Why is society so obsessed with raising kids who are extraordinary at everything? Sports, school, even just mowing the lawn…we expect them to be the best of the best at everything. I’d rather raise ordinary kids who are extraordinarily kind! Let’s discuss.
Raise Ordinary Kids Who Are Extraordinarily Kind
It’s no secret that I value so much more than straight As when it comes to raising my kids. I’ve talked about it a lot in the past. But today, I want to focus on another angle: why it’s okay (more than okay, really) to raise ORDINARY kids who are extraordinary at being kind and decent human beings.
Before we start, let me share this Facebook post from Angela Anagnost that helped inspire this post.
“I’m raising average kids. They will not be going pro in any sport. They will not be the valedictorian. They will not be landing on the moon. And they will not be President.
But I pray that they will be extraordinary at love. They will be the friend who makes homemade soup and delivers it when a family loses a loved one.
They will always return their grocery carts. They will mow their neighbor’s lawn or shovel their snow-filled driveway just because. They will know how to listen—especially to those who need it most. They will make time to return phone calls. They will still send cards on birthdays.
They will know how to forgive. They will be empathy givers. They will know how to say, “I’m sorry.” They will know how to act vulnerable and cry in someone else’s arms.
Oh, and this one’s important—they’ll know how to love themselves by giving themselves grace, love, time off, and setting boundaries.
Yup. I’m raising average kids. Average kids who will be extraordinary at LOVE.
She got a lot of replies to that post and most were agreeing with her. But one person sarcastically wrote, “Yep – let’s all aim for mediocrity with our children,” and it really set me off.
Average is NOT mediocre, and it’s NOT a dirty word
First, while mediocre and average are often used interchangeably (and even the dictionary lists them as synonyms), they’re actually not the same thing when you look at the definitions. Mediocre is defined as “not very good.”
Average, on the other hand, is the “central or typical value in a set of data.” Being average doesn’t mean you’re not very good at something. It means that while you may not be the best, you’re also not the worst. You’re as good at it as most other people, and that’s okay. It’s actually perfectly normal to be average because the average is the norm.
Yet, in society’s eyes “average” is practically a dirty word, and definitely not something to strive for. So many parents drive themselves and their children crazy trying to raise kids who always strive to be the best…and only the best. Never mind that only ONE person can literally be THE best at something. Oh, and to add insult to injury, if you do the opposite and raise kids to be average (aka “the norm”), you’re going against the norm and people judge you for that, too. It’s enough to make you dizzy!
Look, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t raise kids to believe they can do or be anything, or that we shouldn’t encourage them to shoot for the moon. Every parent hopes that their children have easier and better lives than they did. That’s an “average” ideal, the norm.
But I do think that in the process of trying to create extraordinary scholars, athletes, leaders, and billionaires we’re forgetting the most important aspects of raising kids who will truly grow up to make a difference: kindness & compassion. Not only are these the ONLY things that really have the power to change the world, but they’re also what makes someone memorable in a way that really matters.
Extraordinary kindness is more memorable than extraordinary achievements
Let me clarify that, because I know someone is thinking, “Being kind doesn’t get you into the history books the way being a famous athlete or powerful leader does.” Extraordinary kindness is more memorable to the people that really matter than being extraordinary at football, science, or politics.
Again, I’m not saying that being great at something doesn’t matter at all. I’m not trying to take anything away from your MVP, valedictorian, or future president. Generations from now, another child may very well learn about them in history class, and that’s pretty cool. However, and again I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but…honestly, that’s all they’ll be to that child in that classroom, a name and a list of achievements to memorize about them for a history test.
But if you raise a child to be extraordinarily kind regardless of whether or not they’re also famous and successful, the right people will remember them. The people whose lives they touch, whose lives they make a difference in. Those people will NEVER forget them.
Personally, I’d rather raise ordinary kids who are remembered by one person whose life they deeply touched than “extraordinary” kids who are remembered for being rich and famous but little else.
Can’t we raise kids to be extraordinary AND extraordinarily kind?
Going back to that original post from Angela Anagnost, someone asked a similar question. Why can’t we raise kids who shoot for the moon AND are kind? Why does it have to be one or the other?
I think that person kind of missed the point, though. Anagnost writes “I’m raising average kids.” Not, “I’m raising my kids to strive for averageness.” To me, “raising ordinary kids” doesn’t mean that you don’t encourage them to be all that they can be. It just means accepting that “all they can be” may be perfectly average sometimes, and that’s perfectly okay.
More importantly, it means helping them accept that it is OKAY to be an average student who grows up to make an average income and live in an average-sized house with an average of 2.5 kids who are also average students IF that’s what makes them happy AND they strive to be extraordinary when it comes to being a good person.
On the other hand, if they want to be valedictorians who go on to make a lot of money and live in a mansion with their 25 children because that’s what makes them happy, then they should go for it.
My son wants to be an extraordinary tennis player, and he works very hard towards that goal. It’s his dream, his passion. It’s what makes him truly happy, and I fully support that. I am so proud of him and how hard he works. If he came to me tomorrow, though, and said, “This isn’t making me happy anymore. I still want to play, but just for fun and not to be the best,” I’d still be just as proud of him.
I only have one non-negotiable expectation of my kids: be a good person
There’s really only one thing that I expect my kids to be extraordinary at, and that’s being a good person. I don’t mind if they don’t get straight As as long as they do their best. I won’t mind if they don’t grow up to become billionaires as long as they do something that they love.
But I DO mind if they’re mean to each other. I WILL be disappointed not just in them but in myself if they grow up to treat others with cruelty. With everything else, though, I’m fine with them just being ordinary.
If my kids want to shoot for the moon, then they should shoot for the moon. If they’re perfectly content to keep their feet on the ground, though, they have NOTHING to be ashamed of.
And that’s what it comes down to. We’re shaming average kids. We’re telling them that if they’re not special, they’re not special if that makes sense. And it is literally making them sick. Our kids’ generation suffers from anxiety and depression at alarmingly high rates while we sit around saying “Well, our parents raised us that way and we survived just fine.”
I don’t want to raise kids that just “survive” childhood. I want to raise kids that THRIVE now AND in the future. Children who flourish, who truly blossom into what they’re meant to be…even if what they’re meant to be is just ordinary kids who are extraordinarily kind.
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