We all love feedback right? It’s important to get an assessment of our achievements in order to reassess our goals. But is this the way parents view their child’s report card?
Funnily enough, I see parents taking their child’s grades as a confirmation (or condemnation) of their ability to parent. So, let’s ask the question – are we valuing our children’s efforts, or judging our own abilities?
Having spent many years on the other side of the report card writing fence, I would get frustrated by parents who demanded justification of their child’s grade – or suggest I got it wrong. As a young teacher I would begin to doubt myself – maybe I should have done that assessment again? Perhaps I was being too harsh?
However, now with my own children in the system and receiving a report card as a parent, I can’t help but get wrapped up in the hard, cold ‘marks’ even though I know that their effort and general commitment to tasks is the most important thing. Even though I know that their happiness and willingness to go to school each day is worth more than a million ‘A’s’.
I’ve reflected on this and thought of 3 ways parents can keep their feelings in check towards standardized reporting – and stay focused on the most important thing… our child’s happiness.
Praise their achievement with description. It’s amazing how children can deflect praise if they truly don’t believe it. You might say ‘Hey buddy, awesome score in Maths’ and have them deflect your compliment with ‘Ha! Johnny’s was better’ or ‘Na, I suck at Maths’. This can cause frustration to well-meaning parents – and rightly so! The advantage of descriptive praising is that your child knows you’ve taken the time to really reflect on their effort – and they can’t argue with it. A more successful way to praise might be ‘You improved your overall percentage by 12%, and even though you really struggled with algebra you worked hard in order to pass.’ Words like ‘clever’ and ‘smart’ can put pressure on kids, make them feel uncomfortable or even cause them to argue because they don’t agree.
Avoid comparisons. So much of a child’s self-esteem can be tied up with their siblings or friends. It can be difficult to avoid this when you have report cards side by side, however focusing on effort and individual achievement is important – particularly using the descriptive praise described above. Don’t buy into kids trying to get you to take sides or praise one more than the other – celebrate uniqueness and respect their differences!
Be mindful of sharing results with others. Remember, these are not your results! While you may be bursting with pride, be aware that other parents may be struggling with their children. Also, little ears are always switched on – children are very aware of our feelings towards such matters. They detect pride and disappointment from our words and actions. Instead of statements like ‘I’m so proud of you!’ it can be more helpful to say ‘You must be so proud of yourself!’.
While it’s only natural to want to smother our kids with compliments and boost their self-esteem with ‘brags’, we need to keep sight of what really matters – our kids’ happiness.
A report card is just a snap shot of how your child performed on the day they were assessed, and they are assessed on specific topics each term or semester. These topics may be interesting to them, or not. They may emphasize their skills, or completely dodge their talents. And let’s not underestimate the achievement of a ‘C’ – age related standards are being met. That’s a celebration!
A report card is not a defining factor of our child’s success in life – it’s just a little picture of ‘now’. And ‘now’ looks different for us all.