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You Can Only Reinforce What’s There

February 17th, 2011 by Markus Lefkovits

There is nothing inherently wrong with expecting good performance in school from your children. Yet, for some kids, it can actually do harm and backfire.

Some kids do NOT benefit from academic pressure at home. Some children interpret strong performance in school with personal acceptance and love from their parents. In other words, they work hard in school in order to feel accepted and loved by Mom or Dad—although children will never verbalize it this way.

If you’re concerned with your son or daughter’s future, examine how your expectations impact their self-esteem and personal confidence.

Are you pushing too hard?

Everyone wants their kids to perform well in school. But there’s more to life than academics. If you expect straight A’s, and a sports star, and a piano prodigy—step back, slow down, and look in the mirror. Some of this desire to see our children be über-achievers actually comes from our own desire to live through them. Some parents measure their parenting success by the college their children go to—regardless of the struggle their kids may endure to get into that school.

Children’s motivation to perform well in school comes from within them and from modeling their parents’ habits. So concentrate on setting a good example. Are you obsessed with “getting to the next level” in your own endeavors or are you enjoying the talents and skills that are uniquely yours and showing your kids what a healthy level of self-esteem and personal acceptance looks like?

But what about college?

Today, colleges are setting higher standards for acceptance simply because they can afford to be choosy. Consequently parents feel it’s imperative their kids get strong grades and high test scores—and push them to achieve at all costs. But what if your child is not getting stellar grades or meeting the requirements of universities?  Even if your son or daughter is earning a decent B grade average, they still might not get into college because their grades are too low.

IF you still push and push for 4.0 performance, you could be committing a felony in the world of child rearing and heading down a path guaranteed to generate low self esteem and sometimes depression.

Some people might think the Tiger Mom approach produces strong performers , but does it help a child grow up with a positive sense of self and the confidence to tackle life’s problems that he or she is sure to encounter—whether in college or on the job or at home?

It’s not a crime; it’s your kid’s interests

It is not unusual to see some students excel in school when their home life is total chaos. Others become marginal achievers because they are completely affected by a chaotic home life.  But some kids are just more interested in subjects other than traditional academics, whether they have a chaotic or “normal” home life. Where does your child fit in?

It’s going to take some attention to the matter on your part to discover the truth.

What should we do?

For those of you looking for the magic pill to motivate your children to excel in something that they have no interest, stop knocking yourself out. Go attend to your own interests, excel in them, and hope that your children take notice of your activity.

The secret to helping your child pick a path to success is to listen to them very carefully. If they don’t want to study history and consequently get poor grades in that subject, then it’s their business. Is it really necessary to get an A or B in history in this scenario?  NO.

The rule of thumb is: you can only reinforce what is already there.

If your kid would rather play their guitar and record music, then encourage them to be the best in that field.  Always encourage their interests and their strengths, and you’ll be giving them the best gift you can give—love and acceptance and encouragement.

That combination has created some of the most solid individuals we have in this world.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Markus

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