#raisingcapablechildren: X is for Xcellence – How to encourage the pursuit of excellence in children?

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I remember being told in my childhood that it is not what you do that matters but how well you do it. Even if it is a lowly job, do it to the best of your capacity. This according to me is excellence. So on the 24th day of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge, I will be writing my thoughts on X for Xcellence. In very simple terms, excellence is the desire to perform your best and to work hard to achieve that desire. Excellence is an attitude and needs to be cultivated over the years. Some children may be naturally motivated to excel and others may need some prodding, but hopefully everyone can get there with the right guidance. For it is not about earning loads of money or fame or reaching the top of the corporate ladder or any ladder for that matter – excellence is just about reaching your potential. It is about improving ourselves continuously and consistently. Excellence is not the destination– it is a way of life.

Many parents encourage their children to achieve success, to become perfect. But I would prefer to encourage excellence. Success (as defined by society, my own definition is different) is external – it is a certain social station one hopes to achieve – status, privilege, money, position. This kind of success is also not fully in our hands – as a lot depends on circumstances and the ‘hand of fate’. But excellence is internal – it is driven by our own desire to excel, to improve. Perfection is also something I would perhaps not encourage as much as excellence. Firstly, because I believe perfection is an illusion – no one can be perfect. People who tend to think of themselves as perfect tend to look down upon others. But most importantly, perfection seems to be an end in itself – once you have reached perfection there is nowhere else to go – all learning stops there. Excellence on the other hand is a growth mindset – you continue to learn and become better. Striving for perfection can be demoralizing while that for excellence is inspiring.

But I am not sure how many children are born with an innate desire to excel. At least my elder one doesn’t seem to be born with that drive (I am hoping he will discover it soon!). He is happy to coast along, getting by. Any mention of hard work puts him off even things that he likes – for example he loves reading about rocks and fossils – but now that he has to make a presentation about it – and the reading becomes ‘research’ – I am having a hard time getting him to make notes. (phew!) Anyhow, he is just ten now and so perhaps continuing to work with below principles will hopefully yield some results.

Do read on for some of the tips I intend to use to encourage my son to strive for excellence:

  1. Understand you child and help him become self aware: I have talked about the importance of understanding your children in the previous blogs. It is important to understand what motivates them and what encourages them to work harder. It is also important to understand their learning styles. In addition, help them become aware of themselves as they grow old. Help them find out their likes, dislikes and passions. Help them assess their own strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Fuel their passion: As they grow old, help them identify their ‘passion’, ‘calling’, ‘purpose’ in life. What is it that they love doing? Work on their passion, encourage them, get them the right skill sets to pursue that passion. Encourage their efforts and improvements. Egg them on to continue to do better. (not to the point of exhaustion – that they lose interest).
  3. Let them set their own expectations: rather than having high expectations from them, encourage them to set their own expectations – “how do you think you will do in the upcoming exam?” “how many hours of practice/ preparation do you think you need to put in”. Don’t push them incessantly, instead, introduce the concept of goal setting. With grown up kids, introduce the concept of stretch targets – where they aim for something just a little out of reach.
  4. Encourage commitment: younger children will find it difficult to commit to interests or activities, but as they grow older, attention spans increase along with the ability to focus. Encourage them to commit themselves to tasks and goals and complete them in a given timeframe. Praise and incentivize commitment and diligence. Continuously motivate them to remain commited and tie it to integrity of character.
  5. Emphasize quality: continue to emphasize quality in whatever they do. Do not accept sloppy work – ask them to redo or improve. You may face obstinate behavior (I do.) But gently or firmly – as the situation demands, push them to do quality work. If they are tired and not interested in redoing – let them take a break but insist they improve. Keep in mind that you may have to sit with them an improve their work. It may be because of lack of knowledge or understanding, or it may be sheer laziness. In both cases, you will need to get involved.
  6. Consistency: excellence demands consistency. It is a constant endeavor. I had talked about practice and perseverance earlier. Consistent good work will lead to excellence – sporadic one off successes are likely to not last. Continue to engage with your children to help them keep their focus and remain consistent.
  7. Deal with their frustrations kindly: there is no doubt that there will be frustrations and meltdowns on the way. Sometimes it may be best to just listen and let them get over with the tantrum. Dealing with tantrums with a firm hand may be damaging. Be gentle and once they are over their frustration, remind them to come back to their goal/task. Have a fresh look at whatever was causing the frustration and try to find a solution. Many times, children may themselves be able to find their solution.
  8. Share stories, examples of excellence: I try to do this a lot. I try to show examples of hard work and excellence to my son as much as possible – usually picking these examples from whatever book he may be reading or shows that he is watching. By doing this I am hoping to instill some of these concepts in his mind which would help shape his thinking.
  9. Let them fail: it is good to learn to face consequences early on. Hence sometimes, it may be good to let them fail – especially when that failure means they lose something they aspired for. Let them face the consequences of procrastination or half hearted effort. Let them learn from their failure and help them figure how to do better next time.

