How to encourage excellence without it being “never good enough”

by Rachel Norman


I have a
niggling feeling most of us Babywise moms have something in common: we have
high standards


I’m not
talking impossible or unrealistic standards, but high ones nonetheless. We
don’t want to push our children beyond their abilities or make them feel they
must earn love and attention, but we do aim high.


A positive
result of encouraging – or requiring – your children to aim high is they learn
to work hard, push through fears, and rarely are they lazy. A negative result
of requiring excellence (done the wrong way) is children feel their efforts are
never good enough.


I don’t
think I’m alone here when I say that I want my kids to do the best they can,
but I never want them to feel that they can’t ever do good enough for me. No


In a
nutshell, it all boils down to one thing: whether
we require a result or we require their best effort.


If one
child makes all A’s, you might throw a party. If another child makes A’s and
B’s, but you know they tried their hardest, you should still throw a party.
There will be times when we put in our very best effort and don’t meet success.
That is life. We don’t want our children to think they must nail everything
they try for us to be proud. Rather, we want them to feel we are proud of them
for giving it their all and reaching high.


Here are
some ways we can promote excellence without leaving our kids feeling nothing is
ever good enough.


Let each situation be it’s own.


When a
child comes home from a ballgame or a test and brags about their efforts, do
not say phrases like, “That’s great, but
next time you could try even harder!
That deflates children’s spirits and leaves them asking what exactly
must they do for you to be fully proud of them.


If you know
they didn’t try hard or were lazy, that’s another story. But if they tried
hard, let it be. If you see room for improvement and know they’d value your
opinion, save it until there’s another ballgame or test. There will always be
another ballgame or test, there’s no need to belittle their effort this time
because its effects will carry over.


Give heavy emphasis to effort.


The book Nurture Shock states that children who
were praised for their effort actually tried harder and found better results
than those praised for their intelligence or IQ. Let that sink in. Kids will
intrinsically know when they’ve done well at something, so they need far less
flowery praise and flattery than we might think. What they don’t know
intuitively is how important working hard is.


When doing
activities around the home be sure to praise children’s efforts. It’s okay to
say, “I don’t think you’re trying very
hard right now
” if it’s true. I honestly think I know my children very well
because of Babywise. The consistency and routine in our home allows me to
easily recognize when my kids are off. I can tell the difference between
fussiness and sickness, emotional distress or a tantrum.


Use your
knowledge of each child to determine if they’re trying hard, and if they are,
let it be enough.


3. Focus
on persistence and consistency.


character traits of persistence, endurance, and consistency should be highly
valued in your home. So many trials and troubles in life require our endurance,
and if we aren’t used to putting in effort adulthood will be a big challenge. When
children know that it’s okay to fail, and that the important thing is getting
back on the horse, they won’t feel their love is tied to their actions.


They may
think you are perfect, so feel free to dispel them of that notion. Tell them it
took you years to learn how to cook well, that the first few garments you sewed
fell apart on the first wear, or that you applied for 25 jobs before you found
a good one. Be human and let them know that overnight success is a myth.


4. Give


will be times when they try hard and fail. There’ll be times when they don’t
try hard and fail. The key is to create an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and
grace. You don’t condone outright disobedience or laziness, but that doesn’t
mean you think they must be perfect.


that a child’s greatest need is to feel loved and accepted by you. Of course
they need to be prepared for adulthood, but part of how they’ll enter adulthood
with security and confidence is if they know you are proud of them.


Be free
with your
specific praise, always praise effort, and at the
end of the day, just tell them you love them for no reason at all.


blogs at
A Mother Far from Home on parenting and motherhood. For a
free copy of her ebook 20 Things A Mother
Should & Shouldn’t Expect and a copy of her Turnabout Burnout report,
her blog and sign up for weekly practical tips to raise
your little ones. 

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