The grade portal pitfall

“Adaptability and resilience are priceless possessions that predict success far more than good grades and high SAT scores.” - Growing Leaders

We have opened pandora’s box. Ok...that might be over stating it. We have opened the grade portal for parents of 7th and 8th grade students. The idea is to facilitate communication between the team; parents, students and teachers. This communication ideally serves to elevate students in their educational quests.

Unfortunately, the reality of parent portal access has presented new challenges for these students. There was a detailed discussion here at Corpus Christi about whether to give this kind of access to our parents and ultimately, it is our faith in our families that led us to take this step in the face of research that tells us, it may be a mistake.

First, understand the indicators of future success for your children. Here’s a spoiler - it has nothing to do with grades or test scores. There is far greater evidence for life skills predicting success than any grade. Some of these indicators for success include making strong connections with mentors, a foundation of resiliency and adaptability, emotional intelligence, clear focus on attainable goals and strong decision making skills.

So, why are we spending so much time pushing kids to achieve these grade based metrics? Is it because they are easy to measure? Or maybe, we fall into the trap of someday. Someday, we can take a breath and evaluate the other elements of success. After you get into the right high school…Here’s another spoiler, someday isn’t a time or place. It is a mindset that stays focused only on the external, next goal. Some call it the rat race. This is not to say grades and studies don’t matter. They just shouldn’t be the focus of foundation upon which these new people are being built.

If there were a way for you to check your child’s resilience and empathy by logging in and checking numbers, I’m sure you would. But these predictors of success and essential life skills are harder to quantify. But, not impossible. We, as parents, check these skills by allowing our kids to fail which is, of course, one of the hardest parts of parenting. It seems antithetical to allow your child to fail, hurt, struggle. From the diaper days, it has been our job to do the exact opposite. Keep them safe, do not let them fall. Soothe all concerns and build them up.

But, there comes a time when you cannot solve your child’s problems because their problems become adult problems. Work relationships that are challenging, personal relationships that are painful, decisions about the future that can only be made by them. And if these kids have no experience in making mistakes and recovering, how can we expect them to be adults? Where does your agency come from if you have no investment in your free will? There are memes galore out there whining about ‘adulting’ because it really can be so hard to adult. And, that is what these kids will be sooner than you realize.

Let them fail! It should be a mantra of parenting. Grit and being able to delay gratification are other predictors of success and they are skills built through failure. It’s almost absurd to define failure as a C- math quiz, but for our kids, it can feel like a big, fat fail. Help them see it for what it is. A chance to rise. Celebrate their strength in accepting the consequences and rising to the next challenge. Smarter, stronger and with more of the life experience that creates strong adults. Allowing kids to fail is hard, no doubt. It hurts our hearts as moms and dads and just feels wrong. Challenge yourself to feel wrong in pursuit of what is best for kids.

Assessing these non-grade related, life skills requires seeing our kids. Being available to them in a way that tells them we do not expect perfection. We are not looking to PowerSchool or any other source to tell us how are kids are doing. We look at them. Students often see our attempts to help them as judgements about them. And, even our most sincere efforts at helping our kids can often have the effect of undermining their emerging sense of self and self advocacy. This is a pitfall of parenting and we all fall in it. And, like our kids, we grow better at what we do when we fail, recognize and try again.

The term ‘helicopter parent’ has been so overused as to become innocuous. But, if we take a moment to stop and consider the term, it may be a motivator to stop circling.

Think about a helicopter looming overhead. They are loud and distracting. They make it hard to hear the world around you, demanding your attention. And, when one gets close, a physical change takes place in the body. Shoulders rise up to the ears, the back of your neck tightens up. These are symptoms of rising anxiety and not what we should be to our kids. Research tells us, unequivocally, that rates of anxiety and depression in young people are on the rise to the point of being seen by some as a health epidemic. Ask yourself, when checking the portal, are you doing it to congratulate them? Are you doing it to help? Do they really need the help? Maybe they just need a chat.

The opening of the portal is an invitation, not an obligation. Every family has their own rules and regulations regarding grades and work and transparency and support. Take a moment to consider your ultimate, desired outcome. Is it to manage a 7th grade science B- into an A? It certainly is not to undermine your student’s sense of motivation or their personal relationships with teachers. Some schools have gone the route of limiting access, allowing only two checks per week. Moderated access might be a good rule to implement, remembering that grades are a communication about one aspect of your child, they are not a judgement on the person they are.

Parenting is a long game and sometimes instead of micro focusing on small details, it’s far more sustainable to take a bird’s eye view. Just not from a helicopter!

Published Print