Why You Should Encourage Your Kids to Do Things Poorly

No you didn’t misread the title. As a coach and as a parent I have spent my life encouraging kids (especially mine) to do things poorly… at first. I don’t remember when I first heard the quote or even who to credit with first saying it. I just know I didn’t come up with it. But I have used it hundreds of times over my 30 plus years of coaching and parenting. Finish this statement – “Anything worth doing is worth doing …”
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Typically if I ask the athletes I’m coaching, they will finish it with the word “well”. Which of course makes great sense. Anything worth doing is worth doing well! Who could argue with that. But my favorite way to finish that statement is a little different.
Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly… at first.
The point is, in order to do most things well, you must first do them poorly. The problem is, most people aren’t willing to go through the painful process of doing something poorly in order to obtain the skills to do them well. I wish I had a dollar for every time a young person gave me the answer, “I don’t know how to do it” as a reason why they didn’t want to give something a try.
When my second oldest child, Krista was in 3rd grade she wanted to do Saturday basketball with all of her friends. It was an eight week long, low key instructional league with the high school girls serving as the coaches. So we signed her up and that first Saturday it started I gave her a ride to the gym. On the way she began saying she didn’t want to play anymore. I asked her why and she simply said she didn’t want to. When I pressed her a little, she began to cry and finally blurted out, “I’m not good at basketball. I don’t know how to play.” I then told her she didn’t have to ever play basketball again, but she signed up this year, we paid the money, and she would need to follow through with her commitment. Besides I told her, “the reason you do Saturday basketball is to learn how to play. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly… at first.” The rest of the story is… she finished Saturday basketball. In the end she loved the game and even played a year of college basketball in Hawaii before putting away her basketball shoes.
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Some might disagree with making her play that year after she changed her mind. The truth is, at the time I was more concerned with following through with what we sign up for than her ever becoming a basketball player. But in hindsight it became a great lesson for all of my kids to follow. Krista learned the need to try things she wasn’t good at. If it is worth learning and excelling in, then it’s worth being lousy first. How many opportunities pass us by simply because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves with our lack of ability. Teach your kids to give things a try. When they are young encourage them to learn new skills even if it means struggling at it for a while. They won’t eventually excel at everything – we all have different gifts. But they will never figure out the things they might be great at if they don’t first try.
What if inside your child is an accomplished pianist. Other than those rare prodigies, they will never know unless they first become a struggling new beginner. Besides, the hard work to learn and overcome the challenge is part of what makes the accomplishment so great. The struggle to become is part of what grows the character of our children. So ask your child to finish the statement, “Anything worth doing is worth doing …” Then create an environment where they will enthusiastically say, POORLY!”
Did any of your kids end up excelling at something they at first refused to try? What did you do to encourage them to give it a shot? Come visit our site and check out our video series, “The Family in 60 Seconds!”

5 thoughts on “Why You Should Encourage Your Kids to Do Things Poorly

  1. Yes, love this! I have recently picked up a new hobby myself. I haven’t learned something new in a long time and struggled with feelings of wanting to be good right away. It’s definitely helped to remember what it feels like in the moment and now I think I can better encourage my kids from this fresh perspective. I think it’s good for our kids to see us living this out, being clumsy in the process of learning and not giving up!
    Thank you Pritchards 🙂

    • Way to go Becky. I think our goal should be to never stop being willing to learn. Which of course means we have never stop willing to look clumsy and hopeless in the process! Thanks for the encouragement!

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