Apr 15, 2020

Teaching Grit and Resilience

Excerpt from Do the KIND Thing

As a kid, my favorite story was “The Three Little Pigs.” The lesson about investing time in quality work stuck with me, and in everything I do I always try to build a solid structure. Now my wife and I read this folktale to our children. We also read them the story about “The Little Engine That Could” (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”).

Can you teach resilience? How do you forge a young (or less than young) personality to know to get up and not stay down? How do you inculcate the sense in your kids that they should not take no for an answer when they truly believe in something?

As parents, we sometimes face the perverse incentive for our kids not to question us and to accept whatever we tell them. But teaching your kids that it is okay to question authority, that it is okay to press you, is sometimes useful. You don’t want to raise someone who can’t get along with his peers because he is too pushy or stubborn. But you also don’t want a pushover who accepts whatever life throws at him or her and will blindly obey when someone imposes an arbitrary rule or condition. The lesson has to be taught and then restated for them: If something goes wrong, don’t be afraid to try again. What matters is effort. What matters is that you don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid to not try. Children (young and old) want to avoid disappointing their parents. It is important for us to learn to compete with ourselves and be proud of our effort and not to try to succeed to impress others.

A great book that shares insights on this front is NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Much of our success— or lack thereof— in life stems from luck. But much of that luck is also related to our persistence in the game. If you don’t play the game, after all, you can’t score. Life will certainly throw many curveballs, so teaching ourselves and our loved ones to have a resilient mindset can help us deal with that uncertainty and persevere. It is critical that we build— in ourselves and in our offspring— the self- confidence necessary to keep playing the game, even if we don’t think we are that good at it. The more we play it, the better we get at it.

Family          Leadership

More from Daniel

2022 High Point University Commencement Address

Today, I want to talk about a light and fluffy subject: your generation’s role in steering humanity in the right direction. No pressure, Dalton. 

But in all seriousness, Dalton, I love what you shared about “leaving everywhere you go better than you found it…and finding ways to give grace and inspiration to the people around you.”  

I want to talk today about HOW to do that as you are all simultaneously challenged and blessed with graduating as our world is re-entering a stage of dramatic consequence. 

The ship of humanity is moving in the wrong direction, and it will be upon all of you to steer it back on track. 

To illustrate this point, I want to compare the circumstances when my father’s generation came of age, to those when my generation and your generation graduated from college. 

My father was fifteen-and-a-half when he was liberated from the Dachau concentration camp by American soldiers. He was barely alive.  He never got to go to school past third grade, let alone college. Several of your grandparents were around your age when they were sent to free Europe from tyranny and darkness. 

By contrast, when I was fifteen years-old, my family immigrated to America from Mexico. I was able to attend college during a period when passionate but cordial debate was the norm. I remember observing political leaders vehemently disagree on a particular topic, while maintaining a friendship rooted in respect. Our world was far from perfect – but the arc of human progress trended in an upward direction. Freedom, open markets, human rights, civility, and the quest for knowledge were all advancing.  

It seemed almost too good to be true.  In fact, it was so good that we began to lose sight that Our Great American Experiment isn’t so much a fixed state of affairs as it is a purposeful daily affirmation – something that we opt into, live out, and vote for not once every four years, but every single day – through how we engage with one another. 

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