I want to suggest two swaps we can all make and encourage in our children. Both of these are related to the paralysis of perfectionism.
If we expect ourselves to be perfect, that's one problem. It's an entirely different problem when we expect the same of our children. Why do we put that on them? As I look back there were times in my life that I expected my kids to be perfect, because they were a reflection of me. That's way too much pressure for anyone, especially a young child. I suggest if you're honest with yourself you may have to admit the same thing.
Recently I read an analogy that I think fits well here.
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work produced, while all those on the right side on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pounds rated an "A", forty pounds a "B" and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however needed to produce only one pot?albeit a perfect one?to get an "A." Well, at grading time a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work?and learning from their mistakes?the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
There is a right balance between thinking and practicing. I believe it's good to think about a project before beginning. Likewise it's good to get started. If you spend all day thinking, you'll never get done. If you jump in without thinking at all, you'll probably work on all the wrong things.
Why did the students in the story who practiced get better than those who just thought about it? They had chances to try things, learn from mistakes, and improve. They were not paralyzed by perfectionism.
So here are two swaps we can make in ourselves and in our children.
1. Swap perfection for progress. Expect your children's grades to improve but not to be perfect.
2. Swap comparison to others for comparison to yourself. Continually improve rather than expecting yourself to be better than everyone else.
Imagine how much more peaceful life would be if we could make the swaps. Well, we can't do that immediately but we can all make progress, right?
Blessings on your parenting,
Back in November, Rhonda Rousey lost her match in bantamweight mixed martial arts. Why should you care? I don't follow mixed martial arts either, but what she said in an interview afterward is significant for us as parents. She had never lost a match up to that point and didn't know how to handle it. She said she didn't know who she was anymore. She thought no one would care about her unless she won.
What happened to Rhonda? She confused performance and identity. Her performance had become her identity. So what does this mean for us as parents? As we talk to our children we need to be aware of the difference between who we are and what we do. What we do, our performance, is composed of actions. Who we are, our identity, is composed of our values.
When we are aware of this, it's easy to understand the difference. Listen for signs of confusion; signs that your children think their actions compose their identity. Talk with your children about your own values and who you are.
Rhonda forgot about the other portions of her life, the parts that were not mixed martial arts. She had friends and a career before MMA came into her life and became more important than anything else. Most of those other aspects of her life were still present. They had just faded into her background.
Is someone stealing the identity of your children by teaching them that they are only as good as the last win? Is some league vacuuming them in and controlling your family schedule? Is some dance company running your life? If you and your children are enjoying it and able to remember who you are, then all is well. Just be careful to stay on top of it. Are you compromising your values, or do these activities allow you to express who you are?
Blessings on your parenting,
Tim Miesner, Principal