“My life is over!!”

It was mid-November, and my over-achieving sophomore daughter had just received her first D on a chemistry test. It was devastation for a young lady who was used to all A’s. Her first D, and the world had come to an end.

In that moment, as a parent, I had a decision to make – do I commiserate and feed her devastation, feeling inadequate that my brilliant child did not perform to my expectations, or do I use this as a life lesson and help her build character?

Fortunately, with God’s nudging, I chose to use it as a life lesson. By the grace of God, I was able to look past her and my need for the A and realize that her character was more important.

Our Value Does  Not Lie in a Letter Grade

As Linfield’s first quarter ends, many students and parents are anxiously awaiting that one thing that society seems to tell us is so critical to our success – the report card. After all, it is the measure of our self-worth, the one thing that really counts for that top college admission, the measure against peers, and the prize that begets rewards. But something seems out of kilter here. After all, if we are made in the image of God, don’t we already have what we need to define ourselves? We are children of the Most High King! God doesn’t look at a report card and decide if we are valuable. Thank you, Lord.

What Do We Do?

So what are we to do when our children struggle and don’t quite measure up to our expectations?  We must use these experiences as an opportunity to build character. Character is built by the way in which we deal with adversity far more than our successes. It is heartbreaking to watch a young man or lady, at any age, beat themselves up because they have all A’s except that one B or C in chemistry or math.

Unfortunately, research now shows anxiety and depression significantly on the rise in our younger populations. The pressure to perform (in addition to the pressure of social media where everyone posts their scores) has put our youth at risk for potentially debilitating emotional issues. How do we, as parents, help them?

Resiliency, perseverance, and grit are all terms being used in current research circle discussions on raising and educating children. Dictionary.com defines resiliency as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Resiliency happens when we confront failures and redefine them as learning experiences. If we can inspire our children when they stumble to take a good look, to brush themselves off and learn from what has happened, we have given them a tool that is more important than the perfect report card. We have given them a life skill for success. Contributing columnist, Mitchell Rosen (2014) describes it like this: “If I have to have a heart transplant, I want the kid who got mostly A’s in chemistry, but I’m not so sure I want the doctor who earned ONLY A’s. Sure, I want that surgeon to know their stuff, cold. But I know there are ways to understand that are not always measured by a grade. Grades are important, but so is the ability to regroup, persevere and surmount.”

Back to my daughter: She found out that the sun still came up the day after she received the D, and she brushed herself off and developed the grit to tackle the course. Today, she is a successful engineer who possesses a character and resiliency that allows her to handle whatever life brings her way. Funny, no employer has ever asked about that Chemistry test grade. Instead they ask how she is going to solve problems and what assets she brings to the table.

For more information on grit, resiliency, and managing parental expectations, please see the following links:

Julie Lythcott-Haims – former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford
https://www.ted.com/talks/julie_lythcott_haims_how_to_raise_successful_kids_without_over_parenting?language=en

Jesse Weinberger – delaying gratification and managing technology in the lives or our children
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXy4eUlkLQQ

Angela Lee Duckworth – University of Pennsylvania leading researcher on grit
https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance#t-352930

 

References

Rosen, Mitchell.  Students should be taught the value of a B. The Press Enterprise.  June 8, 2014.  p. 7.    www.pe.com