I often refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist.”
I spent my childhood and early adult life believing I had to be perfect at everything I attempted. As a result, I lived with constant anxiety – what if I didn’t get an A in every class? – and often wanted to give up because of what I couldn’t do (i.e., be equally good at everything).
I say “recovering” because learning to think differently has been a process. Often now, I have a healthy perspective. But some days I must stop and admit that I’ve fallen back into perfectionism without even realizing it.
So one of my greatest desires for my daughters is that they not fall prey to such thinking. However, neither do I want them infected with its opposite – a lack of passion or an overly phlegmatic attitude about their endeavors. And the antidote, I think – the “right p-word,” if you will – is to instill in them a belief in the importance of perseverance.
For young children, I believe that primarily means teaching them to persevere in obedience. Such kids are, by nature, educational “generalists,” learning foundational skills and knowledge in all curricular areas. Now, it’s undoubtedly our job as parents to insure that both the content and methodology toward that end are appropriate. But – having done so – each child must embrace the notion that it’s his job to persevere toward mastering the foundation, even if he doesn’t understand all the reasons for doing so.
But along the way of doing that, we’ll naturally begin to see each child’s areas of God-given giftedness. And, once we see that – usually no later than when our kids reach their high school years – we need to shift our focus and hone in on each child’s “specialties.” That doesn’t mean allowing a child to fail in required classes in other areas. But it does mean accepting that she won’t “ace” everything and then helping to direct her studies so she has more time to persevere in her actual giftedness. Giving her “permission” to have areas of special interest and talent will motivate her to persist in developing them to their fullest. In addition, removing the pressure to be good at everything will actually increase her desire to persevere in the areas that are not her specialty.
Where are you along the spectrum of motivating your kids? Are you accepting passionless coasting? Are you pushing untenable perfectionism? Or are you encouraging the right p-word: perseverance?
Photo Credit: yuré