Alyson Schafer Advice: Alternatives To Saying 'Just Do Your Best'

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Last week I wrote an article on the reasons parents should stop saying “do your best.” Too often, the child concludes that their efforts should always be maximized and if they don’t give 100 per cent all the time, they are letting their parents down.

Let’s face it – today’s children are more stressed than ever. We have very high expectations for them, whether it’s in school, at sports or other extracurricular activities. Regardless of what you think, say or do in your own home, the greater society indoctrinates children with a belief that they are being judged, measured, assessed and evaluated constantly – and they had better measure up!

Kids that naturally do well might thrive, but with concurrent stress over a long duration, they may suffer from anxiety and think “I am only as good as the last good thing I did.”

Those who struggle more can be completely deflated and demotivated to try, while others may feel that if they hit the mark, the mark will just be moved up. It’s exhausting being pushed and pushed and pushed, so they underperform to get people off their backs.

And some children are only motivated if they are the best. They believe second just doesn’t cut it, so they’d rather not participate at all. I’ve seen children proudly at the top of their math class get promoted to an advanced math program where they now rank at the bottom, so they drop out. Being the best has become a value greater than learning.

Let’s help correct that faulty thinking with some of these lines of encouragement instead:

1) It looks like you are choosing to play rather than polish your work. Will you be okay with a lower mark on this paper?

2) It doesn’t matter how others in your karate class are doing. How do you feel about your karate skills this year?

3) You seem to be discouraged about your hockey today. Do you want to talk about it?

4) Last week you only got six out of 10 on your spelling list, but this week you got eight. What do you attribute the difference to?

5) If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing badly! For example, if you want to help fundraise but can only volunteer for one hour. Instead of saying you don’t have time to give it your best, just do a little! Raising $10 is better than none. One hour is better than not helping at all.

6) When something is important to you, I can see your passion and focus! Perhaps this is just not all that important? How can we make this relevant to you?

7) We can all have an off day. Blow it off. Tomorrow is a new day.

8) Sometimes we have to do things we don’t care much for. That’s life. How can we help you plough on through this unpleasantness?

9) You got this.

10) You can give challenge a run for its money.

11) I trust you.

12) You are capable.

13) I love you, no matter what.

14) Struggling doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It means you are learning something new and you are putting in effort. That is how we grow and improve. Don’t be afraid of that sensation.

15) We are always mistaking our way on the path to mastery. The better you can handle mistakes, the further down that path you can go.

16) Our worth is the same from the day we are born until the day we die. You are worthy of all my love and all my respect, no matter what. Your worth is not about what you achieve.

17) There will always be people who do better than you and worse than you. Just pay attention to your own progress.

18) What did you do the last time you felt discouraged like this?

19) You already have all the abilities you need to overcome this challenge.

20) How can I help?

21) I like your stick-to-it attitude.

22) Do you need a break? You seem worn out.

23) Nobody criticizes polar bears for not being able to fly. We are not all good at everything, and that is okay! There are all kinds of people, and you are very good at [blank].

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