Expect excellence from them. Be able and willing to say, “No, that’s not the best you can do!”
I fully admit to being of the mindset that all children have the potential to be outstanding. As I was earning my degree in education and learning how to teach, I was “indoctrinated” with the premise that there is no such thing as failure. If a child does not do well in the classroom, we were given the directive that the child did not fail—but, rather, we had failed to teach him/her well.
I get that. I believe that—fully and completely. And a part of that fulfillment as a teacher, coach, or parent is to instruct appropriately for the individual child. Know their learning style, the best method by which they can success—and be there to support them toward success.
But, I also believe in encouraging a child (or an adult for that matter) to be more than they believe possible. There is such potential lying within each person that is waiting to be tapped, nurtured, and developed. Becoming complacent and just “getting by” is not a healthy path for a child. And so, instruction and guidance must include motivation and inspiration. A huge part of this comes from providing an adequate learning environment that is stimulating and fun. And another part of that is giving positive reinforcement along the path.
Whether a child is learning to read, play the piano, or throw a ball, they need the following:
- Instruction carefully given. Tell them what to do. Show them how to do it. Let them try.
- Correct gently, reinforce often—even if the child takes one small step in the right direction.
- Take the learning slowly and one step at a time. Build one skill upon another that has been effectively learned. Don’t jump from one step to another until concrete evidence shows that the first skill has been learned effectively. You will be building a skill on weak links and the chances of progression are weak.
- BE careful when correcting something. Make sure you are correcting the skill and not blaming the child or making it too personal.
“Johnny, you threw the ball so straight. Good job. Let’s set up a target and see if you can hit it. That will be so much fun. What would you like the target to be?”
Rather than, “Johnny, can’t you throw the ball straighter or further than that? I showed you how to do it? Why can’t you do like I showed you?”
And keep working on whatever it is you are trying to do. Do this throughout the life of your child. If and when they become complacent, it is usually because they have become discourage because of being criticized or put down for what they were trying to do. Or, they were given tasks that were impossible because there wasn’t enough of a foundation, poor teaching, or criticism and lack of patience. The natural reaction is to withdraw and stop trying. Oftentimes the child will act like they don’t like whatever the activity—or say “that’s stupid” as a defense mechanism to get out of an impossible situation and still save face (at least in their own mind).
So, as a parent we walk a fine line of being encouraging but not letting our children fall into a state of complacency. We have the mandate to give our children every possible chance to become confident, independent, and excellent at what they do.
I’ll continue this subject on my next parenting blog.