The Smartest Thing You Can Say
We’ve known for years that we had very intelligent children. It’s obvious when you look at their report cards and progress reports. But I don’t think that’s the measure of a “smart” person. Intelligence is what you learn in the books but being smart is the ability to use your knowledge. Although we support and encourage our children to be the best that they can be, it bothers me when I hear them constantly being referred to as the smartest kids in the class or school. Some parents will stick their chests out with pride to hear it (and I did, too, initially) but I’ve learned to realize the amount of pressure that puts on a child. When it’s something they constantly hear, they begin to think that they have to perform to a certain level to get the same attention, recognition, and acceptance. What happens to them when they don’t win a contest or get the highest score on a test? They begin to think that they’ve let everyone down when they’re actually just human.
So, what is the smartest thing that anyone can say? The answer is: “I don’t know.” No one knows everything and it takes a wise person to be able to admit their limitations. Without doing so, you would look like a fool (especially if you come across someone who really knows). We’ve had to teach our boys to not only say that wonderful phrase, but to be ok with it. They weren’t taught this at the same time and the lesson came about when they needed it. Although they needed the lesson at different times, it was delivered for the same reason. We saw the pressure that was being put on them at school and the pressure that they put on themselves. You can even say that they may have felt pressure from us. We recognize that no one intended for the pressure to be an outcome to praise but it happened. So this is when parenting kicks in. We had to address the stress that they felt when they both were embarrassed by getting a B on their progress report. We thought that the B was still great, but they both felt as though they were supposed to get perfect grades on everything.
Getting that grade was such a shock to them that we had to sit down and have long talks about how proud of them we are in everything they do. As long as they try their best, we can’t ask for more. Sometimes it takes a little longer to grasp a concept. We get that but they didn’t. They are so accustomed to doing well, that it shocks their systems not to get something. That’s when we have to assure them that it’s normal to take time to learn something new and to be patient with themselves. Having our support in their gradual progression seems to help. They are more willing to talk to us about what their concerns are and what parts of the subjects are challenging to them. In the long run, they learn the information and it builds the foundation that we have as a family.
They will have enough stresses in their lives as they grow. Our goal is to make sure they enjoy their childhoods but appreciate the importance and value of education. That doesn’t mean that you have to know everything. It just means that you have to try and know your limits. Just saying those three words, “I don’t know”, can eliminate so much stress. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never know, but it gives you an idea of what you should know and encourages you to find the answer. My boys don’t like to lose so they’re going to eventually find the answer. :~)