My wife and I have high expectations for our three elementary school-aged children, but we have told them repeatedly that we do not expect straight A’s. That may sound like a contradiction, but it is not. If we see good effort then we anticipate that good grades will flow naturally. And if their best isn’t good enough to net them an “A” then so be it. Everyone makes mistakes, and nobody is perfect all the time.
My 11-year-daughter has hit the beginnings of puberty and as her body changes, so has her priorities. Getting full effort out of her is increasingly difficult. It frustrates but doesn’t surprise me when she forgets her homework at school on the last day before an assignment is due, but remembers clearly when the local high school football team plays a home game that she can attend with her sixth grade classmates and friends. She increasingly views anything that stands in the way of her interacting with her friends as a grave injustice.
We are fairly permissive parents. My daughter has her own cellphone and a Facebook account, even though the minimum age for Facebook is 13. We have worried that Facebook and texting have increasingly crowded out studying. I know in my head that if she spent as much time studying as she did texting, then she’d be straight A’s all the way. But as it stands, she remains an “A” student despite the many distractions.
Our parental permissiveness is really part of an unspoken quid pro quo. By that I mean as signs of lack of effort (and lower grades) begin to appear, parental permissiveness recedes commensurately. Put another way, we let her do what she wants and in exchange she has to do what we want. But recently we’ve seen her grades on individual reading assignments drop a whole grade one by one on three successive assignments. And then she came home with a C on a math test that by her own admission she rushed through, didn’t show her work, and didn’t check her answers before turning it in. In other words, a lack of effort.
Consequently, her cellphone has been confiscated and her Facebook password changed for an open-ended period of time. It is now up to her to demonstrate to her parents an increased effort and seriousness in school to get back her prized possessions. Until that time, her cellphone is stored safely in her father’s nightstand where I can hear it vibrating with incoming messages.
No doubt her many friends by now are wondering why their reliable texting partner has gone silent while she attends to other lesser priorities.