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  • Why Telling Your Child To 'Do His Best' Doesn't Help (Here's What To Say Instead)

    Now is not the time to be adding more pressure to your child's academics.
    by Rachel Perez .
Why Telling Your Child To 'Do His Best' Doesn't Help (Here's What To Say Instead)
PHOTO BY Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels
  • It’s been a learning curve for both parents and kids at the start of the school year. Young kids are in front of screens instead of playing with their peers in school. Yet the objective remains the same: We want our kids to learn. 

    But it’s not the time to be overly focused on grades. We only want our kids to do their best and think it's harmless and not adding to the pressure. But that may be a problem, too. 

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    Why telling your child to do his best causes anxiety

    Dr. Kevin L. Gyoerkoe, a licensed psychologist specializing in anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder- OCD-related disorders, warns parents that telling a child to do his best in school or any other endeavor can increase anxiety and lead to the opposite, even worse. The phrase is simply too vague. 

    “How do we know when we’ve done our best? There’s no way to measure that goal or track our progress, so we are left in a state of uncertainty,” Dr. Gyoerkoe writes in an article on Positive Parenting Solutions.

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    Uncertainty is the most common cause of anxiety. When you don’t know what to do or expect., it can lead to blaming oneself if things don’t go well. 

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    “If we’re instructed to just do our best on a task, and we don’t do well, we are likely to blame ourselves and conclude that we are inadequate or incompetent in some way.” Dr. Gyoerkoe explains. 

    The uncertainty and blaming oneself can eventually put out the spark in a child and lead to having a defeatist attitude, being less resilient, and feeling hopeless. Your little one may think, “If my best isn’t good enough, why bother?” in the future.

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    What to tell your child in place of ‘do your best’

    The idea is to eliminate uncertainty and support and help your child thrive in school without putting pressure on his grades. Dr. Gyoerkoe lists what you can do instead of telling your child to just “do his best.” These include reducing anxiety, building self-confidence, and developing invaluable skills.

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    Set clear, concrete, and realistic goals that can help your child develop good work habits. 

    Ask yourself, what can your child do to do well in school? Write down tasks, so he doesn’t forget. Practice taking mock tests or do drills with flashcards to prep for a quiz. Be very specific. It’ll be easier for children -- younger ones, most especially -- to focus on small tasks. 

    Recognize his achievements, no matter how small, but refrain from giving empty praises

    You need to celebrate his achievements to boost your child’s confidence. Say, if your child can recite to you multiples of seven, even if he took his time, it’s still a win! Let him cherish and feel that. 

    You also need to value effort, but refrain from giving out empty praise. Praise your child’s specific efforts. What did your child do that you want to highlight even if he did not achieve a goal? This encourages your child to have a growth mindset and believe that there are many other things he can do differently to do better next time. 

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    Be constructive and equip your child with skills or tools that can help him perform his tasks better

    So your child didn‘t do well in a quiz, there’s no use crying over spilled milk, as they say. Catch and stop yourself from pointing out what your child did wrong. Look for areas of improvement and work with your child to develop the skills or acquire the tools to do better. 

    It could be allocating more time to review or find new ways to test his knowledge. Or, maybe he needs more time to rest his head and relax so he can perform better. 

    Instead of offering a “just do your best,” do the above sugestions and offer something that reminds your child about it. Say, “You got this, honey!”

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