Grade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between.
It’s lots of fun to talk about how awesome and amazing our children are. They’re smart and funny and they make us smile from time to time. We love talking about those times, telling those happy little stories. It’s a lot harder to open up and talk to other parents about the hard times, the things our children do wrong. We don’t want everyone to judge us as awful parents when they hear that our kids messed up. Maybe that’s why it’s difficult for parents to open up about the times when our kids aren’t the best in their class. That’s why it feels inappropriate to mention that your kids don’t really like school or don’t get perfect grades. And when it comes to behavior, no one wants to say that they’re the parent of a bully or a cheater. Unfortunately, these problems exist and parents need to be able to talk about them.
A close friend of mine sat down to lunch and revealed something that she was obviously struggling with. Her son had been caught cheating on a test in school. She had just gotten the phone call from the teacher letting her know. This mom was avoiding eye contact, her head hanging practically in her lap as she told me that she wasn’t quite sure what she would say when she picked her son up from school that day. Truthfully, she felt guilty just admitting her son’s actions.
We both tried to look at the bright side a little. Her little boy was young enough that the incident wouldn’t effect his grades or his school record. It was a relatively small test. She would have the opportunity to shut this behavior down before it became a serious issue. We all know that one disciplinary issue is not the end of the world. Every child makes mistakes and they can all go on to do just fine in school.
The funny thing is that when you’re in that situation, those positives are easy to forget. And when people are commenting on situations like cheating or discipline problems, it’s easy to make huge grand assumptions about someone’s personality based on a single piece of information. Admitting that your child cheated lets groups of people rush to judgment about your kid, saying that they lack ethics or morals or knowledge of the difference between right and wrong. Believe me, I know how one discussion about a child’s poor choice can lead people to say horrible things about little ones whose personalities aren’t even developed yet.
The fact is, my friend’s son is not a bad kid. He is energetic and kind. But his mother will be the first one to admit that he isn’t in love with academia. He has to work hard in school. And kids aren’t notorious for appreciating and valuing hard work. Let’s all be honest, your little ones are jumping up and down at the chance to do their chores.
My friend went home after that lunch and she had planned out a long talk with her son. That night, he cried as he apologized for his stupid mistake. They set up a fitting punishment and discussed what would happen should the issue ever arise again. I honestly believe that this mom did everything she could to help teach her son the right way to behave. She shouldn’t have any guilt or embarrassment in that.
Yet, I know that as a mom, I would be hesitant to open up about an experience like that with people who would judge my kid. And that’s sad, because talking about it is how we help other moms dealing with similar issues. Moms are a force to be reckoned with online. We gather in community and discuss pop stars and tabloid culture. But when it comes to talking about our children, it’s hard to admit the rough patches, because people are quick to attack kids and even faster to attack the mothers who dare to admit their kids’ shortcomings.
We have gotten much more comfortable admitting that we aren’t perfect parents, our whole website is devoted to it. We’re a lot more scared to admit that we didn’t raise perfect children.
Between 75 – 98% of kids in high school admit to cheating each year. They don’t even seem that ashamed of it anymore. And yet, the mothers who raise them feel guilty, so guilty that we don’t even want to discuss it. Maybe a little less judgment and a little more support would help all of us find ways to combat the problem, instead of leaving moms to worry about it in private.