Lastly, I believe excellence is all about constantly improving oneself – so I will repeat what I have said before – do NOT compare. With that I end my blog and look forward to your thoughts and ideas.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

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Thanks so much for reading! Please comment, share and spread the word! 

Regards, Sakshi aka tripleamommy
You can find me at:
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Read my other blogs on the series here:

Theme reveal

A is for Aiming High

B is for Being Brave

C is for Courage of Conviction

D is for Discipline

E is for Empathy

F is for Financial Awareness

G is for Gratitude

H is for Honesty

I is for Inclusion

J is for Joy

K is for Knowldege

L is for Language

M is for Magic

N is for Neuro efficient

O is for Observant

P is for Perseverance

Q is for Questioning

R is for Remembering your Roots

S is for Self Care

T is for Thinking Outside the Box

U is for Unique

V is for Versatile

W is for Witty

26 comments

  1. Very well written post and something we should encourage our kids for. Great pointers well to add it to your list we need to be our kid’s role model if we want them to believe in excellence.

  2. So beautifully you explained the two terms perfection and excellence. Since childhood our Brian is conditioned in. certain way that we want to see things in a perfect form. But as you said there is nothing like perfection. I also believe in that. Perfection is a set made term. If we are gaining excellence in doing something then we are getting one step closer to tout goal. And that is more important.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with each pointer but the last one is essential, according to me. They need to fail in order to rise up to the occasion and give it their ultimate best.

  4. I agree with you that setting up right example in front of kids is really important and glad you shared such important yet practical parenting tips

  5. Absolutely true, there is a huge difference between perfection and excellence. well said. excellence has a wide room of improvement that flourishes kids far in journey.

  6. These pointers are so practical and well explained, if we wish to raise capable children. And yes, Do NOT Compare is something we need to remember.

  7. Encouraging our kids to excel in what they do is the best for them. As parents we must let them develop in a field that interests them.

  8. I couldn’t agree more, It is indeed all about constantly improving oneself and not comparing it with others. A really well written post 🙂

  9. A well written blog and the points you have mentioned are perfect. And I agree with you that more than success it’s the perfection and will to excel that counts.

  10. Excellence is good but not all kids are excellent, isn’t it? Parents should be role models for it to start.I feel kids these days should be brought up to be successful individuals, aware of the social maladies around.

    1. it is not about who is excellent or not… excellent is an adjective while i talk about excellence as an attitude… which is basically striving for doing our best. I know it is not easy… and not for many adults either. But I believe in putting our best foot forward

  11. I too completely believe that at certain point excellence is external. We all need to raise kids with sense of belief and empathy. This is very well crafted post for the parents.

  12. I love this series! you have really put in a lot of thought to talk about only the most pertinent pointers! i am nodding along as i read each of these points – i agree that you have to fuel their passion, help them commit, and then the hardest, step back and let them fail – these are the best lessons and the best preparation for life.

  13. This is exactly what I and husband tell our daughter. It really doesn’t matter you score 1st or last, what matters for me is you learn the concepts well and then proceed. Once we as parents unlearn a few things such new understandings are tough to come by

  14. This is so true, excellence is just about reaching your potential. You have shared some amazing tips to encourage kids to strive for excellence which is more important. These will be really helpful for parents, bookmarking it!

  15. Yes we need to help them be self aware and also promoted them to make their own set of definition of excellence. Unnecessary putting pressure on them is not my cup of tea.

    1. Agree with you here. All are so practical piece of tips and tricks. As a parent we need to encourage and not compare and bring them down

  16. Great post..and I agree with all pointers you said and I want to add that it is all about understanding your child’s unique potential and working on same. Of course encouraging them for completing their commitment with consistency always work best.

  17. Here it is opposite my daughter always have a high expectation from herself and think she will win in everything but I always tell her it’s important to take part is not important to win.

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