Encouraging your kids to do their best - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-05-2011, 09:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you do it?  DD1 will go back and forth between trying really hard and doing what I know is her best and her doing a really half-a$$ job.  It is really apparent in her drawings and writing.  She rushes through things all the time. 

 

My question is how to encourage her to slow down and work up to her potential?  She is in Odyssey of the Mind and she has sometimes done really well.  But other times her drawings are scribbles.  Her ideas are great, but she doesn't execute them as well as she might.  Her teacher at school has mentioned that she has noticed this as well.

 

I don't want to be too hard on her.  At this point, I just remind her to work slowly and do her best.  She is in a Montessori school and I don't always agree with the lax attitude.  They don't seem to care about the end result.  I don't think it is a bad idea to push kids a bit.  Her teacher says she notices, but she doesn't really DO anything. 

 

Am I being too hard on her?  She is seven and the oldest. 

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Old 03-05-2011, 12:57 PM
 
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She's 7. I'd relax a bit. Our son has done this in the past. The truth of the matter is, if he cares, he'll do a good job. If he doesn't, he won't. What motivates your daughter? How important are the things that she's rushing through?


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Old 03-05-2011, 07:11 PM
 
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i am the opposite of you. i encourage my dd to be lax. when she tells me she got the best behaviour award at school - i asked her did she have fun while being on her best behavour, or was she even tryng to be on her best behav. i dont want her to win the best behav. i want her to do what it takes to have fun at school. 

 

same thing when she gets an A. her teacher goes gaga over it. i tell her i'd be happy with a C as long as she was having a lot of fun doing whatever she was doing. 

 

society always insists on doing your best. the ads are all about doing your best. everywhere all around are talking about doing your best. i want to talk the other language. do you always have to do your best. or should u do it when its needed. 

 

at 7 no way would i ever talk to her about fulfilling about her potential. does she not do that when she is doing something when she is interested in it. at 7 and even 8 it really isnt about teh end product. it is about the process. 


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Old 03-07-2011, 03:26 PM
 
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I don't think you're being too hard on her. It is important to me that I foster the desire to make the best effort in my son who will soon be five. When he rushes through something and I see he's not really trying to do his best I will sometimes have him redo it or do more. I will ask him if he thinks he can do better or what he thinks he can do better as well so I can help him develop the self-reflection aspect of improving and meta-cognition. It's becoming kind of our family motto - that we do the best we can - and my husband and I both try to model it. We don't force him or anything like that so if he says it's his best work we take that at face value for the moment and just reiterate that it's important to try. If we are there when he misses the mark we tell him that it's okay but to try again. 

 

Some might feel like he is too young but I believe that the habits of mind he builds now are the ones that he'll keep. Trying your best is a form of self-discipline that I think that is important too.

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Old 03-07-2011, 05:04 PM
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Totally understand wanting the child to do their best.  How does this correlate with being careful, going slow, being perfect?  My son LOVES to draw and write creatively (as in make up his own font style practically), and I can tell he is partly motivated by how things look, but he is also motivated by how things feel.  Art and drawing have an element of movement, and they are capturing dynamic ideas in a static picture.  I have watched my son, and he makes sound effects, and swoops and swipes on the page as the action plays out in 2D. 

 

So my point, I guess, is that at this age, maybe it isn't about end product but process.  My son can look at some his vortexes, really, and know exactly what it is about and what they are doing in the picture.  Go figure. Maybe your daughter's work is not perfect for others, but she capturing what she can of her mind and intentions in the best possible form for her, in this one moment.


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Old 03-07-2011, 06:05 PM
 
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I always encourage my DS (3yo) to "do his best work". He goes to a Montessori school and his teacher will encourage him to "choose challenging work" also. I want the vocabulary to be there now, so that as he matures, (hopefully) the principle will stick with him. I want him to choose to do things he enjoys, and will encourage activities that interest him, but at the same time I would never tell him to just have fun at karate, for example, no matter the cost. If he wasn't interested enough in it to want to try his best or learn more about it, then I probably need to direct him to a different activity.


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Old 03-07-2011, 06:23 PM
 
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As someone who has often been paralyzed by perfectionism, I think there's a lot to be said for realizing that you don't always have to do your best.  In fact, your very best effort is very rarely what's called for, especially with schoolwork.  You don't want your daughter to agonize over making her printing as perfect as it can be, throwing away the page and starting over every time she makes a tiny mistake.  You don't want her to spend an hour coming up with the perfect phrasing for a 3-sentence story and then another hour drawing and re-drawing the illustration.  You don't really want her to do her best, you just want her to put in what you consider a reasonable amount of effort.  It sounds like she is willing to put that effort into her work sometimes.  If she feels comfortable doing less at other times, at least you can have the satisfaction of knowing she already understands something other people may not learn until adulthood - that you can choose to do less than your best.

