What do families and children need? Grit.

I recently watched a Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth about grit. It struck me that I have always had a sense that "grit" (or what I might have called resilience) is the "x" factor that makes or breaks people in all manner of challenging situations.

The question that Duckworth posed, but wasn't able to answer fully, was this: "How do we produce 'grit'?"

Grit is the ability to stick with a task, to gut through a challenging situation, to accomplish something. It is not directly correlated to IQ or even socio-economic status. But research shows that people who are successful in school, in business, in life, even in the face of adversity, have the "grit factor" intact.

Where does it come from? Why do we find that even the smartest students sometimes fail, while some of the most challenged are more apt to complete a product and make the grade?

I would argue that this "grit factor" is not something we are born with. It is not just that one individual is "better" at working through a challenge or sticking with a goal by nature. There are many pieces to the human puzzle that can produce or reduce a person's grit, and in my line of work, we know it has a lot to do with the first, most formative years of a person's life.

The years of 0 - 6 are major predictors of future personal health and success. Children who grow up in homes that are nurturing, resiliant, and understanding of their physcial and emotional needs tend to do better in life. This is not rocket science, of course. But how to we produce those homes that produce those children?

One way is to focus on strengths. To train parents and adults to look at their own strengths instead of their weaknesses, obstacles, or challenges. To do that, the staff at Ballard Community Services works with a network of other practitioners who work with 0 - 6 year olds and their families called The Strengthening Families Network of Douglas County.

This network works to improve families' access to the 5 Protective Factors. We understand that when these 5 factors are in place, the risk of child abuse is greatly diminished and the overall wellbeing of children is improved.

The factors are:

  • Enhancing Parental Resilience
  • Strengthening Social Connections
  • Providing Concrete Support in Times of Need
  • Increasing Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Supporting Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children

We are working constantly to achieve all five of these in every family with whom we work. In the coming week, I will be writing a series of posts outlining each factor, and most importantly, how the whole community can be involved in this project.

We can all work on the "grit factor" within ourselves, and help develop it in the people and children around us. In many simple and even silent ways, we can make huge differences. Some require a little time. Some require a little money. Most require our attention and some small changes that make big differences.


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