St Catherine's students in uniforms enter the school
07 September 2017

True grit

​​At the ripe old age of 17 I was out on the road – P plates in tow. I had no GPS, no reversing camera, no phone connection, but I had the skills to navigate my way around town (well, to be honest Lennox Head, which is very small).

Driving was not my only skill. I left home at 17 to live in college at a university many hours away. My parents put me on the train to Armidale, and that was it. No teary farewells at the station, no texts to check I was OK – I just managed. I learned to save my 20 cent pieces for that Sunday phone call, live in relative harmony with 500 other students and personally and proactively manage conflicts. I balanced my meagre budget and dealt with disappointment. I developed resilience.

It might interest you to note that ‘adulting’ was nominated as the word of the year by the American Dialect society. It is a word coined by a generation that has been shielded from life’s challenges by living in their parents’ homes for extended periods of time.

(Adulting: A word used by ‘immature adults who are proud of themselves for paying a bill’.

Anyone over the age of 30 would have similar experiences to mine – experiences of when we developed independence. But are we giving our children today the same opportunities to test themselves, to learn new skills?

We need to ensure that, as parents, we pass skills on to our daughters. Can they write a shopping list? Set up a bank account? Do they have a budget they need to stick to? Can they deal with adversity when required?

Saying ‘no’ to your child does not damage her self-esteem. No 14-year-old needs their own credit card or the ability to ‘UBER’ home after a party. No medals are required just for participation, and as a parent, it is not your sole role to intervene in every problem arising for your daughter.

“The parenting style that is good for grit is also the parenting style good for most other things: Be really, really demanding, and be very, very supportive.” (Angela Duckworth, Grit, Vermilion, 2016.)

We need to build the capacity of our young women to rise to the challenge and to manage the curveballs life throws at us. Because, in the end, we all want the same things for our girls, to be young women of character, grit and resilience – and to be happy.

Deb Clancy head of boarding and academic care at St Catherine'sMrs Deborah Clancy
Head of Boarding and Academic Care