I had an interesting conversation with one of my children this morning.
They opened with this:
‘Why don’t you give me something to celebrate my report card?’
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They paused briefly before elaborating: ‘It’s just that my friends who also got good marks are all talking about the presents their parents gave them for it, and they ask me what I got and I have to tell them I just got a pat on the back and a “well done”.’
Where to begin? Maybe with a little context:
For their entire school careers (so far) I have placed no pressure on my children to achieve academically and almost no importance on the marks they get.
Providing they are not falling so far behind that they need additional support, and they are doing their best – I am not invested in the outcome. The only two report parameters I care about are their effort and their behaviour.
So far neither of my children have needed additional learning support. This is something I am grateful for, don’t take for granted, and I definitely don’t take any credit for.
I do my best to make sure they get enough sleep and have a decent breakfast before school.
I pay for their uniforms, books, excursions, and other school-related expenses.
I try to give them an emotionally healthy home to return to after each day at school. And while their academic achievements may be built on this foundation, they are very much their own.
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The child who began this conversation with me this morning happens to consistently get very high marks across their report card. None of these marks, or the awards received because of them, have ever been incentivised by my husband or I.
Of course, we are proud of our children when they do well, and we tell them, but we are not about to start rewarding high marks with extravagant material possessions.
Here are some of the questions I asked my child to help explain why:
‘Do you feel good about getting a fantastic report card, just for the sake of it?’