I came across an interesting idea in my reading the other day. It’s the idea that we should expect excellence, yet not perfection, from our children.
We struggle with perfectionism in my house. I have always been a perfectionist, to the point that it stops me from doing things because I know I can’t be perfect. And without recognizing this weakness in myself, I seem to have passed it on to my child. (Only William is plagued by perfectionism.)
So when I read about this idea of excellence, I thought it was great. Excellence speaks to effort. When we strive for excellence, we put in hard work. It encourages us to strive for perfection but to be okay if we don’t achieve it. It enables all the good aspects of perfectionism without the bad.
I recognize that I do this with my kids already. If they do a half-hearted job at cleaning up the playroom and don’t put toys in the appropriate bins, I will simply pull those toys out and throw them back on the floor. I don’t harp on them. I don’t remind them where the toys go. I simply throw them on the floor with the expectation that they will put them where they belong. This also teaches the idea that if we don’t take the time to do a job right the first time, we’ll have to do it all over again.
Do I expect 100% neatness with all the bins lined up and even spaces between each? The perfectionist in me would love this. But I simply want my boys to strive for excellence and to work hard to achieve it.
This applies well to our schoolwork. Perfectionism can certainly get in the way when we’re learning. William is a smart kid, and he often learns quickly and easily. So he gets frustrated when he can’t perfectly grasp an idea.
It’s my job as his teacher to make sure that I don’t require perfection. And I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. As I’m watching him write, I want his letters to be the same size. I want the spaces between words to be the same. I want him to pay attention to margins. But that’s the perfectionist in me. I often have to stop myself, realize that I’m being overly critical and that in doing so, I’m only feeding the perfectionist in him. That, or I drive him to exasperation because, well, he’s only 8!
I know of other homeschoolers, on the other hand, who don’t strive for perfection or excellence. They accept mediocre work. Of course, the perfectionist in me finds this unacceptable, but I do realize that we all have our own failings.
This idea applies to everything from schoolwork/homework to cleanliness. And we can even start instilling the need for excellence when they’re little. If a toddler is putting his cars away, and one drops outside the bin on the floor, have him go back and put it fully in the bin.
And always remember that you can expect great effort, even excellence, but not perfection.