Hug A Monster

How do we help children deal with mistake-making?

There’s a great quote I saw recently on the Musicians Unite Facebook page saying,

Musicians at all playing levels make msitakes. But it’s what you do after that mistake that shows the level of player you truly are.

Making mistakes, how you deal with them and how you recover from them is a tricky business. Dealing with disappointments is also tough. Some can pick themselves up, brush themselves off, try again and even embrace risk-taking. Others can’t get over making a mistake and are crushed by setbacks and so-called ‘failure’.

Emotional resilience is something we aren’t born with but learn to develop through positive and negative experiences. There are various ways to approach building this emotional strength, self-belief and robust mindset and one school has chosen to ‘Hug The Monster’.

The basic idea behind this thinking is that setbacks and failures (the monster) don’t consume us and cause meltdowns. ‘Monsters’ can be used as rich opportunities for further development so we can all be ‘grtittier’.

Being a gritty person is a mindset choice. We can choose to accept failure and move on with renewed ideas or choose to let it sit on top of us and crush us. Grit is the fortitude for how some people choose to live their lives. It’s having fire in your belly.

Pupils need to move away from the idea that perfection exists because it doesn’t. If they are seeking to be perfect then they are setting an impossible goal. No piece of work is ever perfect. Forget  giving a visit a 5 Star rating too – nothing is 100% spot-on. Excellence is achievable though but this requires considerable time on task and won’t come easy as there are no shortcuts.

Hugging the Monster is accepting what has happened and carrying on with a positive mindset which means enduring, working hard and abandoning the idea of giving up. This is about the experience, being committed, persevering (sisu), focusing, showing determination and bouncing back.

Grit is one of those words that means a lot of things because it is multi-dimensional but one useful definition is from the Chronicle of Higher Education which says that grit is “the habit of overcoming challenges, of learning from mistakes instead of being defeated by them.”

Grit is a ‘keep fighting’ quality that breeds greatness and gratitude. Grit is having stamina, living life as a marathon and having a growth mindset where we see misfortunes as things that happen and that means moving away from a victim mentality. We have to be willing to fail.

Watch what Angela Lee Duckworth has to say about grit in the following TED Talk video:

Angela has made various contributions to the idea of grit. In her 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, one of my favourite quotes is:

Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.

Grit also means blowing your own trumpet and being proud of what you can do, not what you can’t do.

Claire Hewitt, head of Manchester High School for Girls says,

Those with resilience, self-belief and the ability to learn from their mistakes and move on will, I believe, be leading emotionally healthier, happier lives than those who take every trial and tribulation to heart whilst clinging to the ever more distant memory of their clutch of A stars.

The ‘Hug The Monster‘ idea comes from the book by the same name by David Miln Smith and Sandra Leicester who say, “A monster is anything that seems to stand between us and our happiness, peace of mind and sense of well being.” They talk about different types of monsters such as inertia, logic, relationship, freedom and eternal monsters. This is a philosophy of living, a handy compass for overcoming obstacles.

According to Steven Covey (author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”)

Hug The Monster is a marvellous metaphor which teaches each of us that, when we face our fears and embrace them, we absorb into our very fibre and nature the force and strength of that fear.

So, will you be teaching your children to Hug The Monster and grow their grit?

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