Grit has been described as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” with an “unyielding courageousness in the face of hardship.” Psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth and her research team found that “grit is the strongest predictor for success…over and beyond IQ and conscientiousness.” While I’m sure we all have different definitions of success, let’s leverage the concept of grit for emotional wellness.
Here I’ve used G.R.I.T. as an acronym to suggest ways to develop it, as well as address some of the many areas I target in session with young children as a psychotherapist. Whether the diagnosis is Anxiety, Adjustment Disorder, or ADHD, many of the children I see present with mental inflexibility, angry outbursts, fear avoidance or self-doubt. The sound of “no,” change in plans, nonpreferred tasks, or transitions tend to cue big feelings, disproportionate reactions, a digging-in or a giving-up. At the same time, this reveals a passionate and persistent, assertive or pensive nature we can positively foster through the following areas:
G: Growth Mindset
Growth Mindset, in contrast to Fixed Mindset, is a self-compassionate, process-oriented attitude that embraces flexible thinking and learning with an open mind. Individuals who embrace a growth mindset approach rather than avoid challenges, interpret feedback as constructive information rather than critical evaluation, find other’s success inspiring rather than intimidating, and view mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than failures.
Here are 5 children’s books that inspire Growth Mindset:
A Little Spot of Flexible Thinking by Diane Alber
Growth Mindset Ninja by Mary Nhin
Your Thoughts Matter: Growth Mindset by Esther Pia Cordova
It’s My Way or the Highway: Turning Bossy into Flexible and Assertive by Julia Cook
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett & Gary Rubinstein
Pediatrician Dr. Ginsburg identified 7 C’s of Resilience– Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping and Control. As a Creative Arts Therapist myself, I’ll propose an eighth—Creativity. It is key for problem solving! Resilience may seem quite broad and vague; to strengthen it, try targeting these 8 areas while positively reinforcing process over product, effort over outcome.
Asking questions can deepen understanding and awareness. Get curious (not furious)! Ask: What does this feeling reveal about what I value or need in this moment? What is this behavior communicating? Is there an alternative explanation to the story I’m telling myself? Is this fact or feeling? What would I say to a friend in this situation? I encourage you to be a “think partner” to your children. Teach them how (not what) to think. Turn worry into wonder!
Tolerance is our ability to manage difficult feelings and more quickly equilibrate from a state of overwhelm. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has a module dedicated to distress tolerance with catchy acronyms that you may reference as a how-to. In sum, this approach encourages taking a mindful break to breathe, exercise or relax, and soothe with the senses. It encourages finding meaning, taking perspective, avoiding comparisons, making contributions, and accepting what we cannot control. Practice sitting with uncomfortable feelings, both yours and your children’s. This may decrease a sense of urgency. Resist the urge to overly accommodate or avoid, shut down, or solve for anger, anxiety, and sadness. All feelings are ok!
GRIT: Growth Mindset, Resilience, Inquisitive, Tolerant.
What approach will you take to develop grit in your family?
*For additional thoughts on this topic, you too may reference the following sources: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth, “The 7 C’s of Resilience” by Dr. Karen Gallaty with CBT Professionals Psychology Clinic, and “DBT Distress Tolerance Skills Guide to Navigate Emotional Crises” by Sunrise Residential Treatment Program.
Lauren Bomberg, MA, LPC, BC-DMT is a psychotherapist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, specializing in treating young children with neurodevelopmental, psychosocial, behavioral, and emotional challenges while supporting their parents with positive solutions. She also specializes in the treatment of anxiety and related disorders. Adult work may focus on navigating life transitions and stressors, relationships, occupational or academic pressures, and perfectionism. Lauren uses evidenced-based, solution-focused, and client-centered approaches with unconditional positive regard in order to foster self-awareness, strengthen the mind-body connection, and build confidence in relationships. She empowers clients with psychoeducation and incorporates both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills. As a Board Certified-Movement Psychotherapist dedicated to lifelong learning and quality care, Lauren finds creative ways to actively engage her clients, with or without words, to meet their individualized treatment goals.
Lauren has spent years refining her clinical skills at the partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient levels of care. She has provided group, individual, and family therapy to children, adolescents, and adults in crisis with a variety of acute psychiatric diagnoses. During her graduate studies, Lauren focused on child development, nonverbal communication, and playful early intervention by serving infants to adolescents with neurodevelopmental and motor disabilities in specialized and inclusive school settings. Her thesis, inspired by attachment theory, was published and selected for presentation at the ADTA national conference. Lauren earned her Bachelor of Science from Muhlenberg College, where she majored in both Neuroscience and Dance with a concentration in Dance Science. She then attended Drexel University, where she earned her Master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy and Mental Health Counseling.
20 Wilsey Square | Ridgewood, NJ 07450 | (551) 427-2458
60 Grand Avenue, Suite 104 | Englewood, NJ 07631 | (201) 403-1284
80 River Street, Suite 302 | Hoboken, NJ 07030 | (917) 903-1901
277 Grove Street, Suite 202 | Jersey City, NJ 07302 | (201) 577-8124
51 Upper Montclair Plaza | Montclair, NJ 07034 | (973) 787-4470
128 S. Euclid Avenue | Westfield, NJ 07090 | (908) 509-8336