Skip to main content

Overdoing Grit?

by Jim O'Kelley, Director
Elks National Foundation

Early last summer, my mother-in-law, who watches the kids two days a week, took Patrick, the 3-year-old, to a reading at our local library. While there, Pack (that's what we call him) did something to earn her praise.

Admittedly, that's not hard. She is a grandmother. Nevertheless, she was impressed and showed it by saying, "Good job!"

That simple, seemingly innocuous phrase earned the instructor's condemnation. The woman swooped in, her finger wagging.

"You shouldn't tell a child 'good job,'" she chastised. "It sets them up for a lifetime of seeking affirmation and praise."

"Well, then what am I supposed to say?" asked my incredulous mother-in-law.

"You should say, 'You worked hard, and you did it,'" the woman answered.

We all had a good laugh later that day when my mother-in-law recounted the story.

A funny thing happened when I started praising Patrick for hard work.

A few days later, I found myself at the playground with Pack. He performed some feat and looked to me for approval. I started to tell him 'good job' but caught myself and instead said, "Hey, you worked hard, and you did it!"

It felt funny to say, but a funnier thing happened. Patrick took an even bolder risk. When he successfully completed that, I again said, "You worked hard, and you did it," which prompted another, even bolder attempt. These weren't the kinds of risks that cause parents to hold their breath, but he definitely was challenging himself on the playground.

The loony instructor at the local library appeared to be on to something.

Today, I'm much more familiar with the grit movement -- her advice was an extension of it -- and if you've been paying attention to this space, you know I've become something of a champion for it. Developing gritty kids is important for their future success.

But so is balance.

We still tell Patrick 'Good job,' because, well, because we're not out of our minds. But when he accomplishes something we've encouraged him to figure out for himself, we're just as quick to say, "You worked hard, and you did it!"

Striking the right balance isn't always easy for parents, though. The other day, Meghan was driving the kids somewhere, and Patrick said from the backseat, "Mommy, I worked hard, and I did it!"

"What did you do, Honey?" she asked.

Patrick held up his water bottle. "I took a drink of water."

Oh well, at least she didn't praise him for that.

To check out my series on grit, click on the label #TrueGritTuesdays in the green box below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Serving by the Blue Ridge Mountains

by Gabriella Haire 2015 Most Valuable Student Scholar
My name is Gabriella Haire and I am a junior studying biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Beyond dreaming up medical innovations, I enjoy volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, training for cross country ski races, and exploring new cities one ice cream shop at a time.

Following a typical track practice in March 2015, I received an atypical email. It was an invitation to the Elks Most Valuable Student Leadership Weekend and the promise of an Elks National Foundation scholarship. I was elated as I celebrated in the locker room, but I didn’t fully realize how that email and the Leadership Weekend were just the beginning of my relationship with the Elks.
After a physics lecture in November 2015, I received an email confirming my acceptance to the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip in Oakland, California. I was eager to connect with Elks scholars for a whole week, rather than just a weekend. As it turned out, a week w…

What I'll Remember Most

by Cullen Edens
2016 Most Valuable Student Scholar Cullen, along with 19 other scholars, came together to serve the San Antonio community in the name of the Elks from June 26 to June 29. These 20 scholars then joined 130 of their fellow scholars for the 150 for 150 Service and Celebration Weekend, where all 150 scholars worked together to serve the city of San Antonio from June 29 through July 2. 



My name is Cullen Edens and I am a junior at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma where I am majoring in Accounting. When I was selected as an Elks Most Valuable Student scholar, I simply thought I would collect my award and move on with my college education. I had no idea the impact that the Elks National Foundation would have on my life.
In late June, I traveled to San Antonio not knowing that this service trip would transform the way I viewed the communities around me. Arriving at Trinity University, I met 19 other Elks scholars from across the country from Maine to California. We instan…

Elks National Convention: Take One

by Taylor Odisho
Communications Assistant
It’s taken an entire week to fully digest everything I experienced at my first Elks National Convention, and I think I can finally do justice in putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, in sharing them.

I started working as the Communications Assistant at the Elks National Foundation in October of last year. In just nine months, I’ve been exposed to stories, people and moments, and I’ve been working hard to convey these interactions in an honest, interesting light that resonates with our audience.

But it wasn’t until I shook hands with “Crazy Richard” Clayton and his wife; sat down with Nester Tan, a platinum donor with the ENF; or spoke with many of the Elks I’ve been writing about these past several months that everything finally clicked.

There’s a scientific way to say this, but I’m a writer, so I’ll use words. You can study a topic for hours and hours, but you’ll never be able to memorize what you’re reading until you can connect it to …