Take a Tech Break! Play, Talk, and Interact Instead

78% of the parents surveyed in a new study by Barna Research, in cooperation with Andy Crouch, indicated raising their kids today is more complicated than when their parents raised them. Technology was the number one reason they listed. Do you agree?

Let me share a probable reason and some suggestions to help.

The use of technology delays the development of the brain’s executive functioning. This includes impulse control and the ability to self-regulate. That’s why children are more likely to just do what they want, without thinking. And, they have a hard time managing themselves. Planning is hard and they may not be able to judge if they’ve done a good job on a task.

Certainly, this makes parenting harder because the kids aren’t as obedient or as successful.

What can we do? I’ve got great news!

Both impulse control and self-regulating are best learned and taught through play (non-digital, of course!) and by interacting with parents.

Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat. Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat. Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat.

Not all difficult situations need difficult solutions. Praise God!

Contentment & Happiness by Steve Baker

Today I’m posting a devotional from the book Steve Baker wrote. As a dad, grandfather, and Christian school administrator, he wrote the devotionals in O Taste and See to encourage parents and children to learn from God’s Word together. Each is related to one or more of the core needs I teach about often and that are taught in my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. He has seen their importance and wanted devotionals as another way of helping children meet the needs in healthy ways.

I chose to post a devotional about contentment because I’m so concerned with the lack of contentment that I see in children and adults. Steve wrote this about Achan: “He had to have what he wanted now. He could not be content to wait.” Does that remind you of anyone you know.

After you read this, I encourage you to share it with your children.

Contentment & Happiness by Steve Baker

CONTENTMENT – the state of being happy regardless of situations and satisfied; having no need of more.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8

Scripture Text: Joshua 7

Scripture tells us, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him,” Psalm 62:5. We are encouraged to look to God for our expectations and desires to be fulfilled. God made us with needs and wants. We all want to feel loved and appreciated. We need encouragement and help at times. When we look to other things or people to satisfy these needs, we leave God out of our life. This causes a discomfort, confusion, and sometimes disaster. God has a plan for our growth and maturity. If we truly trust Him, we must be content that His plan and the provision that He gives along the way are correct.

Joshua 7 tells the story of a man who doubted God’s provision and took matters into his own hands. He was not content to wait on God’s plan. The man’s name is Achan and his discontentment was costly.

God’s plan was simple: Trust Me and honor Me first and I will provide for you and protect you. Forty years before this story took place God had delivered His people, Israel, from Egypt. Achan and his family followed Moses, and then Joshua through the wilderness until God was ready to bring them into the land He had promised them. God’s people had seen God’s mighty hand of protection and provision many times. God provided food in the desert, water from a rock, and protection from enemies. Now the people entered the land and won the first battle over the great city of Jericho. After having seen all these events, you would think that Achan would have no doubt that God was worth trusting.

God commanded the people that all the spoils (valuables) from the battle of Jericho were to be considered holy. Everything was to be gathered as an offering to give to the Lord from this first battle. The spoils from later battles would be theirs. Trust and honor God first was a commandment that Achan struggled with that time.

After the battle at Jericho, Achan discovered a bar of gold, some beautiful pieces of silver, and a lovely garment. He knew that he should turn them in to the offering, but he could not wait for future spoils. Rather than honor God’s command, he kept those items for himself. Maybe he did not believe that God would give him what he wanted and needed in the battles to come. He decided not to trust God or honor God’s command. He had to have what he wanted now. He could not be content to wait.

Because of his disobedience and discontentment, God withdrew His protection from the people of Israel until they repented. In the next battle, they fought against the small village of Ai. The Israelites were defeated and many men lost their lives. God held Achan responsible for this. God led Joshua to bring judgment upon Achan and his family. Their sin cost the lives of innocent soldiers, so God had Achan and his family put to death.

