Monday, November 14, 2011

Do Your Best

"I promise to do my best..." These words are the beginning of the Cub Scouts promise. "Do Your Best" is the Cub Scouts motto. Do you best, not be the best. It's a difficult concept for some kids (and adults) to understand. It's a concept that Jonas is wrestling with right now.

He came home with a mark of 41% on his math test last week. He was very disappointed. "I failed again!" he told me with tear filled eyes when I asked him how it went.

Tonight he got to present the Wolf head totem during the closing ceremony at Cubs. He didn't do it right.  "Well, that was a totally epic fail!" blurted out one of the other Cubs.

Fail. It's a tough word. It's so complete. So final. So unforgiving.

Being THE BEST is similarly rigid and uncompromising. Being the best means that you have to be better than everyone else. Very often it also sets the expectation of being perfect. Another ugly side effect is that it can very easily morph into an attitude of "Why even try if I can't be perfect?"

When Jonas responded tonight by saying that he never wants to do the closing at Cubs again, I was disheartened. At eight years old, I don't want him to be scared of trying something because he's afraid of failing. The foundations of his self-talk are still being set. I'd like to help him make that little voice in his head a positive one. Tuning out the negative comments is tough, especially when it's coming from yourself.

How do you teach your child that it's OK not to be perfect, that doing their very best is all we expect of him? How do we teach him that the expectation bar hovers up and down, and that he has his very own bar that has nothing to do with anyone else, without teaching him to make excuses?

The truth is that I just don't know. I don't know if we have the power to fight against a world that judges him based on his results. We praise effort over results. We commiserate with him when he doesn't see the pay off of his efforts, and try to help him figure out ways to improve next time. We help him to understand that there will aways be a next time and try to encourage hope in him. And we hold our breath and hope that the fear of failure doesn't take hold in him.


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