Category Archives: grit

teaching kids problem solving skills

When I designed the Wyatt book series, eight years ago, my goal was to teach children to be better problem solvers. As a school counselor in an elementary school, I spent most of my time helping kids solve problems. I didn’t want to just tell them what to do, but teach them how to think about the problem so they could figure it out for themselves the next time.

That goal hasn’t changed.  In fact, I think it is more important than ever that we equip students to learn effective problem solving strategies.

 What are the necessary steps to problem solving?

  1. Identify the problem-  The first step in any problem solving is awareness.  if you don’t recognize the problem it is hard to solve it.  We all know it is easier to see the problems in others than ourselves, so at least in part this means developing an openness to feedback and insight.
  2. Recognize the possibilities for growth and change-  It is always easier to stay in our own comfort zone and view the world through our own lens.  In order to solve problems though, we have to develop a willingness to move outside of that arena of knowledge and venture into the unknown.  This is where true creativity and insight develop.
  3. Recognize our strengths and our limits–  We are always most effective when we know what we do well and when we develop those skills.  It is equally important that we know our limitations and that we engage others in those areas where we need help and guidance.
  4. Develop team work-  it is essential that future problem solvers know how to work well with others.  The world has become a connected and interdependent place and successful problem solvers use all the interpersonal resources available to navigate complex problems.
  5. Develop a growth mindset–  Problem solvers are comfortable with change and growth.  They envision a positive solution even when it isn’t yet obvious how it will be accomplished.   They know that maintaining status quo means doesn’t solve problems.
  6.  Embody courage and commitment–  Problem solvers take action, sometimes imperfect action when they aren’t quite sure of the outcome of their efforts. Problem solvers don’t live life as victims but rather take action and effect change. They are resilient in the face of failure.  They know that each step moves them forward, even when they don’t yet have the answer to the problem.

Related Posts:

What is your child’s super-power?

The secret to helping kids develop grit

Two secrets to help kids get organized


Wyatt’s Leadership Series for Kids

While supplies last… a $120 value for $95

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt Learns about Giving


7 Lesson Plans based on Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of Highly Effective People


A set of problem situation cards to develop critical thinking skills in difficult situations

Your investment: $95

Got hustle?

You’ve got one kid in your class who is knocking it out of the park…

  • they are on top of their assignments
  • they are engaged
  • they ask questions and are genuinely interested in learning

You’ve got another who is failing…

  • they are always behind the eight ball
  • they are disengaged
  • they are disinterested

What is the difference?  Intelligence?  Talent?  Ability?

Those factors may be a part of the picture, but its also very possible they are not the root of the problem.  I bet the deciding factor is: hustle.

What is hustle?  Tim Elmore in a recent post defines it like this:

Energy + Effort + Urgency = Hustle

Angela Duckworth in her book Grit identifies a similar standard for the high achiever; grit. Students with grit put forth more effort and exhibit more drive, even when they experience failure.  In fact, they re-frame failure as an opportunity to learn and approach the task with even more energy and effort.  They set goals and push themselves to accomplish them, even when it may appear that they have less talent or ability than someone else.

So how do we as educators and parents encourage hustle?  Here are a few ideas…

  • Focus on the experience of learning more than the experience of success— Help children understand that success is a process not an event.
  • Focus on effort more than talent or ability–Help children understand that energy and effort trumps ability or talent.
  • Focus on persistence and endurance–Help children understand that sticking with a task is more important than giving up especially when the outcome is uncertain.
  • Focus on serving others more than personal accomplishment–Help children understand how their efforts benefit others (their team, their family, their friends or their community) as well as themselves.

There are lots of ways to teach grit or hustle but one effective and engaging way is to use the examples and lives of well known individuals who have overcome failure, lack of resources and even personal handicaps to succeed.  Here are some great books to use:

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream  by Deloris Jordan


Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin


Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmeah


Harvesting Hope The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull


Odd Boy Out by Don Brown


The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkin


Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull


End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 


Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)


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)


 Lesson Plan to teach growth mindset and grit with Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning