Is Excellence No Longer Valued?

The older boys have been complaining about our insistence that they go to Scouts every week, and also that we expect them to participate in Tae Kwon Do. When I ask what’s so terrible about either of these activities, there’s not much of an answer. The Mercenary told me about 6 times today: “All we do at Scouts is play a game, do bookwork, and then go home.” Apparently this is a travesty.

Tae Kwon Do is a sport that the whole family can enjoy together which is why we started it. We’ve told the boys that they need to be in some kind of athletic activity. If they want to do a seasonal sport, no problem. They can drop the TKD and pick it back up after the season. The point is to be active in SOMEthing.

There’s plenty of complaining on Scout or TKD days, then they actually go and come home smiling. Interestingly, they rarely talk to Hubby about any of this. I’m the one who gets sucked into the complaining on a weekly basis. (For the record, the younger boys also complain-vociferously-anytime there’s an activity scheduled for them.)

The whole thing puzzles me. What is so horrible about being in a sport or in Scouts? They seem to be objecting to having to leave the house more than anything else.

We’ve worked hard at making our home a sanctuary for the family; perhaps we’ve created monsters as well. It’s great that they love to be here…but they’re here all day every day with the homeschooling, so Hubby and I agree that it’s very important for them to have activities outside the house.

If I understand the Scout objection, one thing they dislike is having to write down what they’re learning in their record books. Both of the older boys have resisted writing all their lives and regard any writing requirement with disdain. I keep telling them that like many worthwhile pursuits, the rewards often come a little later, after they’ve put in some time and effort.

And that’s what it really comes down to, in my opinion: effort. For some reason, the very idea that an activity requires them to put forth effort and dedication is repugnant. Is this just part of the age? Are all boys who are eleven/nearly twelve so unwilling to invest themselves in something? Is this part of our culture now? I don’t remember ever being allowed to complain about an activity growing up. If I’d signed up, I was expected to follow through with my commitments.

I know it’s my job to push them, and I will continue doing it, but I have difficulty knowing exactly how much to push some days. It doesn’t feel good to be treated like an oppressor so often.

At the same time, I just can’t bring myself to let them drop out of everything and become slugs.

So here we sit, staring at each other across this…chasm. Workaholic vs. Slug Wannabees.

I keep telling them, “Some day you’ll thank me.” I really believe that; I just don’t like thinking about how far off that someday may be.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who value excellence.

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62 Responses to “Is Excellence No Longer Valued?”

  1. Lance Nelson says:

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for such a thought provoking article.

    Having been pused into sailing as a kid and see other parents, including myself, doing the pushing now, I know it generally works a lot better than other parents think. Moaning before acticities is normal, but as their confidence increases you can be sure they will be thanking you in years to come. You will not feel like the oppressor for long!

    I have noticed how other parents can be shy of pushing. Whilst of course there are limits, I think other parents have a lot to learn from you, who are prepared to be unpopular for a short while with your children.

    We probably did complain, but perhaps there was not this culture of children running their parents lives rather than the other way round.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Lance,

      Thank you for the encouragement! You’re right, I am willing to be unpopular. That part doesn’t really bother me, it’s just the constant arguing that wears on the nerves. Why do they think that the same old argument is going to get a different response? The waste of time and effort arguing is what gets me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.

      You’re right about the parental culture changing. I may have complained and definitely found ways to avoid putting my best effort into things, but I would never have dared argue with my parents about it. I was 17 or 18 years old before I ever felt confident enough to directly disagree with my mom about anything. I recall that the first time I did, she laughed at me. Now it seems like kids think it’s okay to just do and say whatever pops into their head. Not cool. I find myself explaining that their behavior is rude quite often, and they’re usually surprised.

  2. Amy, your post is a vivid reminder of my own childhood and parenthood – I enjoyed reading it tremendously. It triggers sweet memories of both journeys, that of having parents and that of being one, inclusive of the (many) humble pies served up for dessert. Not sure whether you’re “just” sharing your own journey as a parent, or looking for answers. If the latter, you have no doubt found out for yourself, everyone is a natural-born expert on parenting (some actually are), so I won’t go there. In it’s place, a quote: “It is true that my parents were worried because I began to speak fairly late, so that they even consulted a doctor. I can’t say how old I was – but surely no less than three.” (Albert Einstein) As a parent I had also found comfort in “letting my bending be for gladness”: Good luck with your two sets of twins. Lucky them, to have you as their mother! Cheers, Beat

    • Amy says:

      Beat, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I am both sharing the journey and looking for answers. Wisdom is gained through experience, and the many who’ve gone before me often have much to offer. I appreciate suggestions and observations as they enrich my own parenting. I don’t take all suggestions, but I do consider them, and both the acceptance and rejection of ideas sharpens my own parenting approach.

