Can You Quit and Still Have Grit?




While a cute rhyming couplet, “quit” and “grit” wouldn’t seem to go together.

And yet, they can and do.

According to grit expert, Dr. Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, quitting is a critical component of grit for this reason: passion.

Passion, you see, is at the heart of developing grit. You have to care about what you are doing in order to learn to develop grit, so trying and rejecting sports, hobbies and interests are a natural predecessor to grit.

Stated another way: kids don’t work hard on things that they don’t care about.

Childhood is a time for kids to discover interests and passions. If you insist that children “stick with” every activity or interest they begin they will not have time to discover what they innately enjoy.

Here is the critical thing: how your child quits matters. So how does a parent who want to develop grit in their child help them decide when it is okay to quit?

Duckworth suggests a couple guidelines:

It depends on the child’s age. First, when determining how long to insist children remain with an activity, the age of the child matters.

“A child in elementary school should be able to stick with things for more than a few weeks,” she said. A middle-school-age child should be able to do a full year or season, and once a child is in high school, research suggests that spending more than a year or a single season on an activity is important. “It’s important to experience what it’s like to come back,” she said, and to see how you improve with experience and how things change as coaches or advisers change.”

No quitting after a hard day. You cannot get your series on beam, your teammate didn’t invite you to a sleepover or the coach yelled at you—these are not times when quitting is appropriate. Being discouraged is part of the process of learning anything new. Quitting simply because you are discouraged today goes against developing grit.

You must select another “hard thing” to do before you let go of this activity. Stop gymnastics and pick up soccer. Trade in the violin for the paint brush. Chuck Chinese lessons for knitting. That’s fine. Just make sure your children pick something else to try so the valuable life lessons of grit and resiliency continue to develop in them.

You can quit and still have grit—you just have to do it the right way.