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

February 27, 2018

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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