      I write also to keep a record both for myself and for my sons. Perhaps someday they will come back and read my words and realize suddenly that we’re walking the same path after all.

      That’s a lovely poem, thank you so much for sharing! I like it a great deal.

  3. Raymond Chua says:

    When the time has come, they will sure thank you for that.

  4. Two sets of twin boys what a marvel. You do not need reinforcement from us as you know perfectly well what to do, you’re doing it.

    That is just about one of the greatest caricatures on the internet and it says it all. These guys will be great, you are awesome parents, keep them in scouts and TKD. You are the mommy remember.

    The smiles say they are having a good time and the stares across a chasm are what all kids do to drive their parents wacky. LOL

    Oh btw, it was about 30 years before my son thanked me for making him stay in scouts. He said it was some of the best times in his life.
    .-= Rich Hill @ Link Money´s last blog ..Become a Warrior Join their Forum =-.

    • Amy says:

      Shucks, Rich. Thanks for all the kindness!

      They’re definitely making us wacky. I will do my best to use that to my advantage though. Heh, heh, heh.

      30 years, eh? As in 30 years past Scouts, or 30 years old? So are you saying it’s wishful thinking to hope they are thankful by the time they’re 25 then?

  5. We did push our kids and one – our son played football (soccer) every week and trained every week from when he was aged 5 to over 19. He loved it and never missed a game or training.

    What spurred him on? He won a few medals and ‘player of the year’…that sort of thing. Those gave him real confidence.

    Our daughter was a little harder…she tried loads of things and never liked any of them. Eventually we found her passion – swimming. She loved the water and again I think it was confidence. Swimming came natural to her and the coaches provided excellent feedback to her.

    .-= Andrew @ Blogging Guide´s last blog ..My favorite ‘at the gym’ music =-.

    • Amy says:

      Wow, 14 years of a sport? That’s amazing. We have tried to choose activities that are rewarding. With Scouts the boys can advance to new ranks and earn badges and patches and whatnot. Plus there are the camping trips and activities. With Tae Kwon Do, advancement through ranks is fairly quick early on. The boys are on track to test for the third time next month. They look at the whole thing and say “I can’t make it to black belt. That’s too hard and too long.” My answer is, “Okay fine. Choose something else.” But they have to be out doing SOMEthing. I think we’ll be in soccer again this spring. 🙂

  6. I can’t give any parenting advice for 12-year olds, but I can say something, because at some point, I was a 12-year old boy after all 🙂

    I got my inspiration through books and computers back then. I did enjoy my time on computer a lot, but going out to activities, sports and such were important because there I could meet friends and have fun with them. When it’s fun, and doesn’t feel like “work”, that’s all the motivation you need, whatever the task.

    • Amy says:

      Antti, you’ve got one on me! I’ve never been the parent of 12-year-olds before, nor have I been a 12-year-old-boy. I have to admit, they have me scratching my head frequently. I do not understand boys. 🙂

      Part of our difficulty is how “fun” is defined. The boys think that fun should require no discomfort and provide a great deal of excitement. I think fun should be moderately entertaining and accomplish a goal. They’re not too impressed with my definition, I’m afraid. Hopefully we reach common ground soon.

  7. My recollection of myself was that I was a pleaser and so wanted to please those I loved most (my uncles and Grandfather). For my mother I was much the same as your boys are with you and that was in the 1950’s. I think boys are like water, they will seek the lowest level and parents are in the position to have to be the enforcer of the family standard. That they feel safe complaining to you is to your credit. Keep that open, but don’t waver. Each week is a test, but they will continue to communicate their feelings because that channel is open. They also know your standard and will not want to fall below it without “permission”. Sounds like you are doing a great job. My time for that chore is over and I miss it. Thanks for allowing me and others reading this to share in this process.

    • Amy says:

      Bruce, the part about them not wanting to fall below our standards without “permission” warms my heart. Thank you. I hope that we are good enough parents to warrant that kind of loyalty from the boys. We’re sure trying hard. I know people are right when they say I’ll miss this someday, at the same time it’s difficult to truly appreciate that because of the frustration! If only there was a way to download 18 years of wisdom into a parent when the baby is born. This journey would be a whole lot easier, and I’d be doing a better job. 🙂

  8. David Rogers says:

    I’ve 3 daughters, now all away at University. They did engage in different sports, which were very much chosen by them. I was somewhat surprised they did sustain them as I had never been that keen on participation myself when their age. I don’t know if its a gender issue, choice issue. i agree with your sentiment of wanting them to engage, perhaps others have ideas of how best to achieve that. Good luck

    • Amy says:

      Thanks David. If the boys chose something else to do, I would have no problem with it. They just want to stay home and play computer games though, and I don’t believe that’s an appropriate choice. They get plenty of screen time, and that should be balanced with other pursuits.

