Is #1 Child Your Experimental Child?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Is #1 Child Your Experimental Child?
By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:29 pm: Edit

So for those who have multiple kids, was number one your experimental child? Was for me, and I made a few boo boos.I changed a few things with 2, 3, 4 and liked the result better. But then again, maybe child would have turned out the way he is without any mistakes by me.And what are your mistakes? Mine; 1. I let him quit wharever he didn't like. Result, he rarely finishes anything now. 2.I overdid his socialization. Result; he values his friends more than his parents and family now.3.I overdid praise, participation, encouragement, for academics . Result; we have a high IQ kid who is too preoccupied with obtuse ideas and concepts.
This kid is a grown up now.No one can help.Anyone else dare to share their mistakes??

By Mini (Mini) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:32 pm: Edit

Don't let it get you down: whatever you do, you scar 'em for life.

(that's what the therapy fund is for.)

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit

I have only one kid. The mistake I made was not to initiate him into athletics because I am not interested in it. I am a total nerd. I should have let my husband who used to be a gifted athlete himself help him with this. But instead both of us were too busy with our careers and long commutes to do anything about it. That is my major regret with my son.

Don't get me wrong: I did not ignore him. We are very close. He just is not interested in anything that has to do with sports or even working out. And I think it is both our faults. If someone could drive some sense in him, it would be great.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:37 pm: Edit

I spent the major part of this summer pushing him to go to a sports club to learn swimming at age 17!

I've been pushing my husband to put up a basketball hoop in our driveway, to no avail! I wish he was interested in something!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:42 pm: Edit

Yes of course, I see how these are not major mistakes, we LOVE our children, just those little things that we think later we could have done differently. As for the athletics.I know people who push their kids so hard in athletics it scares me. I fear for the kids.Ballet destroys the body.That was mistake with #2.If I had known! It does destroy the body over time and I didn't know .

By Demingy (Demingy) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:44 pm: Edit

I'm not sure if I should be posting this or not, but here's my perspective AS a first child. I know the biggest mistake my parents made with me is making me responsible (almost a third adult) at a VERY young age. I was caretaker for my brother who is only thirteen months younger than me when we'd be left home alone when I was five (that's as far back as I can remember). I was able to rise to the challenge, but it resulted in me becoming "too" independent of my family.

I don't regret any of it, but I'm sure they do. Oh yeah, and the younger two (my brother and my sister who is twelve years younger than me-whom I also raised) were babied and coddled. Trust me, be careful about thinking that you've learned from your mistakes by simply doing the opposite. It can be just as bad.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:46 pm: Edit

BHG, I used to take my son to soccer games when he was 8. Guess what happened? My husband the perfectionist used to shout from the sidelines and discourage him so much that the kid was turned off from soccer. Now, he won't even consider soccer (which in my mind is such a great game). I'm not making this up and my husband and I are happily married. He just has very high expectations and my son knew he could never meet those expectations.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:47 pm: Edit

ACHAT; How about tennis?It's fun. First he needs to gain strength in his arms. Have you tried weights in his room?If he is not heavy, he may come around to sports.Another thing we always did was drop the kids off at a track for a 1/2 hr. in the summer evenings. He may get a kick out of walk/running once he sees the results.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:50 pm: Edit

Thanks for the suggestions. He is going off to college this fall and I've been telling him to work out and get involved in at least one sports in college. I'll suggest tennis to him.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:51 pm: Edit

Achat;I can just see that situation for you!
Dem; how about that!My goodness!(No blame, just think that must have been a real challenge for a 5 yr old!)

By Piglette (Piglette) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:53 pm: Edit

Achat --

Don't be too hard on yourself. If your son were inclined to like sports, it is unlikely that your own relative dis-interest would have stopped him from participating. There is a strong sports atmosphere in virtually every school -- even those softer, gentler Friends (Quaker) schools. That atmosphere will intoxicate the truly sports-inclined, even those from "non-sports" homes.

