Get Hardy, Get Gritty

Author Paul Tough (!) wants to help parents and children understand what it takes for kids to succeed in life. The video above is the full 8 hour audio book of one of his books, “How Children Succeed.” The book covers a lot of ground.

Kids need to be resilient in the face of disappointments and setbacks. One way to describe that resilience is “hardiness.”

Get Hardy

After conducting a 12-year longitudinal study, researcher Dr. Salvatore R. Maddi and his colleagues at the University of Chicago described a quality known as “hardiness” as “the key to the resiliency for not only surviving, but also thriving, under stress.” Dr. Maddi found three essential traits that make up hardiness: challenge, control, and commitment.

Challenge describes a person’s ability to view problems or stressors as challenges and opportunities. A hardy person accepts that change and obstacles are a part of life, and therefore, is more adaptive to the hardships that arise.

Control involves not seeing oneself as a victim who’s helpless or at the mercy of problems. It involves someone having a sense of their own power and a belief that they can influence the course of their life. Hardy people feel they can take actions that will help them achieve goals. This makes them more optimistic, empowered, and hopeful.

Commitment describes having a sense of purpose and meaning in one’s life. Individuals with “commitment” have direction and thrive, rather than just plugging along and “surviving.”

As the American Association of Psychology put it, people who are hardy “turn adversity into an advantage.” They’re able to be resilient in the face of obstacles. They find adaptive ways to move through undesirable circumstances and emerge on the other side. Finding ways to cultivate more hardiness within ourselves offers a much more adaptive way to handle, improve, and react to our moods.


Another way of describing this type of tough resilience is “Grit.” Kids who have more grit are going to stick to a task even when it gets tiresome and exhausting. In the adult world, grit is indispensable for those who want to rise above the crowd.

Examples of Grit in Adults:

Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts. They don’t miss assignments. They always have their teammates back.

Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing the march towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over and over and over again.

Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.

James Clear

In his book “How Children Succeed,” Paul Tough asserts that grit can be acquired by most children with the right kind of training. One of his case histories is a middle school in Brooklyn that has won several national team titles in Chess, with team members coming from low income minority homes for the most part. (1 hr 42 minute documentary on the famous inner city middle school chess team)

Author Paul Tough makes a point of saying that grittiness can come more naturally to poor, inner city kids, than to their rich counterparts in suburban schools. Children of wealthy parents are often coddled and protected from failure and the need for constantly getting back up again. This over-protectiveness of wealthy parents may help explain the high rates of drug and alcohol use and other pathologies in upper middle class schools.

Sincere and conscientious parents need to help their kids be prepared for setbacks and failures — and also for emotional turmoil which they are certain to encounter eventually. Bad moods … even to the point of dysphoria … can be difficult obstacles for many children to overcome, especially when the adults in their lives are oblivious to what they are going through. Sometimes the consequences of emotional turmoil among teens is tragic. The tragedy is all the greater for being unnecessary. If the significant people in the kids’ lives had only prepared the kids for emotional turbulence and how to fly through it unscathed. And if these people were only paying attention!

So here’s to a grittier kind of kid in the future. A hardier kind of kid. More resilient. And much harder to fool with nonsensical ideology.

It’s never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood © .

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