October 28, 2021

The flip side of ‘Please do your best’


Parents often say “children do their best” to make children confident in difficult tasks, but not all children feel more secure.

At times, statements intended for support can be counterproductive and create undesirable pressure, especially on perfectionist kids.

Psychologist Ph.D. Eileen Kennedy of Princeton, New Jersey (USA) once met a high school girl who wrote a 15-page essay, although the teacher only asked to submit three pages. She is not interested in this topic, but has difficulty controlling perfectionism and wants to “do my best” according to her parents.

“Unfortunately, the teacher gave this girl an A +, which in turn encouraged the tendency to do five times the amount required by the girl,” said Dr. Kennedy.

Excellent essay, but the price is not cheap. It took tens of hours to finish writing 15 pages, the female student was physically and mentally exhausted. “In the end, what did she get out of her overkill,” asked Dr. Kennedy.

According to the female expert, “do your best” is one The sentence has many interpretations. Parents want to convey the message “you just need to work hard”, but the perfectionist, or anxious child, will understand “you must get the best results possible”. Therefore, the child puts every effort to create the perfect product and accidentally pushes himself into an overload state. When they are too tired and have no energy to achieve what they consider “best”, children will feel hopeless.

Image: Shutterstock.

Perfectionistic, anxious kids recognize that every job is equally important and requires equal effort. However, not everything needs to do our best.

For children not to overdo it, parents should ask their children: “How much time is this job worth?”. If you find that the time given by the child is not reasonable, parents should adjust and help their children complete work during that time.

Also, parents can talk to their children about the law of diminishing performance. The first efforts often yield the greatest benefit. For example, a child picking up all the clothes that fall on the floor will make a huge visual difference even for just a few minutes. However, if you spend hours folding each shirt, the pants are so flat, it will both waste time and do not bring any great benefits.

Perfectionists sometimes find it difficult to get things done because they always think there is more to do to get better results. But usually, those efforts don’t create much value.

With many jobs, getting done is more important than being perfect. This is also something that children need to learn because humans are less stressed if they finish one task instead of having two unfinished tasks.

Parents should explain to their children what is important and what “is good, no problem”. Parents can also mention stresses that both children and others are subjected to if the child works on one thing for too long. “The child is more likely to feel insecure about finishing a job at a moderately good but not perfect level but in the end he will realize that everything is fine and the Earth is still spinning,” said Dr. Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy also advised parents to replace the phrase “do your best” with “Make a reasonable effort”.

“Reasonable effort” depends on many factors, from the importance of the task, the amount of time the child has to other jobs and the child’s mood. Making a reasonable effort is making wise choices based on facts, not perfectionism’s imagined standards. This statement will teach the child to recognize the situation and adjust his or her energy.

“Learning to prioritize is an important life skill,” says Dr. Kennedy. “It takes time for your child to learn to define what is a reasonable effort, but it is the path that leads to a happier and more productive life.”

Thu Nguyet (According to the Psychology Today)

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