Should “their good” be good enough?

At his part time job, my son’s work is organized, clean and excellent, leaving the managers counting on him for more important responsibilities than other employees. My son is the teenager at his part time job who does what he is told to the very best of his ability.

Maintaining an organized bedroom? Cleaning the kitchen floor as well as Mom? Not so much.

Okay, sometimes his chores are done to the best of his ability. But in a teenager’s life with friends coming over, his first set of wheels in the driveway, and a girlfriend, well…the boy’s mind is just not on placing the big spoons with the big spoons in the silverware drawer. Cleaning underneath the toilet seat when cleaning the bathroom slips his mind.

One of my best friends once told me, ‘I’m the one who likes the house clean, so I can’t impose that on my kids’… Me? I indeed impose that upon my kids!

But maybe “their good” should be “good enough”. Different seasons in a child’s life bring differing levels of effort or interest – and this is normal. When my kids were in elementary school, they would vacuum the same three foot space of carpet for 10 minutes, just to do their best! Back then, there were few life distractions, play dates were controlled by Mom and their mind wasn’t on “what’s next?” or “where is my cell phone?”.

Occasionally I wondered: If I expect less at home will they be less at their part time jobs? Letting my insanely deep thought process go even further, will me letting them get away with only dusting half the tables (because they “forgot” about the others) lead to a forgotten business report to their boss when they are 30?

Okay, that might be taking it too far. To what extent, or at what age, do we say “I accept that this is your best”?

For me, it happened when my youngest daughter struggled with math in the fifth grade. My older twins enjoyed more academic ease, so after watching her put in double the time, only to earn a lesser grade (and suffer with the massive disappointment afterward), I knew my attitude about it would be everything to her. Other than tutoring and trying her best, there would be no “demands” for improvement because that child was giving it all she had.

After that experience, I learned to “back off” my kids in a number of ways that I had previously been demanding excellence about. While I still have high expectations, I realized that my acceptance of “their” good would usually – in itself – inspire them to do their very best.