Claire achieved a milestone last night at gymnastics, her first successful round-off, back handspring combination with zero assistance from her instructor. What did she do next? She did it twice more, each one looking easier than the last. Ours eye met through the glass wall that separates parents from gymnasts, big smiles on both sides. And I’ll admit, my eyes became a bit watery. She was very proud of her accomplishment, and so was I, yet for different reasons.
For me, it’s not about gymnastics or whether she’ll qualify for the Champions level classes this winter. My focus and admiration comes from the life lessons she’s learning and how this will help her grow into a happy, confident, well-balanced, hard-working, humble, and independent adult. I mean, isn’t that the purpose of parenting? At only 8 years old, Claire is learning skills like:
* Work ethic – Nobody walks out on the gymnastics mat and nails a back handspring on their first try. She learned that by working hard and practicing (yes, you will see her doing cartwheels in my kitchen or down the aisles at Target stores), she will see improvement in her performance.
* Perseverance – She fell down, tripped, slipped, tumbled, grumbled, scowled, and cringed more times than I can count. But I bet I know how she would answer if I had asked her last night whether the effort was worth it.
* Reaching a goal – You can’t reach a goal that you don’t first set for yourself. Claire had watched for years as the older girls gracefully moved across the gym. It was an important milestone years in the making, difficult to achieve, yet realistic with perseverance and hard work.
At work, achievement orientation is a competency that we measure in our tests that clients use for hiring employees. We define it as: Establishing and accomplishing challenging goals or standards despite adversity, obstacles and effort required. Now think about that definition in terms of your child’s education, career, future relationships with a spouse, family and friends, giving back to society or anything else they set their mind to. The skills that Claire is learning are the building blocks of achievement orientation. It’s not about the success itself, rather the path taken to reach it. The beauty of achievement orientation is that it can be internally contagious. A successful back handspring can generate the confidence to try out for the lead part in the school play, solve that last math problem after the fourth attempt, or have a difficult conversation with a friend.
So the next time you watch your kids’ hockey or baseball game, focus less on the goals scored, if they are good enough to make next year’s traveling team, or whether they bring home the first place trophy. Those are surface-level accomplishments. You really shouldn’t care if they hit a home run in the game; you are setting the stage as a parent so that they will hit a home run in life.