We use averages all the time; average salary, average home price, average level of education, etc., to determine where we fall in terms of well, the average person or amenity. We use the word to describe normal, as in “Just an average day at the office”, or “The restaurant was nothing spectacular, just average I would say”. But when it comes to their children, many parents look at the idea of “average” as akin to abhorrent. Their child cannot be anything but stellar, amazing, tops at everything and anything they do.
Many children are told from a very young age (birth!) that they are special, gifted, so smart, talented, the best, for simply doing things that children do. Like drawing a picture, eating their vegetables, saying a new word, getting a participation trophy….As children are praised for doing every day things, they begin to believe in their own elevated self-importance. They begin to believe that they are the best at everything, that they are talented beyond belief, that they succeed in everything they do. Parents are setting their children up so high on that pedestal, that it is inevitable that they are going to fall off and get hurt on the way down.
These children do not learn how to cope with disappointment. They do not learn how to be humble. They do not learn how to lose gracefully. But they do learn how to place blame…and it is not on themselves. If they are so smart, so talented, so great at what they are doing, as they have so often been told by their parents, then it certainly could not be their fault that that they have failed to be number one. And their parents are quick to reinforce this belief. Teachers are often blamed for a student’s bad behavior, lack of effort or bad grades. Coaches are taken to task for telling a player that they have to room to improve or for not playing a child where the parent believes their skill level should put them. Bosses are called out by parents who’s children have lost their jobs due to poor performance.
Parents need to realize that not every child is Einstein or destined to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s okay to be normal, average, good. And it is okay for kids to know that they are. Give them the time and the support to find what they will truly excel at.