Teach Them, Challenge Them or Do Both?

I will make every attempt to  inform you if I am basing these conversation topics on opinion.  And… this will be one of those times, but I think I might be on to something here.

I like to operate on the rule of three’s: one occurrence is chance, a second occurrence is a coincidence, and a third is a habit.  Some habits are worth breaking out of.  One in particular is the fine line we are starting to walk between challenging our children and teaching them.  Make no mistake, both are extremely important, but both can also occur at the same time in their learning years.  The following are three things I have personally witnessed recently where I see we are not allowing our children to reach their fullest potential, and could be hurting our future.

Occurrence 1) Most of my son’s High School teachers allow him to turn in his homework after its original deadline, sometimes even right before the end of the semester.  I disapprove of this because my wife and I consistently preach meeting deadlines, and doing your very best the first time, and working hard now so you can rest later.  These teachers who are in in authority because they control his grades, are not encouraging him to listen to us.  They are actually doing my wife and me a disservice because there is no consequence for listening to us when he knows he can put it off until whenever.  This evolution forces Amber and me to put more effort into enforcing our own standard which sometimes can be more of a burden for our son and our relationship with him.  Also, he is in High School and just one step away from the real world where all the challenges are magnified.  Part of the lesson of High School should be preparation for being on their own.  Simple mistakes can mean big consequences.  Why not let them fall in this environment to prepare them for when failure is more hazardous.

Occurrence 2) I was at an 8-9 year old’s basketball game last weekend to watch my daughter Cheer, and I noticed they weren’t keeping score.  They were only keeping time.  This one I can go back-and-forth on because of the age group.  I can see the meaning of teaching them the skill of the sport, or the beginning of sportsmanship, or just allowing kids to get out there and exercise.  I also see this as a great opportunity to teach them to reach for something higher than themselves – elevating the entire team to be the best in the league – while running around the court.  There is absolute value in being a winner, but I would argue there is more value in losing (if it is used properly afterwards).  Losing teaches us to work harder to win or to reach that goal; losing helps us face reality because only one person will win that job opportunity; losing reminds us that we are not perfect and we always have room to improve, and our improvement is better for everyone.  This is one of those occurrences where I think we can teach them two important lessons at one time.  Let’s just make sure we are not calling the 8-9 year olds actual losers.  That wouldn’t help at all.

Occurrence 3) I came across this news report from BIZPAC Review discussing the recent calling of a school district to block its teachers from giving students 0’s.  Their primary reason for disbanding the goose egg seems to revolve around the averaging of scores; the difference, in average, between a 90 and a 50 is still a C grade, but the difference in average between a 90 and a 0 is an F.  According to the article, a student cannot get less than a 50.  I find it ironic that the school district didn’t want to be ‘overly negative’, but are absolutely OK with students being ‘average’.  I know my children very well, and all four of them are WELL ABOVE AVERAGE students when they try.  That is the key in this occurrence, there is no consequence for not putting forth any effort.  This isn’t teaching our children reality.  We should all only earn what we have worked for.  If a person making an hourly wage does not go to work, they don’t automatically get $50; they get $0.  Our children are at that sponge stage where they are literally learning everything – fundamentals, principles, actions, emotions – and not teaching them they get what they earn will not only bite them, it will also bite us when they demand things that aren’t reality.

My mentality going up through the ranks of the Navy was that I did not want my name to be on any dirtbag list – delinquent in qualifications; fail a PT test; fail an inspection; be the reason we lost… I did not want to lose.  I started as an E-1 (the lowest rank) and have moved up seven promotions because of hard work and understanding that I only get what I earn.  When I was not on the promotion list, I knew had to work harder.  There are individuals like this out there, but I am seeing them less and less, and I think it is because the same lessons even I was taught growing up are not being taught as much.  My children are a reflection of me, and I want them to earn every opportunity they get because it leads to more opportunity.  Our children are challengeable, and are absolutely capable of standing up to the test.  By the way, they will only know the way we show them because you don’t know what you don’t know.  We just need to give them a chance… or a ‘swift kick’ if that is what they need.  Thoughts?

God Bless,

Eric

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