NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Building Better Brains

Sleeping Boy


Why is it that the “smartest” kid in the class, the one who is voted “most likely to succeed” oftentimes doesn’t?  It turns out that intelligence is not the best predictor.  Instead, current research is showing that “grit” is a better predictor of success than intelligence. 

So what is “grit,” and how do we get it? 


Grit is self-regulation, self-discipline, and self-management.  Some of the characteristics of grit include:
                 - the ability to concentrate and screen out distractions,
                 - the ability to stay focused over time,
                 - the ability to bounce back from disappointment; and
                 - the ability to stick-to-it and persevere.

Grit is associated with what is referred to as the “executive function” of the brain.  Executive function includes thinking, reasoning and decision-making.  It is also what directs and coordinates all other parts of the brain.  Obviously, executive function is a very big deal!

Because executive function of the brain is a key to grit, and grit is a key to success in school and in life, things that threaten brain development need to be avoided.  Keep in mind that the brain begins to develop before birth and is not fully mature until about age 25. 

Research has so far identified six threats to the development of executive function in the brain:
                 - stress overload due to perfectionism, abuse, neglect, alcohol/drug addiction, domestic violence, etc.,
                 - sleep deficits,
                 - sedentary lifestyle,
                 - disappearance of free play,
                 - unregulated use and overuse of technology and media,
                 - a culture of more, fast, easy, and fun

Substituting the positive alternative to each of these six threats will go a long way toward creating safe, healthy environments that promote brain development and grit.


PHOTO CREDIT:  https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2013/07/22/17/04/child-166062_640.jpg  (downloaded 11/26/15)

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