J2 Content – Perspectives

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You Can Be Anything You Want… (except that)

We like to tell children that they can be anything they want. If they want to be an astronaut, they can be that. If they want to be a fireman, they can be that. Whatever they set their eyes on, that’s achievable. It’s an adorable point of view. Too bad it isn’t true.

The reality is not only can’t your kids be anything they want; there are a lot of things they won’t even be kind of good at. If you’re 5’2”, your kid’s aspirations to be a point guard in the NBA are probably ill founded. Mascot maybe, inside a gorilla suit, dunking from a trampoline. For all of your child’s dreams, there should also be a basis in realistic expectations.

The joke I tell among adults is that you should teach your kids that they are probably going to be terrible at most things. They should try lots of things; find out what they are terrible at, and whatever is left, that’s your job. Of course that’s just a joke, you shouldn’t actually tell your kid that, yet it’s still kind of true. What we should be doing is encouraging effort, regardless of the end game.

In school we rightly focus on grades, an indicator of how well a student is doing. Sometimes though, we miss the bigger picture by focusing only on the final result. Giving a child a reward for getting an ‘A’ isn’t bad, but it may have consequences you didn’t consider. Studies have shown that if you only praise the result, children will tend to only work on things they are good at easily. So if your kid takes to math, they’ll work at it. If they struggle with grammar, they’ll tire of it, and just might give up on something they could have learned to love.

In sports and academics we have to find a way to praise the effort first, the result is the result. Your child may never be very good at sports, but they will make friends, and have a lot of fun, if they know the effort they put in matters. Likewise, if your child says to you that a particular math problem is hard, confirm that truth. Yes, it’s hard, and I appreciate how hard you are working to understand it. Isn’t it amazing what you are capable of when you try?

Your child is going to be amazing at something. When it happens, of course you are going to beam with pride, and you should. You should be just as proud, and just as lit up from the inside, when you see a valiant effort where the result isn’t as amazing. If your son struggles with reading, that progress, however small, was earned through effort. Praise that effort, and you’ll see that progress grow.

Hear more from Jim on The Paul Goebel Show podcast and at his Conspiracy Nut blog, http://theconspiracynut.blogspot.com/. You can also follow Jim on Twitter @ComicJimBruce.

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One Response to “You Can Be Anything You Want… (except that)”


  1. Cindy
    on Jun 13th, 2011
    @ 5:51 pm

    Good advice!

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