As a parent of three interesting children, ages 16, 14, and 19 months there is nothing I desire more than wanting my children to be happy and successful people. I want them to find their passions and have enough courage and confidence to chase their dreams and live a life their little hearts desire. As their parent I feel obligated and responsible to help them and guide them to their goals. Since they were babies, I have sacrificed a lot of my own time, body, money and resources to ensure that they grow up to be productive members of society. Of course, as a parent, there is nothing wrong with wanting the very best for our children. I am confident that most parents feel the same way, and therefore, our intentions may ever be so noble and good, but sometimes those intentions can be disordered.
I teach 7th Grade Gifted Math at the moment and I see everyday the pressures my students face in succeeding in my classroom. This success is no longer measured by effort and learning something new. It is no longer good enough to achieve A’s, but to achieve A+’s. That plus signifies excellence, honor and perfection! What kind of people are we raising when it isn’t good enough to try our best anymore, but we must be better and perfect?
The competition in my classroom is stiff, and rather than enjoying the process of learning, there is an environment of stress. This isn’t brought on by the kids themselves, it is coming straight from their parents. On the surface it looks like these parents are being loving and supportive because they only want what’s best for their child and what is wrong with teaching our children the ability to achieve excellence and to be winners? Nothing, except when that desire becomes disordered.
And speaking of arenas, this attitude of wanting our children to be winners goes into their arenas of sports as well, and what I have witnessed in the stands while watching my son play a game of basketball is not only disordered, but disheartening. It’s one thing to sit on the stands and hear parents cheering their child on to perform better, and quite another to hear parents yell at other children and cheer their failures. I have seen these well intentioned parents dehumanize the referees and shout out profanities to them and even threaten them. Yes, threaten them! I am not sure what to make of the booing and despising attitude of the opposing teams. What is wrong with us that we think it is acceptable to treat our children in this way? What is wrong with us that we act so verbally violent over a game of basketball?
Most importantly, how can something as noble as teaching excellence and the love of winning turn into something so disordered?
It’s just a game people! Nobody is going to die or lose a limb over a loss. Making mistakes is how kids learn and yelling at them for making them is causing a lot of anxious and stressful little people in this world.
Speaking as a parent and an educator, play is no longer play when it fosters stress and anxiety, because play time should be fun and relaxing. Play should be a time to learn problem solving skills, and how to work well with others. Instead, even though our intentions are ever so good, we are teaching our children that winning a game is more important than keeping our composure and character in tact. That it is okay to dehumanize humans in order to achieve our accolades.
So I would like to make a plea to parents out there, STOP! Let your kids be kids and let them enjoy their childhood. If they are not what you want them to be- they can’t jump as high, or solve quadratic equations with ease, calm down. Interfering with their development- the ability to grow and learn at their own pace and in their own way has serious consequences. Life is already tough, stop making it impossible. Yes, encourage them to do their best, guide them to their life goals, but for crying out loud, grow up! Realize that your behavior is modeling to our children how to behave. It’s just a game or a grade. Isn’t your kid more than that?