Dealing with some hard knocks early in life helps children learn how to meet challenges head on.
In 2010, the 1969 John Wayne classic True Grit was remade and I actually saw it then for the first time. It was hard not to admire the tenacity of 14-year-old Mattie, a persistent, smart, well-spoken young lady with tons of grit.
I can’t help but think that if Mattie were playing sports today, she would be the one working in the offseason and after practice. She would be the one not backing down when opposing teams tried to intimidate.
Do you have a Mattie-type in your home? If not, perhaps you’ve been frustrated at your child’s lack of persistence. If that’s the case, here are some ways you can help your kids grow some grit:
- Let them learn to solve problems by themselves. It’s easy to give them answers and do their thinking for them, especially when they beg us to help them decide on something. In sports parenting, that means we let them confront the coach or teammates when there’s a problem. Allow them to figure out how to better their undesirable situation.
- Let your kids fail. I really hate this one. It takes every ounce of true grit that I have not to step in and keep my child from failing when she’s driven herself into a corner. And quite honestly, I feel there are times when we can exhibit grace and love and step in to help in a tough situation. But more often than not, we must let our kids fail and get back up again.
- Encourage your kids to work hard. Don’t let them off the hook when they need to spend extra time practicing their hitting or their shooting. Give them jobs that will challenge and push them but that are not so hard that they never succeed. Work with them until they’re ready to stand on their own.
- Let your kids see your true grit. In the past few years, our family has gone through some pretty tough stuff. Through it all, my husband and I have persisted. Painful experiences gave us an opportunity to show our kids what tenacity looks like. Because of that, they have practiced persistence in their own lives. You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again: Your kids will hear your life more than they hear your words.
- In the movie True Grit, Mattie’s tenacity paid off. After much discouragement and failure, she achieved her goal. Your child will learn from challenges, too, and will ultimately experience success if you resist the urge to rescue her from the very circumstances that will help her grow up.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.