God has promised to supply our every need. He has a plan for that provision, but He requires us to honor Him first. “Keep your life free from the love of money; and be content with what you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

Taste Test:

How hard is it for you to wait? Are you a child and can hardly wait until you are a teen? Or maybe as a teen, you can’t wait until you are old enough to be considered an adult with its privileges? Discontentment robs us of the moment.

  • Make a list of ‘wants’ that you have for the future when you get to the next ‘stage’ in life. (a car to drive, a girl/boyfriend, a secure job, college, a certain income) Interview an older Christian who has gone through many stages of life.
  • Ask if they experienced any dangers or blessings by waiting or not waiting on God.
  • Ask if they trusted God for their provision in areas where you have listed your wants.
  • How did it work out for them?

Scraping the Plate:

  • Read 1 Timothy 6:7-10. Allow the idea of verses 9- 10 to sink in.
  • Discuss the reason some fell away from the faith and have experienced many sorrows.
  • Compare that with Paul’s encouragement to Timothy in verses 17-19.

Country Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes:

We can trust that God has our best interest in mind and He has a plan to fulfill our needs. Contentment is a benefit of the security we possess as we walk in obedience to His commands.

Steve Baker has served in ministry for over thirty-five years and is currently finishing his masters in divinity. With his heart for discipleship, he has worked as a senior pastor, associate pastor, teacher, coach, and hospice chaplain. In 2010, God called him and his wife, Joyce, to help launch a University-Model school. He is currently the Principal of Summit Christian Academy in Boerne, Texas. Steve has a passion for families and mentoring believers to walk in this world humbly and boldly as warriors sharing the powerful message of the gospel to all people.

Empower Your Child, And Yourself, With A Quality Support System

The last five days have been unusual. It’s been hard to choose a blog topic because there’s so much I could write about. If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen that my journey from Fort Worth to Mt Vernon, Ohio, to speak at two banquets for a pregnancy resource center was quite an adventure. Rather than flying to Columbus, Ohio, from Atlanta, I drove from Atlanta. Rather than arriving at 5:00 pm Wednesday night, I arrived ten minutes before the banquet began at 6:00 pm Thursday night.

After finally arriving, I enjoyed my time with the people from Knox Starting Point Pregnancy Resource Center. I then drove to Cincinnati for my nephew’s wedding. As I’m writing this blog on Sunday, I’m on my way to Minot, North Dakota, to speak at a Christian school. The adventure continues. My flight is delayed.

I’m not going to blog about all the frustrations. Remembering them won’t do anyone any good. Rather, what did I realize or observe?

I’m more convinced than ever that it’s absolutely necessary to have a quality support system. I hope you have one and if you don’t, I hope that you will take a risk, prioritize the quality of your life, and reach out to a few people. Ask them if they’ll be there for you in a time of need. Develop healthy, vulnerable relationships.

Do your children have a support system? Do they know who to turn to when they have questions? When they’re scared? When they are unsure of themselves? When they have practical needs? Do they know that you’ll be there for them whenever they need you?

Helping your children in this way and empowering them to ask for help may be among the most important things you do. They must know it doesn’t make them weak to need help. They must know it’s okay if they need someone to talk to when they’re scared or confused or frustrated.

I was in line at the Atlanta airport for three hours to try to rebook a flight to Columbus before everything was canceled and I had to rent a car. There were thousands of us stuck there because of the weather situation.

If I had not had the prayer support of many from Facebook and the support of staff, family, and friends I could text and call, I wouldn’t have handled it as well. I was overwhelmed even though I am used to traveling. I was more frustrated than I’ve been in a long time.

If the woman who hired me to speak at the banquets had not been available to me to help me think through options, it also would’ve been a much more challenging time. She stayed awake much longer than she intended to that night, checked into rental cars for me, and the next day stayed on hold with the airline for over an hour trying to find information about my suitcase. She and her staff then problem solved in a most unusual away so that my suitcase arrived in Mount Vernon before I did. They blessed me.

I observed the whole team support me and each other throughout my days there. You can support with simply physical presence. A smile at the right time. A question to help. A pat on the back and other forms of affirmation. Suggestions offered with humility. What else can you think of?

