Mindful Parenting & The 'I Want My Kids to Get Good Grades' Syndrome

As parents, we truly want everything for our kids. We want them to succeed. We want them to be happy and serene. And of course, we want them to grow, to find themselves, and make their mark on the world – because they’ve already made their marks on our hearts.

We want so much for our kids that it’s easy to get caught up in our wants, and to forget about their needs.

Recently, I was approached by another mother as I was picking my child up from school.

“Did you manage to get your hands on some of the testing material? We need to start practicing! The OLSAT is in a few weeks, and Sheila needs to score above the 96th percentile!,” she was frantic.

For those of you who don’t know, the OLSAT is the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test. Our public school uses it to measure giftedness. They do this in the second grade and our children have to score above the 96th percentile to be included in the Gifted and Talented Education program.

I have to admit, I was taken aback by the panic in her voice. It’s not just the fact that I don’t even believe you can test for giftedness in a standardized way . . . I mean, giftedness, by nature, isn’t standardized. But I’d hate to imagine what would happen if poor little Sheila, after putting in all those hours studying to please her mom, finds out that she only hit the 95th percentile, or worse.

Sheila’s performance on the test is just so important for her mother. But is it really about Sheila’s achievement or her own?

The Health Effects of Too Much Pressure

Most people thrive under the right amount of stress – when that stress is a challenge rather than a burden. But too much stress, and the best of us will break.

In general, children aim to please. They want to make their parents happy and proud. So if their parent is the cause of their stress, it becomes very difficult for children to speak up or push back.

More often than not, those kids will internalize their stress and it could negatively impact their health:

  • Kids who are under constant levels of high stress experience anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional issues.
  • Pushing kids too hard also affects their self-esteem, giving them the sense that they are never good enough.
  • Mental and emotional stress often leads to physical problems like headaches, stomach aches, nausea, and gastric reflux.

Additionally, children who feel the constant need to excel will simply refuse to participate in activities where they feel they won’t be the best, and miss out on new experiences in the process.

Let Them Shine and Give Off Your Own Light

When it comes to performance – whether it’s in school, on a sports team, or on stage, whatever the case may be – we need to remember that this is our children’s time to shine to the best of their ability. Their achievements and successes are not a reflection of our own self-worth, or a validation of our parenting skills. And neither are their mistakes.

Additionally, we need to remember that we still have a lot of our own achievements and contributions to make. Having a child isn’t an excuse to stop coming up with new ideas, creating, building up new things, in order to focus on and nitpick on our kids. Your strengths and abilities go way beyond a second grade standardized test or science fair project. Focus on your talents and push them further. Find your passion and cultivate it. But allow your child to do the same. Of course, you can guide them and you can instill important values in them. But you can’t drive them.

We often say that “our kids are the future”. That’s why we invest so much time, effort, and love in them. But to fully believe in that concept, we also have to accept that while we can mentor, we also need to let them lead to some extent in order to cultivate their own skills and talents.

Trust in Childhood

“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child.” I just love this quote by British playwright Tom Stoppard.

It’s so easy to look at our children and think they need to grow up, to mature, to get into college, to get a great job….and so on. But what’s the rush? If your child is doing a great job at being a five year old kid, then slow down and enjoy the present. What a shame for us to spend our days worrying about their future SAT scores when we could be digging in the garden together, or simply talking over lunch.

The point isn’t to slow down and give up. I’m not suggesting that anyone should have a laissez-faire attitude about life. But trust in the process, trust in childhood. School is a part of it, so is homework, waiting your turn, and raising your hand to speak in class. But those games that your child gravitates to, that’s also learning. The hike that made him or her wonder about the weather is an opportunity to feed their curiosity. The worms they dig up, the ball games, the board games, the books...there’s lessons in all of them.

A single test or a report card isn’t going to determine how well our kids will success later in life. If we let our children fulfill their purpose of being a child now, they’ll do great as adults, whatever path they end up choosing.

Tags : mindful parenting   conscious parenting   education   school   giftedness   

Sharon Gordal
This has to be a joke
Lindsey Velasco
Haha, so ridiculous!