The third Saturday in September is always a rollercoaster day of emotions. Every year on this day, I travel with some students to the BEST Robotics Kick-off while other students of mine stay in Lawton for all-region honor choir try-outs. The day starts at 5:00 a.m. and ends with the posting of who made the choir just prior to 10:00 p.m. Fill the in-between space with seven hours of round trip driving and the excitement of learning our game field for the season, and one has the recipe for high anxiety. The finale of the evening is the most stressful, though. I always call the ones who made the choir first. It’s easy to deliver good news, and the families are always so happy. But calling or texting the families of those who didn’t make it is so hard. The standard for making the choir changes based upon those trying out. They accept the top third or so. The cut-off score changes from year-to-year. Trying to explain to a disappointed student or parent that they did a good job – the standard was just higher than their score – is so difficult.
It’s easy to spout about the standards we have, but I’ve noticed that we compromise our standards often in order to avoid the uncomfortable conversation in which we tell someone he’s not met the standard. When we feel so strongly about our standards, why is it so hard to enforce them? Maybe it’s because we’re afraid someone’s going to hold us to higher standards than we hold ourselves, and we’re hoping the mercy we show will be shown to us!
Whatever the reason, one thing I know for sure: we have to have standards. I’ve had at least two children this week blame their brain for their bad behavior… like the brain is some possessing entity they cannot control! They didn’t make that up on their own. Someone has told them that their brains are not old enough to process right and wrong yet. That someone was wrong.
When we allow our children to believe that they are “the greatest” or “not responsible” or any of the other delusions of grandeur we parents sometimes place on our children, we are doing them a disservice. This is precisely the reason I make my students compete. They will never know how good they really are at something till they put their “stuff” out there against others like them. The aforementioned robotics competition is a great way to show my secondary how to meet a standard. They are going to spend six weeks making a robot and a game strategy, and documenting every second of the six weeks while simultaneously promoting STEM. In the end, four teams out of twenty will have met the standard well enough to advance.
If your child wins, then he can declare himself “the greatest.” Fortunately, he doesn’t have to be the greatest to advance in life, but failure to set standards for our children now could result in their failure to meet the most important standard later: being able to get a job. Comfortable or uncomfortable, standards are our friends!