I am a life-long Redskins fan, and even though that will never change, sometimes I wish Dan Snyder was not the owner of the Skins. Actually, most of the time that is my wish. Ok, I'll be honest, I wish that all of the time. Perhaps it's unfair for me to feel this way about Snyder, but when you compare him to other owners in the NFL, even the owner of our arch-rival Dallas Cowboys, he does not measure up. In fact, while it's hard to admit, I have always admired Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. I love his story. His parents were entrepreneurs and taught him how to work hard. They lived in an apartment directly above their family retail store. Their business literally supported the family. In the video link above, you will hear Jerry fondly reminisce about his memories of helping in the family business. At a young age, he learned how to articulate value to customers (sell). As every salesperson knows, once you start selling, you become very accustomed to rejection and failure. It becomes part of your life. The best sales people will tell you stories about how hearing the word "no" means absolutely nothing to them. There is never a lost sale or opportunity, only those who haven't signed up yet. You see, perseverance in the face of adversity requires GRIT, and perseverance cannot be obtained without struggles.Sure, some of us are predisposed with more determination, but I also believe parenting (and life in general) play a significant role in this process. I believe this because so many successful people in life have credited their parents teaching and training for their accomplishments, Jerry Jones is no exception.
How do we create GRIT within our kids?
In my opinion, consistent failure is the best ingredient for baking up grit. I believe we should introduce our children to failure early and often in life. Why? Because that's real life. It's not our job as parents to manipulate and control every situation involving our children. Just as the military incorporates boot camp before sending troops to battle, it's our job to allow adversity so they grow stronger. When we intervene and manufacture success for them, we actually rob our children of the joy that comes through independent achievement. The truth is, even if you could save them from every difficulty, you won't be around forever, and so now is the time to teach them mental toughness. For those who feel this post is unloving or unbalanced, I am not advocating that we avoid protecting our children in times of need. Rather, perhaps true love is sacrificing your emotional comfort needs of wanting everything to be painless, for the greater good of building mental and psychological toughness within your child. It always bothers me when I see a parent, with loving intentions, stop their child from taking a risk that could lead to failure or some form of mild physical pain. Why does the parent assume their child won't succeed? Could it be that the parent lacks confidence? Are we teaching our children to think like losers or winners? Losers don't try out for the team because they might not make it, winners try out for the team, get cut, go practice some more and make the team next year. If you think that story is unrealistic, go talk to Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, and he will tell you exactly how it happened.
I have recently added an extra component in teaching grit to my sons where I question their ability to achieve a certain task. I have effectively made myself the peanut gallery. I'll admit this may not be the best strategy for every child, but it certainly works for my children. I also do not lead with doubt or criticism, I only consider this approach if they have tried a task, have failed, and seem to be giving up. I do this because this is what they will face in life. I know people will question their ability as they get older, and this is my one chance to teach them grit. Ultimately, whether you fail or succeed, what everyone else thinks does not matter, not even dad. The most recent instance of the peanut gallery strategy was this weekend when my son Brady was trying to climb a structure meant for kids much older than him. I was half-serious and half-instigating when I told him he couldn't do it. After his third major fall off the structure, I actually tried to talk him out of continuing to do it but he insisted he must do it. I'll admit, my eyes welled up with tears of pride when I saw him finally get to the top of the structure. It brought me to tears because he did something I was doubtful he could do on his own. The whole experience reinforced the grit through failure principle to me. The best part is I have the whole experience on video as well. I hope this provides some Monday Motivation for you!
What if parents are the actual obstacle to our children's long-term success?