Encouraging kids to do their best

THE BALTIMORE SUN

You want your kid to strive for perfection in everything. So, when he/she does things, you encourage him by saying he can do it even better the next time, and someday it will be perfect.

No, it won't, because being perfect is an unreachable goal. In the meantime, the message your kid receives is:

What I did isn't good enough, therefore I'm not good enough, and until I'm perfect, I won't be good enough.

This mind-set can lead to a lifetime of:

* Apathy and underachievement -- "What's the use of trying?" -- or

* Struggle and intensity -- "Got to keep trying, no matter what."

Well, if you forget the standard of perfection, how do you get your kid to move? By encouraging him appropriately. Do these things:

* For no reason (and frequently) hug him and tell him he's a great kid. Message received? "I'm approved of as is, therefore I must be worthwhile."

* Praise his positive behavior (even little things) with no "better next time" attached. Message received? "They're proud, therefore I should be proud -- I'll do more and be prouder yet."

Feelings of positive self worth and pride in accomplishment will lead your child into being the best he can be. Isn't that the most perfect thing you can expect?

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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