I was giving a presentation last week and a man raised his hand and said, “My child cannot accept failure. Every time he does something he’s not immediately good at, he gives up.”
My response: “Is school easy for him?”
His response: “Yes. He’s in seventh grade and has never gotten a B on a report card. He doesn’t even try that hard.”
My response: “Exactly.”
School is the first experience kids have with success/failure. Beginning at the raw age of 5 kids start developing an understanding of what it takes to succeed. Does it take that much effort to color within the lines? Memorize the alphabet? Spell their name? Read a sentence? Write a sentence? Add? Subtract?
For smart kids, the answer is no. They step into kindergarten already knowing how to do these things. They are leaps and bounds ahead of other children without even trying, and this sends a very distinct message…
Things are easy.
I don’t have to try that hard.
I shouldn’t have to try that hard.
Things should come easy.
And when things do get hard (and they always do), smart kids fall apart. They want to quit, run away and hide all because the feelings of failure are foreign to them. While other kids were struggling to learn concepts in school, smart kids were breezing through. They didn’t have to fall, dust themselves off and try again thus they don’t know how to do it.
The longer this goes on the harder it is for smart kids to adjust. If the work that smart kids were given was challenging and they did get B’s early on, things would be easier in the long run. But, this is not so easy when other kids are performing so much lower.
Exceed the expectation = get an A. This is how school works and what smart kids do. Exceed expectations.
If you are a parent of a smart kid who gets all A’s and expects to succeed at everything, take every opportunity to put them in situations where things don’t come so easy. Sign them up for gifted programs – like Duke Tip – where they can be challenged. Sign them up for sports they aren’t immediately good at while they’re young, so they learn how to practice and try hard.
Ultimately, teach your child to focus on effort and develop a lifelong love of learning. It’s not about the A…it’s about learning how to become a better, more well-rounded person.