      I’ve met some boys who are very driven to do one thing. So far my boys haven’t found something to truly love, I think. Which is fine…youth is a great time to try different things and see what you love. Sitting on the couch being a slug is not a good alternative though.

  9. Mitch says:

    I couldn’t agree more, developing social skills and exposing kids to new and different things is something that seems to be lacking since video games and the like seem to have taken over the world. and yes, someday they will thank you.

    • Amy says:

      Mitch, thanks for the support! It’s hard because I spend hours a day in front of the screen and they know it. The difference is I’m writing and coding and engaging with people, rather then playing games. It’s frustrating to them that value judgments are in play here.

      I’m looking forward to my someday. Hopefully I don’t frighten my sons with the whooping and hollering when it happens. 😉

  10. Hang in there on Scouting and active sports. In a former life I was Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop. Years afterward I would hear from “my boys” how great scouting was and they were often the ones who complained the most about it while they were in the troop.

    • Amy says:

      Birney that’s so good to know, thanks! I worry about a lack of gratefulness on the boys’ part. It’s difficult for them to see what I do: that they’re so incredibly blessed and have absolutely nothing to be sad about in life when so many others are less fortunate and/or suffering. Hopefully they gain that perspective with maturity.

  11. Corinne Edwards says:


    I have had four and they are grown up. I long for the old days when they were home complaining about everything!

    (It should give you comfort I survived)

    Chores – Homework – Scouts – you name it. I think it is their job.

    Your husband getting involved with Scouts would help. Most troops do not have a lot of activites and field trips to museums and the fire house and the police station etc.. They need a guy to plan these things and get a bus and other parents to help.

    At least they don’t whine like girls.

    And some day they will thank you.
    .-= Corinne Edwards´s last blog ..HAPPINESS – and the good ol’ days =-.

    • Amy says:

      Corinne, it does give me comfort that you survived. I’m pretty sure I will…not sure about the boys though. They put on a pretty good martyr act. And you’re right, the whining would be even more awful. Ugh. I really hate complaining/whining.

      Hubby is slightly involved with the troop while I am not. I do the Cub Scouts with the younger boys. I believe that he’ll get more involved in the future, as his work schedule has slowed down a bit recently. The Boy Scout troop that the older ones are in does have quite a bit of activity in warmer weather: camping trips and contests and field trips. In April they’re going to Kentucky to see the Mammoth Cave. I’m officially jealous as I’ve never been. It’s a very well-run group, and the boys are actually expected to do a lot of the planning while the parents just offer support and guidance.

      I think when we get to the someday and I am thanked that I should throw a celebration or mark it on my calendar or something.

  12. Debbie says:

    Hi Amy,
    Sounds to me like you are doing everything you can for your boys. Children will always compalin about something..
    I always put it this way. “There is know perfect parent and your children are adluts when they forgive you for what they think you did to them.”
    Debbie and keep doing what you are doing. Good Job

    • Amy says:


      You are obviously a woman of great wisdom. I shall have to remember that quote, and share it with Hubby. Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. Robb Sutton says:

    Someday they will thank you. It is hard to comprehend the experiences you have as a kid until later in life. They’ll look back on everything and laugh thankful that they had those experiences growing up. They just can’t see it now…

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Robb. Perhaps someone could invent some glasses to put on children so they WOULD see the wisdom of their parents in real time. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

  14. Hi Amy! I recently took my girl out of girl scouts – and I’m sure it has everything to do with the troop in her case – it just wasn’t as organized as I’d like it to be… but, I do require that we replace one activity with another – I try not to keep her too busy, 1 or 2 extra activities a week is plenty – I want her to have a lot of downtime – she can chose the activities, (with me of course) and except in rare instances has to finish out a semester. – That said, we’ll see how it goes when she reaches teenage years… ACK!
    .-= Michelle Vandepas´s last blog ..Neale Donald Walsch – When Everything Changes Change Everything =-.

