sometimes, we have to do what’s required.

“Not every kid made the team when they tried. We got disappointed and that was all right. We turned out all right. It was a different life, when we were boys and girls. Not just a different time, it was a different world.”
A Different World, by Bucky Covington

PinkGirl is 7 years old and has been in 2 to 4 plays a year since she was 2 1/2 years old. At 7, she has had a LOT of people tell her how “wonderful” she did after a performance. And yes, she’s done a good job. She has play rehearsals for 15 weeks before a performance, so she gets good at whatever part or song she’s to perform.


She wanted to sing with me at church a few months ago and while I was practicing, she wasn’t. I rehearsed in the car. She wanted to listen to Radio Disney. I rehearsed in the house. She was playing Barbies. So I told her she couldn’t sing with me unless she could sing the song the same way 3 or 4 times in a row without messing up. Sound harsh?

Too bad.

I’ve got a framed quote in two different locations in my house and I’m trying to teach my kids its true meaning:

“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”
Sir Winston Churchill

I’m a vocalist, a speaker and a trainer. I know that hard work – and I mean HARD work – goes behind every performance, every presentation, every training session. I understand that I can only be good at what I do if I WORK at it. I memorize my lyrics and sometimes I interpret a song using sign language. I work with a sign language coach to make sure I’m getting the concepts right. I practice over and over and over and over . . . Since I’m an extemporaneous speaker, I don’t memorize presentations or lectures, but I do have my outline DOWN. I may not know exactly what words I’m going to say, but I do know EXACTLY what I’m going to talk about and in what order. When I speak or train, I’m prepared.

So I wouldn’t let PinkGirl sing with me unless she practiced. At a minimum, she had to know the words to the song. She had to be able to sing the song the exact same way, more than a few times in a row – BEFORE I would allow her to perform. Sound harsh?

I can live with that.

I know what would have happened if she sang without practicing. She’s cute. People would tell her how well she did. They would tell her that she did well – EVEN IF SHE DIDN’T. And that’s not good. Sure. It’s kind. In the “now.” But what does it teach her in the long run? Nothing good, as far as I’m concerned. It teaches her that “good enough is good enough.” (I HATE that phrase.) It certainly doesn’t teach her a good work ethic. It certainly doesn’t give her a realistic view of her strengths and weaknesses. How does she know what areas of her life need improvement if the only feedback she gets is praise – for “trying.” In this particular case, she wasn’t even trying. And that doesn’t fly.

I think that’s a big problem these days. We need to – in a kind and loving way – give our kids honest feedback and help them develop realistic expectations.

This past basketball season, FavoriteSon was one of 11 boys who made the 7th grade team. In the beginning of the season, he was getting very, very very little playing time. We called the coach to talk with him about it, and he graciously explained it this way: “He’s the 11th best player in the seventh grade.” ouch. Tough to hear. But what do we do with that? Do we tell FavoriteSon, “You keep doing your best. We love you.” Well, sure. But that’s not all we did. We asked the coach for specifics. What did FavoriteSon need to work on? What could we DO?

The first thing we did was tell FavoriteSon the truth. We let him be sad for a few minutes and then we asked him:

“So, what are you going to do”


“Do you love basketball?”


“Enough to practice every day?”


Then we (FirstHusband and myself) put forth some serious effort into helping FavoriteSon get better at this sport he loves. With continuous feedback from the coach, we helped him improve his skills. We helped him with his communication skills to increase his credibility with his coach and his teammates. We explained how he could show the coach how he was improving. We encouraged his work ethic by pushing him to give 100% EVERY time he got on the court, whether it was in a game or just in practice. He worked at it. EVERY day. He had his first life lesson in “doing what was required.”

In the end, FavoriteSon’s coach awarded him the “Chameleon” award at the end of season banquet.
In the end, PinkGirl learned the song (Down in the River to Pray) and sang with me.

I can live with that. And more importantly, so can FavoriteSon and PinkGirl.

This post was inspired by Audra over at

3 thoughts on “sometimes, we have to do what’s required.

  1. You ROCK girl! Thanks for the great post and some really great tips on helping our kids deal with the stuff of real life. Reality, they aren’t going to make everything they try and do, and we can harm them more than help them by paving the way for them. Very well done.

    Audra – Thanks, woman! For the compliment, the inspiration and the thought process. I’m not sure I realized why I did the things in this post until I was thinking through and writing. It’s going to help me be more proactive when I face similar situations in the future, that’s for sure. (by JSM)

  2. When I was in high school I was in band, and we had learned to play a very difficult piece. It was in 5/8 time, and it took us a long time to master it. But master it we did, and we were looking forward to competing with it. On our last rehearsal day before the big competition, the trumpet section decided to screw off. The piece started with a fanfare on an upbeat, and the deliberately messed it up every time and then busted up laughing. The director told them that if they did that one more time he’d cancel our entry. We all glared at them and willed them to do it right, we really wanted the world to hear how well we’d done with this impossible piece. But they did it again. And we never did play it in a concert as a result. I’m still very bitter about it.

    Memarielane – I HATE it when kids who are behaving are punished because of the bad behavior of others. HATE, HATE, HATE it! It’s NOT right. A more directed consequence may be much more difficult to carry out, but I truly believe the well behaved kids will always be worth the effort.

    I try to shoot for positive consequences for good behavior, rather than negative consequences for poor behavior. It’s MUCH easier. And more fun. It’s too bad your director didn’t join in the fun for a few minutes, and then lightheartedly offer some “carrot” or challenge to get them back on track.

    You didn’t mention what instrument you played. (by JSM)

  3. Amen and alleluia girl!! I get so tired of meaningless pats on the back….and the result is America is raising a society of whiny underachievers. (Hence the book Do Hard Things is such a breath of fresh air.) Thanks for setting the bar for your daughter and insisting that she reach it, and for helping your son not become a “victim.”

    And don’t even get me started on comment #2 with the “punish everyone for the misbehavior of the few.” Makes me furious. Don’t know why we’re supposed to tell kids to ignore peer pressure about some things but cave to peer pressure to behave! LOL

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