Lately, I started noticing that my kids were trying to get everything perfect. I think it’s great that they’re trying to master skills. For now not getting it perfect seems natural, and they’re still young, fun-loving and great happy kids. But what if they continue on this path of perfectionism, what kind of adults will they become?
Then fast forward to adulthood. I see stressed out, high-strung, extremely critical of themselves and others, difficult to work with, rigid, lonely and all-out unhappy adults, because they’re trying to be perfect all the time! I know I’m exaggerating a bit. But as a fairly successful business person I’ve met a lot of perfectionists.
At the same time I want my kids to be self-disciplined, have direction and high standards. How do I help them understand that there’s a balance, and the concept of excellence, not perfection?
Then I remembered my baseball conversation with my middle son. When my middle son was learning how to play baseball he was always fearless at the plate when it was time for him to bat. I was so impressed with that. One day, I asked him why he was so confident at the plate. He answered, “I have three strikes, three chances to hit the ball, and that makes it easy!”
He wasn’t worried about making mistakes, first because he had three chances to get it right, and he also knew intuitively that the more he tries, the better he’ll get. It taught him excellence and not perfection.
So here’s my 3 strike rule. I told my kids that they are allowed 3 mistakes, mess ups or misdeeds without consequences for each day. However, they must stop the behavior (especially if it’s dangerous, or if it hurts someone), but no punishment. Any mistakes or misdeeds counts as a strike. The strike itself is the consequence, which is more like a warning, and if they get three strikes, any mistakes thereafter will have a punishment. Each day we start fresh, with a clean slate.
At first my kids were confused and I had to explain to them about how mistakes are great learning opportunities and without mistakes we learn slower or less. This new rule also stimulated more conversations about right and wrong, and finding solutions on their own to problems. They work very hard to avoid getting 3 strikes each day without the stress of trying to be perfect all the time.
Do you think the three strike rule would work for your kids? How do you teach your kids about excellence? How do your kids see mistakes?