Raising Kids with Grit: The "Hard Thing" rule

Why do some people respond to stress with courage and resolve, while others crumble? Is determination and tenacity something we are just born with? Is there a gritty gene? Can grit be taught ?

What makes a person gritty?

When you have children, these questions can keep you up at night.

Before your very eyes, your children start to take on personality characteristics that move and also shock you.  It can feel overwhelming, as our own insecurities start to shine through.

Am I giving them what they need to become the best people they possibly can? 

Should I enroll them in viola lessons at age 2 and parkour classes at 18 months? 

Am I parenting “enough”?

We all want our kids to develop resolve and strength of character: all qualities of a person that is usually defined as being "gritty."

Episode 26 of The Hidden Brain Podcast on NPR explores the science of Grit. You should listen, it is good gritty stuff!

The show features a social scientist who has made her career out of studying grit.  That's right. She spends every day trying to figure out why some people are gritty, while others are not.

Her best advice for how to impart the values of grit in your children?  Introduce your family to “The Hard Thing Rule.”

Here’s how "The Hard Thing Rule" works:

Everyone in the family chooses one hard thing to pursue.  This hard thing can be anything, as long as it meets the following criteria:

  1. It must require deliberate practice. Practice on a regular basis, with intention.

  2. You are not allowed to quite the hard thing until the tuition payment is up, there is a natural ending point, AND you have another hard thing lined up to tackle next.

  3. Nobody picks any of these hard things except you.

Make a game of it!  Children as young as kindergarten can start their own “Hard Thing Rule.”  And if mom and dad also pick a hard thing, it becomes a family adventure – one to celebrate and encourage each other along.

Perhaps grit is genetic, or maybe it is taught.  We don't really know (according to the gritty scientist on the Hidden Brain).

But one thing is for sure; When we let our children fail; When we require them to finish, even when it's hard; When we allow them to experience discomfort; they will also experience the intense satisfaction of knowing that they pushed through, even when that thing was hard.

Or in the wise words of my (very gritty) dad, Saylor Rehm:

"When shit get's hard, that's when shit counts."


What is your “Hard Thing”?  Leave a comment and tell us what you are going to accomplish next!

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