Hard Thing Rule will help raise kids who won’t quit

Better Than Yesterday

The best indicator of success in life is not talent or test scores. The best indicator falls under a term often refered to as “grit.” Grit is resilience, stick-to-it-iveness and pushing past quitting points. Angela Duckworth’s brief definition of grit is simply: “Perseverance and passion for long term goals.”

As an educator or parent you might be thinking, “OK, I get it. I want to help my children/students build grit, but how do I do it?”

The Hard Thing Rule is one way.

The hard thing rule is a rule that Duckworth has created for her own family. It has three parts.

1. Everybody in the family, including mom and dad have to do a hard thing, something that requires practice so that you can get better, gradually over time.

2. You have to finish what you begin. If you begin the hockey season, you have to finish the hockey season. If mom pays for piano classes, you have to finish the classes. After you have finished you can choose a new hard thing.

3. The third part of the hard thing rule preserves the child’s autonomy. This means that nobody gets to pick your hard thing but you. Yes ,you have to practice. Yes, you have to finish what you began, but the individual is in charge of picking what their hard thing is.

Duckworth said: “Something that requires practice, something where you’re going to get feedback telling you how you can get better, and you’re going to get right back in there and try again and again.”

Duckworth mentions that even when her children were 5 and 6 years old, they were given some choice as to what their hard thing was. It is important for children to know that they are ultimately the captain of their own ship. It is better to learn this young than to need mom to call your college professor because of a poor grade or dad send a message to their high school coach because they lack the ability to do it themselves.

Duckworth noted her younger daughter went through about six hard things until she finally settled on playing the viola. So far she’s kept at it for three years.

The point is for parents to help their kids find something they’re interested in, and then help grow that interest, while at the same time modeling grit and showing how far it can take you. It needs to be something that is intrinsically motivating for the child, something that they are passionate about. When a young person learns to combine their passion with perseverance over life’s ups and downs, they will have truly learned something valuable.

To make the hard thing rule work in your house you do not have to be perfect. However, there is one mistake you cannot make. You cannot do it for them. Doing it for them does not teach kids to persevere. It teaches kids to quit when things get tough, because someone will rescue them.

This year, make the hard thing rule a daily conversation in your house and help raise children who won’t quit.