Want to Raise Kids with Grit? Mom of 12 Says To Do This

Raising Kids with Grit involves levels of suffering.

No Grit? We have a problem. You see, there are few things that can make me detest another human being. I’m not the type of person to let anger invade my soul. A person’s character, their sense of morality, justice and truth determines whether or not we are compatible friends, for sure. But, Entitlement, or at least the assumption of entitlement, is a deal breaker. It’s a major character flaw. It’s not attractive, it doesn’t display strength and it fully devalues one’s stand and/or contribution in society. And, the sad thing is that it seems to be present in more personalities lately than ever before. And, I’ll have you know, I’m not talking about millennials, but rather full grown adults who believe that they should get whatever they want.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Grit and this, my friends, is what we possess and teach our kids. People with Grit are survivors, they are powerful forces in life because you can’t knock them down for long. We accept challenges head on and never look for a way out. If it sounds like I’m bragging, trust me, I’m not. Grit is a hard earned personality trait. It comes to those for whom nothing comes easy. Grit is exemplified in those individuals who have to work hard for every inch of ground they gain. Exactly like us. We live the old adage “Suffer Well”.

I can guarantee, you will never ever hear us comparing ourselves to other people. We strive to be oblivious to this sort of influence. Instead, we focus on our own growth. We strive to be strong and resilient. We are teaching our kids to be tough, both physically and mentally. We don’t coddle them (much), we don’t try to make their lives easy (because that’s impossible) and we expect them to work hard and to sacrifice for what they want in life.

I guess teaching our kids Grit comes easy for both Dan and I because we have never ever expected the world to change on our behalf. And life isn’t easy. We teach Grit by example literally every day. RV has a problem, we fix it. Money is tight, we deal. We simply rise up.

We don’t complain about things. We don’t demand changes to suit us. We don’t lie, cheat or steal to make life easier. We fall down and we get right back up. Fear is not an obstacle, but rather a challenge. And we have the Serenity Prayer on repeat. I have no clue how anyone survives this world and all the shit it throws at ya without faith, I really don’t.

And, so you know, I don’t mean to imply that we never struggle, we never get frustrated or angry, or that because we try to stay elevated above the fray that somehow shit doesn’t affect us.  On the contrary. Of course, we get pulled down by outside forces, but the goal is to always be there for each other.

Teaching Grit is as easy as having siblings!
Sisters always have each others backs!

Strength in numbers, strength of character, and selflessness in love, that’s how we do it. Life with 12 kids is chaotic, at best. We now travel fulltime with 8/9 kids and it isn’t easier, it’s surprisingly harder.  When kids are little, they are content to chill, they take naps and they stick close. Now our youngest are 9, 7 & 5 and they want to be everywhere and do everything.

I remember thinking a few years ago that I never got a break. That is now exponentially more factual. No-one sits down. If Energizer is looking for authentic sponsors, my kids are their gold. I’ve done the impossible, though. In the past few months, I’ve become somewhat of a morning person. Waking up ahead of this wild bunch of kids and eking out an hour or two of river time before they even wake up. This proves utter desperation. My parents tried to make me a morning person throughout my school years. I was late for school every day. No lie. No threats, no punishment, nothing could get me out of bed early. Yet, here I am today, in the water by 8 am. Or up writing a blog at 7 … there just is no time for me during the day and my usual me time, late at night is out because I can’t keep my eyes open.

Teaching kids Grit is Leading by Example!
Up at 8 for a competition!

All this to say, you deal. And if/when circumstances get to be too much, hopefully your people notice and stop their day to pamper you … (hint, hint).

I can tell you this. I’m thankful we are not on easy street.  I truly and honestly am. I’ve seen people in action who are on easy street and they believe they and their children are above everyone else. They believe they can take what they want, when they want it, everyone else be damned.

On the other end of the spectrum are kids like mine who have to work hard and wait for nearly everything they have. They didn’t show up to the kayak scene winning. They fell in love with the sport and therefore worked hard to get to where they are. The didn’t get all the gear right away. Kenny and Dally, just now ordered their first drysuits. Over the past 8 years, they showed up at the put-in in shorts even when it was snowing.

