How to Raise Balanced Children

balance

Balance is a tricky thing. Being moms, one thing we all strive for is balanced kids. One thing I struggle with, or at least am conscience of, is not wanting to my kids to have an unrealistic view of themselves.  Yes, I want them to have high self esteem, and I want them to believe they can accomplish anything they set their minds to – but I don’t want them disillusioned into thinking they are the best at everything they do, especially without working toward it. They aren’t the best. None of us are – someone is always going to be a faster runner, more talented artist, better singer, more skilled dancer, etc than you are. One thing that I think home schoolers suffer from more than public school students is the fantasy that they are the BEST at everything they do. When there aren’t other students to be compared to, and when mom and dad rave over EVERYTHING, it can warp their self image.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to get rebuked for wanting to crush kid’s confidence, that is not my point.  At all.  I gush over what my kids do, and I think it would be cruel not to. Our precious children need all they encouragement they can get. However, leading kids to believe they are always the best is not doing them any favors either.  I think that an advantage of students in a traditional  school atmosphere is they get to see that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Timmy might be the worst speller in class, but he’s the fastest runner. Or Suzy might be the best at math, but can’t draw a stick figure in art.  I think it’s healthy to see we all have different talents, and it doesn’t make anyone better or more valuable than anyone else. Learning that you are not the best at everything, and that you will experience failures in life is a lesson I that I think is learned easier when you are young.  Kids whose parents have led them to believe they are the most talented singer/writer/athlete etc are in for a world of hurt when they realize for the first time that they, in fact, are not the best.

When you are home schooled and there is no curve of comparison, it’s easier to get a big head. There is a difference between being confident in yourself, and having a false sense of your talents.  It’s all balance. There needs to be a happy medium.  I want my kids to have self-confidence, I want them to know they are capable……but they will still need to work hard in everything – sports and academics as well.

When I was a kid, I begged my parents to let me take ballet, I had dreams of being a ballerina. I know now that I am not flexible or graceful enough to amount to much of a dancer, but I enjoyed dancing.  I still do.  My teacher wasn’t exactly nice, and this was before the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality.  It was more of a “if you can’t do it – tough” method of teaching.  I couldn’t do pique turns across the floor and I didn’t get any help or encouragement either, that’s for sure. If she had bothered to learn my name or if even one person had said, “Good job” I might have enjoyed it and continued. Instead I was miserable and quit after one semester. Would it have helped me to have someone let me believe I was the world’s best dancer? NO. Absolutely not! It would have likely caused embarrassment and disappointment later in life. Would it have helped an awkward 10 year old gain some confidence to have even one person say, “You can do it!”? Yes, absolutely. There needs to be a middle ground, somewhere that we encourage and build up our children, without letting them believe they are skilled at everything.

Maybe the solution would be to not reward them for ability, but for work ethic instead?  I don’t have an answer, I just think there is problem. Two problems, really –  kids feeling they don’t measure up, and kids with delusional self images. I try to praise my kids for working hard and improving, rather than just praise them for the final result. For example, when they do well on a spelling test I’ll tell them I appreciate how hard they worked on studying their spelling list, instead of telling them they are the world’s best speller.  Another thing I do is not tell my kids what I think.  I don’t want them to crave MY approval. When they draw a picture instead of saying, “Oh I love it.” I say things like, “Wow, I can tell YOU really enjoyed drawing that”.  I’ve tried to do it as often as possible. Of course I don’t do it every time, but I do make a conscious effort to have my kids notice their feelings, and allow them to figure out what they enjoy doing. I want them to try their best and work towards their own feeling of accomplishment, not to impress me or because they think they need my approval. I will be here to encourage them and make sure they DO have someone rooting for them, so they won’t have an experience like my ballet class, and yet I want them to be grounded enough to realize they will not be the best at everything they try in life.  And that’s OK, too.

Balance – it’s a tricky thing and I definitely don’t have all the answers. I think I may have more questions than answers. I do know lying or letting a child think they are gifted in areas that they aren’t is not the right thing to do.  The best thing I think we can all do is encourage our kids, and promote hard work. Make sure they know your affection and approval doesn’t need to “earned”, and make sure they know their self worth isn’t measured by their talents….or lack thereof.

About jenna

Jenna has been an oilfield wife for over 12 years. Her Hot Oil Man husband started working in the oilfield a few months before they were married. The oilfield has lead them all the way from Northern CO to Alaska, where they've lived in the Matanuska Valley for 4 years. The family consists of their two children; a strong-willed daughter age 10, and a goofy son age 7. And of course what family would be complete without a couple of dogs and rabbits thrown in the mix. Jenna is a stay at home mom who doesn't “stay at home” much, and enjoys gardening, baking, reading, watching movies, four wheeling, hiking, fishing, and LOVES shopping. Since moving to the last frontier they have also started home schooling, which is another adventure all it’s own.

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