Never Good Enough

I have a question for you…

Do you always find fault with your child’s work?

Do you often redo what your child has done?

Do you praise your child only to follow it with the word “but…”?

Do you find your child falling short of your expectations time and time again and your frustration level with them rising because of it?

You might be dealing with a child who is Never Good Enough.  But, frankly, it isn’t so much their fault as it is YOURS.

Let me tell you a story…

My oldest has always been big for his age.  He was always off the charts thanks to a 6’4″ daddy.  And in my eyes, he seemed older.  He was very mature and I expected a lot from him.  Matter of fact, I still do, but I have a different perspective now.

Once upon a time, I wanted 12 year old work from a 4 year old.  Once upon a time, I wanted total maturity all the time no matter what.  Once upon a time, my son could never live up to my expectations and while he thankfully does not remember this, I know I felt everything he did was never good enough.  It always fell short.  And more often than not, I let him know.

As parents, we have expectations of our children.  Sometimes they are spot on and sometimes they are way off.  Sometimes they are just enough to challenge a child to do better and sometimes they do nothing but defeat our children.

While I’m not an advocate of “everyone gets a blue ribbon”, I do believe you have to be aware of treating your child as if they are never good enough.

Suppose your child shows you a picture she has drawn.  Suppose you tell her it is great, but she could have shaded it like this and it would have looked a little more realistic.  Suppose every time she comes to you with a picture she’s drawn you give her one more piece of well-meaning advice on how she could have done a better job.

Some day she’ll stop showing you her drawings.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes.  What if you brought a dessert you had created to a friend’s house and she praised it, but suggested next time you put in some nutmeg to make it better.  What if the next time the dish you brought needed a little more salt?  What if the next time your salad didn’t have enough dressing.  Would you keep bringing over meals or would you feel like nothing you ever did was to her liking so why bother?

Yeah, I thought so.

It gets old never being good enough.  Your child will begin to shut down because there never seems to be any sense in trying.  They can never, ever please you.

Please parents –

Let your child be good enough for their age and ability.

Build your relationship with your child so that when you do have a legitimate criticism, it is heard.  Otherwise, your voice is just the same old noise they always hear from you.


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20 thoughts on “Never Good Enough

  1. OUCH!……I needed that!
    Just yesterday I sailed into one of my kids for “yet again” not working on their co-op homework. I will admit, I let him have it, and I was nasty. I see SO much potential in this child. He is SUPER creative but lacks the “want to” when it comes to doing school work. He is my second (out of 7) child and honestly if I was him, I wouldn’t want to come after the oldest. I’d rather be # 5.

    After I calmed down my heart started tugging at how mean I was to this child. After I read this I am totally convicted of what I have done and know when he wakes up I need to fix this.

    Thanks for reminding this mama that he truly is “good enough”. I love him so much and I need to let him know that.

  2. Great reminder! I especially like how you illustrated the concept by putting us in our dc’s shoes. If I cooked something that ‘could be improved’-I’d be pretty inclined to be overly sensitive about it.

  3. As a child who never was and still isn’t good enough I can give stories about the pain. I will be honest and say I can be the same way with my children. I’m more conscience about it than I use to be and am thankful that my children have forgiven me. It is something I struggle with everyday, but I’m thankful for God’s grace and mercy that he will help not only me but my children as I overcome this. Thank you for posting about this “unseen” bad habit of parenting.

  4. Very timely. I am struggling with this right now with my oldest son. He’s always been so compliant and I guess we set the bar too high. Now that he’s older, I get very frustrated when he doesn’t behave or act the way I think he should or could and I’m way to harsh with him. I do pray this will change very soon, before it’s too late; he’ll be nine soon.

  5. I, sad to say, have a different problem with this. I don’t do this to my kids…but sometimes I find myself doing it to my husband. I am very particular (to the point of being OCD about some things), and it is a real struggle to bite my tongue and let him do things his way, even if I think my way is better/more efficient/more affordable, etc. And remind myself that, in the scheme of things…that “little bit better” (real or imagined) is not worth tearing down my husband.

  6. You’ve put the mirror up again for me to see myself! This is a great question to ask, and yes, I do struggle with this. I need to praise more for sure. My daughters helped me decorate with fall decorations yesterday and I am going to go right now and tell them what a great job they did… instead of pointing out, in frustration, that they never returned the decoration box to the garage (like I did yesterday)! Thanks Amy. :)

  7. Amy,
    Thank you for this. I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I know it stems from a desire to not make any mistakes with our kids. I look at mistakes of commission or omission by my parents, and of other parents. And instead of developing a purposeful, positive parenting philosophy, my philosophy instead becomes “anything-that-isn’t-a-screw-up” by default. I live by looking for and pointing out everything that is wrong, or could lead to something bad. I need to learn to change that mindset, it really is one of control. Thanks.

  8. Boy oh boy, does this take me back. I was the recipient of many not good enoughs while growing up. I’ve tried to remember as a mom to be careful not to follow those footsteps with my children, but reading through the comments and one mentioned doing this to her husband–ouch! Afraid I am guilty there. Thank you for bringing this subject up to remind, convict, and encourage us along the way.

  9. As a child who was never good enough I absolutely appreciate this post. It is a precious gift to not hear ‘but’ at the end of any praise or to have worked very hard on something and have one tiny thing get zeroed in on at the end of the day. Thank you for this reminder and admonishment and for being real enough with us to admit where you have seen improvement needed in your parenting. It is a precious gift and we appreciate it!

  10. Thanks for the reminder! Especially struggling with this with our oldest, an 11 yo boy. Just realized recently that we really need to watch this or we’re setting ourselves up for some real problems in the teen years.