I, personally, have zero musical ability or inclination. Possibly I have NEGATIVE musical ability. Yet, somehow, I have produced two very musical children, my own lackadaisical indifference and total cluelessness notwithstanding. (The middle child is not terribly musical, however.) They got a small taste of music, and they were "off to the races." (Neither one is exceptionally talented; they just LIKE music and enjoy it.)

I would look at your son's lack of a "sports resume" as a reflection of his own personality, more than as a reflection of your deficient parenting.

BTW -- Aren't you looking at Williams? You may well want to factor in that lack of enthusiasm for sports as you look at Williams. Or am I wrong or remembering out-of-date info?

You can always send your son to Carleton. The homecoming football games feature the Carleton "Pep Banned," and the ersatz Carleton cheerleaders lead chants like: "WE have HIGH-er BOARD scores! WE have HIGH-er BOARD scores!" (Try to imagine it in cheerleader intonation.)

-- Piglette

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:56 pm: Edit

Sometimes I feel as though I grew up with my son. I was 29 when he was born, but suddenly everything came into focus. I think as he is getting ready to leave for college in three weeks, I'm sure I messed up plenty, but he seems to have overcome it. The young man that is leaving just takes my breath away, and I thank God every day for giving him to us to raise. I don't think we experimented on him, just went with what seemed best, and if that didn't work, scrambled for a plan B and prayed for divine guidance.

By Piglette (Piglette) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 05:56 pm: Edit

Oops -- As I was posting this, you "cross-posted." I guess that the issue of Williams is moot.

Good luck!

-- Pig

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:49 pm: Edit

Alongfortheride..."takes my breath away" is the title or chorus of a beautiful song which I heard performed by Tuck and Patti about 17 years ago at a summer noontime concert in our town. My son (my firstborn) was with me at that concert...a sweet blond, blue-eyed innocent toddler in his overalls...and forever after, when I hear that song, I will think of him, and how that song embodied my feeling about him. You brought tears to my eyes with that reference. He too is about to go off to college now and I still feel that way about him. Thanks for posting--that was beautiful. Aren't we blessed?

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 06:58 pm: Edit

That's very nice ALONG.Should be in a Hallmark card!(and not being sarcastic, that is nice!)
I guess my conversat. does sounds a little strange. Can't say what prompted me to post it this way.Pretty peculiar. I do see all the beautiful qualities of my #1. But when adjustments were made concerning, for example, telling child #2 if you want to do soccer then you have to finish the season. It was a positive lesson for me.And when I held #3 and 4 close at home, the closeness is still there today, so I learned something.Same with that wretched ballet. (no offense to dancers!) I have been so open on this forum since day 1, so well, what the hey.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:22 pm: Edit


By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 08:10 pm: Edit

Thanks, everyone for the advice. Piglette, I was looking into Williams for someone else's athletically inclined child. Thanks anyway.

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 09:13 pm: Edit

BHG quote: "Anyone else dare to share their mistakes??"

BHG--too many to mention, and my kids are all (so far) pretty terrific despite them all. My biggest mistake, though, was getting a dog. I found out too late that I am not a dog person. Fortunately, I AM a kid person! I think I make mistakes on a daily basis, but I really do love them as people and I think that they know it and forgive me. If I had to pick one big mistake, it would probably be that I did focus on one child more...but I think that I have gradually balanced that and hopefully there is no permanent damage.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:57 pm: Edit

On sports: my-son-the-gnurd thinks ultimate frisbee is great, and also loves to SCUBA dive (all that cool technology). He hates most team sports. My daughter (ditto) likes swimming and canoeing.

On errors: with my kids 14 months apart, I was too busy to learn from the first one... it all went by in a blur. I wish I'd taken my son to Europe at least once while I could still make him travel with me, but that's a minor error.

I also wish I'd taught my kids how to cook, instead of assuming they'd get interested at some point.

Sometimes I wish I hadn't emphasized independence and the virtue of a good argument; they think EVERYTHING is negotiable--but mostly I'm kind of pleased with their verbal skills.

I should have told my daughter I wouldn't pay her tuition if she got that tattoo ;-) but I'm pretty sure she'd have gotten it anyway and dared me to force her to drop out.

