Not long ago, while wondering what I should choose for my daughter’s Chanukah present, there came to mind a radio program that I had heard. The title of the program was “The Most Meaningful Gift You Ever Received,” and callers were invited to describe what they considered to be their most meaningful present.
How I wished I could give my daughter something truly meaningful! What gift would be the most memorable and meaningful to her? An expensive new item of special value? A sentimental something that would remind her of a special time? The callers made it sound so simple to pick a present that was very meaningful, so why couldn’t I think of something?
I was reminded of Dr. David Pelcovitz’s description of a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 concerning what they called “grit.” Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over long periods of time despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. Dr. Pelcovitz explained that according to this study, possessing grit is the single biggest predictor of a student’s success. More than having particular talents or a high I.Q., those students who have grit can maintain the stamina to stay the course until they reach their goals.
But can one person “gift” another with grit? In fact, said Dr. Pelcovitz, when you have somebody in your life who believes in your ability to achieve success, you will develop grit. Apparently, all it takes is one person to be the cheerleader. Even if everybody else surrounding you is indifferent or negative, you will feel empowered with grit thanks to the strong message from your one cheerleader who believes in your success.
Dr. Rona Novick’s comments at this presentation added to the understanding of Dr. Pelcovitz’s point. She pointed out that specific praise for specific actions is far more beneficial than general praise. General praise like, “You are such a good athlete,” is far less effective than specific praise such as “Wow! You ran so fast; that was amazing!”
So, when contemplating the most meaningful gift for my daughter, I realized that if grit is a good predictor of success in life, and knowledge that someone believes in you develops grit, and the best way to convey the message that you believe in someone is to give that person specific praise, then all I have to do is offer my daughter sincere and specific praise, spurring her development of grit that will serve as a tool that will lead her to success in all that she does! Now, how would I gift wrap something like that?…
Rabbi Shalom Rohr is the Assistant Director at SINAI Schools’ Maor High School at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, including the William Solomon Judaic Studies Program. SINAI operates several inclusive special education schools throughout northern New Jersey for Jewish children Grades 1-12, as well as programs for adults with developmental disabilities. For additional interesting articles on special education, visit the SINAI blog at www.sinaischools.org/blog.
By Rabbi Shalom Rohr