Somewhere along the American college planning and career line, “average” got a bad rap. Unexceptional, unremarkable, wallowing in perpetual mediocrity. Nobody aspires to be average. And for many parents, we couldn’t bear to hear that word applied to our kids.
But here’s the thing. With the rare exception of the truly exceptional, we’re all average—you, me, and yes, our kids.
We have things that we’re good at. We have things that we can’t do and probably never will. Everything else falls somewhere into the middle—and that’s the average.
But accepting average doesn’t mean expecting less. For parents, I think there are a few healthy ways to strike a good balance with your kids.
- Don’t expect them to be great at everything they try. You wouldn’t expect a professional chef to also be able to remodel your house, do your taxes, and realign your spine. And it’s not reasonable to expect our kids to set the curve at everything they touch inside and outside of the classroom.
- Embrace strengths over fixating on perceived weaknesses. Strengths improve more than weaknesses do. The way for a student to stand out is not to polish every perceived flaw, but to flourish in areas where they naturally thrive. The more kids can do those things that they’re predisposed to do well—which not coincidentally also tend to be those things they like—the happier and more successful they’re going to be.
- Don’t overpraise. Kids should feel unconditionally loved by their parents. But they shouldn’t be told that everything they touch is award-worthy. The world isn’t going to praise everything they do, and it’s not helpful to set them up with that expectation. Praise has its place, but that place isn’t all day, about everything, every day. Here are three past posts, here, here, and here, from experts to help you praise in a way that leaves kids feeling appreciated by the parents they love, but also prepared for a world that won’t necessarily love them no matter what they do.