On the whole, I like my kids and they're doing well; I'm sure I made a zillion mistakes but they seem to be okay anyway.

By Songman (Songman) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:18 pm: Edit

Backhandgrip- in no way do I mean to be a wise guy, but didn't you say on another thread that you could not understand that other parents were so carefree about the fact that their kids are not sure what they want to do for a career or major? Your opening post has a different tone tonight than that thread?

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:52 pm: Edit


I realize that you posted this toward parents of multiple children, but I feel that I can contribute as the parent of an only and, therefore, absolutely experimental (as there won't be any more now). I made the first mistake you mentioned, letting her drop out of everything she didn't like (tennis, softball, volleyball, clarinet, piano, get my drift). I made the mistake of also allowing her to focus SOLELY on academics (she is a perfectionist like, or because of, her dad). Therefore, it was a really rude awakening to her when she got her first B in 10th grade and she was completely devastated. Instead of having her talents spread out, too much of her self-confidence is based on her grades. I also think a sport would have widened her circle of friends to include those with other talents.

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:05 am: Edit oldest rolls with the punches, but one of my daughters is just like yours. I think this is more natural temperament than upbringing, but of course it is probably a complex interaction of the two and impossible to sift out, exactly....

By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:30 am: Edit


Thanks...I needed the vote of confidence tonight as a parent. Have had a bad day with daughter re: college planning or, rather, lack thereof! (For someone so academic she has a hard time looking ahead and realizing that deadlines will be approaching and she needs to decide where she would like to apply!) And you're IS a complex interaction and, since I'm not a psychologist, I won't even try to figure that one out!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 02:54 am: Edit

Thank you SONGMAN. You are right, he does finish things, but he never finished anything he was signed up for as a child.I did not mean to infer he was lazy or not on the ball .He has a job he enjoys and has been employed there two years.This son pursued education for the sake of knowledge, not a career and his job is not high paying or starry but something he is very well suited for and academic-bookstore- not B&N, funky rare books.By not finish I mean he is very unpredictable when he visits,-spur of the moment, disappears right before dinner or right in the middle of dinner, takes off with friends and don't see him when he's supposed to be visiting US. But if I ask him can he please be here for a certain event or go visit a relative, yes he can be counted on for that.
The meeting of the minds between this son and I is not there.He was number one and I wonder if my inexperience dictated his personality or behavior.He will argue about politics or anything with me if I bait him on.He is a 'character'.He just doesn't blend in and as a die hard conformist that bothers me.
Well, thank you very much for this opportunity to elaborate!Who needs therapy with this board!
And I 'm not worried about any of my kids seeing my comments because they stay clear of any site I go!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 03:09 am: Edit

MOMOFONLY;You know how my son1(above) dealt with the grade situation- he went to college early.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 06:53 am: Edit

Oh, forgot to mention.#1 son did not finish college yet. He decided to take a year off from school. He had saved up considerable money (bookstore) as he doesn't drive and has housing arrangements with many folks so living expenses are low. Went to Mexico with friends and worked doing volunteer work setting up portable irrigation systems for poor coffee farmers (Folgers) in Chappas, the extreme south.Did this for many month, came back, got job in bookstore and is going to school a class here and there and going on long traveling vacations.(also is well connected all over the world via internet)
Don't get me wrong. I love my son very much. I guess I just wish he would devote more time to us sometimes.
And I'm very very sorry to bore anyone with my angst.Just had to explain as was asked.
Do think there should be a plan for after college also, and son was in favor of this until he started the volunteer work and took the gap year.

By Tsdad (Tsdad) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 07:47 am: Edit


You raise them and then you let them go.

By Any1can (Any1can) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:18 am: Edit

I think, actually I know I pushed my first child
(mom of 3) too hard. I know what he is capable of and it bugged me when he didn't strive for his potential. Luckily, when he started to rebel at times, I learned to back off (thanks to advice from my mom lol). Most of all, HE knows his potential and now he is ready to buckle down. He actually thanked me for the occasional "shoves" because he got into his dream school so I guess it was worth it. Now my girls, luckily they are self-motivated because I couldn't push them if even if I wanted to-besides I'm too tired LOL! I always tell our son he was our experiment for the rest.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:33 am: Edit

Thanks, Tsdad. Letting them go can be wrenching though.

