We are living in a “THE best” society. It isn’t good enough for children to try THEIR best. They have to be THE best. They can’t just dance for the fun of it and do their best. They have to be on a competitive dance team. They can’t just play a sport for the fun of it and do their best. They have to be on the elite team, the travel team, the championship team. In school, they are being tested and measured and compared more than ever before. There is untold pressure to score high, get into the gifted classes and, eventually, take more Advanced Placement classes than anyone else they know.
What are we doing to the children when their best isn’t good enough and happiness is packaged in winning? Our society has presented them with an elusive “THE best” that they must constantly strive to achieve. It is out there, barely reachable and nearly impossible to sustain. Children who are still developing a sense of self are being inundated with goals that have little to do with them as worthy individuals. Is it any wonder that so many of our youth struggle with anxiety issues, eating disorders, self-mutilating behaviors and depression?
Parents need to be intentional in their decisions and actions. They need to be made aware of the damaging effects of THE best and having that confused with individual goals. As adults, we get frustrated when people expect more of us than we can achieve. We tell ourselves that all we can do is our best – OUR best. That, however, isn’t good enough for children anymore. We need to stop expecting more from children than we do from ourselves. We need to teach children that taking pride in THEIR best matters. THEIR best should not be measured against other people. We need to intentionally examine the goals that we help our children to set.
- Are goals about just your child or are they comparing your child to others?
- Are goals achievable or are they an ideal that is just beyond their reach?
- Do goals take self-esteem, self-worth and long term mental health into consideration?
- Do goals demonstrate that there is more than one path to achievement and that having achieved is an individual measurement?
I implore parents to resist the whirlwind of endless competition. In the end, when all is said and done, what do you want for your children? What do you want them to think of themselves and how they should walk through life? In the end, when all is said and done, it is so important that children have a positive self-esteem, to be confident decision makers and to have found how their talents can lead to work that fulfills them. At the end of the day, our children will sit where we do right now and they will need to know that life can be joyous and peaceful. They will not learn that from having spent a childhood feeling like they aren’t quite good enough or that they have to achieve goals unrelated to their own emotional well-being. There is an unhealthy disconnect between individual worth and goals that are based solely on comparison to others.
Parents have asked me if I think that the pendulum will swing back and people will go back to teaching children about the importance of THEIR best rather than THE best. My answer? That’s up to you in your house with your children – one family at a time….
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