Lower expectations

Honestly, this is going to sound lazy. But, a recent epiphany I had is why being relaxed and lowering expectations yields greater results. With grades, in sports, and with relationships, the way to bring success is to be prepared but also, and more importantly, just do it. Do it without giving setting the bar too high. Do it without making a plan on what has to happen. Yes, this goal-setting mama has witnessed firsthand the benefit in not worrying about the end result and just enjoying the race.

Anna miraculously completed her first 5k race last weekend. We had trained for months with the wonderful Girls on the Run program. And much like a good running program, the weeks of workouts prepare the young girls to have the endurance to complete 3.1 miles. But, Anna hasn’t been hardcore because this running group is just as much about friendships and self-discovery as it is running.

She surprised us by only stopping 3 times throughout the race. She finished in 33 minutes. This is not record-winning. However, she wasn’t winded. In fact, she seemed happy and finished with a smile on her face. We didn’t talk about it beforehand. There were no expectations so she certainly exceeded them!

Then there was Brody who half-heartedly decided to also run the race. He planned on not running with Anna and Bo as he assumed he’d run faster than them. However, we also didn’t talk about it or make a plan except that maybe he could start by running with me. Well, that didn’t last long and he broke away from the group. He won the race. Yes, won first place in the race.

I was equally surprised with both accomplishments. But when I think about my children’s accomplishments, they tend to be most successful in the areas that we don’t harp on. Grades. Test scores. Sports. The less we stress about it, the better they naturally do.

There is preparation along the way. Discipline, practice,  and focus on daily tasks are important. We expect for them to do their homework, finish their chores, and have good behavior. But with most performance-based activities, I believe that we can sabotage our children’s efforts, despite the best intentions, when we expect them to perform. The pressure to succeed can make children and adults cave under pressure.

And, as parent, we can be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed when we don’t have concrete expectations. Valuing best effort, a good attitude, and hard work will result in a good outcome without the stress of pleasing. Do I want to abandon goal-setting? No because it provides growth in self-awareness. But, I do think with our children, we should let them guide their goal-setting. Studies show time and again that intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic anyway.

And, I’m now seeing that we can even encourage our children to be easy on themselves too. This week at school, I met with a super, engaged student about test anxiety. Digging deeper into the topic, I discovered that she currently has a ‘B’ in math. But as a type ‘A’ personality, this isn’t good enough (or so she thinks). So after going through some concrete test-taking strategies, we ended with me having her speak to me as if I were a close friend in the same situation. I asked if she’d put her friend down for not finishing first and getting a ‘B’. Of course not so why would be that demanding of ourselves? She coached herself in this activity, practicing kindness and grace.

When parents or teachers berate a child, the child feels small and incapable.  That’s not motivating and inspiring. I know of an adult who once told a 7-year old girl  that didn’t read fast enough on the silly, mandated reading assessment; she needed to do better.  She is  an ESL student who speaks Spanish at home.  Needless to say, the next time she read to her teacher, she was in tears. The pressure doesn’t motivate. Pressure only sets unnecessary stress. And, we know stressed out kids don’t do as well.

It’s ok not to shoot to be first or get straight A’s. We don’t have to win every game. We don’t need to be first. We actually only need to win being a good person. That’s not performance-based. By removing expectations, talking less about the end result, and allowing things to naturally play out, kids just do better. We can allow natural talents and gift to shine.

Just do it.

(And, if you do your best, be happy with the results!)

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WHEN

There are 2 ways in which you can think about life:

If -or -when.

For example (taken from the mouths of babes):

When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor…. OR….If I go to college….

When I’m playing soccer for West High….OR….If I play soccer in high school…

When I have a family one day…OR…If I get married…

When I become a safety patrol….OR…If I become a safety…

When I make the honor roll….OR….If I make good grades…

The mind can go either way, will you or might you? Sometimes I think my children are a little too confident. Just yesterday, Anna said matter-of-factly that Brody is going to be jealous of her car because she’s getting a jeep. She’s not sure what color yet. She “is going to be a teacher” but she also says “she’s going to be rich because her husband will be a doctor”! 😉 And then there’s Brody who will argue back that he’s going to the rich one because first he’s going to first become a doctor, either radiologist or surgeon. Then, he’s opening his own architecture firm. And finally, he will become president because Trump became President only because he’s rich, right!?

I love it and won’t say that I rule against these plans. Go for it, I say. But not just for these lofty goals, GO FOR IT ALL. I completely love and admire their goal-driven, get-‘er-done mentality. In fact, I do believe this is one reason that my son can live with a brain tumor and excel at life. Brody doesn’t pause to think that maybe this could slow him down or may alter his plans. Nope. He’s got plans and a little brain tumor isn’t going to stop him. Nothing is. In his mind, if he wants it, he will get it. He’s not second guessing himself or wishing he will do something in the future. Instead, he knows what he wants and decides it’ll happen.

Stubborn, that they are. Born that way, with sleepless nights, refusal to crawl, or take a bottle or pacifier. Our pediatrician told us this character trait would pay off, that these are qualities we want in our kids (but at the time, I just wanted a mellow baby that I could put down and that could just chill!). Fast forward and now they are still fairly headstrong and determined.

But, I get it now. Whether is living with a brain tumor diagnosis or just deciding to read 2 novels in a week, it’s just something my son decides to do. It’s him and not me. It’s taking control of his own life and choices, instead of just letting things happen to him. When he makes plans for his future, I thank God. Thank you for letting him live with happiness and hope. Thank you letting him live his life instead of worrying about the worst-case-scenarios. Man, kids can teach us a lot.clowns

When as parents we start to get caught up in worry, I can look at my children as a reminder of today, right now, and what we can control. I asked Brody today, one day after his MRI and appointment, how scared he was yesterday on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the most scared. This is a child who was terrified of needles when he was a toddler and had to be restrained at the pediatrician. He said he was a 1 yesterday! And when I asked him when he’s been the most scared in his life, he laughed and said he can’t remember. “I can’t remember my whole life!” Then when I pressed him fully expecting him to say when he had brain surgery or found out he still has a brain tumor, he said it was probably “Emerald Lake”. (What!?)

That was the time a couple years ago when we were in Colorado. Bo was driving our rental car up to Emerald Lake, past the point of no return. The mountain bikers looked at us like we were nuts as he kept driving up a single lane, dirt road. It got steeper and steeper with a drop off right on the edge of the road. We were all freaked and that just pissed Bo off. I wanted out of the car and Brody told Nana that he was NEVER coming up there again when Bo turned the car around mid-road with a 15-point turn! That is the time when Brody was most scared!? That’s awesome. 🙂 (But, we got nice pictures like below as a result of the drive!)co

If we choose to live with intention and purpose, then we just move forward. When we live with doubt and second guess ourselves, we are not living our fullest life. (Yeah, sounding a little Oprah-esk, huh!?) Make a plan and stop wishing.

If or when? We choose WHEN.

brody

 

buddha

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