Like us, every day our kids are on an emotional roller coaster. They can be elated or depressed, content or angry. A key to developing grit is mastery of emotion control. While they can’t help what emotions they are feeling, kids can be taught to control outbursts and manage negative as well as positive emotions. Teaching them this skill should be done before an outburst occurs so they have ample time to practice.
Where to start? The first thing to do is teach them to breathe. Pick a quiet time of day, after dinner, or before bed. Ask them to count to 10 while breathing in through the nose and breathing out through the mouth. As hard as it may be, ask them to think of nothing but the breathing and the counting. Have them do this for a few days and encourage them to make it a habit. Lastly, ask them to use the counting technique in everyday situations such as a classmate being mean, getting a bad grade, or not getting what they want from you, their parent.
To help with their practice, ask them to recall a recent situation that had their emotions on overdrive. Was it talking to an attractive classmate, a bad score on a video game, missing a pass in football? Get them to visualize that situation in order to recreate the emotions fully. Was breathing difficult? Did they get sweaty palms? Did they clench their fists? Once they are fully immersed in the situation ask them to do the breathing exercise. Ask them how it feels right after they finish counting. Did their breathing become more even? Did their fists relax? This practice allows them to wire their brain to associate counting and breathing with an emotionally stressful situation
Once the breathing technique is mastered, ask them regularly if they had a chance to use it. Don’t be a nag by asking every day though! Have them describe the situation and how breathing during or after helped them. It doesn’t matter if they stumble once or twice, we all do. It’s the continuous practice of using the breathing technique for emotionally charged situations that makes the difference in helping develop grit.