In all her years of schooling, kiddo has never had anything less than an A in all her classes. Were we proud of her for those grades?

school-303928_640Sure we were proud; those grades showed us, year after year, that she had mastered all the material that had been presented to her. However, many times we would look at an end of year report card and mentally place an asterisk next to an *A or two – knowing full well that the A wasn’t from learning new material, it had been given to her due to the fact that she somehow already knew the material. The effort needed to get those *A’s was negligible at best; we knew it, and more importantly, she knew it. The value we saw others placing on her mastering something that she had already known all along didn’t set well with any of us.

The worst part of getting straight A’s in my opinion (and in my experience), is that in some cases it means that “academic struggle” was missing for an entire year. While having a school year without struggle may seem like a good thing, it has a nasty down side. Let me introduce you to the downside.

  1. (of body tissue or an organ) waste away, typically due to the degeneration of cells, or become vestigial during evolution.
    “without exercise, the muscles will atrophy”
  2. gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.
    “her artistic skills atrophied from lack of use”

Atrophy. Yep, that good old struggle muscle goes an entire year with nothing to do, and eventually it starts to weaken.  (Multiply this by several years and you can imagine how that muscle could waste away) Now, all this wasting away happens right under our noses; and if your kiddo is a people-pleaser and is driven by extrinsic motivation you may not actually see any symptoms at all.

After-all, we are busy people trying to raise families and get through the day/week/month/year (or even just get through the parking lot) unscathed. In addition to school, and sports and extracurricular activities, we want our kids to actually have some time to themselves to explore and wonder and grow as little humans should. So, when this thing called “academic struggle” doesn’t make it’s appearance in our home, we surely don’t want to go out looking for it. We are good attentive parents, but we are not full on crazy.

Sometimes, it even takes us a while to realize it is missing; I mean, how often do you stop in the middle of the nightly-family-harmony-event (dinner) to ask if the kiddo has had enough struggle in their school day? Yeah, I thought so. (Again, who in their right mind would want to invite struggle into their home?)  It is much easier, and so much harmonious to just be grateful that they are doing so well in school.

So, we tend not to notice the onset of “struggle muscle atrophy”….nope, we tend to only notice once the symptoms show up.  And by the time that they do show up, the symptoms are normally mixed in with tween/teen hormones and the daily angst that comes with being a pimple producing machine.  At this stage, we as parents are more likely to address the “slacking” or “underachieving” as symptoms of the kid having too much freedom and too much time socializing.  It is hard for us to wrap our heads around the B’s and C’s that start showing up, when that report card landscape has only held A’s before. We start to wonder who this kid is, and what did they do with our good student . None of these parental reactions are particularly helpful when dealing with a kid who up until this point has been on-point, towing the line and bringing home stellar grades.

Kids who haven’t had practice at struggling, can find this time in their lives very difficult, uncomfortable, and downright scary.   You see, not only are we standing around scratching our heads wondering who is “this kid”, they too are wrestling with their own self-doubt. They can start wondering “what’s wrong with me”, or thinking, “I guess I’m not smart after all”.  They have no clue why things aren’t coming easy anymore, and sometimes it can be easier for them to just give up. Unfortunately, many do give up, stop trying, or drop out.

Bottom line is that all kids deserve the opportunity to be exposed to academic struggle from an early age. They need to put the hours of practice in, so that they are equipped to handle the struggle on all levels as they progress through the grades.

Rant-over….and now time for a Proud Parent Moment. (I mean you knew this was all heading somewhere right?)

At the age of 10.5, my kid just EARNED her very first B. This B at 81.8% is the one grade/accomplishment that far surpasses every single A or A+ she has ever received. (you see that?…you see what I did there?)

Yep, she EARNED a B with hard work, struggle, and determination. And get this…she actually learned new material.

She was skipping with delight and squealing with pride as she bounced out of her classroom to say that her Mandarin Chinese teacher posted her final grade, and she got a B!

I hope this is just the first of many B’s. Bring on the struggle!