    • Amy says:

      Michelle, one or two activities a week is exactly the speed we like around here too. Well. That’s what the parents think. Boys are of the opinion that they’re terribly overworked. Poor creatures. I keep looking at them and thinking, “If only they knew…”. Being homeschooled means that they’re in a complete different universe when it comes to scheduling. Once they’re done with work for the day (assuming they cooperate and are moderately diligent) there’s plenty of downtime. So complaining about going out for 2 evening activities is even more ridiculous in my eyes. Their peers do it after having been out at school all day long, which is much more taxing than what we’re doing. Maybe I should tease them about being wimps, lol. That’d get their goat.

  15. Joel says:

    Very interesting Amy! Being a twin myself, and having been in the Scouts I remember the complaining about going. I’m not sure why ti was, we often had things we liked to do together in our own world and not share with others. Even sometimes there were complaints about the things I really loved doing just because I didn’t feel like it. The “you’ll thank me in the end” argument never worked with me, even though it’s true!

    • Amy says:

      Joel, thanks for the twin perspective. I hadn’t thought about that being a factor. They definitely prefer staying home to Scouts or TKD. I keep saying that they need to stick with things through the basics/learning curve part so they can actually enjoy the fun parts once they’ve got some skill. I guess I can look forward to them agreeing with me when they’re 25.

  16. Benjamin says:

    Thank you, Amy!

    My first child isn’t due until next month, but I recognize that part of me is little more than a child.

    That part has to be persuaded to do anything.

    Once I learn to love something… it is continuously rewarding… until then, it seems like work.

    This post is an excellent reminder… we do have to make a point of getting the child to step out of his/her comfort zone… whether that child is someone else or our own ‘inner child’.

    keep smiling,

    .-= Benjamin´s last blog ..The Portable Prayer of St. Francis =-.

    • Amy says:

      Oh yes, Benjamin! I remember that you’re looking forward to a blessing soon. Best of luck with your new little one! That comfort zone thing is definitely huge. I don’t like stepping out of mine; pushing other people out of theirs is a lot of work. I can’t wait until they get enthusiastic about something on their own.

  17. Lisa says:

    Wow — two sets of twin boys — impressive and congratulations! I think you are so right about the exercise and moving — very important. I have a very athletic son, but I see too many of his friends who only play video games and sit on the couch all day. It’s unhealthy, and unmotivating.

    I was a girl scout and I too remember my mother forcing me to go to troop meetings and camping. I look back very fondly on those memories now. I think you should keep encouraging your boys to stay in scouts. It’s true — Mom really does know best!

  18. Joel says:

    That’s true Amy, sports start and actors don’t just turn up and be great, they have hours of training and tedium in order to get there. You don’t appreciate that when you’re a kid, it should be like The Matrix where you plug it in to your head and all of a sudden you’re a ninja. Or that might just be me!

    • Amy says:

      It’d be AWESOME to be able to just plug in some wisdom, wouldn’t it? Or plug in and be whatever you want….minus the weird bad guys of course. 😉

  19. Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny says:

    Hi Amy,
    When do we start practicing resistance? Age 2? Complaining is a skill that has to be practiced over and over again to get good at it. Too bad we don’t feel the same way about being happy and going with the flow. If and when you figure out the secret, you’ll be the Poster Child for Delighted Parents Worldwide.

    • Amy says:

      Wow, good point about complaining Cheryl. I’m going to have to ponder that one for a while. There’s a lot to chew on. I’d love to be a poster child, but I don’t think I’ll manage to figure out that exact secret, lol. But I’ll work on it!

  20. Eat Smart Age Smart says:

    I’ve been watching the amazing performances during the Olympics and it’s safe to say that all those medal winners had a parent that pushed them into greatness.

    I think what you are doing is amazing and I wish I had been lucky enough to have had parents who cared enough to want to push me into greatness.

    This is a great post for all parents and parents-to-be.


    • Amy says:

      Awwww, thanks Krizia. You’re too kind. I wonder if pushiness is required for some children and not others. My parents didn’t push me into stuff, just expected me to meet my commitments and left it at that. Yet my boys won’t do anything without our lead. Maybe your parents saw qualities in you that told them you didn’t need anything like that.

  21. Tom says:

    I remember when I was 12, I didn’t feel like learning English. My parents pushed me a little. Today, I wouldn’t know my wife, I wouldn’t run my business I’m running, etc. I could thank my parents for it every day. And I actually did, about 15 years later. I always tell my wife that kids are the longest term investments. And we are at the very beginning, I need courage…
    .-= Tom´s last blog ..A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 3 =-.

  22. Rick says:

    Thanks to my parents that have always been there for me. The parents does have to push kids but they have to give advice and they have to take time to understand and listen what their kids have to say. Great post!!!

    • Amy says:

      Rick it sounds like you have a great relationship with your parents. How cool is that? I hope you tell them how much you appreciate their efforts.

