Friday, March 25, 2016

Do Your Children Strive To Be Perfect? 4 Life Lessons to Reduce The Pressure

Far too many teens have told me, “My best isn’t good enough.”  Our young people are getting a message that they cannot measure up.  No matter how hard they try, it isn’t going to be enough.  I tell them that all the world can expect is their best effort.  “No,” they tell me, “The world wants more than I can do.” 

Messages about our capability and our development of a sense of self begin in early childhood and continue to bombard us throughout our lives.  Glorious is the day when we are at an age when we can accept our own strengths & weaknesses and no longer give merit to the opinions of others.  I think that time comes for many of us in middle age – that moment when we no longer care what other people think of us.  I wonder if today’s teens will ever get there.  The messages they are getting about unachievable expectations are so ingrained and defeating.  We need to do better for them and for children currently in their early childhood years.  Here’s a start:
  • Teach our children that they can fail and bounce back.  Mistakes are so costly these days.  The written test of rote facts is given too much weight.  Products – answers on paper -  matter when actually it should be all about the process of learning.  People, adults included, have very little patience with the learning process of others and want everything to be perfect from the start. We fail and so we learn. Then, we can walk a little better through our world – a little more knowing and wise, a little more cautious and questioning.  There is nothing wrong with learning from mistakes and failures; yet, we are living in a time that has no patience for it and our children get the message that anything less than perfection will elicit unending and irreparable guilt, blame and anger.  Make it okay for our children to be wrong.  Tell them, “Okay so you made a mistake.  Let’s figure out what we do now.  Where do we go from here?”  The world won’t end because they need to regroup and start again.
  • Teach our children that we don’t expect perfection from anyone.  We live in a cast blame society. When people feel threatened, they tend to lash out and people spend a lot of time feeling fearful & threatened in today’s world. Whatever happens, it is the company’s fault or the school’s fault or the teacher’s fault or anyone else’s fault but our own. It is true that institutions can make mistakes, too.  We have to teach our children to accept that no one, not one person or any place, is perfect.  Even more importantly, we aren’t expecting perfection.  When we cast blame and virtually say, “They should have been perfect,” children see that perfection is expected and mistakes are not acceptable.  Yes, the boss can be wrong.  The company can be ridiculous.  Our error is in not accepting that.  We cannot control them but we can use coping and critical thinking skills to determine our own reactions.  It is even empowering for children to see us say, “They were wrong but I probably could have done better, too.  I can only control me so I have to figure out what to do now or next time.”
  • Teach our children that the images they see of endless success on social media are not the whole picture.   Young people live a world of smiling social media images depicting perfect families, beautiful people and great achievements.  They don’t really understand that what they see isn’t the whole picture.  I remember being very young and hearing adults comment that people with great wealth weren’t really happy.  I’m not sure if that was true but it was their way of saying that everyone has problems.  We need to constantly reinforce that we are seeing only a second in a life on our screens – on the smartphone, tablet, computer and television.  Everyone has a whole life and, in that whole picture, everyone experiences success & failure, happiness & sadness, ease & struggle.  All of it, the good and bad is common experience and is acceptable.  It all will pass and return again. Our children need to know that what they see isn’t the whole story.
  • Teach our children that participation isn’t the same as perfection and it doesn’t need to be.  A parent recently told me that she enrolled her child is a multitude of activities to expose her to all sorts of experiences.  She noticed her daughter getting nervous and seeming overwhelmed.  When she asked her daughter why she seemed upset, her daughter said, “I can’t be good at all this.”  The mother was distraught.  She never said, “You must be great at it all” but that’s what her daughter heard.  The mother told me that she has changed how she approaches involvement in activities. She listens more and assumes less.  She has stop assuming that her daughter wants it all.  She has stopped assuming that her motives are interpreted correctly by her young children.  She talks with her children about the fun of new experiences and that trying is different than mastering.  They are learning to celebrate attempts rather than results.  Participation opens your world but it doesn’t have to be perfect.  It’s okay not to be on the elite team or the high level travel team or in the spotlight. 

Do you send unintentional messages of the expectation of perfection to your children?  Probably.  We have expectations.  As adults, we sometimes still feel pressured by the expectations of our elders.  Try to look for those times when your children could be getting that message and make sure they know that trying matters but perfection isn’t real and isn’t expected.  Celebrate the efforts to send the message that it is the attempt that broadens their world.

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Coming soon - new site where early childhood professionals will be able to get continuing ed hours, participate in Q & A forums & ask the expert sessions and individual Skype/Facetime coaching. To keep updated about the site and the progress of my book, click here to join my mailing list. You get a FREE video link when you join the list!

Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual coaching for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.

Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Today’s Generation Gap: Respect

A reporter called me to ask for an op-ed piece addressing the topic, “What Has Happened to Respect.”  The reporter said that he was contacting several well known speakers in the field of education & parenting to ask why we think children have less respect for adults than in past generations.  I believe that in every generation, people of my age disapprove of differences in the attitudes of youth.  I wondered, however, how younger people see themselves.  I have now had multiple groups of teens tell me that they agree – their generation has no respect for adults.  They say that their peers do not respect authority.  In my small sample, I was surprised to learn that the generations agree in a change of the level of respect and they agree that it isn’t good for our society.

Why the change in attitude toward each other and those in authority?  We learn so much of our world view and socialization lessons when we are very young.  In order to figure out what might have changed, we need to look at the experience of this younger generation from the time they were preschoolers.  What have they seen, done and been encouraged to do by their parents and teachers?

  1. They are living in a time when insecurities and fear make parents defensive.  Gone are the days when a school calls home and the parent turns to the child to say, “What did you do?”  Can school administrators and teachers make mistakes?  Yes.  Can your child make an error in judgment?  Yes.  There was a time when adults believed other adult perceptions of a situation enough even to just question their children.  Today, parents are very defensive.  Most human behavior stems from fear and insecurity and this is no different.  It is okay if your children make a mistake.  It is even okay if the authorities are not entirely correct and you teach your child that this is life.  Someday, the boss won’t be fair all the time either so try to do the right thing and stay out of the fray as much as possible.  We are not teaching life skills when we don’t teach children to cope with the trials and tribulations of dealing with the reactions of others.  I am amazed at the young children who know that their Mommy and Daddy won’t care when the school calls. 
  2. They see people bashing other people and institutions all the time.  It’s in the news.  It’s on social media.  It’s part of the culture.  Not happy with someone?  Make it public. Other people will like it and tweet it and give you an emoji thumbs up.  I can’t even get into what teens are seeing in politics. Think about how many examples they have of dignity and dignified people engaging in intelligent and respectful conversation.  Hmmmmm….
  3. They have been calling authority figures by first name since they were in preschool which creates a perception of equality regardless of age or status. In my opinion, early childhood centers of all types have made a terrible mistake.  They have allowed young children to call their teachers by first name.  If we are preparing children for the years to come, this makes no sense.  No one goes to kindergarten and calls their teacher “Miss Julie.”  You don’t find 5th graders calling the teacher “Mr. Bobby.”  We are, therefore, not properly preparing them.  I have asked teachers and school directors why they use first names and they tell me that it is friendlier and easier to pronounce. No. Untrue.  I spent years with very young students calling me “Mrs. Terebush.”  They felt loved, safe and secure with me.  They enjoyed school and their time with me.  They could say “Terebush.”  After all, if they can say “metamorphisis” when we teach about butterflies, why do we assume they can’t say “Smith” or “Goldstein”? Set up the notion that there are, in fact, differences between students and teachers.
  4. They call their classmates’ and friends’ parents by first name, too.  I’ve seen 2 year olds refer to their classmates’ parents as “Liz” and “Joanne.”  Folks, it is okay for children to learn respect for elders by respectfully addressing you. People did it for generations.  It doesn’t make you old or uncool (see you can still be friendly in the paragraph above).  It makes you a teacher of socially acceptable behavior.  I have two grown children and I smile when their friends meet me and say, “Hello, Mrs. Terebush.”  They were raised well.  I do not tell them, “Call me Cindy.”  I am not their friend and I don’t need to be.  I have friends my own age.  They can call me “Cindy.”  

You may wonder why I am writing this article if I was asked for an op-ed on this topic.  I haven’t scooped the story at all.  In the op-ed version, I wrote about why children have a greater sense of entitlement today, the fact that institutions are expected to change for every individual and the erroneous messages people have gotten from mistaking equity with equality and visa versa. The article has an entirely different set of reasons for a trend of diminished respect that simply isn’t making this a better world.  There are woefully so many reasons.  It’s true – some traditions and conventions of society stop applying and need to go.  Not this one.  Not respect.  Please bring it back.

This article is the 5th in a series about Today’s Generation Gap.  Click on the titles to read past articles:

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Coming soon new site where early childhood professionals will be able to get continuing ed hours, participate in Q & A forums & ask the expert sessions and individual Skype/Facetime coaching. To keep updated about the site and the progress of my book, click here to join my mailing list. You get a FREE video link when you join the list!


Go to my full website for information about webinars, presentations and individual coaching for parents and educators -Helping Kids Achieve.



Copyright 2016 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.