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Old 03-07-2011, 07:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post

As someone who has often been paralyzed by perfectionism, I think there's a lot to be said for realizing that you don't always have to do your best.  In fact, your very best effort is very rarely what's called for, especially with schoolwork.  You don't want your daughter to agonize over making her printing as perfect as it can be, throwing away the page and starting over every time she makes a tiny mistake.  You don't want her to spend an hour coming up with the perfect phrasing for a 3-sentence story and then another hour drawing and re-drawing the illustration.  You don't really want her to do her best, you just want her to put in what you consider a reasonable amount of effort.  It sounds like she is willing to put that effort into her work sometimes.  If she feels comfortable doing less at other times, at least you can have the satisfaction of knowing she already understands something other people may not learn until adulthood - that you can choose to do less than your best.


This is why I don't decide what's good enough. I simply ask him if it was his best work. If every thing is upside down and backwards from what I would expect, but it's his best work, then I'm happy with it and he should be too.

 


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Old 03-07-2011, 08:02 PM
 
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I think Daffodil hit it right on the head. I would observe like you might do with a painting (you used a lot of red right here and I see these blue swirls in this corner) and then give her room to talk about it. Observe when she seems really engaged in something and observe when she puts a lot of effort into something. You know sometimes we can work and work really hard at something (say sewing a dress) but still screw up even though we're really really trying hard (and have to rip out all the seams). Other times, things can seem effortless and easy and be excellent. I don't think "your best" is really always a great thing to strive for. And I agree that "your best" can lead to "shoulds" as in how hard you "should" work and maybe you didn't do what you "should" which is really not IMO the best way of looking at things. I don't think it's all about having fun, either, but I think it's about being self-aware and thinking things through (if I don't feel like putting my clothes in the hamper and I throw them on the floor, I'm just going to have to pick them up later) and reaching a point where you're satisfied with the effort that you put into something. Sooooo... I'd make an observation about the work and then ask if the child feels satisfied and go from there.


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Old 03-07-2011, 08:04 PM
 
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I struggle with this myself - dd is also 7 and shows signs of perfectionism in some ways (and her dad is  and my dad was like that and it's not a quality I want to foster)

I hate to see stuff done half-a$$ but, like others have said there is tremendous value in knowing what is "good enough" - In fact i have always prided myself on that particular

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Right now I have said very little - I also don't want her to feel judged on every little thing - if her work seems overly messy and rushed I have made comments about it seeming that way but don't make a big deal of it... I actually wish her teachers would demand a little more of her in that regard, but in comparison to her peers she's doing well so I can see why they don't...

 

One of the many lines that's difficult to navigate...

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Old 03-09-2011, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess I see a pretty big difference between a person's best effort and perfection.  My artistic ability is limited.  If I painted a life portrait, it may be my best effort, but it would be far from perfect.  I might even be awful.  

 

Maybe I just don't understand because I am not a perfectionist in most things.  I am an over achiever, for sure, though.  I see my brother just do the bare minimum at 14 and I just can't support that.  My mom never pushed any of us.  I had to figure it out on my own.  

 

And I have to disagree that it is appropriate to do your less than your best.  Doing your best may change, depending on a lot of factors.  If you are depressed, you can only give so much.  But to just do what you know is a poor job doesn't make sense to me.  I don't want to teach my kids to "get by".  I want them to have tons of possibilities open to them.  I feel like I am laying the ground work for their future work ethic now and that's important.

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Old 03-09-2011, 06:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by june'smom View Post

I guess I see a pretty big difference between a person's best effort and perfection.  My artistic ability is limited.  If I painted a life portrait, it may be my best effort, but it would be far from perfect.  I might even be awful.  

 

Maybe I just don't understand because I am not a perfectionist in most things.  I am an over achiever, for sure, though.  I see my brother just do the bare minimum at 14 and I just can't support that.  My mom never pushed any of us.  I had to figure it out on my own.  

 

And I have to disagree that it is appropriate to do your less than your best.  Doing your best may change, depending on a lot of factors.  If you are depressed, you can only give so much.  But to just do what you know is a poor job doesn't make sense to me.  I don't want to teach my kids to "get by".  I want them to have tons of possibilities open to them.  I feel like I am laying the ground work for their future work ethic now and that's important.


you mean you expect the kids to do their best all the time? ALL the time? there are days you do just enough to get by. i myself cant do the best all the time.

