Ask about whether your school includes the development of these qualities — perserverance, conscientousness, self-control, curiosity — in their curriculum. (There are many schools that are trying innovative approaches to creating a school culture that focuses on noncognitive skills. One of the members of my dissertation committee, Scott Seider, wrote a recent book describing three charter schools’ in Boston and their approaches to character development.)
Instead of praising your kid for his grades or for being “smart,” praise him for being tenacious and determined. Focusing on those qualities of “stick-to-it-ness” may help kids succeed more than praise for particular achievements. If your child falls down when learning to ride a bike, praise his efforts at getting back up and trying again and again, rather than only praising when he learns to ride fast on his own.
Focus family discussions on effort rather than grades or innate skill. Be a role model for your child of “grittiness.” Try new things and talk about how difficult they are and how they don’t come easily to you. Talk about your own goals — running a half-marathon, cleaning out the basement — and explain how you set smaller goals to achieve them. Share your own struggles and how you got past them.