Tag Archives: Parenting
Last night at karate Braden had a big win. It wasn’t against another kid, nor was it by breaking a board. For me, it was even better than that, because it reflected a parenting achievement as well. The interesting thing about this achievement was that it came from me taking myself OUT of the picture. Here’s the story.
I have posted about being a Ninja Parent and Perfectionist Dad in the past. Both of these were mistakes I made that I tried to remedy. At Braden’s karate lessons, I had been making too many comments and giving too many looks when he would make mistakes. Yes, I knew better, but sometimes we all get caught up in the moment.
I clearly saw the negative effects of my critical eye in the way Braden performed. He constantly looked over at me to see if I was happy or unsatisfied with him.
His frequent glances cost him. He lost sparring points and got punched and kicked when he looked over to see my reactions. During form practices, he missed instructions, got distracted and lost his spot.
In the Perfectionist Dad post I explained how difficult it can be for kids when nothing is ever good enough for their parents. It’s easier if we can pick one bite-sized goal to work on. I had done this with Braden and usually asked him in the car what HIS goal was for the lesson. I did not to judge or evaluate. It was his goal, not mine.
However, we still had the problem with dad distraction whenever I came to watch. His teacher commented on it one day when he performed far below his skill level: “Braden, one day you won’t need to look at your dad because you’ll already know what he thinks when you do your techniques.”
I decided to back off even more. We created a hand signal together. When he sparred or did forms, I would subtly shade my eyes with my hand like a visor. For him, this meant, “Don’t look at me.” For me, it meant, “No comments—verbal or nonverbal.” If he looked, he would see the reminder. He should focus on his moves, his targets, and the instructor. Nothing else. I even stopped asking him about his goals. I had to let it go.
Last night, I stayed at the lesson, and was amazed by his focus. He practiced a new, very complex form with the bo staff and made several mistakes. Still, he kept his eyes forward and made corrections according to Mr. Carnahan’s instructions. I didn’t say anything at the moment, but when we got home, I mentioned it.
His answer: “THAT was my goal.”
I’m a perfectionist. It’s part of my personality. My standards are impossibly high. I can’t help it. It’s difficult for me if I don’t manage it, but for my kids’ it’s a living hell.
There are many people who have high standards, attention to detail, and a persistent dedication to quality…but that’s not perfectionism. My Jung Typology is INFP. I’m an idealist. If I’m not careful, I will NEVER judge anything as ideal. I just keep wanting things and people to be better. Nothing is good enough
No matter how careful I try to be, sometimes my son falls victim to my out-of-whack standards. Little boys always want their daddies to be proud of them, and he knows that I am. However, he also knows when I’m not satisfied. I’m not talking about when he has done something mean to his brother or made a mistake. I’m talking about when he has done something GOOD and my inner perfectionist thinks it’s not good enough.
It happened at karate the other day. My seven-year-old had a long day, and he was tired. He went to karate anyway, and he was a little slow and dull throughout. After the lesson, he came out the door, looked at me and said, “Sorry.” He thought I was disappointed in him. I realized I had been wearing an unimpressed stare throughout the lesson. I think I had even thrown in a few head shakes. It was a poignant moment.
So what’s a perfectionist parent to do? We all love to watch our kids do their best, right? After all, it’s a competitive world out there. If they don’t get top grades, make the “A” team and keep up with the pack, they’ll never make it, right?
Wrong. There are some very good reasons why our hyper-achievement culture isn’t healthy and may actually produce the opposite of what we really want. For more on this, take a look at the above trailer for Race to Nowhere.
Here are some thoughts for us perfectionists to remember if we want to keep ourselves from projecting the wrong message to our kids:
- “Good enough” is a responsible option.
- Our children’s performance should not define our success or identity.
- Making mistakes is ESSENTIAL for healthy learning and development.
- It’s O.K. to just participate (and not win).
- Realize the hypocrisy of the phrase, “I just want you to do your best.”
- Let them define their best rather than you.
- Show them they belong and are loved when they lose and under-perform.
Practical strategies for perfectionists:
- Since nothing will ever satisfy our need for perfection, we need to clearly define realistic goals in partnership with our kids so that they can know when they have succeeded. For instance, my son can choose one skill to improve on at karate and feel good about rather than feeling like he needs to be Bruce Lee then entire lesson.
- Focus on the process by asking them to think about something that worked and something that didn’t.
- End the day by sharing the three best things from the day (you too) without any evaluation (just acceptance).
- Instead of only celebrating successes, surprise your kids by going out to celebrate THEM sometime when their effort was less than par.
A New York Times article last fall reported about a company, Youth Sports Live, which is set up to broadcast events like your kid’s Little League game live via webcams at local fields. Of the generally negative responses to the idea that I read, I noticed two different camps: Some said it’s bad because parents aren’t involved enough with their kids. Others said it’s bad because parents are already TOO involved with their kids’ sports.
Nobody said, “I don’t want to make it to all of my kid’s little league games.”
What!? Are you serious? I’m not going to get nominated for parent of the year these days if I tell someone I have something to do that’s more important than my son’s little league game. But the truth of the matter is that my kid has a better chance at growing up psychologically strong and healthy if I miss a few games because of work, tight schedules, or even to mow the lawn.
Asking parents why they think they SHOULD go to their kids’ sporting events can reveal some assumptions:
- If I don’t go to my kid’s games, I’ll look bad.
- If I don’t go to my kid’s games, he won’t know I love him.
- If I don’t go to my kid’s games, it will hurt her feelings.
- If I don’t go to my kids’ games, they’ll be psychologically damaged.
The truth of the matter is:
- Parenting based on how we will appear to others is a bad idea.
- Missing a game encourages my child to understand all of the other tangible ways we love each other.
- It’s okay to hurt my kid’s feelings sometimes. Kids shouldn’t grow up thinking they’re too special to offend or that they are more important than everything else. Pampering them robs the chance to gain inner strength.
- Kids are resilient. Psychological health (confidence, control, coping, teamwork) grows by facing challenges and learning how to deal with them ON THEIR OWN. It’s actually damaging to my kid’s development if I’m always there.
Besides that, it’s very empowering for kids to have a hobbies that are THEIR hobbies. When they pursue involvement or even excellence at a sport, we don’t give them a chance to own it if we’re too involved. When we let them be on their own with their team, they have the chance to truly bond with them and build friendships that can be inhibited under the watchful eye of parents.
For the record, there are good reasons for parents to go to kid’s games:
- It’s fun to watch them play.
- It’s a nice way to get out of the house, spend time outside, and encourage physical activity.
- Kids like it when they can show off their skill to us.
- Connecting with and talking to other parents is important.
- It’s healthy to talk with kids about the game, sportsmanship, winning, and losing.
- It’s nice to spending time together.
Here are also some reccomened dos and don’ts”
- DON’T say you’ll be there and then NOT show up.
- DON’T make a lame excuse instead of apologizing for unexpectedly not showing up.
- DO spend other quality time to make-up for time lost.
The pressure is always on to be the über-parent. Whenever we feel like we “should” be doing something, it’s smart to ask ourselves, “Why do I feel this way?” and then, “Does the answer really make sense?”