Recently, I was talking to a coaching client and we had a very thought provoking conversation about saying to kids, “All I expect is for you to do your best.” My defiant inner child responded by thinking, “What if I don’t want to do my best? Why do I always have to do my best? Do you always do your best?”
This “encouraging” comment of “Do your best” may actually be detrimental at times to kids. I believe parents think they are not pressuring kids with this statement. They think they are being accepting and encouraging. So instead of saying, “Get all A’s” we think that saying, “Do your best” instead is less pressure.
Is it though? Who is deciding what their best is? I often hear parents complain that their kids could do better; that they aren’t doing their best. So, I propose that this attempt at being “accepting” can actually make the child feel just as pressured and judged as hearing “You need to get A’s”
What if you said instead, “Sometimes you may feel like working hard and other times you may not want to work hard. This is normal. Let’s figure out what you need so you feel good about your work. Do you need more information, do you need to feel more excited, or do you need to exercise or take a break? What will help you think well of yourself and accomplish what you know you can do?”
Is fear coming up for you with what I have just written? Are you thinking, if I don’t push my child they won’t do anything. If I don’t control, they will just veg out.” I’ve open a bag of worms, haven’t I? We’re getting into the topics of fear, control, non stimulating learning environments, the innate inner desire to grow, and purpose of life, etc. These are too many topics to discuss in this article.
Let me leave you with the question I started with. What is the effect of telling your children, “Just do your best?” Does this encourage or discourage them? Watch your children’s responses to this statement. Do they shut down and go into themselves or get upset with you? Start to discuss “Just do your best” in your home.
©2013 Cynthia Klein has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with dads, moms and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, webinars, and private parent coaching sessions. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and writes the Middle School Mom column for the magazine Parenting on the Peninsula. Contact Cynthia at bridges 2 understanding, bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com or call 650. 341.0779.