A 13-year old struggles for years with math. His teachers come up with a simple solution: trim his goals into smaller steps, and focus on improving just a little bit from test to test. Over time, he raises his scores from 33% to 90%. Rather than being overwhelmed and frustrated, he was focused and encouraged by small victories.
"I'd take those little steps", he says, "then I'd just keep on stepping."
A little effort, continuously over time, equals big improvements.
STEP parenting is a lot like this. We know we can't be perfect parents, nor can we have perfect kids. But we can-- all of us-- be better. Even a little, every day.
The encouragement aspect of STEP is worth mentioning here. Rather than worry about praising kids, which requires-- in order to be honest-- something praiseworthy, encouragement is a gift. If a kid struggles to get a dumbbell off the floor, and finally is able to lift it even a bit--you can notice this, and remark on it. That's not phony, it's showing interest, and encouragement. The interest and good wishes you show are more valuable to your child than the praise anyway.
Goal-setting of this type, and encouragement, are both ways to help kids become more resilient in the face of failures and difficulties. They learn to take the reasonable measure of a task, and approach it rationally, rather than "shooting the moon" with no real preparation. The latter mostly results in failure and a feeling of hopelessness. The STEP approach (focus and encouragement) instead improves one's ability to actually attain the goal.
So for yourself and your kids, remember to STEP, and be SMART-- that means goals for both of you that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, with clear Results, in a set Time frame.
For more on this topic: see WSJ.com/Lifestyle