fostering dedication

Fair warning… this isn’t a touchy-feely parenting post. This is a frustrated and disappointed parenting post. And please tell me I’m not the only parent to have those feelings about her children.

At what age should I start expecting some dedication from my children? Because so far… I’m not seeing it. Oh sure, they’ll join teams and participate in sports and play instruments. But are they dedicated to any of those things? Pushing themselves in practice? Putting in extra time of their own volition? Eager to learn and grow in their interests?

No, no and no.

I’ll admit, I may be more dedicated than some. When a task is set before me I will not only accomplish that task, I will work my hardest to do that task well. No, not just well, to do that task to the very best of my ability. I do nothing half-assed.

And yet my children? I think they do everything half-assed. I notice a typo on a paper – does my child correct it? No, they turn it in knowing there’s a mistake. I offer to take a child to workout outside of practice – do they ever want to go? No. Whether it’s related to school or sports, those kids aren’t doing anything unless they are told to do it.

I’m tempted to just stop telling them. You want to go to practice? Tell me when it’s time to leave. After all, I’m not the one who will be embarrassed when a bad performance happens. You want to be on honor roll? Then why am I reminding you to do your homework (and turn it in on time)? I’m done getting report cards.

Am I asking too much? Is it just not in the nature of a child to be dedicated? I hate (and yes that’s a strong word) that I have to tell my child why practice is important. She or he should know why it’s important and want to go to be better, stronger, faster, sharper. But they want the rewards with none of the work and none of the effort.

I’m officially tossing my hands up in defeat. I’m done being the activity monitor. I give my children wonderful opportunities and I am so very sick of watching them squander them.

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6 thoughts on “fostering dedication

  1. I often have to remind myself that “play is the work of children.” It’s our job as parents to give them opportunities & help them find areas that spark their enthusiasm. At our house, my kids have few chores but know that school is their “job” and we expect them to give their best in that job. But, the rest of the activities… up to them.

  2. This is a tough one and I see it in both of my kids too – in completely different areas, but it’s there. I think I’m where you are. I’ve stopped trying to get them to do extra practice, be it sports or music. I don’t bug them about their homework. Granted, mine are sophomores in high school so it really does need to be up to them at this point.

    I would continue to praise when they do well and especially if they go an extra step. Hopefully seeing positive results will help them correlate that to putting in some extra work and dedication.

  3. (sorry in advance for the post on your post, but I GET this….)

    I see my oldest in this post. She is perfectly capabable. In a lot of things. She is more than smart. She is musical. But she never ever puts more into anything than she needs to. She skates by with A-‘s and B+’s when she could get high A’s. She is happy just to be a part of the orchestra. She never really cared what her class rank was. She procrastinates on everything – college applications, scholarship applications…. In some ways, this is fine. It keeps her from being a ginormous stress case like some of her friends are. But, in other ways it drives me insane. But, I have had to get to the point where I don’t care. It his her life (except for the scholarship apps, this I keep nagging on because it is MY money).

    And then, there is my 2nd child. oddly, if you look just at birth order, this should be switched around, but he is driven. I have never once had to ask him to practice his cello, and last week, when I signed his practice log, he had practiced over 500 minutes for the week. Since he has started running, he is completely into it, and never makes excuses why he won’t run on a particular day. The kid has run all winter, mostly on his own, 4 or 5 days a week. Sometimes I have to slow him down and remind him that taking it easy some days is also a part of the process. His grades are very good (maybe math could be a little better). He is not a perfect child, but when he decides he wants to be good at something, he owns it. I think he thrives on hard work and challenging himself.

    I can’t get a good picture of my youngest yet. But, the two examples above are basically to tell you that I am not sure you can teach dedication. I have no good answers. I think sometimes it is about personalities and working with the personalities that the kids have. That said, I hate laziness. That kills me.

    I don’t think that I did something different in parenting my kids, but yet they often have a completely different approach to a challenge. My oldest seems to be scared to push herself beyond. Almost like she is afraid that she could work really hard and still be dissapointed, so it is better to not. My middle seems to like a challenge, something to work for. And sometimes he is dissapointed, but then that just makes him work harder. Did I teach him that? Not really. But yes, I have. But, I also felt like I taught this to my oldest too. So why the difference? And is there something that I could have/should have done differently? Should I accept mediocrity? I always tell my kids that it is not about being “The Best” and it is not about being “perfect,” but it about doing THEIR best. But, how that translates is so very different for each kid.

    Or maybe, it is because they are still kids who are still trying to find their place. Maybe they still have to find that “thing” that they are passionate about. Maybe sometimes, it just takes longer for us to find out what exactly it is that lights a fire under us. The hard part, is that as a parent, we see the big picture. We see how what they are doing, or not doing right now can affect their options later. And we want them to have as many options as possible later. But, kids, kids can barely see the picture beyond today, or maybe the weekend at most. And, I think that this is the part that we can teach, and remind them about, the big picture. But, in the end, the choice is theirs. And we do have to take that step back, as hard as it is….and I am not very good at it.

  4. I appreciate the different perspectives here. I might need to back down a bit… but I’m so afraid if I don’t set the tone they’ll never get it.

  5. I totally understand your frustration when you look at a child with so much ability and brains and he chooses mediocrity. We are on a slow and struggling journey of emphasizing better quality work and how it make him feel. The problem is his short term memory to keep up the hard work.

    On the other hand, there is the maturity factor. The high school child has set her sites on the university of her choice which has a high standard for acceptance. She is stepping up and working very hard in her academics and her athletics in and out of school. Watching this young lady grow up and make such amazing choices in her life is so wonderful. The hardest part is trying to help her cope with the stress and anxiety of wanting good grades. So the big question is will the boy start stepping up in middle school when more demands will be placed on him? I don’t know but I think I have to push him through the next two years and hope the maturity factor kicks in for him also in high school, because by then I will be sick of pushing. He will then start learning the life lesson of “you should have tried harded, then you could have gotten into that school!”

    I am going to throw out this one question; If you had done better or worse in high school, would it have changed where you are today? For me, no but maybe I am not smart enough to see a different path, I love teaching.

  6. I don’t have older kids, obviously, but after seven years of teaching 8th grade, I can attest that this age sometimes (all the time) makes me want to slam my head against a wall. Repeatedly. The way I do essays in my class is that we write a big essay each 9 weeks, worth 100 points. I hold individual writing conferences with the kids where we go over strengths and weaknesses and then I give each student a week to correct their errors, whatever they may be, and turn the essay back in for a higher grade. Out of my 140 students, I will have maybe 15 students do this. Maybe. And often times when they do, they’ll blatantly ignore spelling errors that I’ve circled and just fix random things. WHY? Why is this? I’ve given you a chance to raise your grade. Heck, you could even raise a D paper to an A if you really tried. I believe it benefits both of us if I give them a chance to sit down and correct their errors, so why not let them fix all those errors and bump up a grade? BUT THEY DON’T WANT TO TAKE THE TIME.
    Look, they’re not even my own kids and I’m still angry at the half-assing going on. 😉

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