I will not tell my kids they can be anything they want to be.
I won’t tell them they can do anything they set their mind to.
I’m not willing to let them think that if they just work hard and practice they’ll achieve all their goals.
Because it’s just not true.
Not if their goals aren’t realistic. Not if they’ve been led to believe their talents are greater than they actually are. Not if they’ve never been told the truth.
No matter how much I wanted to be a famous singer, it wasn’t going to happen. There aren’t enough lessons and coaching and practice that could ever help me. I don’t have the skills to be a singer. If my parents had told me I could be a super star if I just tried hard enough, I would have been frustrated and devastated … and I would never have succeeded.
Rather than give my kids a pie-in-the-sky false sense of themselves and life, I prefer to honestly and gently guide them through reality. As a parent, I would much rather encourage my kids to focus on their strengths. By all means, try anything you’re interested in to see if it’s a good fit, but if it appears to be a non-starter after a solid effort, then move on to other things.
I’m not saying that I encourage them to be quitters. On the contrary, any time they’ve wanted to “try” something, I’ve made them finish and complete the commitment because that’s also an important lesson. You’ve got to finish what you’ve started; fulfill the commitment, but then move on if it’s not for you.
If my kid were to tell me he wants to be a doctor but faints at the sight of blood, I feel it’s my duty to send him in a different direction. Telling him that if he just tries hard enough he can do it is a cop-out. It’s avoiding the difficult conversation by not telling the truth. You can’t be a doctor if you hit the floor in an emergency or surgery situation.
My kids aren’t going to confidently audition for American Idol–or anything else–only to have the judges laugh at their performance. My kids will not stand in front of a panel of experts and say “but my mom told me I’m really good at this.”
We’ve become a society of parental yes-men because we’re trying to build ego. We’ve become back-patting lunatics. We’re creating praise junkies and spoiled brats who think they’re great at everything they do.
No one is good at everything they do. Not me. Not you. Not our parents. Not our kids.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. That’s reality. It’s the reason doctors specialize in a particular field. Could you imagine going to one doctor to get your teeth cleaned and then have open heart surgery?? No thank you; I want someone who is great in their specialty, not mediocre in a few.
Between the “participation trophies” and parents saying “Good Job!” like they’ve got diarrhea of the mouth, kids are growing up thinking that just showing up and breathing merits confetti cannons.
Last I checked, my boss wants me to do more than just show up and breathe. Hell, my kids expect me to do more than that. As parents we need to prepare our kids for that expectation. We need to help them be ready for the world.
I will not tell my kids their best effort makes them good at everything they do. I won’t celebrate expected behaviors to inflate their ego. I will not build false hope setting my kids up to fail.
I will encourage my kids to give their best effort in everything they do and support them in their endeavors and hobbies. I’ll celebrate their victories and tell them I’m proud of their achievements. I’ll build a sense of self-worth and pride in a job well done. I’ll let them make mistakes and fail and I’ll comfort them when they’re disappointed allowing them to learn the tough lessons. I’ll help them set realistic goals to help them become successful.
I love my kids more than anyone else on the face of this earth. I owe it to them to be the deliverer of the honest truth. Other people–classmates, teachers, coaches, teammates, colleagues, bosses, etc.–won’t be so kind. They aren’t emotionally invested in my kids and their well-being like I am. They won’t cushion their hurtful words or take the time to gently break the harsh reality to my kids. They’ll just launch the raw, cutting, honest truth.
I don’t want my kids to feel duped by me when the world tells them like it really is. I want my kids to know they can believe what I tell them … and I want them to hear the truth from me.
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