At my nephew’s wedding, there were many examples of support systems. Their wedding coordinator, the photographer and his team, the caterer, the DJ, and others Andy and Steph chose to serve them did their jobs well.

Family and friends who came from near and far were a support system. During the wedding ceremony, the pastor asked if we would support them. At one point in the ceremony, the groomsmen and bridesmaids surrounded Andy and Steph and prayed for them. It was a beautiful picture of the most important support system of all – a vibrant relationship with God and others that empowers us to pray to God on their behalf.

How does all of this make you feel? What are you thinking? Are you satisfied with support systems you have? If so, praise God! If not, I hope you may choose to reach out so you’re ready in a time of need. Ask God to show Himself faithful so you’ll be more encouraged to lean on Him.

Become A Lie Detector!

Become a lie detector. Don’t do it so you can punish liars. Do it so you can speak truth and impart knowledge. The quality of their lives may depend on it.

This is important for confusion and inaccuracies like 2+2=5. But, there are more important reasons to be a lie detector.

This is important for lies you hear children tell about others. Maybe they think someone is “always mean” after one negative encounter. Maybe they think a teacher is “unfair” when the grade they received they actually did earn and the teacher was being fair.

Can you think of recent examples of lies like these that are relevant to your children? Correcting their thinking matters because their beliefs about people influence how they relate to the people.

Especially be a lie detector for lies children tell about themselves. Because identity controls behavior, they can’t afford to not be honest with themselves.

  • Children who think they’re shy when they’re really not may avoid all group activities. Maybe they just had one or a few negative experiences with people.
  • Children who think they’re not creative because of one comment from one teacher or peer may stop believing in their ability.
  • Children who decide they’re clumsy because they trip once may trip again because identity controls behavior. Maybe they were just in a hurry that time.

Think about your children and lies they may believe. Some may be much more serious than my above examples. Here’s what I especially want you to understand:

If you hear your children lie to themselves about themselves and you don’t correct them, and they know you heard them, they’ll think you agree. That can cement the lie.

  • If you hear your son say, “I’m so stupid!” you might respond, “What? I disagree. What makes you think so?” Listen to see if he was careless, didn’t study, didn’t do well on something quite challenging, and the like. Reframe his understanding: “You’re not stupid. You got a few answers wrong on a very challenging test. Don’t lie to yourself.”
  • If you hear your daughter say, “I can’t make friends” you might respond, “I’m sad for you because that’s probably scary. Is it really true that you can’t make friends? Tell me what’s going on.” You might discover one or two girls she thinks of as friends ignored her and she thinks it’s her fault. Or maybe she talked to someone new who didn’t immediately appear friendly. Talk her though this so she realizes she can make friends, but there aren’t guarantees.
  • If you hear your son say, “I can’t play sports” or something along those lines and you know it’s based on one experience, talk up. “Wait, I don’t think that’s true at all. Let’s name sports you do play. And, just because today you didn’t play all that well doesn’t mean you can’t play better. Would you like to practice?”

Again, be a lie detector! Speak truth. Impart knowledge. Increase your child’s quality of life.

The Importance Of Reality And The Dreams That Fuel A Child’s Heart

The gymnasium was full of high school students. They filled both sides of the bleachers from the first row to the last and all the way from one end of the gym to the other. There were also hundreds of students in chairs on the floor in front of me.

I was as ready as I could be with a message to encourage them. As I shared, I included Scripture relevant to God creating us on purpose with purpose for purpose:

“O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

(Isaiah 64:8)

“For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

(Psalm 139:13-14)

“For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

(Ephesians 2:10)

I was impressed from the very beginning with the students’ attention and quick responses. They were eager to be encouraged and challenged.

When sharing elements of my story and how I believe God created me to glorify Him, I kept asking them about their dreams. “What’s your story?”

I wanted students to think about who they were designed to be and what they were created to do. I challenged them to be realistic and to persevere and be diligent to achieve the dreams they could.

