Bouncing back from failure turns out to be one of the best lessons a kid can learn.

In fact, according to Angela Duckworth, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, that skill (along with certain other character traits she calls “grit”) matters more to a child’s ability to reach his full potential than intelligence, skill, or even grades.

“The idea that kids have to get straight A’s in everything and to take advanced classes is misguided,” says Duckworth.

Duckworth has been studying the role character plays in success since 2005. She’s followed adults, West Point cadets, National Spelling Bee champions, and students at elite universities. In every case, she found that grit, not intelligence or academic achievement, was the most reliable predictor of a positive outcome. The kids who won the spelling bee weren’t necessarily smarter than their peers; they just worked a whole lot harder at studying words.

Unlike IQ, which is relatively fixed, GRIT is something everyone can develop.

Sure, some kids are naturally more gritty than others, but there’s plenty you can do to help your child develop the stick-to-itiveness that will help him succeed in whatever he/ she wants to pursue.

Here are some proven techniques for building GRIT.

Put a challenge in front of them.

True achievement happens when people bust through boundaries and barriers. If your child never has a chance to triumph over something difficult, she may never develop confidence in her ability to confront a challenge. Taking risks is an important way kids learn.

  • Teach It: Give your child the opportunity to pursue at least one difficult thing, suggests Duckworth. “It has to be something that requires discipline to practice,” she says. The actual activity doesn’t matter as much as the effort; Duckworth’s youngest child tried track, piano, and ballet before settling on gymnastics. “She couldn’t do a cartwheel at first and had a lot of anxiety about it. Eventually, she got over the anxiety barrier and now she likes them so much that she literally does cartwheels two hours a day.” Encouraging kids to try new things gives them a chance to prove they can do anything.

Promote perseverance.

Many of us hold on to the idea that skill comes naturally: that if we’re good—or not good—at something, it’s because we were born that way. The problem with this belief is that it leads many kids to give up on things. Plus, it’s simply not true. Even naturally gifted people have

to work hard to hone their ability with hours of practice.

  • Teach It: Try one of Duckworth’s family rules: Don’t Quit on a Bad Day. Giving up the second things get frustrating means you might miss out on something really great—like eventually scoring that winning goal or hearing the roar of applause after a performance. So Duckworth insists that her two girls, ages 9 and 11, follow through on all activities until the end of the season or session. If they choose not to sign up again, so be it. What matters is that they push through the discomfort that’s a natural part of the learning process.

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