle for less than you know your child can deliver.  Encourage them to set big goals and then stretch to reach them.  Help them relish the challenge and obstacles involved. Encourage them to develop problem solving mental muscles and to see failure as a time to learn and grow.

4.  Hold them accountable– Some of the best lessons learned are those that are the hardest.  Help them develop persistence and perseverance by encouraging a never give up mentality. Don’t accept excuses and rationalizations.  Remind them that even when they don’t feel motivated, the team, the community, their family is counting on them to give their best.  Sometimes we don’t experience success until we learn to push past our own resistance.

5. Celebrate effort— Recognize the goals accomplished and the effort involved in reaching them.  Even in the face of failure show your excitement and approval for the energy and focus that it took to stay the course.

Related Posts:

Developing Resilience:  The Story Behind Kid President

Three Steps to Helping Kids Develop Self Discipline

What if failure is really a gift?


Teaching with Heart:  Understanding Personality Style

Do you sometimes feel that students at your school are speaking a different language?  Do you wonder how to motivate and inspire them?  In this ebook you will D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and learn to work in the strengths of each personality by recognizing the secret fuel and environmental needs for each.  Understanding the personality styles of students can revolutionize how you interact and lead in the classroom! teachingdiscover

 Click on the link below to purchase the ebook:

Teaching with Heart: Understanding Personality Styles














Lovely primary school student daydreaming

Positive Storytelling

We can learn a lot from the Olympics.  As you watched the performance of great athletes, did you wonder how they achieved such high goals?  Was it all practice and persistence?  Or was mindset an important part as well?  What if we applied some of the same mindset practices to the classroom?

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, dissects the athletic performance of Michael Phelps.  One of his most significant habits is the role of visualization or positive storytelling.  Each morning before he gets out of bed, Michael Phelps replays a tape in his head of winning the perfect race.  He imagines every detail from start to finish, the feel of the water against his skin, his body executing the perfect stroke, touching the wall in a victorious finish. Again before going to sleep at night, Michael Phelps retells the story of a great race-in his mind.  When asked what winning felt like after a real race, he responds that it felt natural,  just as he imagined it.  Positive storytelling sets the stage for the real thing.

How to use positive storytelling

As educators, we can use the same imagery to plan and create the best school day.  I’ve written in previous posts about setting an intention for our day.  What if we went beyond intention and using Phelps’s example, we created a positive story for the day and shared it each morning with our students?  It might go something like this:

Good Morning students, it’s a great day at XYZ school.  Sit up straight but relaxed, close your eyes and let me tell you what today has in store.  We will begin with a math lesson and I want you to take a minute and imagine yourself focused and engaged in learning about decimals.  You are going to be great at this.  Next is PE and I want you to see yourself…(create your own script here)  Finally I want you to know that you are smart, you are kind and you are someone with great value.  Find someone today to lift up with a random act of kindness.  Open your heart and your mind to the possibilities ahead in this day.  Open your eyes and let’s get started.

Once you have modeled this positive story telling technique with students, you can ask students to write or draw their own story for a positive day.  Then begin the day with a few moments of quiet reflection where they close their eyes and imagine their own positive story.  Not only will you be teaching students how to plan for the day ahead, but you will be teaching them a mindset skill that will serve them in the future.  Positive storytelling is a powerful habit that can transform students’ lives, one day at a time.


Related Posts:

Begin School Year with Intention

Change Manic Mornings to Tranquil Transitions

10 things joyful teachers do differently


 Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)




Seven Secrets to Effective Teacher-Parent Communication

In my last post, I identified ten ways that teachers could establish effective communication with parents. Communication however, is a two way street.  Parents also have a responsibility and an opportunity to establish a relationship with their child’s teacher. Here are seven ways to create open communication while empowering your child to be a leader in their own right:

