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Confidence & Grit: Does it matter in the classroom?

Why does confidence matter for our kids in their learning environments? Wait, does it matter or does grit overpower uncertainty? There are so many questions we ponder as parents, teachers, therapists, coaches, and family members.

There are a few studies that correlate academic confidence to higher achievement. A particular study of college aged students grouped these students into a group of high confidence and low confidence, but all were given the same test. The low confidence group was told they were taking a test that was designed for an Ivy League school, while the high confidence group was told they were taking a test designed for high school students. The group who were highly confident did vastly greater. But why? Simply put, they believed they were capable, so they were.

So our next question, what about grit? What about getting your hands dirty, studying for hours on end? Does that pay off?

YES! But grit cannot exist without a growth mindset. In a growth mindset, as learners, we think,

  • “Challenges help me grow.”

  • “Feedback is constructive.”

  • “I like to try new things.”

  • “I can learn to do anything I want.”

Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit – the Power of Passion and Perseverance, has many tips in this area, but one of the most important is that everyone needs to do something thats hard, that requires practice.

Failure needs to be your best friend. “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill

Luckily, our dyslexic students are masters of grit, and masters of failure, because they are immersed in a world that is academically focused on their shortcomings. They have to wake up every school day and do hard things. In our office, we get to practice their “hard” and praise them for trying and showing up.

Now, how do we apply this knowledge to our teaching and parenting? How can we raise confident and capable kids?

  1. To borrow a great idea from Angela Duckworth, do something HARD, something that requires practice. This includes yourself! Your children are watching you…are you modeling hard work? Are you modeling that success is what you make of it?

  2. Don’t hide your struggles…instead show them how to keep going and learning from those struggles.

  3. Notice and observe your children: Whether its sports, engineering, creative expression, abstract thinking; directly notice your children and what comes to them naturally. Help them build upon those strengths through encouragement and trying new things.

  4. Allow your children to dream big…how does a dream become reality without believing in it? Exceptional results are achievable with practice and determination.

  5. Accept failures: the sooner your kids know that you are there for them regardless of the outcome, the better. This will allow a safe place to fail and a safe place to succeed! Notice how they got there, notice how hard they worked.

  6. Encourage curiosity. The moment we become idle with our thoughts, our goals, and hopes, is the moment we have stopped wondering what could be if we just tried perhaps something new (or even familiar). Parents/teachers, answer the endless questions, look up the answers, and be patient with all they wonder about.

  7. No quitting allowed. Finish what you start and give it 100% of your effort. This doesn’t mean they have to do something forever, but commitments matter. If the team counted on you, show up.

  8. Be the coach…not the player. Relinquish control and let your kids try it themselves.

  9. Be positive! Set your intentions that allow for growth.

We can have a generation of young, self-assured, courageous people if we take the time through daily interactions and moments that matter. Maybe purely realizing that sometimes our “HARD” is simply being the parent/teacher our kids need us to be, meeting them where they are instead of where we think they should be. These tips and ideas are not the end all to parental and classroom goals…but I hope they are offer you inspiration to do the work that matters more than ever.


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