Can there really be a problem with telling your child, “Do your best? Maybe, maybe not. I know that it was a terrible thing done to me by my dad, probably innocently. Dad was big on ‘do your best’, and he added that this should be applied to whatever you pursue. He used to say if I wanted to be a ditch-digger, then great; just do my best at it. Of course, this is where it get’s a little confusing. When I did my best dad would also challenge me with, “Why didn’t you do better?”
I remember after graduating with honors from a difficult master’s program (I had a 3.62 GPA out of 4.0) dad asked me, “Why didn’t you make a 4.0?” Inadvertently he had set up a standard for perfection that could never be reached. I’ve always felt it would have been much more helpful if he had simply said, “Just be better than everyone else in whatever you do.” That kind of challenge is at least possible. Do your best + you can always do better is a recipe for misery.
What about you and your parenting advice for your kids? Hopefully you are teaching them to be independent, but are you making the standard too high? On the other hand, are you a parent that offers no real standard, allowing your child to drift? Kid’s definitely need standards modeled to them, and they need challenges to grow themselves. Giving them no standards or giving them impossible ones are both off the target and into the dirt. By the way, can we really ever know if we’ve really done our best (maybe dad’s point).Here’s an alternate way to think about it when you challenge your kids— Do what it takes. Of course, they need to figure out what they want (or have it given to them during the growing years), but then the question of doing what it takes makes sense. Need to learn math? Do what it takes. Want to compete in a sport? Do what it takes. Want to go to youth camp with your church and need to raise some money? Do what it takes.May I close with a question or two? Are you doing your best at parenting and homeschooling? Could you do better? Now, dump those questions. Instead, ask yourself how you want your kids to turn out as individuals and students? Do you want them to be in a position to choose their life; whether it includes college or not? Do you want them to read well, write well, do math well? Then, it seem simple:
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