The issue of a child’s not doing as well as they are able, is one that faces many parents. Within most families, the child’s perception of what constitutes “good enough “is influenced by a number of forces. Parental attitudes and expectations of behavior and performance appear to be the largest contributors to the child’s understanding of what it means to “do well”. Our own adult behavior, work ethic, level of attainment, and motivation become models which children perceive as standards. For some students, these observed expectations are positive influences, leading to success as well as happiness. For others, unfortunately, they are seen as unreachable goals or represent the need to be perfect, leading to a level of stress which can sometimes result in fragile emotionality or unhealthy behavior. The adage, “know thyself” and its corresponding “know thy children” is a critical piece of the child-rearing puzzle.
The expression referencing “the big fish in the little pond” describes a second powerful force in the development of motivated, successful behavior. We are all significantly influenced by our surrounding social milieu. How does it feel to be functioning either better or worse than our classmates in academics, social life, or sports? What if our skills are limited or less well developed? How do other children, teachers, and family react to a child’s performance, and who helps the child understand these reactions? The impact of social influences on the concept of “doing well” is complicated and different for each child. Parental understanding of our own social behavior and judgment as well as awareness of our child’s nature and needs will go a long way in determining how we manage our children’s reactions to social forces.
Obviously, a child’s motivation and perseverance are more complicated than just parental influence and peer pressure. When motivation is a result of external pressure or the pursuit of grades and athletic victories, it tends to be inconsistent and a source of stress. Research has shown however, that when motivation is a result of a child’s intrinsic beliefs instead, it tends to be stronger, durable, and a source of happiness. Intrinsic motivation has also been found to be related to greater emotional flexibility and tolerance for both success and failure.