I was younger and more idealistic when I was micromanaging the older ones. Can honestly say I was persistant and strong those days. But parents, beware, sometimes the toll can be great on you as parent. I have a host of health problems all stress related. It really hurts my nephew and niece who blame themselves terribly. I see it in their eyes.

The thing I can say is that until a child is ready to carry on certain things for himself, the waiting game is essential. Making him go through the motions beyond a certain point is really a fruitless exercise that can cost you much in health.

But most of you have delightful children and you appear to be enjoying them--I learn from these posts as I see the genuine joy you feel for your children. I have rarely seen a group of parents who enjoy their children so much and this is a very special joy that any parent reading these posts can see. That has helped me in some difficult times these months. I have not enjoyed my children enough, eyeing the calendar too much and wanting them on their on feet too quickly. We all have much to learn from each other but I think the comradery and mutual "like" (I believe we all love) is a great thing to see.

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:38 am: Edit

I am not sure if #1 is a experimental child. I think my second kid is also a experimental child as he has a differnt pattern of doing thinks. SO the knowledge we learned from first one can not be applied to second one. However, with second one we are more relaxed.

It is hard for a parent to lower their expectation. But we have learned to be quite and listen. If asked we provide input or unless see a great danger to their life. Yet we make mistakes and tell our kid that our decision may be wrong afterall I am human and prone to make mistakes. One thing I tell my kid any failure in life teaches you how not to repeat same mistakes.

WE learn from kid and now we also do exercises.

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 11:31 am: Edit

Backhandgrip...the only thing is, sometimes your kids' friends may be reading this site and they may recognize you based upon your posts and then tell your kids. I certainly "know" a couple of kids on this site (not on parents' forum necessarily though).

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:05 pm: Edit

Wow, Backhandgrip! You mean you weren't able to socially engineer your progeny to your liking? What a surprise. You should have devoted more time to controlling every little nuance of their development. Hidden cameras and behavioral conditioning for the next one, maybe?

I'm sorry they turned out to be unique individuals with specific traits unlike those you foresaw and attempted to install. What a shame.

Are they happy? Have you ever asked? Would they tell you?


By Momofonly (Momofonly) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:12 pm: Edit


Yes, we did explore that possibility but decided against it for various reasons.


I think you're right that beyond a certain point, it does not pay to push them. It affects both your health and your relationship with them. By the way, my D recently said to me "Why don't you let ME do the worrying about ME?" which my reply was: "Because I do it so much better!" (I just couldn't resist.)

By Fredo (Fredo) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 04:18 pm: Edit

BHG: this has come pretty sharply into focus for us as my #2 child (son) has begun driving. With #1 (daughter) I was a maniac in the car with her: don't go 1 MPH over the speed limit, both hands on the wheel at all times, stop well before the stop line, speed up, slow down, look ahead, look behind, look to the side, etc., etc. With my son, I am SO relaxed.

In our house, I'm the parent who has incredibly high academic expectations. My daughter finally sat me down sophomore year and basically told me to get off her back. She could do for herself and it only made it worse when I would hold her to these high expectations and put more stress on her. So I did as I was told and bit my tongue on many occasions. It was not easy at all. I knew it would impact her college opportunities and it did. But she wanted to handle things on her own and in the end it turned out okay. When I look at how competitive college admissions is today I'm almost glad she wasn't in that situation.

I'm much more relaxed, academically, with my son although I still have high expectations. Higher, actually, because he is capable of so much more. But, he's more laid back than his sister and really doesn't engage academically any more than necessary. I state my case with him but learned from his sister not to impose too much stress. Do I think he is also going to be affected when it comes time for college? Definitely. But, again, we -and he - are just going to have to live with the consequences.

