Monday, October 22, 2018

How to teach perseverance and grit

"Two outstanding traits of swimmers are perseverance and grit. But what exactly do they mean?"

This article is adapted from a piece by Elizabeth Wickham that appeared on SwimSwam

Two outstanding traits of swimmers are perseverance and grit. We hear those words tossed around the pool deck, but what exactly do they mean and is it possible to help kids gain those traits?

Here are the definitions:-

Perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Grit: courage and resolve; strength of character.

Why do some kids give up while others stick with it and finally get to the next level? A little success and learning new skills can be rewarding in itself. There’s nothing like getting a best time or winning an event to keep kids in the game. The nature of swimming teaches kids to persevere, especially when faced with long stretches of not reaching goals. When they finally achieve their goals, they understand that hard work and perseverance does pay off.

But can perseverance be taught by parents? According to a number of experts, yes, we can help kids develop grit and perseverance.

Here are four ways parents can teach perseverance and grit:


Lead by example. Kids learn more from our actions than our words. If they watch us trying to learn new skills and working on projects with consistency and not giving up, they’ll likely do the same. One of my favorite sayings on our team t-shirts was “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.”


Let them discover their passion. If kids are doing something they love, they will be more likely to stick with it when things get tough. If they’re just “so so” about swimming, how hard would it be to put in the hard work necessary to overcome challenges?


Praise their effort. When we see kids are giving it their all, let them know how proud we are. Letting kids know that we value effort and hard work will encourage them to keep trying. The life lesson of having the courage to stick with it despite setbacks will serve them well throughout their lives.


Let them struggle. It’s painful for us to watch kids fail or struggle, but that’s when kids learn the most. Allow children to have the pool and swimming as their own experiment in life. We can be supportive but let our kids face their challenges. They will learn so much from working hard, setting goals and persevering through tough times. I wish we could make it all better for them, but sometimes we can’t and they will grow.


Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years with her kids’ swim club as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog: