05/31/2019 19:03 EDT

We're Measuring 'Success' In Kids All Wrong, Starting With Report Cards

The picture we paint of what it means to be “successful” is both limiting and inaccurate.

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Parents are hyper-focused on achievement like never before.

As the school year wraps up, parents will be reviewing report cards and taking stock of how their child’s school year went. Are they performing at the appropriate level? Do their marks reflect their actual potential?

Then, many ambitious parents will assign their children daily pages from workbooks to avoid falling back over the summer, and hopefully to even get ahead.

And parents will also concern themselves with giving their kids an additional advantage through extracurricular activitiesSince that’s the new standard, we look to distinguish our children by ensuring they establish placements at the best schools. After all, don’t those graduates have a greater likelihood of landing the choice job positions?

The trajectory to success that parents map out for their children is well-intentioned, but it is time we took pause and looked more critically at the process.

Because it’s actually counter-productive.

WATCH: Signs you’ve over-scheduled your kids. Story continues below.


While parents have always cared about the future of their children, it’s a relatively new shift in our parenting culture to approach the task of raising children with such a singular and hyper-focus on achievement

Our children are affected by this commoditized approach. They experience a constant sense of being measured by everything they do, and it’s stressfulFinding your merit only through achievement leaves many children feeling discouraged since they feel like they are not made of the right stuff to reach these lofty and specific goals set out by adults.   

Plus, the picture we paint of what it means to be “successful” is both limiting and frankly, not accurate. Many will reach their parent’s definition of success only to find they are still not happy nor fulfilled.

Time and attention is taken from other important developmental pieces like learning to be in healthy relationships, and self-acceptance of ourselves as humble humans who are not perfect. 

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Focusing on achievement and success can be stressful and discouraging for kids.

If, instead, we take a more philosophic approach, we see that children are naturally keen to grow and developOur job as parents is to help them self-actualize, to love learning, and to help them grow in ways that develop their interests and talents.

When our children sense there is an abundance of opportunities, they are less stressed, feel more valued, and have the capacity to think more creatively and broadly about their place and how they might contribute.

Children will stay motivated to learn and develop when they don’t believe their worth and lovability is dependent on scoring or getting voted most valuable player.

WATCH: How you should actually read your kid’s report card. Story continues below.


So, when the report cards come home, try this conversation instead:

“This report card is for your own feedback – not for me. I will celebrate whatever you’re proud of, and I will support you in any areas you want to improve. I love you regardless of your marks. I love you because you are you. Sure, you’ll learn more over the years as you grow up, but you can’t get any better than you already are. You are already enough just being you”.  

Kids who believe they are already enough don’t become slackers. They are more likely to become engaged, fearless learners.