Teaching kids Grit means allowing a bit of suffering.
There are shorts on every body there, except Brody and Kady!

It’s interesting to me, too, to see who they respect and admire. It’s not the people you would think. On the contrary, it’s kids who paddle in their underwear because they don’t own a drysuit. It’s kids who have old gear, or mismatched gear…anything just to get to paddle.

It’s the same in snowboarding. They admire the people who wear whatever they can get their hands on, simply because they love the sport.

And, they never gush about fancy cars or even gorgeous RV’s. They appreciate what they have because it makes their way of life possible. We laugh and call ourselves the Legit Dirt Bag Paddlers, while it seems everyone else is flaunting being such, we truly, legitimately are … unfortunately.

Right now, as we speak, Cardy is exhibiting Grit. He is studying coding and has 20 questions to answer online about what he read in his book. The website keeps restarting him at number 6. Instead of losing his cool, as I would and do all the time when it comes to computers, he just keeps at it. Closing the page, closing the browser, restarting, just trying to figure it out.  The kid is just so used to dealing with annoyances head on, that this doesn’t faze him.

I think, too, living in a big family tends to eliminate the existence of that repulsive entitlement characteristic. You have to share everything. In fact, Dally is waiting for his turn on the computer. They learn that they don’t have the right to not be annoyed, they don’t have the right to silence, or to a particular bed in the RV or to choose the evening’s movie, or to be gifted a car at 16, 17, 18 or beyond.

Being part of a big family is a large part of teaching Grit!
Family of 15 Now!!

What they do learn is that their rights mimic the Constitution. They have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They have the right to defend themselves, the right to earn money and property (which they are expected to share), the right to choose their own paths in life, and the right to worship God.

They learn the foundations of living life amongst a very diverse world of people. They have God-given rights that may be held and enjoyed at no cost or expense to anyone else. Their rights are only their rights as long as they don’t put them in conflict with each other.

I am incredibly proud of our kids, who they are as people and how they treat others speaks volumes more than what they accomplish financially in life. They are strong physically, mentally and spiritually. It would take a lot to bring this family down, I’m not even sure it’s possible at this point. 

In our travels and online we encounter a lot of people who wonder at the sheer brazenness of our family. From climbing to whitewater kayaking to snowboarding and beyond, we embrace a certain amount of risk. I’ve never been a helicopter mom. I knew I wanted my children to, not exactly ignore fear, but to evaluate it for what it really is. I let the kids take calculated risks and I watched them as they pushed harder and harder. Injuries are so very rare because they know their limits, they have tested them their entire lives. When they push back, they do so wisely and with experience.

Today, Coby (5) was surfing in Salida, CO. It felt like the entire world came out to watch. So many questions were asked, starting with “how old is he?” and ending with, “that’s incredible.” It is, because Coby is awesome, but also because he has such a profound trust in his family. Nothing stops him because he knows we are there for him, that we’d never let anything happen to him. So, he just goes hard. He swam twice and was T-rescued once (by yours truly), and every time he was smiling HUGE and unphased.

I guess the point of this blog, beyond imploring the growing number of people who believe they are entitled to stop with this way of thinking, is to say this:

Life is great when you remove all the needs and demands. When you accept where you are in life and simply enjoy that place, while working toward a greater you. It is great when you stop expecting others to bend to your will. It is great when you learn to empower yourself. And life is fulfilling when you grow with those you love. 

8 Comments

  • Remarkable. You are a truly inspirational family. I would love to turn on the TV and watch your show with my family.

  • Reading about your family always inspires me. I tried to encourage that anything is possible, but feel that I didn’t do enough. Now I’m going to do more and be persistent with my Grand kids. This world is an open book and we just need to encourage them to keep turning the pages.

  • Well damn. After every blog from your site I feel a strong call to action. You are a very motivational writer, your words jump off the page and make me want to move forward faster. Thank you, you are a deeply moving, kind and spiritual person, I can tell. Your friends and family are very blessed.

  • Very cool and very powerful…good for your family, your husband and yourself….i think it was St.Augastine that wrote “life is like a book and not to travel is to continually stay on the same page…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *