I really hope my children didn’t get this from me.
Fall is here, and the kids have started playing sports again. The boys are playing on the same team this time, which uses a pitching machine. The last (and only) two practices the machine operator has had the machine set rather high for boys their age, and Walter has to swing at shoulder level just to have a chance to hit. This has been very discouraging for him, as around here during the summer he’s been a bit hitter.
Tonight was their first game (no score is kept, and everyone gets a turn at bat), and he was moping around rather than being excited. When I asked him why he said he was sure he wouldn’t get a hit again. Fortunately his first time at bat he hit the ball and got on base, eventually rounding to home. Confidence restored, he was fine the rest of the game, even though he struck out his next two times at bat.
My younger son hit the ball twice. Rather than focusing on the fact that he’d hit more consistently than most of his team, he obsessed over the fact that both hits went right along the baseline toward first for an easy out. Never mind there were kids on both teams that never even hit the ball the entire game, he was upset he never got on base.
My daughter gets very upset if her art projects don’t turn out just right, and tears are common with her. Some of it may be pre-teen moodiness, but she can be very steady and cheerful one moment and bursting into tears the next over a minor error.
I don’t know where kids get the idea that they must be perfect. Life’s tough enough without that kind of pressure. I really hope it’s not something my wife and I have taught them. We do our best to remind them of their successes and improvement, but usually they just refuse to see it. It’s so natural for them to focus on what they lack rather than what they possess.
How do we get them over that? How do we help them strike that balance between accepting their weaknesses and trying their best always? The last thing I want is to be one of those bad movie parents who insist on nothing but perfection from their children and drive them into the ground to get it. I don’t want to live vicariously through my kids (even though they DO get to do some pretty fun things!) or use them as just another way to compete against other adults.
I just want to raise decent, well-adjusted human beings. It’s hard enough without them being hard on themselves.