7 Traits Determine A Child’s Success

Author Paul Tough

Author Paul Tough

Paul Tough is an award winning journalist who believes he has found the 7 traits needed for children to succeed in school and in life.

I had a chance to see and meet Mr. Tough at the recent annual meeting of Leadership Florida, a statewide organization that has been involved in education for over 30 years.

Tough is the author of the best-selling book “How Children Succeed”. He did exhaustive research, interviewed dozens of experts, reviewed countless studies and spent a ton of time in a variety of school settings studying the personalities of kids who succeed.

He found that the following 7 traits were essential: zest (having passion), curiosity, self-control (ability to delay gratification), social intelligence (empathy), grit (resilience), gratitude and optimism.

It’s an amazing list when you think about it. Tough found that in wealthy communities and schools, oftentimes “helicopter” parents (those who hover over their children shielding them from life’s challenges and setbacks) aren’t doing their kids a favor. Over-protected children often don’t develop grit or self-control in a world that demands both. So when the inevitable hurdle is encountered, many of these kids crumble.

Consequently, some kids have it so tough—living in impoverished conditions or with a raft of social pathogens– that they need more nurturing in order to succeed in life.

I’ve been thinking about Tough’s talk, our brief conversation after his speech and his book since meeting him a few weeks back.

It’s hard to stop measuring whether friend’s, my own kids and myself have the traits he mentioned.

I also think that those traits (and others) determine whether people are good leaders and managers.

Think of an elected official and see whether he or she has passion, curiosity, social intelligence, grit or optimism. Do any of the aspirants for the White House possess all 7? Do your children? Do you?

When I take Tough’s research and apply his thinking to the local level, it sparks all sorts of ideas.

Boca Raton has an incredible public school system—“A” rated schools everywhere you look, with involved parents and well-funded PTA’s providing the extras. But in some of these wealthier enclaves are our children learning to be resilient? How can we allow them to fail occasionally, scrape their knees, learn and be stronger for the experience?

Recently, I wrote about a Bar Mitzvah I attended in Milwaukee. At the service, my friend gave a speech in which he told his son that it was OK to experiment and to fail and I thought that was an amazing gift.

In the book Start-Up Nation which chronicles Israel’s amazing entrepreneurial culture, investors view failure as a rite of passage, a way to build resilience and learning. Many won’t invest in an entrepreneur until they have failed, figuring you learn more from your defeats than your victories.

In Delray, our foundation Dare 2 Be Great works with children who often have all 7 traits, in abundance. Many of them have overcome brutal poverty, violence, family substance abuse and other dysfunction. We are there to provide them with the last bit of help they need, some money for school and mentoring. But after reading Tough’s book, I wonder about those left behind.

My friend, Mark Sauer, has a non-profit called Delray Students First, that provides the nurturing and intervention that many of these kids need. It reminds me of what Wayne Barton has done with his non-profit in Boca. Yes, there are children in Boca with needs.

Often, when we focus on our cities we fixate on development and on numbers: how high, how dense, how many trips generated etc. etc. And it’s important, those numbers are the starting point of a good conversation, but they are only a starting point.

When we talk about economic development, we often talk about incentives and “big game” hunting…how do we get the giant corporate headquarters to come to town? But the best economic development we can do is to invest in people. It’s called human capital.

We teach to the test in this state and in many others. But how do we develop children with zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, self-control, curiosity and grit?
That’s the conversation we should be having as a society.

Read the book, it’s compelling.

http://www.paultough.com/the-books/how-children-succeed/

 

Comments

  1. Great column. Excellent food for thought. As alway beautifully written.
    Great work

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