I have a daughter who has always been naturally studious and hard-working. During high school, it was her normal routine to come home each day, sit at the kitchen counter, pull out her books, and start on her homework. She would moan and complain about how difficult many of the assignments were, but she would tackle them right away. She seldom needed any help from me, but I was there as her support and cheerleader. After her freshman year, she was first in her class in academic standing. As parents we were so excited that we might have a future valedictorian in our family. She was excited, too, and continued to work hard to meet her dream.
As each year passed, our daughter became more and more stressed, pushing herself, taking all AP classes, spending more and more time hitting the books. We continued to remind her how it would be worth it when she finally achieved her goal. Then one day, as she sat down to choose which classes she would take in her senior year, she broke down crying. When we asked what was wrong, she told us that she really wanted to take drama. It sounded fun. But if she did, she would automatically take herself out of the running for valedictorian, since the class only gave her 4 credits instead of 5. She said that she knew how much this meant to us and she didn’t want to be a disappointment. As parents, we were shocked. We had thought that this was her goal and we were just supporting her to the best of our ability. And yet, somewhere in the last two years, it had become only our dream and not hers. At this point we gave her a hug, told her we loved her and knew how smart and good and amazing she was. If she wanted to take drama, she should take drama!
We want our children to set goals and achieve them. We want them to be successful and to be someone we can be proud of. How often have you heard a child say that they were going to grow up and be a doctor, a lawyer, a movie star, a pro athlete, a beauty queen, or President of the United States? Parents often ingrain these thoughts and aspirations into their children’s heads, pushing them to be the best. There is nothing wrong with wanting them to be the best. But we need to be careful that we aren’t pushing our goals and aspirations onto our children, without considering what our children want and need.
Dr. Dale Atkins, PhD., a licensed psychologist has said, “Our kids come to us to find out who they are and if we’re not letting them know they’re perfect as they are, they’re going to wonder, what do they have to do to be good enough.” Needless to say, none of us are perfect. Still, sometimes we need to be reminded that we don’t need to be. Let’s let our children know that they are loved, that they can be whatever they want to be, and that they are more than “good enough”.