 

however my experience is with perfectionism. i have seen ex getting headaches from focusing too much. and now i see dd doing it too and she started her headaches recently. so i have to constantly remind her she doesnt always have to perform to her fullest capacity. 

 

its a moment to moment thing. you do the 'best you can' but know that sometimes you cant. and see what you can change. but mostly relax. you dont always have to make the best cake, the best grade, the best .... you only need to do it at certain times. 

 

in my experience i am finding people are finding it hard to relax because they always have to be the best at anything all the time. that is a dangerous frame of mind for a perfectionist. 

 

i teach my dd to do teh best she can at the moment. the key words here are 'best she can at that moment'. she might do better sometimes, and worse at other times. but it doesnt mean just coz she got an A one time she has to get an A all the time. maybe one day her best might be a C. and that's ok. under the circumstances. 

 

i have to help dd find a balance. otherwise she always sets a really high mark and expects that of her friends too. she is finally getting somewhat that that is not always the best way to be, and not a realistic expectation. 

 


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Old 03-09-2011, 06:17 PM
 
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And I have to disagree that it is appropriate to do your less than your best.  Doing your best may change, depending on a lot of factors.  If you are depressed, you can only give so much.  But to just do what you know is a poor job doesn't make sense to me.  I don't want to teach my kids to "get by".  I want them to have tons of possibilities open to them.  I feel like I am laying the ground work for their future work ethic now and that's important.


Oh, I have come across plenty of things where I think doing my best is not warranted.  It's important to figure out what and when your best (or half decent) effort is worth while.  I never do my best when raking leaves.  It simply isn't worth it, lol.  I know people who never finish the seams when sewing children's clothes because their kids grow too fast for it to be worth the time to "do it right."  Getting by is an underrated skill.  In high school, I frequently had to consciously decide on which projects I was going to expend my energy.  Some required a ton of effort and were worth a small fraction of my grade while others required less effort and were worth a greater amount.  Honestly, I don't think the teachers gave that much thought into how much time their projects would take.    I could have worked harder on more things but sometimes I decided the difference between a B and an A wasn't worth sacrificing sleep and family time.  When making things to sell, it's important to realize what parts of the process are worth the effort.  If you spend too much effort making your pottery perfect, you can't charge enough for your time.  And like a bad business, you go under.  Always trying to do your best is a very idealistic and unpractical approach to life.  


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Old 03-09-2011, 06:53 PM
 
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And I have to disagree that it is appropriate to do your less than your best. 

 

I'm going to have to disagree with this along with several other PPs. One way to think of it is like doing your very best is like running a flat-out sprint as fast as you can and doing less than your best is more like jogging around the block or even walking or strolling or occasionally just sitting it out under a nice shady tree. You don't always need to be "doing your best" and running as fast as you can. Sometimes you certainly do, but if you do it all the time you're going to be one tired, burned out, stressed out person. It's okay to amble sometimes and sometimes you really do need to give it your all, but it's an important life skill to know how to differentiate between the two.

 

My brother sounds like the opposite of your brother in some ways and he can be an insufferable self-righteous domineering prat. I'd much rather have to deal with someone who's easy going.

 

I don't think many posters here advocated doing a poor job although sometimes I do think that's okay, depending on the circumstances. For example, my hand-writing can be pretty good at times if I really slow down and take my time with it, and if I were writing an invitation or a thank you note, I'd take the time to do my best, but if I'm writing a grocery list all I really need to aim for is legible, y'know? It doesn't have to be calligraphy or anything.

 

For kids, I think it's really important to help them learn to differentiate between situations where they really do need to do their best (important school project, etc) and situations where it's not that important. For example, my 7 yr old first grader is really doing pretty well academically in both reading and math, but she still has number reversals in her writing. I don't correct these every time when she's working on actually doing the math. If she's trying to do some double digit addition or subtraction, me telling her that she needs to stop and fix the way she wrote the digit just interrupts the flow of her mathematical thinking. I do make note of it, "Oops, that 2 is turned around backwards, but I know what you meant. See if you can turn it around the other way next time." But I don't make her stop what she's doing in addition or subtraction to fix the handwriting issue. The important thing in this exercise is doing the math, not writing prettily. What could happen if I harped on the reversals is she would stop and become really upset that it's not perfect and miss the math part. She can write her numbers the right way and if she's just counting and writing down numbers I do encourage her to fix it, but she doesn't always need to do her best number-writing when something more important like math-learning is going on. That's my take on it at any rate.


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