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No Points for Second Place

With the Summer Olympic’s just around the corner. I am reminded of all the hard work athletes put into their training and take stock of my expectations. Is there too much pressure on each athlete to succeed? Is it the end of the road for them if they don’t win gold? How much family disappointment (and, in some cases, national disappointment) do they have to deal with? Is this fair?

We all want the best for our children. We want them to achieve and to succeed and to win gold all the time. But is it possible for everyone to be the best? Are our expectations fair and realistic? Are we setting our children up for failure by expecting unrealistic results from them? Are our expectations personal or guided by what society deems to be “great.”
    Of course, we should encourage them to reach for the stars, to do their best and to challenge themselves. Sometimes, against all odds, they succeed – just like David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den or the Macabees. When they do succeed, their self-esteem soars and all is good.
    However, if we expect them only to achieve at a very high standard every time, we are setting them up for failure. They feel they have disappointed those around them, their self-esteem wanes and all is not good. Is it fair for us to have unrealistic expectations of our children?
    It is easy to brag about their achievements when they excel but what about the child who normally struggles with math and brings home a “B.” In a world with reasonable expectations, that is an accomplishment, something to be celebrated. That child should know that we are proud of her hard work, effort and accomplishments and those parents should not feel embarrassed to share this accomplishment.
    It is true that all our children are accomplished in one way or another, so let’s be realistic about our expectations and cherish their accomplishments, building self-esteem and confidence along the way. No matter what the rest of society deems to be success.   

SUE PENN has a Master’s Degree in Education and recently obtained a Certificate in Jewish Professional Leadership from Northwestern University and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning. Sue has been working at University Synagogue for 14 years. She lives in Irvine with her husband. They have three wonderful children. Sue is currently the Director of Membership and Congregational Learning where she oversees all membership, education, and congregant engagement from ages 6-106. Sue has been honored for being an innovative educator and is committed to creative approaches in Jewish Education. In fact, she has led national webinars guiding administrators and teachers in building innovative models of Jewish education. She also writes a monthly article for Jlife Magazine. Sue believes that every child needs to be challenged to reach his or her own potential priding herself in personalizing each student’s Religious education. She currently sits on the National Board of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, is immediate past president of the Orange County Jewish Educator Association and has previously chaired the National Board of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America. Most recently, Sue was a participant in the Kaplan Center’s 21st Century Kaplanian Vision of Jewish Education.

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