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The Informed Parent

Is Mediocrity Really Our Goal In Parenting?

by John H. Samson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Nov. 01, 2015

We live in an era where a bruised psyche must be avoided. I agree with keeping your child’s self-image robust. But we must not avoid the bruises to the point of producing mediocrity.

It seems the hallmark of good child direction is to ask him or her to do the best he can. This makes ultimate sense because we can do no better than we are able. Unfortunately that is not what is being done. Instead, we are allowing the child to “do the best he wants”, not “the best he can”.

If the child performs as to the best he wants, he or she may, at the time in his life, only want to expend enough energy to achieve less than his best. At times that is fine. In development of skills and academic pursuits it may fall short of what is needed. The child then becomes discouraged at the lack of success and in fact, his self-image suffers.

The real question is knowing what your child’s potential is. In extreme cases it is easy. The significantly mental delayed child’s potential is obvious. In general, if the child is working to his or her potential, he will be satisfied with his achievement. The child that is working under his potential knows it and becomes dissatisfied, depressed or belligerent. The child who was once an integral part of the family becomes an outlier.

Sometimes the underachieving child is a victim of the current popular concept of “Do the best you can”. But the child proceeds doing the best he or she desires because of asking himself the wrong question. (Refer to article “Please Ask the Right Question”, July 2011) He is choosing the seemingly easy way out. Unfortunately the teacher or parent sees this as doing the best he can. Thus, he is not given a kind nudge to work harder within his potential.

I often hear “This current generation of young people don’t want to work hard”. In some cases, after doing ‘the best they can” for years, they believe the best they desire is the best they can. As parents, we know the adult world does not work this way.

Let’s prepare our children for the real world; one that allows enjoyment and relaxation when appropriate and doing the best you can when needed. Mediocrity is not what built America. In my practice experience, our teens and young adults are filled with the same drive and determination if guided to use it and not lead to believe mediocrity is adequate.

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