Do you know children, teens, and maybe young adults who have an unrealistic goal or expectation for perfection?
- They may resent practice and studying because they think things should come easier to them.
- They may get angry and depressed when making mistakes because they don’t think perfect people make them.
- They may not try new things because they can’t risk their identity of “I am perfect.”
Concerned? Of course, because you want your children to try new things, handle mistakes with more grace, and study and practice to achieve excellence.
As I wrote about last Wednesday, the television coverage of the Olympics provided many opportunities to discuss our multiple intelligences. They also were ripe for discussing your kids’ expectations and attitudes toward their mistakes. Did you take advantage of those opportunities?
You can use the world-class athletes in the weeks and months that follow if you and your kids watched any of the competition. When your kids get angry because they make mistakes or get frustrated with how hard something new might initially seem, maybe questions like these will help put a positive spin on the situation:
Did you notice how many skiers who fell before finishing their race smiled when skiing off the hill? Do you think that was a good attitude? Why or why not? Did their willingness to make mistakes mean they would?
How do you think it’s possible that figure skaters who fell still smiled and waved at the crowds when their routines were over? Does that mean they were glad they fell and maybe didn’t get a medal because of it? Are their attitudes good or not? Why?
Do you think Olympians who earned medals ever made mistakes while learning? What would have happened if they quit? Why do you think they didn’t quit? Would you be willing to develop the same attitudes toward your soccer playing, piano lessons, drawing, vocabulary work, etc.? Why or why not? How can I help?
Were athletes who earned bronze medals losers or winners? Why?
How do you think your goals influence you and your attitudes? Did athletes who made their country’s team set out to do that when they first began learning their sport? What makes you think so?
Do you think aiming for progress and improvement might be wiser than aiming for a gold medal, or perfection, when first beginning to learn something? Why or why not? Is this what you’re doing? Do you want to make any changes? How can I help?
I truly hope discussions (not interrogations) using observations and questions like these help you and your kids. Share what you’ve noticed about them and about yourself. If your reactions to their efforts and mistakes have contributed to their belief that perfection is possible and desired, own that and talk about it. (I’ll post more about this common reality in the future.)
As always, thanks for reading and please share this post with others if you believe they’ll benefit.
My concerns about how goals of perfection can actually stunt children’s growth and joy was one of my motivations for me to coauthor No More Perfect Kids with Jill Savage. I’m excited that the book will be available for purchase in March. WAIT and buy the book between March 13-23 from our website (or anywhere else) and you’ll get FREE resources worth more than $100 from Hearts at Home (Jill’s ministry), Celebrate Kids, and Moody Publishers. What a deal!