Striving for Mediocre – The Parenting Crisis

We have a parenting crisis going on in America.  It is right before people’s eyes and most do not even know it.  Most people are too busy rolling their eyes to even notice.

It is the invasion of mediocre.  It is everywhere! Well-meaning parents are not pushing their kids to do better, but are settling for just ok.

As a private violin instructor I have seen a HUGE shift in the last  5-8 years.  A shift in how much kids are willing to work for verses how much they simply want to be entertained.  A shift in how many parents believe their kids can do more or how many parents are just happy to have someone else watching their kids for 30 minutes.

It is a crisis that has kids not doing their best, talking back to their parents, telling teachers “no” and a general non-compliance.  It is a crisis that has kids waiting to be entertained and kids that are wanting everything to be handed to them.

I could blame this on the rise of toys that have bells and whistles.  I could blame this on the entertaining electronics that are hooked to kids 24/7.  But really, it is the parents.

Our society is changing and too many parents are letting it all slip through the cracks, because it is easier to do than to put the work into counter acting it.

If you think I am crazy, here is an example.

Billy comes in for a violin lesson.  The first thing the parent does is let me know that, “Billy is tired today.”   Billy starts the lesson slowly and after about 2 minutes asks to sit down because he is so tired.  I proceed to let Billy know he will be just fine and let’s try it again to see if we can make a goal of 5 good bow holds.  Billy lets out a big sigh.  It takes approximately 5 minutes for him to do something that could get done in 2 minutes.  Billy complains that his legs are tired again.  I mention the next goal – we are going to strive for 4 good Mississippi Hot Dogs.  Billy lets out another sigh.  It takes 8 minutes and some dancing around from me to get Billy to cooperate.  By this time Billy asks how much longer the lesson will be.  The parent immediately responds, “You are almost done Billy, you are doing great.  I know you are tired.”

The truth is, Billy is doing awful.

The parent set the stage the minute they came into the lesson and announced, “Billy is tired today.” By saying this out loud, the parent just gave the child a verbal confirmation that it is ok to not do their best.  That it is ok to struggle through the lesson and complain.  The well-meaning parent just told the child that any behavior would be acceptable because they were tired.  Billy took the cue and instead of working hard he took the easy way out.  When there was an opportunity to potentially change the flow of the lesson (when Billy asked how much longer) the parent again excused his behavior by saying, “You are almost done Billy, you are doing great. I know you are tired.”

The child has now learned that mediocre behavior is acceptable as long as they say they are tired.  Or that they haven’t practiced.  Or that they don’t feel well.  Or that they are upset.  Or that they broke a fingernail..of any other host of excuses.

Parents are allowing their children to be mediocre by excusing their behavior – by finding an excuse and stating it outloud.

Now let’s play out this lesson scenario another way….

Billy comes into the lesson.  The parent smiles and says nothing.  As a teacher I can tell that Billy is tired, so I specifically choose goals that are attainable at the start of the lesson. “Billy let’s do 5 good bow holds.”  Billy does 5 in less than 1 minute.  “Fabulous Billy!  Let’s try 5 Mississippi Hot Dogs as loud as a lion,”  I respond.  Billy smiles and does 2 super loud Mississippi Hot Dogs, so loud that it makes me laugh.  Billy starts laughing too.  We are 3 minutes into the lesson and Billy is so focused on violin that he has forgotten how tired he is.  30 minutes later Billy bounds out of the lesson with a big smile on his face proud of his accomplishment.

Huge difference eh?

I see these two stories played out week after week.  The parents that begin lessons with an excuse….the lesson is long and painful for everyone involved.  The parents who let their child build skills, yes even when they are tired, their kids excel.  The lesson goes fast and is fun.

Raising kids is not rocket science.  People have been lead to believe so, but it isn’t.

A few weeks ago someone said to me, “You have such high expectations for your kids.” I responded with an enthusiastic and very firm, “You bet I do!”

Why wouldn’t I??

When in our society did it become a negative to set high expectations for our kids as far as behavior?

Any kid can do anything given the chance.

The number of times my kids have heard – “Use your head.” or ” This behavior choice is not acceptable in our house.” or “You are better (more) than this behavior choice” is probably astounding.

Yes I have very high standards for my kids.

I have very high standard for ANY child.  I think that all children can be respectful.  I think that all children can work hard and accomplish a task.  I think that any child can be great.

I know you do too, but perhaps you are not reflecting this in your parenting style.

Allowing mediocrity will not get us anywhere in life, but in the exact same spot.  Reaching for excellence will raise a generation of leaders, of thinkers,  of  kids who are ready to work for and reach their dreams.

And it all starts with behavior expectations.

Just yesterday someone commented at how amazing it was that my twin boys, who are 8, sat patiently (in the same chair) at our music studio while my husband and I taught a 30 minute music lesson.  Our boys talked with the adult and talked to each other while they waited.  The adult said, “You don’t see that anymore these days in most kids.  That is amazing that they sat their so well. ” I responded with, “Thank you, yes, they do great.  They know that their only option is to be well-behaved.”

I get these types of compliments all the time about my kids.  My boys are REALLY well-behaved.  But they are no different than any other kids could be.

In case you are wondering, yes, I give my kids plenty of time to just be kids- to ride their bikes, climb trees, collect sticks and rocks, build forts, read books, and run around the yard laughing, but what my kids do not get any time to do is be mediocre.

So the next time you want to give your kid an out – an excuse to be mediocre – stop and think about if that is what you really want for them.


Summer Joy


About The Author

Summer Brackhan

Mom, sociologist, teacher, author, musician, world traveler, parenting and health coach who believes healthy living incorporates body, mind and soul and that life is not about living in little boxes, but experiencing everything at its fullest.


  • Brailey

    Reply Reply May 9, 2013

    I agree

  • John Miller

    Reply Reply January 7, 2015

    Couldnt of said it any better. Had this conversation with another parent about my son wrestling. That I push him too hard. My question to them was please explain. Their response was that I make him practice hard, I’m always pushing him to do more, that it should be fun. I said my son does have fun, but to get better it takes HARD WORK. Which isn’t always fun. We have fun and laugh and joke at practice but we also have times where it’s serious and were pushing hard. They’re kid wins about 50-60% of the time, my son wins 95% of the time. I asked her son how does it feel when you lose, answer “not good”. So I asked “you mean it’s not fun to lose?” obvious answer no. Smiled at his mom then walked away. Her son has real talent, naturally gifted, and if he worked harder he could be great. Sad world..

    • Summer Brackhan

      Reply Reply June 9, 2015

      So interesting John! I have always held the belief that in sports coaches and parents do push hard (some too much) because I’ve seen parents get really tough on their kids when they loose. But, you mentioned the training aspect and how practice with your son is a balance of fun and serious and that to get better (at anything) it takes hard work. Thanks for sharing!

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