Celebrating Achievements: Not All Are Created Equal

by Gigi Ross on March 21, 2012

This month is a month of achievements in our house.

Little CEO performed in an extracurricular singing program. Boy Wonder is testing for his black belt in 3 weeks.

And they both are doing excellent work in school.

There are lots of reasons to celebrate around here. In fact, if we celebrated each one equally, we’d be partying like rock stars every week.

But I started wondering: what message does that send to my kids?

electrolux achievements

The fact is that my kids are naturally good students. I don’t mean this to be braggy. While they both put forth good effort, there aren’t a lot of hurdles to them being successful. There is an ease about it all.

In the case of Little CEO’s recent performance, however, things weren’t so easy. She has suffered from pretty severe stage fright from a very early age. At her first dance recital at age 3, she stood in the background, dressed beautifully in a Christmas tutu, sobbing and holding her teddy bear, while the other girls danced happily in front of her.

Just this past Thanksgiving, dread filled her heart at the thought of having to perform the Virginia Reel with her classmates for a parent Thanksgiving program. She has fear of people laughing at her. She was caught in the grip of this fear – something that was difficult for me to understand, since I’ve been a performer nearly my whole life.

This performance that she recently gave required her to stand on stage in front of 50 people and sing a solo. I wasn’t quite sure why she wanted to do this particular activity, given her fear, but we supported her choice, hoping that maybe by staring her fear right in the face, she could conquer it.

And she did. She was scared, but in an excited way. She picked out a new dress, and I did her hair, and we all came to watch her. She was the picture of poise. And when she curtsied at the end of her solo, I could see in her face that she knew: she had done it.

What is the bigger achievement: her impeccable schoolwork that she can complete with only half of her attention, or overcoming this palpable, horrible fear? Should her good grades be met with as much celebration as her performance?

And there’s Boy Wonder’s upcoming black belt testing. Two and a half years in the making, every week of the year, 2-4 times per week. He has sparred kids twice his size, been bruised and battered, but always gets back up and keeps fighting. Memorizing information. Going when he really didn’t feel like it. Being told to do things over and over until they’re perfect. He is not the best martial artist, but his work ethic and commitment have blown my mind. He’s wanted to quit several times, but has kept his eyes on the goal.

What is the bigger achievement: his schoolwork, or persisting through challenging circumstances over two years?

I’ve concluded that for our family, it works to have varying levels of achievement – and the celebrations that accompany them should correspond. The more commitment or challenge it takes to achieve something, the bigger that achievement is – and the celebrating that follows.

Do we still celebrate our kids’ good grades? Sure. We tell them they’ve done a great job, and how proud we are of them for always putting forth a solid effort. But we don’t create the same fanfare over it that we did for Little CEO’s performance, or what we will for Boy Wonder’s upcoming black belt testing.

I hope we’re teaching them a solid lesson that all achievements are not created equal, and that the achievements of which they should be most proud are the ones where they’ve worked the hardest, or persisted the longest, or conquered a fear.


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Jessica March 21, 2012 at 4:36 am

I think this is so true Gigi, my kids are all so different with different abilities and challenges. What we celebrate for my daughter with autism may be something we take for granted with my other children each day. I think it is great for them to grow up knowing we all have different strengths and weaknesses and need to support each other through them.

Lea Ann March 21, 2012 at 6:26 am

Right on, Gigi. I praise my kids, who also seem to have an easy time with school, for their perseverance, not their performance. For the means, not the end. I also tell them to look around and recognize when one of their friends tries really hard at something, and to praise them for it. Even my kindergartner has started naturally doing this now. *yeah*

You are an excellent parent. And, you write excellent, thought-provoking parenting posts.

Deirdre March 21, 2012 at 9:14 am

So true…and yet my kids have picked up the idea that the grades are so important- from school, mostly and here we are, having to do damage control.

meg March 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I couldn’t agree more. With 4 kids, we learned that they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, doing your best is subjective but parents know where the real hard work lies. We collectivly have to cheer for the underdog around here and these kids rise to the occasion.

Goa trip March 21, 2012 at 11:57 pm

From my opinion we should encourage our children even when they are not performing well because at that time they need some guidelines and i think anybody else can’t show the right way to them except parents. So i think this is the nice and easy way for your child to become a perfect performer.

Susan in the Boonies March 22, 2012 at 8:24 am

Great job on this post, for two reasons.

#1: I didn’t know it was a sponsored post till the end.
#2: I didn’t enter that contest, specifically because I don’t feel great about trumpeting my kids every little sneeze.

I figure the kid’s accomplishments that are REALLY worth celebrating belong to some kid with special needs, or who is in the Special Olympics.

We’re such a non-extraordinary family, in so many ways, and most of our problems have been #WhitePeopleProblems.

kludgymom March 23, 2012 at 7:39 am

Non-extraordinary is okay by me, too.

Connie March 22, 2012 at 9:46 am

You make a great point that I can completely relate to. My kids also easily achieve good grades, and we acknowledge that without going overboard. My daughter also suffered from stage fright. For years she didn’t want to join dance or anything because she didn’t want people “watching her.” This past Christmas at a school program she voluntarily performed a duet in front of 400+ people in a packed gymnasium. We were so proud of her! You’re right, those achievements they really fight for deserve more celebration.

Laura Jourdan March 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

Gigi, we miss your family. Black belt testing here in Austin was last month…We now have a black belt in the family! I know how hard Boy Wonder has worked to get there. And so proud of Little CEO. Our daugher also has stage fright, despite her outgoing personality. That first dance recital was definitely a nailbiter, as we didn’t know if she would run off stage crying, or stay with it. She stayed with it, and each year gets more confident in her abilities. Those “I did it myself!” moments (my daugher’s famous last words) are always neat to experience as a mom, and yet they come with some mixed emotions because you know your little one is growing up more every day. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Pinay WAHM Blogger April 1, 2012 at 1:10 am

Very well said, sister. I know I grew up pressured about achieving the good grades because that’s the only way to get attention and rewards from my parents but I won’t do that to my children. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses but what’s more important is we grow to be an honorable and respectable person, which should be instilled to our children.

KatiaCavallo April 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Great blog, have reposted with your permission. We develop educational apps for kids and rewards play a big role in the YogiPlay enhanced learning environments!


kludgymom April 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Thank you for the linkback!

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