If your kids are school-aged, chances are, you already have expectations about what their grades should be. You’ve seen what they are capable of and if they are falling short, you know it immediately.
This week, my ten-year old got a ‘C’ on a reading test. I knew right away that this was ‘bad’. When I asked him about it, he said he was tired that day and that he had missed some of the review as he had been absent. These were legitimate reasons, but it wasn’t sitting right. The worst part was he didn’t seem all that concerned about getting a ‘C’. How could he not CARE? He let it roll right off him and said he still thinks he has a good shot at getting A/B honor and that’s fine with him.
My mind went into a tailspin. How could he not really, really want to be on the ‘A’ honor roll? Does he not care about school? His education? His FUTURE?
Then, I realized I was having a freak out over nothing. Yes. Nothing. My kids and their grades trigger me. They bring back the warped perfectionism I expected from my own childhood academic performance. Was it fun for me to obsess over my grades? Absolutely not. It was actually pretty awful. Did getting straight ‘A’s win me the approval and validation I was searching for? Maybe in the short-term, but it was never long-lasting as there was always another assignment to complete.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m letting my kid off the hook. I’m still going to expect that he tries his best and values education. However, I don’t want his academic performance to be the bread and butter of our relationship. I want him to feel loved and appreciated for who he is, not what he does. I’m guessing if I’m able to show him that, success in whatever he pursues will naturally follow. It’s only a theory, but it feels a whole lot better to me than expecting academic perfection from him. Maybe if I am able to cut him some slack, I’ll finally give myself permission to not always achieve perfectly, too. And, yes, I did get a ‘C’ in Econ 101 my freshman year in college. Somehow, I don’t think this matters one little iota to my amazing, quick-to-forgive kid.
It’s possible, I just got schooled.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent