Grit in Education: How Montessori Helps a Child Develop Grit
As parents, we all want to raise independent, capable, compassionate, thoughtful and intelligent children - all markers of what we would consider success among adults. There is, however, one factor that makes for successful adults more than almost any other - grit.
Grit can be defined as persistence in regard to meeting long-term goals or achieving mastery. In short, a child with grit will focus and work at a concept until they are successful in becoming adept at it. This might be writing, musical prowess, or an athletic pursuit, but regardless of the end goal, grit will get them there.
Though the term “grit” wasn’t used by Maria Montessori herself (it was coined by psychologist Angela Duckwork), the concept of grit is ever present in her teachings. From infancy, the Montessori Method seeks to make children self-reliant, focused and self-motivated. These are major factors in developing the grit needed to pursue goals to their positive end, especially later in life.
Just how does the Montessori Method help children develop grit? What about this teaching style is so good at making kids focus and work hard for the sake of success?
Let’s find out!
Understanding what grit is
When a child is truly interested in something, they will pursue it almost ceaselessly. Being able to buckle down to completely master a concept for the sake of mastering it, however, requires grit.
What is grit in education?
- Grit is the ability to persevere in pursuits for the sake of mastering them.
- Grit is a better predictor of success than high intelligence in most cases.
- Grit is highly beneficial when it comes to difficult circumstances or situations, as it helps a person push through even if they’re not immediately seeing success.
In short, grit is the trait of being able to work hard to the end of the project, even in the face of difficulty or delayed gratification.
Grit ties in directly with concentration for kids who succeed in school (and as adults, later on in life). Concentration is the ability to focus on a single task, tuning out other distractions or concerns. Work done with concentration is often more accurate, creative, and ultimately better than unfocused work. Combining the ability to focus on a single task (concentration) and seeing it through to the end (grit) is predictive of success for children and adults.
Using Montessori to develop grit
The Montessori Method focuses on child-lead learning, as well as cultivating responsibility and self-reliance in children. This process starts during infancy, allowing the child to explore as much as possible in a safe environment. Children are voracious learners, wanting to explore and soak in as much as possible through every sense they possess but as parents, we tend to restrict their movement to keep them safe.
Child-lead learning helps build concentration
Montessori encourages a highly curated, safe, tidy environment so that children can move around on their own, pursuing whatever interests them in their space. In this way, a child doesn’t hinder their actions or restrict their interests, and this unfettered exploration is critical to developing self-reliance.
For instance, a Montessori-inspired child’s room might have a floor bed so they can get up on their own and start exploring and learning, rather than waiting on you to come get them. When a child is corralled by a crib, they need to get your attention by crying or yelling out, and this is the opposite of the self-reliance Montessori wants to teach.
Through child-lead learning, your children will develop their own rudder, so to speak, to steer them in the direction they wish to go. They will develop confidence and strength, and this will help them feel good about the choices they make.
Additionally, allowing a child to lead the way in learning will help them develop concentration. As we said before, concentration on an interesting topic comes naturally, and will help them create the ability to focus on tasks that maybe aren’t as interesting.
So concentrating on an interesting topic helps build focus, which will usually translate to less interesting topics, and concentration is a huge part of building grit.
Concentration and grit
Focused work on a concept is one part of successful completion of said project; the other part is grit. When a child learns that mastery or success feels good on their own (without external praise), they will reinforce that grittiness we’re looking for. To be able to persevere through a topic - especially one that isn’t fun - is the grit that is so profoundly good for children and adults.
Both concentration and grit increase a child’s patience and ability to deal with adversity as well. Children with more patience are better capable of processing and dealing with their emotions, and in turn, are that much more capable of persevering through difficulty. It’s like a feedback loop between focus, grit, and emotional management that makes each individual personality trait that much more powerful.
For instance, a child who is able to focus and complete tasks will usually have better emotional control. In turn, they will not be as likely to throw a tantrum if something doesn’t go as expected, or have their day ruined by disappointment. Because of this, they are better able to refocus and get back to the task at hand after a setback, completing it without emotional derailment or frustration.
Helping your child develop grit with Montessori
Montessori’s innate focus on child-lead learning instills confidence, patience, self-reliance, and grit into kids simply because it teaches them to pursue learning for the sake of learning - for their internal desires. Montessori kids learn to self-regulate far earlier and much better than their traditionally educated peers, because the expectations they have come from within, rather than rules or goals set by parents or teachers. As a Montessori homeschooling parent, you curate the materials, but they explore and learn them at their own pace.
As a parent, you can help your child develop grit alongside the Montessori process in two major ways. The first is to encourage their efforts, but not their results. That’s right - Montessori does not encourage praise. This is because praise from you starts to become both generic (and therefore meaningless), but it also teaches them to seek external validation.
Montessori Methodology seeks to instill intrinsic motivation within children. In this way, the child seeks to succeed because success on their own feels good. When they work hard at something and master it, the success is their own - they did it themselves! - and they feel powerful. So when you praise your child, you should encourage, acknowledge, and praise how hard they’re working but avoid praising their end result or goal.
Secondly, you should encourage and model a growth mindset. What we mean by this is that you yourself work hard at your goals, and celebrate yourself when you succeed. Moreover, you should be vocal about your larger objectives, how you’re going to meet them, and where you’re going afterwards. Show your child that each adversity is an opportunity to grow, learn, and develop new skills.
When your child sees you succeeding and being thrilled in your ability to persevere, they too will want that for themselves. They will overcome difficult obstacles and cheer themselves on, and you will praise their efforts along with them. Whether they work hard all week on a painting and the end result is rudimentary or the work of a savant, you simply want to encourage the effort, not the product.
M3 Sensorial Curriculum + Grit
Here at Multisori, we offer a Montessori Homeschooling Sensorial Curriculum that can help your child develop grit. Our Sensorial curriculum is a truly unique component of the Montessori Method because it trains kids to view the world with an analytical mindset and to explore using all of their senses.
Through the use of focused multi-sensory learning activities, presented according to Montessori pedagogy and in line with the traditional Montessori scope and sequence, refinement of a child’s senses is what helps them develop grit.
Grit is a powerful indicator of success
Grit - the ability to persevere to the end of a task - is one of the most powerful predictors of success, both for children and adults. When coupled with a strong ability to focus on a task, there are few things a person cannot achieve. Children with no innate talent in a given field - but who have concentration and grit as tools at their disposal - will see success, often to the exclusion of naturally talented kids who didn't work as hard or as long. As Tim Tebow says, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work as hard. There is really no equivalent to getting in the grind and working hard.
Montessori helps children develop concentration and grit by encouraging self-reliance and independence from infancy. Children lead their learning and move about in a curated, safe environment of their own volition. Their ability to drive themselves makes them less reliant on their parents and teaches them to resolve problems on their own through determination and creativity.
As a parent, you can use the Montessori Method to help your children develop grit in two main ways. First, remember to praise their efforts, not their results. Encourage their hard work and help them come up with creative ways to solve problems when they’re stuck, but don’t do their work for them.
Secondly, you can model a growth mindset and gritty behavior, such as working through difficult problems and celebrating your success. Teach them that obstacles and difficulties are good because they require us to learn, grow, and come up with creative solutions.
Grit is a primary indicator of lifelong success, even more so than intelligence. Along with concentration, grit helps children learn to be patient, and better regulate their emotions. When a child can focus, persevere on a task to completion, and regulate their emotions, they’re primed for success throughout life. The Montessori Method is a wonderful way to teach your children to be self-reliant, confident, and gritty.