As parents who love our kids whether they win or lose, it is easy to fall into the “just do your best” trap. We have heard it so many times from our own parents, coaches and teachers that we impulsively regurgitate the same to our own children without any regard to the real impact it causes. So, my own “coaching” tactics were turned upside-down when my husband suggested that encouraging children to do their best might actually be bad advice!? He makes a pretty strong case and I thought I would share it with you. Here is some food for thought.
When Their Best Isn’t Good Enough
None of us want to be one of those over-demanding parents living their glory days through their own children. So, in an effort to remove pressure and build their self-esteem, we tell our children “You can only do your best,” or “As long as you do your best, I will be so proud of you.” This of course makes us feel very good. We are displaying our unconditional love, and that is a good thing.
However, there must be balance. The cold hard truth is that sometimes our kids’ best isn’t good enough. In fact, sometimes it is down right pathetic. And instead of pretending that “pathetic” is great as long as it is the very best pathetic that they are capable of, we might do better to encourage them to work a little harder. Heaven forbid we point out the obvious, “Your best isn’t good enough. YOU CAN DO BETTER!”
Doing Their Worst
My husband’s junior year in high school, he was favored to win the Virginia State Wrestling Championship. He had beaten the previous State Champion three times prior to the State Championships, including a few weeks prior in the district finals. Each time my husband had a decisive victory. However when it mattered the most, the returning State Champion beat my husband and retained the State Championship title. For months, my husband felt cheated! He played the match over and over in his mind, imagining that the slightest thing might have thrown the match.
Did the referee make a bad call? What if he had warmed up longer, or warmed up less? If only he had gotten a better night’s rest or eaten a healthier breakfast. One thing was certain – my husband hadn’t wrestled his best that day and he would have died for a rematch! He might have felt cheated for the rest of his life if it wasn’t for a close friend pointing out this simple truth: By definition, if you could achieve your best performance every time, it wouldn’t be your best. Meaning, one’s best is something that can’t be counted on. Therefore, every competitor should hope for an average performance and train to ensure that their average is better than their competition’s best.
So the next time you go to encourage your children to “just do their best,” remember that “CHAMPIONS DO THEIR WORST AND WIN ANYWAY!”