EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 3, 2013

Grit, self control are keys to kids' character

Dear Doctor,

A few weeks ago you had a column on character in children. I have misplaced the column but wanted to send it to my daughter for the grandchildren. Could you please send that list to me. Thank you.


Dear Reader,

The list grew from research on character traits. They are considered more important than intellect in academic and life success. They are: Grit, Self Control, Optimism, Gratitude, Social Intelligence, Curiosity, and Zest. My experience tells me that the most important two are grit and self control.

Grit does not mean being unpleasant or brutish. It refers to hanging in there, being positive and stubborn, having a strong disinclination to giving up. Self control is my next nominee because little is accomplished without focus and discipline. Any employer will tell you that brilliance is great, but getting to work on time is better.

I am delighted you are sending the list to your daughter. In my view we, as families and societies, could do so much better in cultivating these character traits in our children. It appears to me we have removed grit from our culture and put in its place something which removes struggle from learning and achievement.

Self control has been bottled in pill form and is being sold to the multitudes. Soon psycho stimulants will be in aerosol cans. Entire classrooms can be sprayed with a whiff left over for the teacher! It seems to me a curriculum for self control, not to mention the other character traits is long overdue.

But I, for one, have another of the traits. We will come to our senses. In that, I am eternally optimistic.

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