Early on in my academic career, I became fixated with good grades. My mother was Tiger Mom before Tiger Mom was even born….
“99 on this test? Terrible. I better see 100 next time.”
In hindsight, it was her harsh method of encouragement that forced me to accept nothing less than perfect. However, once in college and no longer under the watchful eye of my mother, I “adjusted” my expectation of what was acceptable to accommodate my “collegiate life” (Tuesday and Thursday nights at Rutgers. Need I say more?). Earning a B+ was my goal. C’s would have to do and any A’s received would just be icing on the cake.
So when my second grader returned home with a 95 on her math test I was surprised to find myself thinking, 95 not 100? I quickly suppressed the thought and began to praise my daughter only to be interrupted mid sentence.
Wait. She was not happy with her grade? In a moment’s time, my parenting approach ran the gamut from disappointment to praise to shock to consoling.
“I am not proud of me,” she continued.
Dam – this parenting thing is close to impossible. Perhaps I should go with the Tiger Mom approach. But after a deep breath, I opted for a softer approach. Explaining that a grade of 95 is something to be proud of, it also shows there is room for improvement – improvement I am sure she can achieve with just a tiny bit of effort.
The tears stopped and she walked to the table. She solved the one incorrect problem on her test and turned to me.
“It’s done and I’m bringing it in tomorrow to show my teacher I did it. Maybe she’ll give me 100 now.”
Her teacher did not change her grade but did check off the correction. I can see the disappointment when she talks about her test, but I can also sense her determination to not accept anything less. And so begins my daughter’s academic career……