I then heard myself say something that until that day I had only said when speaking to parents and teachers:

Grieve what isn’t, accept what is, and work on what you can.

It’s absolutely appropriate and even essential that children dream about their future. It becomes a problem when their dreams aren’t realistic. To keep trying for something that can never be will only lead to frustration, deep depression, and possibly despair.

Although dreams have many positive facets, I believe they’re relevant to suicide in at least three ways. That’s why I’m including the topic in my programs more and more:

  • If teens’ dreams aren’t realistic and they don’t have a “plan B” discouragement defeats them.
  • If teens’ dreams are realistic, but they don’t have the skills and/or character qualities necessary to accomplish them, anger creates danger (As we say at Celebrate Kids, “wishing it so won’t make it so.”)
  • If parents have dreams that teens don’t have for themselves or that teens don’t believe they can reach, pressure persuades them to give up and give in.

Walt Disney was right about a lot of things, but not everything.

  • He said, “Dreams are forever.” I believe, “We should dream forever.”
  • He said, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” I believe, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing in yourself, you’ll think of new dreams.”
  • He said, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” I believe, “If you can dream it, you may be able to do it. Many great things start with dreams.”

At the conclusion of my chapel, many students hung out with me. I loved chatting with them and hearing about some of their dreams. After a while, I noticed a girl on my left approach me with a notebook and a pen. She waited and then took advantage of silence: “You said something about grieving our dreams and accepting what’s going on. I needed that. I loved the way you said it. Do you remember?” Before I could give her the three statements, many in the crowd agreed with her that it was valuable to them, too.

Grieve what isn’t, accept what is, and work on what you can.

Our teens need parents and others who dream realistic dreams for them and explain how they can fulfill them. Teens need people to teach them how to make the dreams come true.

Teens need parents and others who help them realize when dreams aren’t realistic. Teens need people to walk with them through the disappointment and to give them permission to grieve the loss of dreams. Teens need people who help them move on.

Our teens need healthy role models – people who adjust their dreams and keep dreaming. People who don’t give up, but alter their course of action.

Who will you be? What will you do?

Teen Suicide Prevention Takes Engagement

Teen suicides have been on my mind again. They’re far too prevalent. Young people choose, for a variety of reasons, to end their lives. It’s a permanent decision they think is a solution. If they’re thinking at all.

If you’ve heard me speak, you probably know I’m also concerned for what I call:

  • Intellectual suicide – they give up thinking and studying because so much feels irrelevant and overwhelming. Trying and failing is too painful.
  • Social suicide – they give up on people and relationships because people can’t be trusted and can be mean. They’ve been rejected and hurt too often.
  • Emotional suicide – they give up feeling because there’s so much suffering and pain in the world and their world. Their heart hurts too often and too deep.
  • Spiritual suicide – they give up on God because Christians and the church have disappointed them. They may not have a proper biblical view of the God of the Bible. Having faith and hope doesn’t seem possible any more.
  • Physical suicide – death that may begin with self-harm and other unhealthy decisions.

Parents, teachers, pastors, friends, and community leaders who know teenagers can prevent suicide. How? We can help them process pain well. We can guard their hearts and minds to prevent pain. We can ask better questions. We can answer their questions. We can share our feelings. We can accept their feelings. We can guide them toward truth. We can invest. We can.

Preventing suicide starts with knowing teenagers.

  • What do they believe? Why?
  • How do they feel? Why?
  • What are their dreams? Why?
  • What concerns them? Why?
  • What are they passionate about? Why?
  • What problems would they like to help solve? Why?
  • What talents and gifts do they have that will help them meet other people’s needs?
  • What needs do they have that they wish someone would help them with?
  • Who would they love to be friends with?
  • Who do they think is supportive?
  • Do they know how to ask for help?

Every type of suicide is preventable. We must invest.

