Thursday, May 12, 2005

Just shove their little heads in the sand…

Thanks to Anita for inspiring me to another discourse about life…

Anita’s post today is about the ever increasing tendency of parents and schools to remove things such as rankings and gradings for fear of traumatising those who are unable to achieve such successes.

I really hate the continuing trend towards a nanny state. We are doing our kids no favours at all. In work my performance is reviewed and I am told in no uncertain terms if I'm not measuring up, I am also rewarded for outstanding performance. How are the kids of today going to cope in the jobs of tomorrow if they don't learn now that poor performance gets you nothing? Their future employers are not going to stand idly by while they muddle through their jobs, at best these people will never achieve anything, at worst they wont be able to hold a job.

I also worry that kids will continue to pursue goals that are wholly unachievable in the mistaken belief that they are achievable, simply because no one dares to tell them otherwise for fear of hurting their feelings. I’m not suggesting that we prevent kids from doing something just because they’re not very good at it, far from it. I am suggesting that we teach kids to have realistic expectations of their own capabilities. If they understand that it’s unlikely that they will ever be brilliant at x but then want to keep doing it anyway, more joy to them. I play the piano, I’ll never be a concert pianist but I can play sufficiently well to please myself, and that is all that really matters.

I realise that this can be difficult. If you have a child who desperately wants to be the best at something, it can be heartbreaking to watch them try and fail, but that’s where parenting comes in. As I understand it, one of our jobs as a parent is help out kids through these trials, to cheer them on to greater things, to be there to dry the tears and administer hugs when they come in second, third, last, whatever. To reassure them that they are not failures simply because they didn’t come first, to teach them that doing their best is the important thing.

But without measures of success how will they ever know the sweetness of actually achieving the first place and knowing that all the hard work was worthwhile? How will the others, the ones that didn’t come first this time, know what they need to do to be first next time?

I'm not suggesting we be brutal to our kids, we don’t have to proclaim to the world that little Jimmy is a failure, but surely a way can be found to teach them this vital lesson without traumatising them. I look forward to the days when I have kids of my own with whom I can celebrate successes, that I can reassure through the not-successes, and that I can help through life’s’ valuable lessons; that most people cannot be great at everything, that it does no harm to strive, and that you don’t always have to be the best if you love whatever it is that you are doing.

Apologies if this rambles a little, sometimes I find it hard to articulate my feelings.