To be excellent in all that we do is an honorable aim. While I addressed issues with perfectionist thinking in last week’s post, I do not advocate a lowering of expectations, rather the setting of high and achievable ones that will stretch and grow your kids. High expectations are not the cause of stress in kids today. Rather kids get overwhelmed when they come to believe they are unable to please others, that expectations placed on them are unachievable: being perfect is unachievable.
To be excellent in everything we do however is worth pursuing. Consider the following statements about excellence:
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.
”If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
Charles R. Swindoll
”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
While perfectionist thinking can hinder success, other thinking errors stand in the way of excellence as well, many of which have to do with evading responsibility.
Here’s a few of them:
“It’s Not My Fault!”
The most common thinking error I see in kids today is the deceptively destructive and oddly addictive mindset of a victim. The more kids are allowed to get by with “it’s not my fault” when responsibilities are not met or they are challenged, the more this deception will serve to cripple every aspect of their lives, consuming energy and time and even destroying relationships. What they are really saying with “it’s not my fault” is that they are held hostage by people or circumstances. They are not free; nor are they responsible. Life happens to them. This prevalent cop-out sets kids up to shift blame:
“It’s their fault!”
If I can blame circumstances or someone else, it reduces my burden to change and I can (temporarily at least) feel better about myself. When something or someone else is at fault, I don’t have to assume responsibility and I can keep doing what I am doing. In addition I don’t have to face the pain of my own choices; nor do I see a need to repent. Victims also like to shift the focus:
“It’s because you ….”
If I can get you to focus on something different as you confront me, it takes the focus off my inappropriate behavior. It’s the art of distraction. I know of an adolescent girl who effectively discouraged her mother from confronting her by screaming each time, “you’re so mean.” She found the perfect button to push with her tender-hearted mom who could not bear to be considered mean. Her mom is learning to turn off her button and not react to – or get distracted by – her daughter’s effort to control her.
“I can’t believe you think so little of me!”
Accomplished victims learn to pull out the “I can’t believe you think so little of me” card. I hear simple statements from certain students who are caught cheating or lying: “Why would you possibly think that of me?” Not willing to assume any guilt, the parent or teacher is handed a guilt card to deal with instead. We all know people who pin us in the corner with similar statements, making it impossible to have an authentic relationship with them.
“It’s not fair.”
I am intrigued by the initial rounds especially in American Idol because character is often revealed, especially for those who do not get a “yellow ticket” to Hollywood. Some have likely been told for years how special they are and that they are entitled to their dreams which suddenly get shut down. “It’s not fair” they scream, when they do not get what they expect or what they believe they deserve.
What kids need to know is that disappointment is a part of life and not a sign that someone has dealt with them unfairly. How many times a day do you hear “it’s not fair” used? From preschool age kids through college, it is a phrase used multiple times a day. Yet, life really isn’t “fair” and there is little we can do about it except learn to respond wisely. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes are not fair. Famines and world hunger are not fair. Neither is it fair for a baby to be born with AIDS. It’s not fair that pop stars and pro athletes can make more money than a city of pastors or all the teachers in your school. Genetics are often not equally distributed and no amount of shouting “it’s not fair” will change it. What we can control however is our response to the fairness issue, which has a great deal to do with the person we become. Kids like to use “it’s not fair” when they are asked to own some responsibility. Learn to not react to, or be influenced by the use of “it’s not fair” in your home and your kids will benefit greatly. Oswald chambers stated what our standard should be beautifully when he wrote, “One of the great stirring truths of the Bible is that the man who looks for justice from others is a fool….Never waste your time looking for justice; if you do you will soon put yourself in bandages and give way to self-pity. Our business is to see that no one suffers from our injustice.” (The Quotable Oswald Chambers by David McCasland.)
So how can you promote a pursuit of excellence?
- Hold your kids responsible for their choices and actions and be very stingy in allowing the excuse “it’s not my fault.”
- Steadily maintain a “no blaming” policy in your home. The blame game has no winners.
- Your kid’s ability to make good choices must not be contingent upon the actions of others, or upon circumstances. A wrong does not make another wrong right. Making a wise choice is always an option.
- Do NOT fall for the guilt hook. Kids are masters at casting guilt at their parents and they know just the right bait to use.
- Expect your kids to get used to “life’s not fair.” Don’t try to justify or rationalize fairness to your kids. Expect them to accept it as a condition of living in this world that they can learn to respond to positively. Unfair circumstances provide them with opportunities to rise above circumstances and to seek the only One who is wholly faithful and just.
Great Resource Idea: It’s Not My Fault by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of the Boundary Series.
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