Published on September 29, 2018

Grit and inner motivation are building blocks to success, yet we sometimes struggle with how to instil these qualities in children. The arrogance of feeling superior to others was once considered to be one of the seven deadly sins. But researchers have focused on a healthier, more productive type of pride. Authentic pride — the deep personal satisfaction of hitting a valued goal — can encourage the kind of self-discipline and hard work it takes to stay motivated, overcome challenges and achieve.

A study last year by German researchers found students who reported feeling positive emotions such as pride and enjoyment in their work had significantly better achievement over time than students who had the same level of ability but fewer positive emotions.

On the other hand, feeling a lack of pride in our work can motivate us to worker harder, too. One study found that students who did poorly told researchers that they planned to study more in the future and then went on to perform better on the next exam.

Pride acts as a barometer of achievement.

Pride makes you value long-term goals more than present ones and builds self-control and grit from the bottom up.

Parents play a critical role in building their child’s sense of pride.

Our brains don’t come hard-wired to know what to take pride in, such as grades or sports, so children initially look to parents and then to teachers and peers to find out what’s valued by those around them and therefore what goals are worthwhile to pursue.

Engaging in activities that foster pride

When young people are engaged in areas where they feel confident and proud, it creates a ripple effect, giving them the motivation and encouragement to take on new challenges in other areas of their lives.


To teach children how to use pride as a motivational tool, point it out: “Did you notice how you felt when you aced your test, built that model plane or sang that song?” If they’re feeling a lack of pride over a test score or performance, talk through the actions they can take to avoid feeling that way in the future.

To stay intrinsically motivated, children must feel as if they’re improving toward a goal, so point out the pride they should feel in the small successes along the way.

When we withhold genuine praise or downplay pride, we deprive children of a powerful source of motivation that can help them persevere in the face of challenges today — and throughout their lives.

Reference: Principals’ Digest Newsletter Volume 24, Number 26. Acknowledgment: Jennifer Breheny Wallace in Washington Post 17 May 2018.