Wednesday, February 1, 2012

“Always Try Your Best” – Impossible? Unreasonable?


Yesterday was the first rough school day ever for our 5-yr-old, Emily.  She had to move her monkey down to ORANGE…  (kids start at green, can move up to blue or purple…or down to yellow, orange, or red based on behavior throughout the day).  She had been removed from her small group for talking and being silly and she had played with and pulled another girl’s arm late in the day.  For Emily the ultimate rule-follower, this was just horrible.  So at the end of the day, our little Emily broke down and was very upset with herself.  She shed many tears before she got home, my wife and I huddled up to talk about how we wanted to handle it, then we went to talk to her.

As we spoke to her, I found myself saying something I’ve said to many, many kids over the years “We want you to always try your best.”  Sounds simple and I’m sure it’s something many of us have said to our students…but later I started thinking about it more and more.  Is this an unreasonable request?  Has any human in the history of mankind actually ever done this?  I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t always try my best….Most of the time I try to do really well, sometimes I try my best, and well sometimes I coast a bit on things (flag football  games with our church come to mind….).  Isn’t this what we all do?

So is it damaging to tell kids to always try their best?  Or is it good to place that high bar in front of them, even though they will never achieve it?  Could we change it to “always do your best on the things that truly matter to you?”  Or does adding a qualifier take away the simple impact of the phrase by itself?

Just some things I was thinking about and thought I’d share.  Oh, and Em bounced back- she insisted on writing cards to her teachers and the girl whose arm she pulled and today came home on purple and was thrilled…pretty sure this setback won’t end up in a life of crime...

Em on a much happier day, rolling around in the leaves...