One of the most difficult challenges Julia and I face is how in the world do we raise a kid right? It is SO tough! When you see other people, you get a million different examples of what to do. But, even with the best intentions and the greatest plan, living that plan out consistently on a daily basis is exhausting and doesn’t guarantee good results!
One of the things we try to focus on A LOT is teaching Eli to have good character. It’s a difficult thing to teach…especially to an 8 year old. When I hear him share about his day with things like, “I told ____ that I was smarter than him because I’m in the gifted program” or I see how he bosses other kids around when playing with them, it makes me cringe. As we work with him on things, I am constantly reminding myself “remember what YOU were like and the tactless things you said and did when YOU were 8!” That helps me to have perspective and not get too frustrated, but I don’t want that to prevent us from setting the bar high.
So, one of the things we struggle with is…how do we encourage good character rather than good results. Whenever Eli accomplishes something good (winning an award, good report card, etc), we always make sure to let him know how proud we are of him. However, we go out of our way to remind him how much we love him just for who he is…not for whatever he accomplished. As much as it sounds cliche, I would MUCH rather him get last place in a swim meet having given it his all with a great attitude than get first place and be rude to others or not have tried hard. Swimming is just swimming, but what I’m concerned about is his HEART, not his results.
I believe by focusing too much on results, that sends the message that WITHOUT the results they are not loved or appreciated. That tells them, it’s not THEM that you love, but rather it is what they can do. But character is something that will define them for the rest of their lives. By nurturing that now, it can be something that stays with them forever.
Recently we had a great day with Eli. He came home from school with a perfect report card. Of course, we were excited about it and told him we were proud. Then, after school he had a tennis lesson. To give you the background…we’ve had a tough time at tennis lessons recently. He has been prone to goofing off, not paying attention, and being silly. This has been frustrating to the coach and us and we’ve been trying to work with Eli on realizing it and making changes. So on this day, he had a FABULOUS lesson. He was focused, respectful to the coach, and made an huge effort to be encouraging to the other kids there whenever they were hitting. After the lesson, the coach specifically mentioned how awesome Eli did and how kind and respectful he was. We were SO happy! It gave us such joy to see and hear that. Later than night, Julia and I decided we wanted to reward him for his amazing day, but rather than do it for the good grades he achieved, we wanted to reward him for the awesome character and behavior he showed at tennis. So, I left him a note and a pack of Pokemon cards for him to find when he woke up…as a reward for the kindness he showed.
My advice to you:
The next time your kid achieves something good, make sure to praise them. But, make sure they know that you love them and are proud of them even without that accomplishment. And when you see them showing good character, try to praise them even more.