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Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My little girl is six and decidedly mediocre. She showed me an awful scribbled picture she drew and said, “Isn’t this special?” I asked what was special about it to her. She told me it’s special because her teacher told her so.
Then she started watching a mindless TV show. I said we should do a craft, hoping I could instill some effort from her, but, no. She glued a toothpick to a piece of paper and said it was special and to tape it to the refrigerator door. I’m stunned by her lack of pride and care about anything she does. I couldn’t showcase it.
She strikes out at T-ball and doesn’t care. She never tries to do chores well. I want to appreciate her efforts, but I can’t say anything, except, “I love you.”
My husband says I’m too hard on her and says she’ll try more when she’s older. Why would she try harder when she receives praise and participation certificates, no matter what?
Our other daughter is five and bends over backward trying hard, but I don’t want to compare them.
Mom of a Happily Mediocre Child
Parents all over are sighing as they read this letter, not that it’ll make you feel better.
For decades, meaningless certificates and praise have taken the place of hard-earned and deserved acclamation.
The reason? Politically-correct dogma, which says everyone must feel worthy. It has, instead, been disingenuous and lacks integrity, which you possess.
If you keep helping her practice consistent efforts, while developing her talents, and being a positive, fun, and proactive example, you may ignite her passion for working hard and receiving well-deserved accolades. She’ll especially like the feeling of increased self-esteem, instead of the lack of self-worth that comes with accepting mediocrity.
We’re a culture confused over what competition is and isn’t. Teach her it’s honorable to compete with herself, and others, as long as it’s done civilly – with care, consideration, and courtesy. There’s no value in creating a snowflake society, which some parents are doing.
Any success or talent development (intellectual, spiritual, physical, or financial) takes mountains of work, tons of failure, and oceans of loving parents cheering on their children, rewarding honest and excellent work.
Our belief is that children are worthy, good, and special, simply because they are children of an all-loving God. But, whatever your belief system, we must have integrity when distributing tribute and rewards.
Charles Dickens wrote, “The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.”
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri