How do you push your kids toward excellence without breaking their spirits?
I had a strict upbringing. There was some crazy, borderline psychotic stuff that went on during my childhood--but I blame that on the hyper-religiosity, not on the solid principle of giving kids structure, boundaries and expectations. My parents pushed me to be the best Christian I could be, but I've been able to use the discipline I learned and apply it toward achieving other goals in my life. It's also why I still believe in holding my children to a high standard of personal excellence and behavior. I was a master at scheduling their lives when they were little. Yes, it looked a little lock-step. But my kids were always well-rested, well-fed and content. Believe it or not, little kids love structure, routine and predictability.
And I loved creating that for them.
But now my older kids are changing, growing and expanding their interests. I can't send them to bed at 7:30 anymore. I'm finding that I'm not very good at flexibility. I prefer structure, deadlines and arriving on time.
To be honest, I like control. I like to know when things are happening and how. I have utmost respect for professionals who act competently and professionally. Don't get me wrong: I love spontaneity and fun--within boundaries. In other words, the party needs to wrap up by 9pm so I can be in bed by 9:30.
Whenever someone says they are 'laid back'--I freak out. Too often I've seen that euphemism used as an excuse for being lazy, careless and not valuing excellence.
I realize this is hugely judgmental--not everyone who is laid back is a sloth. I also realize that thinking I have control of anything is a telling indicator of hubris. Every time I've allowed myself to imagine I can handle x, y AND z, something happens to immediately humble me. I do try to tread lightly, remaining open to the possibility that things could radically change and "ruin" my carefully laid plans.
But I also haven't given up on living a disciplined, well-ordered life. Maybe I'm just not as dogmatic about it anymore. I try to lean into living a disciplined life, without obsessing over it.
My default mode is to work so hard, manage everything so tightly, hit every deadline and stretch myself so thin that I end up collapsing. I realize this is an unhealthy pattern. So, while most people are trying to work harder at being disciplined, I'm trying to work harder at being more laid back.
Mostly, I just don't want my kids to grow up and be so frustrated at me for pushing them to succeed that they rebel and take up playing the bongo drums or something. I mean, if my kids started acting like how Adam Sandler acts in his ridiculous, man-boy movies? I will seriously feel like a failure as a parent.
So how much excellence is too much? How do you maintain the balance of letting your kids pursue their own lives and interests without giving up entirely on discipline and structure? Ideas?