Are you raising a gritty child? The essential quiz

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who grits so much she needs a bite plate.

From the realm of self-help and motivation trends, we’ve learned some essential truths: that when trying to win we should think “win-win” (Because it helps us win!), that creating a bulletin board with pictures of things you wish for makes the universe send them to you (It’s like Amazon but with secret wishing science!) and that if practicing something for 10,000 hours makes you a master of it, practicing it for 30,000 hours means you can retire at 35 and practicing it for 50,000 hours makes you turn into a glowing orb and float up into Heaven.

The mechanism behind these keys to awakening the giant within you is contextualizing success. Anytime you succeed, it’s due not only to your talent, team or trust fund, but to your ability to secrete winning juice by sheer will. Any time you lose, it’s because you just didn’t have the eye of the tiger and should go self-flagellate in your failure grotto.

The hottest term in winning these days, and one that has entered the realm of education and parenting, is “grit.” The leading researcher behind “grit,” Psychology professor Angela Duckworth, has just published a book called, unsurprisingly, “Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance,” and some friend of yours that you don’t like already owns a copy. Grit is about “perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” and it’s having grit that really means the difference between success and failure. (Well, grit and the ability of your parents to pay your rent during your unpaid internship.)

Remember: Abraham Lincoln had two failed businesses, a bankruptcy, a nervous breakdown  and five failed attempts at joining the state and national legislature–but he had grit, and used that grit to go on to become President during the war that killed a quarter of the men in the United States, after which he was shot in the head. Grit!

And our own Chicago Cubs spent more than a hundred years as the laughingstocks of baseball before becoming a dominant team in the National League with a historic record for being too afraid to throw to Bryce Harper. Grit!

So, do you have a child with grit? Are you working to grow their grit? Or did you already give up? Take this quiz and find out if your kid has what it takes to never give up, even in the frowning face of failure, poor investment of time and a life of utter joylessness. Grit!

Record which answer you chose and try not to give up before the end. (It’s only eight questions, so it shouldn’t empty your grit tank.)

#1 – Do you encourage your child to keep trying?

a) My child tried something once. It didn’t work out.

b) My child loves to try things, that’s why we have a saxophone, ice skates, oil paints and a horse lying in the yard.

c) I’m nervous about how many times she’s running into that brick wall, but she says she’s almost through.

#2 – Do you require your child to do hard things?

a) Is eating ice cream hard? I mean, it can give you a headache.

b) Hold on, I’ll ask them when they get home from archery.

c) I can’t ask my child a question right now, they’ll lose focus on catching a fly with chopsticks.

#3 – Do you encourage deliberate practice?

a) Practice is for people who don’t get it right the first time.

b) I love practice. I practiced Xbox for six hours last night.

c) This theremin ain’t gonna learn itself.

#4 – Do you encourage effort over outcome?

a) Effort is for tryhards. Nobody likes a tryhard.

b) I’ll be happy to praise their effort when it results in something.

c) Have you met my child? If I only praised outcome we’d be a praise free household.

#5 – Do you encourage your child to find their passion?

a) Passion is dangerous; it can lead to dancing.

b) I will encourage their first passion which aligns with my own interests.

c) Even if their passion is amateur taxidermy, I stand behind my baby.

#6 – Does your household embrace failure?

a) Go fail at a Phish concert, hippie.

b) We’re discussing our failing marriage with the children tonight.

c) Of course we embrace failure. Failure is all we have.

#7 – I teach my child that experts struggle in their crafts.

a) What? Dr. Strange is an expert, and he uses magic.

b) I show my child videos of Michael Jordan playing basketball – he was an expert.

c) I show my child videos of Michael Jordan playing baseball – THAT was a struggle.

#8 – We take risks in our home

a) We can’t take risks, we’d have to pull up all the bubble wrap.

b) We’re so risky we eat at Chipotle.

c) This is Chicago. Every day is a risk.


A’s equal one point

B’s equal two points

C’s equal three points


1-8: Don’t worry, success isn’t for everyone. Some failures are relatively happy, and there’s always accidental success. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes!

8-16: Your household is semi-gritty. You can’t get eggs of a frying pan but you’d scratch up a car’s finish. Get your “My child is not in academic distress at so-and-so middle school” bumper sticker ready and take comfort in the fact that without middle managers, the gritty have no one to step on to reach the top.

16-24: Congratulations! Your miserable child is going to be as gritty as a Southern breakfast! The seething resentment they hold for you will be nothing compared to their MacArthur Grant.

Oh, and here’s Duckworth’s real Grit test.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe (free!) to The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast on iTunes or on Soundcloud, or visit

*The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast will be recording live at the Brooklyn Boulders Climbing Adventure Summer Preview on May 21! (100 S. Morgan St., Chicago) The event runs 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. and gives a sneak peek into BKB Adventure Camps with climbing, ground games and creative arts perfect for kids 5-12. Mention this blog or podcast to get in free! (Normally $15 for kids.) Come hear funny Chicago dads Matt and Todd record their show from 10-11:30 a.m. and climb with Viva! More info here!

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