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,
Tim Miesner, Principal