  23. Arya says:

    Parents must be smart for their familly. Really good story.
    i hope i can get some experience with my familly.
    Thanks For Your Share

  24. Phil-Am OSI says:

    Good story! Thanks for sharing.

    Yeah, parents must be smart enough to manage or handle their family.

  25. First off, I’m completely on board with the outside activity rule Amy. I wasn’t a part of anything like that after Elementary school, so I had a lot of time to get into trouble or just not do anything. I plan to make that a rule in my household as well.

    Second, I remember feeling the same way your boys seem to feel. I’m not sure why I seemed to dread any type of work or activity, but I do know you can’t give up. Anything worth while takes work. If they quit now, they may quit other things later. I think you’re doing the right thing. This could just be a phase.

    • Amy says:

      Keller, that’s good to know you felt that way. I agree that anything worthwhile takes work but when I tell the boys that their eyes tend to roll skyward.

      In this day and age, it seems like the only way to have even a hope of kids making it to adulthood without too much trouble is to keep them busy. That is my goal.

  26. Phil-Am OSI says:

    Thank you very much, Amy. You’re really nice.

  27. Tish says:

    Boys will be boys, ha! I had two boys, and they were also in Scouts. I think it’s a great program for boys, and the TKD sounds good too. They need to stretch themselves a little and get out there in the world. But they sure aren’t going to come to that conclusion on their own…. I guess I complained to my mom when I was a kid, and my boys complained to me, and probably their kids will complain to them. It sounds like you are doing a great job.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks, Tish. I don’t remember complaining to my mother about activities…if I was signed up for something I was supposed to stick with it until the end. I might have had conversations about liking or not liking something, but I don’t recall ever throwing myself on the floor or crying when it was time to head to practice or a meeting. It just wasn’t done. I think it may come down to the same thing I’ve run into before: I need to stiffen my upper lip and insist that they step up to the expectations.

  28. Jeff Kay says:

    Our kids used to be involved in city league sports: soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. They never really enjoyed it, and would frequently whine and complain, and walk around in pout-mode whenever it was time to go to practice or a game.

    Then we got them involved in competitive swimming, and everything changed. Well, not EVERYTHING. There’s still some occasional complaining. But they genuinely like it, and it’s not such an uphill battle for us anymore.

    My wife and I agree with you, that kids needs to be involved in some kind of sports-related activity. The ones who aren’t seem to get into a lot more trouble, end up looking like the Campbell’s Soup Kids, or both.

    • Amy says:

      Jeff, maybe we need to keep trying until we find just the right sport. And you should have a warning on the Campbell’s Soup Kids comment. If I’d have been drinking something I would have spit it all over the keyboard! Thanks for the laugh!!

  29. Thanks for sharing this nice Story and i hope i can get some experience with my familly.

  30. I was in scouts and am in the martial arts now. I can tell you I hated having a commitment to go to each week. I wanted to be able to just get up and go when I wanted to, and that’s the way I am still today. I however do like the MA and stuck with it, my parents wouldn’t put me in MA as they thought it would cause more problems with me learning how to fight, than being a discipline. when I turned 20 I enrolled and haven’t been in a fight since.
    The scouts thing, if I read what they are doing correctly, I wouldn’t want to be there either. my troop was the most camping est troop in San Diego. We went on a campout almost every month. That’s where the fun and adventure is. if you aren’t camping in scouts, you not having adventurous fun. You can always join a different troop that does go camping.
    .-= The Niche Think Tank´s last blog ..The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz – Book Review =-.

    • Amy says:

      One of the things Hubby and I have worked very hard on is making our home a place of refuge. Apparently we’re a raging success, because the boys want to stay here and play rather than go out. I’m hoping this will last until college, balanced with them being involved in life and friends etc. of course. We’ll see.

      Being that we’re in Michigan, camping isn’t as easily done over the winter. 🙂 However, they have had activities every month, including a campout, a winter competition, a swimming day, sledding day, and a few other things that I can’t remember just now. Next month they’re going to Mammoth Cave as a group. Overall, it’s a fantastic group, especially after a pretty lame Cub Scout experience.

      The boys (and particularly TechnoBoy) don’t like to write things down. The Mercenary has basically kept up with his paperwork. TechnoBoy, on the other hand, has not. They went on a required hike last summer and he didn’t write down 2 sentences in his book describing the hike. Someday he’ll figure out that a little work at a time isn’t so horrible while letting it all pile up can be painful.

      Did you make it all the way to Eagle Scout? And what kind of MA are you in now? I was a little concerned about the fighting but so far, they’ve done great.

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