It took me a long time to learn this. To be comfortable in my skin. To be comfortable with failure. To be comfortable with asking for help. To be comfortable not being the VERY BEST!
I see it in my kids now. The world around them tells them their goal in life is to be successful. And success is measured by being the best. The best athlete. The prettiest. The best artist. The most accomplished. The person with the most money. The person with the most things. All around them they hear you can do it! You can have it all! You can be whatever you want to be!
So even at a young age, if they can’t do something perfectly, they get very frustrated. They don’t lose well. They want to win and when they don’t, they throw tantrums and blame others or ruin the fun for others. (Yes, these are my kids I’m talking about.) So how do you draw the line between encouraging your child to keep trying and being diligent, without over stressing the need to succeed? How do you teach them to do their very best but that doesn’t mean they have to be the best? How do you teach them to succeed and fail gracefully?
I don’t have all the answers.
Because I still do give them rewards and incentives for getting good grades. But when they don’t, I try to emphasize all the things they learned and how much they improved.
If they’re not great at sports but enjoy it, I try to find venues that aren’t too competitive but focus on the skill sets and a fun environment.
Some may think I’m not pushing them hard enough, but well, that’s the way my personality works. Some may think I’m pushing too hard relative to their standard. Well, to each his own. It seems like there’s no one perfect way to go about it.
The thing is, sometimes I wished my parents forced me to play the piano, but at other times, I realize, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Because even if they did, that doesn’t mean I would be good at it. Sometimes I wished they didn’t push me so hard in academics; but then, if they didn’t, would I have been valedictorian in high school? Who knows.
All I know is that I don’t want my kids to think they have to be perfect. I want them too to know that I’m not perfect.
I tell my kids the story of how I couldn’t get on the tennis team when I was in high school because I wasn’t good enough. So I joined the Cross-Country team, because there were no try-outs. Everyone who wanted got on the team. And even on the team, I wasn’t very good but I got awards for Most Improved or Best Sportsmanship.
Kids love those types of stories! I think they love knowing that you’re not perfect, realizing that they’re not perfect, and that’s okay; they don’t have to be. I really want to focus on them growing in character, in goodness, in kindness. In having a good work ethic, in being a generous friend, in having a loving heart to everyone.
Perfection is overrated. No one is perfect. I won’t ask my kids to strive for it. It will just lead them to disappointment. And even sometimes as I strive to be the “perfect” parent, I’ll have to remind myself the same thing.
Of course, my kids still whine or are upset or even throw tantrums sometimes when they lose at something. But hey, it’s okay; they’re not perfect.