Knowing teens starts with knowing children. We must pay attention to our children. What ticks them off and turns them on? What are their dreams? Who do they wish they could become? Do they know what’s realistic? How to change what frustrates them? How to change their attitudes toward the things they can’t change? How to find support? How to ask for help?

If we don’t care about our children, but think we can wait until they’re preteens and teens, we can’t. If we don’t start asking questions until they’re older, they’ll resent our apathy and absence and not help us parent them well. They may not let us know them.

Beliefs that drive young people to suicide often creep up. They start as small issues for small children. They look like minor frustrations. If not dealt with, these small issues grow as children grow. Pay attention to the intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual areas. What do they need?

Teens will have fewer problems when we parent well when they’re children and they’ll have more confidence solving the problems they do have. We can be available to answer their questions. We can be available to help them process their feelings. We can model wisdom before them. We can.

Let’s parent and teach to prevent intellectual suicide, social suicide, emotional suicide, and spiritual suicide. This can prevent physical suicide. What will you do today?

Simply, Jesus

Recently a friend of mine lost her job. I’ve called and texted to encourage her. To do something different, I decided to color a picture for her. You may know that I color as a way of relaxing and I typically use what I color like a greeting card.

On Saturday I looked through the books I have to find a picture that I believed would be appropriate for my friend. Several had Bible verses that were relevant, but I kept coming back to the one that simply said, Jesus.

That’s the one I ultimately colored and gave her. I prayed as I colored, that she’d keep her eyes on Jesus during these days and weeks as she has the rest of her life. I prayed He proves Himself faithful as He has on so many other occasions. She didn’t need a reminder of a verse or a character quality of God’s she knows.

Just Jesus. Yesterday I worshiped with hundreds of others, singing about His name being above all of other names. There’s power in His name. Love. Authority. Healing. Deliverance. So much more.

“Helping Your Five-Year-Old Not Binge Drink” By Marianne Miller

Today, I am posting a brilliant blog by my friend, Marianne Miller. The title may cause you to do a double take. Does it motivate you to read the blog? I hope so. She and I agree on so much! I love the way she communicates these truths with great passion. Enjoy!

“Helping Your Five-Year-Old Not Binge Drink” By Marianne Miller

“Are you guys hammered?” That was the comment my 14-year-old received on a social media site after he posted a short video of himself and three friends laughing and sumo-wrestling. Just a few months ago I reminded him that 7th and 8th grade is usually when some of the kids start drinking alcohol. Usually boys first. Usually hard alcohol stolen from parents’ liquor cabinets when the house is empty. Most often the “cool kids” looking for a thrill or the lonely kids looking for an escape. My son had assured me that “no one” was drinking in his grade. But he has since changed his mind.

“I guess you were right about the drinking,” he responded. (One of my favorite responses a child can have.)

We talked about WHY other kids thought they were drunk and decided that it was because they were having so much fun. We both realized that we live in a culture where fewer and fewer teens are able to be comfortable with their sober selves. We live in a culture where four boys, bare-chested and laughing hysterically, must be drunk.

So why do I share this story knowing that most people who read my blogs have preschoolers or elementary age kids? Because THAT is exactly when you have the most impact to prevent your kids from binge drinking or using drugs as teenagers. Locking up the liquor cabinet or monitoring their every move might help a little, but our real power in this area begins well before they understand what alcohol even is.

What can parents do?