Seven Secrets to Effective Teacher-Parent Communication

  1. Express appreciation- Everyone wants to be appreciated-teachers included. Look for a way early on to express your gratitude for the teacher’s hard work and dedication in the classroom.  Even if you have areas of concern, begin with the positive and set a positive tone.
  2. Determine the regular routines for communication and stay engaged-Does work go home once weekly or daily? How often should you check agendas, backpacks, special folders? Is there a weekly newsletter that you can read to stay abreast of classroom activities?  Be proactive and don’t wait for there to be a problem to get involved.
  3. Determine the time frames that teachers are available and respect them– Do they prefer a note?  an email?  When is it too late to call?   We all have busy, complicated lives that involve juggling many roles and teachers need time with their families away from the demands of work.
  4. Be authentic–Let teachers know about changes and challenges that your child may be facing.  Is the family going through a stressful time at home?  Have they been sick?  Are they on medication that might affect their performance?  Any of these things can impact a child’s ability to focus and excel  in the classroom.  The more the teacher knows about your particular child, the better the chance they will connect in a positive way.
  5. Be open to suggestions– Even if it is a new way of doing things, listen when teachers suggest alternative ways of teaching a child new concepts.  What may have worked well previously may not be the best approach as your child develops and changes. You don’t have to follow every suggestion but honor the request with your attention.
  6. Share your expertise and insight-As a parent,  you are the expert on your child. You know their history, their abilities and their quirks.  Share what you know so teachers can teach to their strengths.
  7. Encourage and empower your child to be an effective communicator and leader-While it’s important for you as the parent to stay involved with your child’s teacher, it’s equally important for your child to learn what they are responsible for and how to communicate their needs.  Communicating with the teacher doesn’t mean taking over your child’s responsibilities or solving all their problems for them.  Instead, model for them how to be a leader and problem solver in their own life.  As it is age appropriate, transfer that responsibility for  effective communication to them.  After all it is their academic success and only they can achieve it.

Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section…

Related Posts

Five Easy Steps to Teach Kids Problem solving

Creating a Growth Mindset in Kids

Four Leadership Lessons for Your Child


Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship

It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog.  How do you make friends?  Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog-Friendship Cover (1)

Wyatt Learns about Friendship

parent teacher meeting

Ten Secrets to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

As the school year begins, an important part of starting school for every teacher is establishing communication with parents.  This is especially true in the younger years but even in later years, teachers have a responsibility to keep parents informed.  Depending on how you set up your system, this can be a chore or an opportunity to engage parents in a positive way in their child’s education.  Here are ten ways to insure success without stressing yourself out…

Ten Secrets to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

  1. Have a plan for positive feedback-Every parent wants their child to be successful and you can start the year off on a positive note by sharing something positive in the first week of school with parents.  Since kids are usually on their best behavior for the first week or so, this shouldn’t be too hard!  Make sure every parent hears something positive from you about their child.
  2. Set boundaries around your time and let parents know what they are–Be clear about when you can answer questions and at what point you are available to respond to emails and/or phone calls.  This is important for parents but it’s also important for your peace of mind. You are doing yourself and the parents a favor when you define the time that  you are off work and spending time with your own family.
  3. Have regular routines for communication-Let parents know what they can expect from you.  Does work go home once weekly or daily? How often should they check agendas, backpacks, special folders?  Don’t assume parents will just naturally understand what you expect.  Make it clear from the beginning… then remind them periodically.  We all have busy, complicated lives that involve juggling many roles.
  4. Be authentic–Let parents know something about you and your own story.  If you are a parent with preschoolers and juggling your career with being a parent, let parents know.  If you are working on your masters at night and teaching during the day, share that.  This doesn’t mean you are looking for sympathy or support (hopefully you are getting that elsewhere!), just that the more real you are with others, the better the chance you will connect in a positive way.
  5. Be open to suggestions– Even if you’ve done something the same way for the last fifteen years, listen when parents suggest changing in some way.  What may have worked well in the beginning, may no longer be the best way to stay in touch. You don’t have to follow every suggestion or whim but honor the request with your attention.
  6. Be aware that everything you do is communication-While there are many formal ways that you will communicate, be aware that everything you do is communication.  Even displaying student work, jotting a quick note on a homework paper or the wording in your weekly newsletter or your class website, leaves a permanent impression of who you are.  Always consider how it will come across to others.
  7. Express gratitude-Teachers are usually great at writing thank you notes for end of the year gifts but what about a thank you for the parent who spent time running off copies for you or the one who was a chaperon during the field trip?  Again, it doesn’t have to be a formal note.  A smile and a sincere thanks can work just as well.
  8. Recognize parent effort-Most parents are putting forth a lot of effort to be the best they know how to be.  Be sure to give them a compliment even for things that we might consider “expected”.  Thank them for taking the time to attend a meeting or for making sure their child completes homework, for example. You never know the effort or the story behind the end result.
  9. Share your expertise and insight-As a teacher, you have the benefit of knowing various ways to differentiate and improve the teaching experience. You also have the benefit of teaching a wide variety of abilities.  Share what you know and see so parents can extend the lesson at home.
  10. Prepare parents ahead of time for meetings–Most parents don’t know what to expect when they attend meetings. For many, it is an intimidating experience. Prepare them ahead of time by letting them know the time frame, who will be there, the content and the decisions that may be made at the meeting.  This will help parents not only be more comfortable but will give them some insight into what questions they might have.

Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section…


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How many positive comments does it take?

Know someone who is starting kindergarten?

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten