Raising Kids with Grit, Tenacity, Persistence and Fortitude

Grit, tenacity, persistence and fortitude. No matter what you call it, it's the ability to push past disappointment, feelings of upset, adversity and other brick walls that stand between where we are and where we wish to be. 
We’ve all tried to instill it in kids for years and the importance of all of this has been reinforced by the research of both Carol Dweck and Angela Lee Duckworth.

A Mindset of Persistence and Growth: The Long Haul

Raising kids to espouse a mindset that embraces the ability to persist is within reach for all parents and educators. Teaching kids that they can succeed if they keep trying and conveying a “can do” attitude is something that is done across time, rather than a one-time event.
Innate abilities are trumped by a growth mindset and grit time and time again, so it’s something all parents and educators want to keep front of mind.

It’s a Characteristic that’s Evident

As someone who provides direct mental health services in a school-setting, and consults to several early childhood programs, it’s clear to me when kids have an abundant supply of persistence (some kids seem to get a double-dip) and when they need more support to acquire it. I’ll tell you a story in a later post about how this was clearly evident in a 4-year-old boy I observed several years ago.

This makes all the difference between “carrying on” despite adversity, and throwing in the towel. It can impact academic achievement and all areas of life.

How this Translates into Academic Achievement

Kids who believe that intelligence is fixed and that it cannot be changed, tend to exert less effort to succeed than those who believe in a growth mindset, one that believes people are malleable and that change and growth are possible. Persistence, the tendency to continue on, even in the face of adversity, in order to pursue a long-term goal has been called “grit” by researcher Angela Lee Duckworth. (1)

You can see when kids give up easily and can even get a glimpse of their internal dialogues when they share such comments as, “I’ll never understand this,” or, “I’m not smart enough to do this,” or, “I’m not even going to bother trying. This is too hard.”

That’s when we know we need to swoop in and help kids change this internal dialogue and notion that they just won’t quite measure up, no matter how hard they try. I get the opportunity to do this multiple times a day in my office. Lucky are the children who have people reminding them of this across environments.

Helping Kids Gain Grit, Tenacity and Persistence When It’s Elusive

Some kids seem more naturally tenacious temperamentally, but we can increase the tenacity factor of all kids. One way to do that is to teach them the cognitive skills that enhance a spirit of persistence and stick-to-it-tive-ness. (2) You can find several journal articles online that support utilizing a cognitive approach. The next step is translating that all into a usable form so you can help kids apply it in real life.

More to Come

We’ll be back with more posts on building grit, tenacity and perseverance. We’ll list the new links down below as they become available.


            1.   Hochanadel, A., & Finamore, D. (2015). Fixed And Growth Mindset In Education And How               Grit Helps Students Persist In The Face Of Adversity. Journal of International Education               Research (JIER),11(1), 47. doi:10.19030/jier.v11i1.9099
2.     Wong, P. T. (2012). The human quest for meaning: theories, research, and applications. New York: Routledge. Chapter 27, page 596.

Need Help Teaching Your Kids,
Students or Clients about Persistence?

If you are looking for resources that help kids build the characteristics of grit, persistence and tenacity, we’ve several here at Kidlutions. All are research-based and take a cognitive-behavioral approach.

Click on any image to learn more:



Each resource is licensed for use by one parent, teacher or clinician, for use with their own kids, students or clients. For use with multiple providers, please contact us for special pricing!


Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD, is  the founder of Kidlutions and co-author of BLOOM: 50 Things to Say, Think and Do with Anxious, Angry and Over-the-Top Kids. She is the creator of numerous workbooks and resources to help from the preschool through the teen years. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter and Facebook! She'd love to see your smiling face there! Affiliate links may be used in this post. Please see our full disclaimer, located at the top of our page for more information.


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