  •  Welcome boredom. This starts when your two-year-old wants to play with you literally all day long. Rather than becoming their favorite toy, you can provide them ample time to play alone. As they grow, minimize screens as a way to fill their time. What would happen if you never bought the video game system or the hand held device? What would they do if you gave them books and blocks and paper and puzzles and then never tried to solve their boredom? (I just heard the mom who said aloud that SHE would then be drinking!)
  • Help your child discover areas of interest. This does not mean activity after activity to keep them “busy” so they won’t have time for getting into trouble. This means exploring physical fitness or wood working or art or music or crafts…
  • Send/bring them outside. Nature has a way of drawing kids into physical and creative play. It offers incredible competition to screens and indoor boredom.
  • Emphasize depth in personal relationships. In this new world of online “friends” and a superficial “presence” on social media, help them understand the importance of real friendships based on loyalty and absent of “drama.” Facilitate friendships with kids who are also seeking loyalty and depth verses popularity and fun.
  • Model independence from, rather than dependence on, substances. Despite the temptation to “have a drink” after a tough day, model any alcohol consumption in isolation from emotional highs and lows. This helps avoid the connection between alcohol and freedom from pain.
  • Create rituals that bond you and your child. (Special walks together or Saturday morning donuts or read-aloud time in bed.) Discover their interests and meet them there with unconditional love and an acceptance of who they are.
  • Help them find their value in who they are rather than what they do. Connecting exclusively over their grades, activities, or athletics is an insecure foundation for your relationship.
  • Have FUN and lots of it. Make the connection that life is FULL of joy, fun, and excitement. Make the connection that kids who drink are not comfortable having fun as their “sober-selves.” These kids quickly become dissatisfied with their sober-selves and drink to fit in and have “fun.” But their sober selves will actually remember the fun. Their sober selves will not throw up after the fun. Their sober selves will RARELY make foolish choices that may actually have a lifetime of consequences after the fun.

So when your precious five-year-old eventually turns 15– take a deep breath, stay connected, reinforce a decade of past conversations, stay current by observing the culture together, and then simply walk WITH them during this challenging period rather than becoming paralyzed with fear and worry. You have done the work. They may still make mistakes. But they have a strong foundation to help them learn, grow, and mature.

Marianne Miller is a Midwest girl who loves Jesus, campfires, giggling little boys in overalls,  99¢ a pound grapes, long car trips, and warm brownies with white chocolate chips.

She is also a middle school teacher, parenting instructor, financial counselor with Crown Ministries, and author of The Gift of Enough. She loves encouraging moms and dads on their parenting journey–which can be extra-challenging in this culture of  “perfect” Facebook kids, excessive living, and social pressures to raise “successful” kids. You can connect with her on Facebook. She’d love that!

Love Well Today & Tomorrow (A Love List)

In today’s world, it would seem in many instances that love is confused with personal desires or goals, or minimized to a single expression of it through romantic emotion. The temptation is to see “love” through a selfish lens or as a means to an end. This list of what I believe are the manifestations of love poured out of my mind and heart for today. Love is certain things, but love also does certain things as well. Check out the list, and as always, I hope you find it to be a blessing.

Love well today.

Listen to understand.

Be enthusiastic.

Be fair.

Show initiative.

Endure.

Be careful.

Share hope.

Choose to try to understand someone’s circumstances.

Use appropriate boundaries.

Be vulnerable.

Be compassionate.

Be other-centered.

Assume there may be things going on that we don’t know about.

Be quiet.

Don’t gossip.

Serve.

Stop the sarcasm.

Lead and follow.

Nurture.

Persevere.

Restore.

Be sensitive.

Be thoughtful.

Accept.

Have vision.

Stop judging.

Be kind.

Be available.

Have integrity.

Seek joy in your relationships.

Be strong.

Talk about Jesus’ love.

Be optimistic.

Ask better questions.

Talk less about yourself.

Don’t let anger last.

Be faithful.

Follow up.

Pray.

Be alert.

Listen longer.

Grow.

Be cheerful.

Discern.

Be full of grace.

Speak truth in love.

Express gratitude.

Be courageous.

Look for progress, not perfection.

Be teachable.

Don’t bully.

Be gentle.

Choose beauty.

Share hope.

Be at peace.

Be humble.

Be bold.

Forgive.

Sing together.

Slow down.

Make eye contact.

Believe.

Listen carefully.

Create together.

Don’t assume.

Pay attention.

Uphold what is true, right, and just.

Be transparent.

Look.

Be purposeful.

Connect.

Do not be jealous.

Be good.

Care with action.

