A few weeks ago, I wrote a tongue in cheek article on mediocrity, offering some guidance on how to pursue a life of mediocrity. The intention was to point out how many common habits we are developing, particularly in our youth, are inevitably leading to a life of mediocrity.
One reader wrote an interesting response and question. She related that she found the article left her feeling bad, as her children all seemed to be masters of mediocrity. She reports, ‘My kids argue over any chore, refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes, and always blame others…regardless of how obvious it is that THEY are the problem. My kids argue over who can be the biggest victim. It’s utterly exhausting and frustrating trying to convince them to see it differently! What can I do Dr. Cale? I am losing this battle on every front.”
How to Turn Around Habits of Mediocrity and Victimhood
The reader above is caught in a common trap, it appears, and one that is tough to change the latter it gets in life. However, you can turn this with an intense effort. Here’s how:
1) Proclaim Your Utter and Complete Disinterest in Excuses
Sit with the family and go over your many mistakes as a parent. Your mistakes? Yes!
Your mistake has been to argue, fight and diligently try to get your kids to see that their excuses are absurd or irrelevant. Too often, you have tried to get them to ‘see the light’ of truth when blaming a teacher, a coach, a sibling or you for their errors. Some go so far as to claim, ‘I’m stupid’ and you have fought with them over that. (And you never win!)
So, stop today. Let your kids know you will no longer try to convince them that the excuse, regardless of how absurd it appears, is just that; absurd. Let them know they can have their excuse for the rest of their life, if they want it.
Your job it to be totally disinterested in such conversations or comments. Walk away and go on with your life.
2) Proclaim that Mom & Dad Will No Longer Nag You to Be Responsible
This is critically important. You must abandon the nagging and prodding and pushing to get them to do things that represent responsibility. You won’t keep checking on their chores or their homework.
Why? Because this process, over time, ends up with you taking on more responsibility for their ‘work’ than they do. You end up working harder at getting their chores or homework completed …than they do! And this is a formula for teaching the habits of mediocrity.
So as of today, stop this. If you follow steps one and two here, there is a shift in your approach that now brings you away from efforts to directly control your children. This is usually futile, as we don’t control others with our words, at least not effectively.
Now, we can have influence, of course. And we do so most profoundly by controlling what your kids care about. And that’s next.
3) Take Control of All the Goodies Today. (Get Leverage!)
Rather than arguing or fighting over getting stuff done, you are now becoming action-oriented. Seize control over all the stuff your children care about and abandon trying to control them with words.
So, when your children come home, let them discover that nothing works until you give the okay. Whether it’s the iPad, the TV, the video game or the phone, seize control of it. Some of you may think this is monumental, but, it’s not. It’s all yours! It’s your home.
If you don’t control what they care about, you give away your leverage. Here’s the bottom line: If your son or daughter can sit in their room and be endlessly entertained on a device, then you have no leverage. You can take 3 out of 4 devices, and the one remaining can still allow them to be entertained enough to ignore your wishes to take care of their responsibilities. If you control the goodies adequately, then you have adequate leverage. (This may require some technical help, by installing software on devices and on your router, but trust me…it’s worth the investment!)
4) Get a Written Daily Plan: Work, then Play.
Each day, your kids should have great clarity about the game plan. They know what homework and chores are required to be completed before they get their goodies. Once this is in place, you see that you can honor all the commitments on this list. You can stop talking about all this, and simply await their efforts.
If you are to turn the habits of mediocrity around, this daily plan must be one where you hold them accountable for getting the work done, before you turn on the goodies. If they say they are done, you say, ‘show me.’ Keep it simple. If it’s done, awesome. If it’s not, don’t argue with them. Just note the problem and walk away.
5) Expect Some Drama
This is a given. Your kids won’t like this and will fight you. Expect it and ignore it. Stick to the plan, and within a few weeks, mediocrity will dissipate slowly as you require reasonable effort, with no interest in excuses, before they get their wish to have their goodies. Young or old, this will work. Stay strong and focused.