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Newsletter: March 2019

Using Family Dinner to Develop Grit

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Ask most parents and educators these days what qualities they’re interested in helping kids to develop, and many of them will place “grit” somewhere in the top five. “Grit” has become a common shorthand for a whole list of positive character attributes and soft skills that can help kids (and adults) ultimately become more successful in the long run. Perseverance, resilience, and growth mindset — having the attitude that failures and setbacks are all part of a longer process of learning — are some of the ways in which grit expresses itself. But what does it all mean in practice? And how can you help your kids become more…gritty?

Think of a child who tries out for the soccer team and doesn’t make it. Some kids would hang up their cleats and decide they’re never playing soccer again. Others might get out into the backyard a few days later and practice their shots, determined to try again next season. In essence, that’s the difference between a kid who’s got grit and one who doesn’t: The child with grit is able to view failure as a learning experience, and then apply that learning and make a plan to try again. If you think about how that same child might approach other obstacles and setbacks as he grows older, It’s easy to see why parents and teachers want kids to develop more grit. Determination, perseverance and a can-do attitude are bound to work in anyone’s favor over time.

Still, there are plenty of factors that determine whether someone develops grit or not. Some of them have to do with personality; there are certainly people who are born with greater caution about risk-taking, a lower tolerance for frustration or weaker problem-solving skills, all of which can make it tougher to learn perseverance. Other factors might include the environments in which people are raised, or the ways the people around them react to setbacks. That’s where parents come in: It’s possible to develop grit in your kids through everyday experiences, like family dinner, if you know how to set the example. Here are some ideas to help you bring grit into your family dinner routines:

  • Let kids take on increasingly challenging tasks at dinnertime. Team member Bri shares her own story about a dinner disaster that taught her kids some valuable lessons, along with suggestions to try in your own home.
  • Talk about failures, setbacks and disappointments. It’s good for kids to hear adults sharing their own failures and learning experiences, and it’s good for adults to share them — everyone can gain a little perspective from thinking about how difficult experiences provide opportunities to learn and grow. You don’t have to start with the big stuff, either. Just acknowledging small mistakes (“Oops! I forgot to stop at the store on the way home!”) and modeling how to overcome them with a positive attitude can get kids started on developing a growth mindset.
  • Play table games that provide opportunities to “fail safely.” Bring a favorite game to the table and make sure not to let the youngest win this time. Try a silly physical challenge, like eating while balancing (paper) plates on your heads. Or work as a team to play the Concentration ABC game, which is almost impossible to win but fun to keep trying!

Whatever you do to help your family develop more grit, it’s important to keep in mind that patience and positivity are key. No one learns to take bigger risks and keep trying if they’re worried about being scolded or teased when they fail. So keep the small stuff in perspective: The next time your kid tries to pour the milk and spills it everywhere, take a deep breath, show her how to clean it up, and praise her for trying. Your reaction will teach her how to overcome her mistake and make it all the more likely she’ll try harder next time. Remember, it’s no use crying over spilled milk!

Join The Family Dinner Project and American Girl in Celebrating the Girl of the Year

We’re pleased to announce that The Family Dinner Project is working with American Girl to inspire families to have more frequent, meaningful meals through special events at select American Girl stores! The 2019 Girl of the Year character is Blaire, a young girl who loves to connect with others through her creativity and especially values time spent with her family. Through overcoming food allergies and tackling a big project that could turn into a disaster, Blaire shows plenty of grit of her own — all while demonstrating the importance of family mealtimes. Learn more about Blaire’s Family Dinner Series in-store events on the American Girl website under your local store’s events page, or check out the list of dates below.

Blaire’s Family Dinner Series

Family of the Month

This month, we’re talking with the Trip family from The Netherlands. Their three kids have had plenty of opportunities to develop persistence as they’ve learned to help out with family dinners!

Real Family Dinner Projects: The Trip Family


If all this talk of grit has inspired you to get the kids cooking this month, try this easy recipe for Spinach and Feta Pizza-dillas.

Spinach and Feta Cheese Pizza-dilla


Try the Concentration ABC game for an exercise in perseverance that’s fun for the whole family!

Concentration ABCs


Encourage kids to explore grit and growth mindset with these conversation starters.