Rest together.

Dare to be different.

Stop comparing.

Be confident.

Trust.

Put your phone down.

Don’t be afraid.

Learn.

Be self-controlled.

Touch.

Regret what you should.

Go deeper.

Give wise counsel when you’ve earned the right.

Encourage.

Be honest.

Choose better.

Stop whining.

Be helpful.

Prioritize people.

Don’t hate.

Speak up.

Be positive.

Have fair expectations.

Don’t treat people as projects.

Share.

Be generous.

Be passionate.

Choose to forget what you should.

Choose to remember what you should.

Don’t fear.

Be authentic.

Be flexible.

Be grateful.

Honor.

Mourn with those who mourn.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Grieve together.

Celebrate together.

Do not envy.

Love unconditionally.

Sacrifice.

Be spontaneous.

Be patient.

Treat people as unique individuals.

Seek good.

Empower others.

Look up.

Lift people up.

Be resilient.

Understand.

Be fully present.

Love well tomorrow.

Inspire Academic Improvement By Resisting The “Perfection Infection”

It happens often. I bet you do it. I totally understand and yet I hope my insights encourage you to stop. Curious? Keep reading.

When you empty your children’s backpacks or go through their school folders looking at their daily work and returned tests, do you ask, “How did the other kids do?”

As soon as we ask, we’ve decreased our children’s security. Suddenly they feel as if ita’s not really about doing their best, even if that’s what we said as they headed to school. No, in reality, it appears we care about how they stand in comparison to their peers. But is that wise? Necessary?

For example, your son may have earned a 92% and been thrilled because the test was challenging. When you ask, “How did the other kids do?” you imply the 92% is only good if it’s a better score than most of his peers earned.

Your daughter may have earned a low score and she’s already feeling badly about it. She’s not looking forward to you finding out and now you’ve put additional pressure on her. Now she may feel the score is even worse because it’s among the lowest in her class. Having to admit this to us may not motivate her to do better next time.

Constantly comparing our kids to others causes our encouragement to “do your best” and “concentrate on yourself; don’t worry about others.” to fall on deaf ears. They’ll stop believing us. They may get angry. These comparisons violate the key identity that they’re unique miracles. Comparing them can negatively affect peer relationships.

Comparing our kids is also one of the things that causes them to think we’re never satisfied and we expect them to be perfect. Jill Savage and I wrote, in No More Perfect Kids: “The more we compare, the higher our expectations climb. There it is: the Perfection Infection.” (p. 37) and “If they compare, or if they hear us comparing, they may feel inadequate and without realizing it, the Perfection Infection can raise its ugly head.” (p. 184) Among other negatives, perfectionism can paralyze our kids and make it less likely they’ll take risks and aim high.

Asking our children how they did is often appropriate. We may not always have to ask. Sometimes wait to see if they bring it up when they want to. We must ask about more than their scores and grades. If we don’t, they’ll think that’s all we care about. This can cause them to put their security in their grades and performances. This is never a good idea. For suggested questions to ask that are often much more important than “How did you do?” check out this relevant video.

When we do ask about their grades, rather than asking how other kids did, we can often follow up with one or both of these questions:

  • How satisfied are you with that grade?
  • Is there anything you’ll do differently when studying and preparing for a similar assignment/test?

Now we can follow up appropriately. If they’re satisfied with a grade lower than we would have preferred, let’s look for teachable moments to discuss why we think they’re capable of more. (But, be careful that they don’t assume perfection is what we want.) The same thing is true if they’re hard on themselves when their grades were excellent and they’re disappointed because they weren’t perfect. We might be able to talk about it immediately. Or, look for an opportunity to bring it up later. If they’re satisfied and so are we, let them know! This will increase their security in themselves and in us.

If our children claim they want to study differently and prepare differently, we can remind them and help them as best we can.

Conversations after school about school are something to take seriously. I trust these ideas will help you successfully get your children to share with you. I know you want to know how things are going. Good for you!