What Your Child Really Needs to be Successful in Life

What’s the real key to success? According to Angela Lee Duckworth, the answer is “grit”.

Who is successful and why?

In all her research, the answer kept coming back to one quality – grit.

I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings, and in every study my question was, who is successful here and why? My research team and I went to West Point Military Academy. We tried to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out. We went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which children would advance farthest in competition. We studied rookie teachers working in really tough neighborhoods, asking which teachers are still going to be here in teaching by the end of the school year, and of those, who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students? We partnered with private companies, asking, which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs? And who’s going to earn the most money? In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t I.Q. It was grit.

What is Grit?

What children need to be successfulThe ability to persist and passionately pursue a goal – whatever that goal might be.

“the perseverance and passion for a long-term goal” – 99U

Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat alarmingly, IQ scores were inversely related to grit scores. It seems that the “smarter” kids weren’t as “gritty”.

As for all the talk about self-control predicting success? According to Duckworth’s research, “self-control was an influential factor, …but it was not a completely necessary factor“. There were kids who had poor self-control but a lot of grit. I guess all is not lost if your child failed the marshmallow test.

How do you help your child develop grit?

Is “grit” something that can be taught? According to Duckworth, the best idea she’s heard so far is to help children develop a “growth mindset“.

Programs that teach children about the “growth mindset”:

But, according to Duckworth, having a “growth mindset” is just the start. To have true grit, you have to have something more than just a “growth mindset”. Unfortunately, Duckworth confesses she doesn’t have the answers. We did a search for some answers and this is what we found…

Parents – Raising Readers and Learners offers 5 tips:

  • give your child the opportunity to pursue something difficult
  • “Don’t quit on a bad day” – make it a rule because there are going to be days when things get tough and your child will feel like giving up
  • a little nudging is okay – you don’t have to get all “Tiger Mom” about it but you don’t have to back off completely either
  • don’t rush in to help your child through every obstacle he encounters – give him a chance to work it out for himself and be cautious about how you offer your “help” if he is really stuck
  • failure is okay – model resilience and talk about your failures with your children because this is the best learning experience they could ever have

ASCD adds these tips:

  • start early with programs that develop self-regulation abilities through structured play – here they refer to the Tools of the Mind program and the use of Play Plans
  • teach your child how to achieve goals – teach them how to size up a goal, relate it to their own interests, identify steps for achieving it, and think about how they can overcome difficulties that get in their way
  • teach children to develop growth mindsets
  • use out-of-school activities that tap into their passions and interests, such as martial arts, drama, and sports, that can help students develop self-discipline and persistence through structured opportunities to challenge themselves, learn through failure, and experience improvement
Picture Credit: Proverbs and Quotations


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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