Grit and Giftedness: Four Ways to Encourage Perseverance in Gifted Children - Institute for Educational Advancement
grit and giftedness

Grit and Giftedness: Four Ways to Encourage Perseverance in Gifted Children

by Nicole Endacott, Program Assistant

In today’s world, we’ve grown to expect nearly immediate results in every aspect of our lives. I, for one, have caught myself clicking repeatedly in frustration on a link when it doesn’t load within a fraction of a second. We likely all know someone who has abandoned a new health regimen within a week because they didn’t see the positive changes they were expecting. Most adolescents in developed nations are growing up not ever knowing a world where they don’t have instant access to any video, song, image or fact ever posted. These technological advances are undeniably positive in the grand scheme of things, but they also have caused us to project this expectation of instant gratification onto areas of our lives where immediacy is impossible.

That’s where grit comes into play.  Grit, which is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” is necessary to overcome this tendency towards lack of patient discipline. Working in the gifted community, I interact with profoundly intelligent, creative and innovative young people on a daily basis. Many of these individuals also possess grit when they have a specific goal they are truly passionate about achieving. They will linger after class until their wind turbine turns smoothly, phrase an idea in numerous ways until their classmates understand their ingenuity, or borrow a logic puzzle to take home so they can finally solve it after hours of trying.

But how do we teach our children or students to have the tenacity to accomplish tasks they’re not as eager or well-equipped to complete? I found four big ways to encourage grit in gifted students as an educator or parent.

  1. Praise children for their effort, not just the final outcome

Many gifted children are used to being recognized for their great memory or intelligence, but they may become easily frustrated when a task proves to be difficult. Encourage perseverance by applauding hard work and tenacity, not just what they produce on tasks that come easily. Additionally, you can point out this hard work and resilience to children when you see it in Olympic athletes, history lessons, book or movie characters, or friends and family members they admire.

  1. Focus more on independence than perfection

It’s very tempting to intervene when a child is working through a challenging task, especially if the child is gifted and both of you are used to things coming easily to them. Instead of focusing on perfection as the ultimate goal for a task, lightly coach students in a way that allows them to be independent while still understanding that you’re there for help and encouragement if needed. Perfectionism is common in gifted students so this can be a tough, but healthy, transition to make.

  1. Empathize and teach self-encouragement

Try to show your child or student how to encourage themselves without disregarding their emotions. After what may seem to them like a failure, say something like, “You might be feeling disappointed, but you should feel really proud of yourself for trying your best. When you’re ready, let’s try again!” Because gifted children often feel different from their peers, knowing someone is able to understand their emotions can work wonders for their self-esteem. Eventually, they’ll be able to recognize their own emotions with clarity and then encourage themselves through trials.

  1. Model positivity and resilience in your own life

Most children, but especially gifted children, absorb and reflect the behaviors they see in the adults around them. Because of this, stay away from making self-disparaging comments about yourself in front of children and, instead, talk openly about your mistakes and how you recover from them. Not only will this help the children watching you avoid developing a negative self-image or fear of failure, but it will have positive impact on your own well-being! Your ability to model this trait and make it relevant in the lives of children will show them how to lessen their fear of failure in the short-term while still striving for success in the long-term.

What suggestions do you have for teaching gifted children grit?


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  • Karen Yvette Handy
    Posted at 17:15h, 29 April Reply

    It is amazing to watch children who are perfectionist and they learn to cope with what they thought was failure. I understand what you are saying by allowing them to see you make a mistake as an adult or teacher and learn from it in front of them. It gives them the courage and understanding to know that they too can grow from errors. They are learning that it is better to at least try something and grow from it rather than to not even attempt at a goal.

  • Sandie whittington
    Posted at 12:12h, 13 November Reply

    I agree with the suggestions made in this article. Oftentimes, gifted learners/students are used to grasping concepts easily and rarely experience failure. Even gifted learners can experience difficulty completing a task or grasping a concept. Oftentimes, they do not take failure well. I think for the emotional health of the gifted learner, it’s important to help him or her to develop coping skills when faced with academic difficulties.

    • Lisa Ziegler
      Posted at 17:15h, 22 November Reply

      I agree with the challenge a gifted child encounters when faced with academic difficulties for the first time. A second grader I am presently teaching has been bright since prek. Reading has always come easily for her. The bar of her learning is being raised and she is being asked to research passages challenging for a second grader. She is now tackling the writing process. It is not coming as easily for her, so she is beginning to show signs of wanting to give up. It is my job to encourage her in the process and hopefully, at this young age, she will find the struggle worth it as she is growing in GRIT and character.

  • Janis Pankey
    Posted at 17:52h, 18 November Reply

    Learning to let them struggle is a tough challenge for this teacher. My own struggle with giving them time with a difficult problem has produced a coincidental and mutually positive result.

  • Lisa Ziegler
    Posted at 13:04h, 22 November Reply

    Allowing children to work through their problems independently and encouraging them in the process is beneficial for them and the character they develop in a safe environment is invaluable.

  • Lisa Ziegler
    Posted at 17:09h, 22 November Reply

    “If you never give up, you can never fail.”

  • Dr. Judith Rose-Singh
    Posted at 16:28h, 26 May Reply

    I agree that we have to praise children for their effort. So often we as teachers praise students for the outcome. Still we can’t ignore the end product but we should applaud the means of getting there. Students need to know that their best is good enough. In this way we will foster grit and a positive growth mindset.

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