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Don't Change the Standard Because It's Hard
Though you'll be tempted to do so.
We want our children to improve, and to do that, we have to point them toward a goal to shoot for. What is excellence? We need to define it for them.
But no matter our initial intentions, we can begin to slack off on the standard we set for them. Excellence is hard to achieve. Not just for the child, but also for the parent trying to guide him there. It takes patience all around.
Let’s take an academic standard as an example. Let’s say, for geography, you want your kid to be able to draw the entire world and label the countries by memory. This is challenging but doable. It will take a lot of practice.
Maybe your kid does great with Canada and the United States. Then she gets to Africa, and it takes a lot longer to get that down. When she reaches Europe, everyone is exhausted. Your daughter is exhausted from trying, and you’re tired of her tears and complaining.
You start thinking, “Maybe she doesn’t need to draw the world after all. Maybe just labeling is good enough.” Or, in extreme cases, you might start thinking, “Geography is stupid, anyway.”
It’s a version of the sour grapes fable.
What changed? Not the value of the standard, only your resolve. You start lying to yourself, and that is something you must not do.
You must pay attention to the frame of your child, but that doesn’t mean you denigrate the standard. You definitely don’t pretend your child is better than she really is. You might need to add in more practice, more help, more breaks, or maybe extend the timeline for reaching the standard. Instill habits of discipline.
What you don’t want to do, what you must never do, is lower the basketball goal to 7 feet and act like the goal is still at 10 feet.
If they fail to reach the standard, they fail to reach the standard. Period. You can praise them for their effort and drive…but they still didn’t reach the standard.
You don’t redefine excellence when things get hard.
You want your kids to get into the habit of striving for difficult things, not settling for less whenever they feel like it.
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