Grit, Growth Mindset, and Fifteen 2016 “Gritty” Picture Books by Angela Ferraris


What is Grit?

Although it has been a popular topic lately, grit is not a new concept or idea.   It is a character one possesses or can develop that includes a growth mindset with the passion and perseverance to accomplish and overcome a long-term goal. Fortitude. There are setbacks and failures along the journey, but the person with grit learns from these failures and how to move on.


Failure is not always bad. Good failures teach us that there are still things to learn. Life is full of failures. We can teach our children how  to get back up,  try again, and learn from the process that lead to failing.  Or, we can constantly rescue our children from life’s difficulties, fight their battles for them,  and deny them any responsibility or consequences for their choices. Yes. It is natural to want to protect our children, but doing so all the time will not allow them to learn perseverance and courage to try new things. Sometimes, it is necessary to let them learn something the hard way. They must learn how to be responsible for their choices. It may be time to take off the training wheels.

Example 1: Tying their shoes is easier but not tying them after a certain point forces the child to learn how to do it. I tie a student’s shoe once while asking, “So, when are you going to learn to tie your shoes? Are you going to have your husband tie your shoes for you before you leave for work each morning?” This gets a giggle. In November, I no longer tie shoes. I may show how to tie one shoe while coaching the student along as he mimics me on the other foot. Big praise for trying even if it looks like the loops are too loose and will come undone before library class is over. It’s the process. It is about developing skills when they are young. The proverb goes “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” (by Thomas H. Palmer) and not “If at first you don’t succeed, have a melt down, so your mom will do it for you.”

Process of Failing(or Live and Learn)

By hovering over their every move and decision to prevent any bad things from happening is actually not allowing our children to develop confidence and Independence. We need to stop doing everything for them and instead, start to wean them to be independent from us. They must learn how to be responsible and learn that there are consequences for their actions and choices.

Example 2: I often hear, “My mom forgot to put my books in my backpack.” They are surprised when I ask, “Who borrowed these books? Your mom or you? You are responsible for these books; not your mom. We are having library class again next Tuesday. What is the first thing you should do when you get home besides kiss your mommy hello?” They look at me grinning. “Yep. Put your books in that backpack immediately, so you can return them to me next Tuesday. No. I am not letting you use the phone to call your mom to bring over your books.”

Growth Mindset

We are all constantly learning and our intelligence does not stop growing at a certain age or after accomplishing a desired goal.  I think about how many times I have had to learn how to use  new technology or how many professional textbooks I have read of how to improve my teaching. The world changes all the time around us, and so must we if we are to succeed. Just because we are not good at one thing does not mean we can not have success in something else. We learn the process of how to get better even when we fail and how to use that life lesson the next time.

Example 3: I can still hear the voice of my flute professor during my lessons as I was learning a new piece of music. “You are almost there. Try it again from measure 32 and this time with more legato.” I would play it again. “No. No. Try it again. Here. Listen as I play.” I would listen and then play again. “No. Not quite there. Now start from the beginning.” I would play from the beginning again for the tenth time. “Yes. You did it! Great. Okay. Let’s look at the last movement.”  This voice became my voice over the years; not letting myself give up, giving self praise when I earned it, and knowing the process I must do to reach my goal.

Learning When to Quit

We all have things we are good at doing, but we also  have some things that we are really bad at doing no matter how hard we have tried.  Think of how we know that now as adults. How did we figured that out?  We usually discovered all that from failing and trying it again; trying to figure out the process of doing it better the next time. For our children, this is their first  time they are developing this process.  Practice makes perfect.

Sometimes though, practice does not make perfect; not even close. There is a time that we learn when to quit. Quitting can cause a ripple effect if not done with caution. But, what if one is  giving a full 110 percent for a good length of time and  still not very close  to reaching the goal? Then,  it may be  time to quit and find something that can be your passion and success.  Jim Grant’s book If You Are Riding a Horse, and it Dies, Get Off best illustrates when to stop and go on. He also offers downloads and classes at .

There are people and stories that are “gritty” that can be used as examples. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper is one of the classics. Here is a list of fifteen books that have been published recently:









themarvelousthinghtatcamefromaspringwhoosh!:Lonnie Johnson's super-Soaking Stream of Inventionssteamboatschool







Solving the Puzzle Under the Seaiamnotanumber










Articles and Videos
  1. Have Our Kids Gotten Soft? Five Ways to Teach Them Grit by Kelly Wallace

2. Helping Students Succeed by Building Grit by Corey Donahue

3. True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach It by Vicki Davis

4. Why We Should Let Our Children Fail  by Jessica Lahey

5. The Power of Defeat: How to Raise a Kid With Grit by Jennifer Fink

6. Take the grit scale by Angela Duckwoth, and see how you do.

7. Ted Talk Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Lee Duckworth

(I may get a commission for purchases made through links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books reviewed were checked out of the public library and not sent to me free for review).

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