Do you remember the last time you failed at something and someone rubbed it in your face like you were a puppy being house-broken?
I’m sure you felt ready to take on the world, right? Or how about that amazing time you felt inspired, encouraged, and believed in enough to tackle that tremendous challenge again after being reminded of how royally you ruined your previous attempt — do you remember that? Do you remember how your self-confidence felt completely restored?
Yeah, neither do I.
I’m not saying there isn’t that 1% of humanity who rises up from the ashes of failure all by themselves and flies away on magical flaming phoenix wings of success.
But the majority of us wouldn’t get anywhere worth going in this life without some wind beneath those wings. (My inner high school self is cringing at the 1980s Bette Midler reference, but c’est la vie.)
Take off your parent hat for a moment and think back to when you were a child. Who was your wind? Who lifted you up when you were covered in your proverbial ashes, dusted you off, and made you feel like you could soar again? Was it a beloved grandparent? Perhaps an invested teacher?
As a parent, wouldn’t it fill your heart with unparalleled joy to hear your children say that, in times of personal failure, you were the wind that lifted them up, not the weight that held them down?
“But if they don’t make straight A’s in middle school, they’ll never get into a good high school!”
“And if they don’t make straight A’s in high school, they’ll never get into a good college!”
“And if they don’t make straight A’s in college, they’ll never get chosen for that graduate program, fellowship, medical school, law school, etc.!”
“And if they never get those few elite letters at the beginning or end of their names, then they’ll never have a good career, or good money, or good ANYTHING!”
Cue the parental harping, and the lecturing, and the never letting a single infraction slide. Because in today’s competitive, dog-eat-dog world, good is never good enough, right? But what happens when even that A is no longer good enough? What happens when your child brings home a test to be signed and points to the grade at the top? Do you instantly focus on the few marked wrong instead of the majority marked right? And what happens when that test grade actually is an A? Be honest. Are you the parent who asks, “Where’s the plus?”
You might be laughing. You might be thinking, “No one would say THAT. That’s preposterous.” But I know children who actually fear bringing home an A. May we please pause and think about that for one moment?
Afraid of getting an A.
The insanity of that statement staggers the mind, but don’t take my word for it. Google the words “school stress” and be prepared to peruse page after page of articles and videos. The research is clear and the reports, studies, surveys, and statistics are, sadly, plenteous.
Today’s educational landscape for far too many middle and high school students is dark and riddled with anxiety, stress, sleep-deprivation, clinical depression, and unfathomable horrors like self-harm and — every parent’s worst nightmare — suicide. Even the most loving, most well-meaning parents can inadvertently trap their children under this avalanche of pressure. There’s a reason people say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Your child, my child, their classmates — what they truly need from us, what they truly deserve for success and happiness in both school and life is not a push for more A’s, or even A plusses, but 4 solid F’s.