As another school year draws to a close, end of year exams loom on the horizon. Final grades, class rankings, scholarship opportunities, and college admissions may all hang in the balance. As parents, we want the very best for our children; the best possible futures, the best opportunities, the abililty to live up to their unlimited potential. We encourage, we push, we champion, and sometimes, we punish for performances that don’t meet our expectations.
We do this to our children because we want what is best for them. As the older generation, we intend to be good stewards of these young people who may not yet understand the consequences of their present day actions. We teach them to work harder, achieve more, don’t settle for less… all good advice. Until it goes too far.
Anxiety and depression often lie beneath a relentless drive to succeed. When we believe that we must strive for perfection in all things in order to be successful, we deny ourselves the experience of being human; the experience of feeling valued, cherished, and loved because we exist, not because of what we accomplish.
Underneath it all, anxiety and depression are fueled by the fear that we are not enough. In our achievement oriented society, we learn to feel only as valuable as our last pay raise, or our most recent promotion, or our social status. Our children watch us incorporate these erroneous beliefs into our own lives and then they apply them to themselves. Our students feel only as valuable as their last “A” on an assignment, or their last invitation to a party, or the number of likes on their social media feed.
As the adults in their lives, we can model a different way for our children to approach the world. A calmer, more fulfilling, more purposeful way of life. It begins by knowing these three things:
- We are human beings, not human doings. We are valuable because we exist regardless of our latest accomplishment.
- Grades have never been a measure of self-worth nor are they an indication of intelligence. Grades are an indication of a knowledge gap which can always be remedied. Earning a “C” indicates that, of the total amount of information presented, there was 30% of that information the student did not retain. Grades indicate no more, and no less.
- We must release the false idea that perfection exisits. Perfection is a set of arbitrary rules we imprison ourselves with so that we can continuously strive to feel good enough, and justify ourselves when we feel we are not. (Spoiler alert: you are already enough. You always were. And so are your kids!)
During this busy time of year for our students and families, let’s spend time celebrating effort instead of achievement. Let’s intentionally value our children for the amazing human beings they are regardless of performance, and in turn, offer the same compassion to ourselves. The anxiety and sadness that may seek to invade our minds and hearts at times is no match for the grace that comes from feeling truly valued, cherished, and understood by those we love and who love us.