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Is Your Child “Just Average”?

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Development & Learning

We all want our children to be better than average. We even want them to be better than average in everything they do. But this is just not possible.

“Average” is a big part of any group and it’s very likely our kids are in that big part. The key lies in being okay with that.

It’s as if the actual numerical average of any quality were the center line of a two-lane roadway. All the pavement that runs on either side of that center line is within the average range. The shoulders that run on the outer edges of the two lanes are the parts that are above and below “average.” Most cars stay in a lane. Only a few cars are on the shoulder. And as long as your car is in a lane – going in one direction or the other – your car is “average.” So if your child’s test scores are “average” then he’s traveling in the lane, along with almost all the other kids.

It’s the same with anything your child might be measured in: height, weight, good looks, dancing ability, or Minecraft success. Two-thirds – two-thirds – of all the scores are in the average range. The one-third of all the scores that are not within the average range are equally divided between the two edges. One-sixth of the scores are above average. One-sixth of the scores are below average. That’s just the way it is. This is what being “average” means.

So it’s very likely that we all are pretty average. And if the population changes – if all children get smarter, for example – then the average changes with it. Being average is not a bad thing. It’s the way the world is.

So, if your child is “just average” what you do?

  1. Be happy. Good things happen to average people. They do well in business and politics, they become engineers and writers, they love and are loved. Most of the people you know, most of the people you meet are average.
  2. Be a cheerleader. If a grandparent or busybody neighbor puts pressure on a child to be more than average, set this person straight. Celebrate averageness and let others know you don’t really care. Don’t let others’ unrealistic expectations make you or your child sad.
  3. Be supportive. If your child dearly wishes to be better than average in a specific area, you can help her get more practice or learn more about how the above-average people got that way. Remember that very little humans do or are is so predetermined that hard work won’t improve things. We can all get better at what we really care about.
  4. Be sensible. Childhood is the time to explore a wide range of talents and possibilities. It’s not a time to specialize. Keep your own dreams in perspective, take your cues from your child, and help your child to set goals that are achievable for the average person.

Average is fine but anxiety is never fine. Don’t mess up your fine, average kid by trying to steer her onto the shoulder of the roadway. If she’s traveling just fine in the lane with everyone else, that’s a good place to be.

© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Look for free downloads on Dr. Anderson’s website at

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.