By Farawayplaces (Farawayplaces) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 05:50 pm: Edit

Bhg and others:

There's a lot of guilt involved in parenting. I wince when I recall times when I shouldn't have pushed or times when I should have. And I think my own lack of self-confidence has affected them.

But I've tried to remember the words of a parenting expert I read when they were small. She said you don't have to be a *perfect* parent; you just have to be a *good enough* parent. Our kids are 20 and 24. In the past year, both have become involved in serious relationships. To our delight, their partners are very nice, and the relationships seem happy and healthy. We're feeling that maybe we were *good enough* parents. I think we forget sometimes that if we show our kids we love 'em, they'll probably turn out fine, warts and all!

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:03 pm: Edit

A Good Enough Parent is the title of a book by child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. In the dim recesses of my memory, I think that I may have read or skimmed it when my firstborn was an infant....perhaps I should go back and read it again now that mine are all adolescents!

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 08:56 pm: Edit

The Hurried Child by David Elkind addresses curbing parental expectations from pushing kids into more and more activities, not allowing them to have idle time (which promotes creativity), and causing stress to all involved. Its an oldie (1981)but good.

By Enjoyingthis (Enjoyingthis) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:00 pm: Edit

I hate to see parents beat themselves up too much over whether they pushed their kids too much in any one area or didn't push them enough. Since we've been blessed with three very different kids, it's easy to see that they are the way they are and it's foolish for us to think it has all that much to do with our parenting! We probably shouldn't be too quick to take the blame or the credit.

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:15 pm: Edit

Also, some are easier to push than others.

I am not being completely facetious. My son has always listened to my suggestions/comments/etc. and then either followed them if he agreed or explained why he wasn't when he disagreed.

My daughters sometimes respond to the exact same tone of voice or type of comment by yelling, slamming doors, etc. Not always, but it was a rude awakening to see that life would not be so simple with them!

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:21 pm: Edit

I can't resist. This discussion reminds me of the joke: God created Adam in his own image; he did not like the results, so he created Eve.
Although my two kids are of the same sex, they're totally different individuals. The first is not a prototype for the second, and the second is not a copy of the first. Life actually would be easier if they were less different, from their physiques, their taste in food, their academic strengths and weaknesses, their personalities. What unites them is their love for each other and for us their parents.

As for parenting, let me quote the French saying: "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." In other words, good enough is better than striving for an illusory perfection. Besides, how to judge what is good parenting? Can a good parent guarantee a good child? If a child turns out badly, is it necessarily the fault of the parents? Who knows?

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:42 pm: Edit

But it would be so BORING if they were all alike! I have three who are each different from the others and yet in some hard-to-define ways, similar. Life is constantly stimulating with them around!

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:52 pm: Edit


You are so right. I was thinking that if they were more similar in build, the younger could wear the castoffs of the other. If they had the same taste in food, we could go to the same restaurants, I would not have to worry about which vegetables to cook, etc... But we can also look at it differently: we can say our eating venues are more varied as a result. We used to be the envy of friends whose offspring would only eat at McDonalds.

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:55 pm: Edit

Well, you've got a point there...constant compromise, bargaining, turn-taking is the rule of thumb around here!

By Mstee (Mstee) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:10 am: Edit

Yeah, #1 was our experimental child. Didn't mean for it to be that way. . . Well, #1 took the brunt of my parenting mistakes. Or, looking at it another way, he taught me everything I know about parenting (through trial and error) and his siblings have benefitted. I wouldn't have done that much differently, but I would have relaxed more and not been so uptight about everything if I could do it over again (knowing what I know now). One interesting thing. I made him take piano. And he got quite good. And when he finished lessons in high school he pretty much stopped playing altogether, which made me conclude that it was a waste of $$ and effort, since it seemed to be pretty much my idea and not his. But then, this summer (he's 21 now and home for the summer), he started playing and learning pieces again on his own. So, perhaps it wasn't a mistake, after all . . . However, things are different with the three younger girls. I don't have enough energy any more to force anyone to do anything they don't want to do. Whether that is good or bad, I'm not sure.

Achat--I tried to introduce my sons to athletics. #2 is not athletic at all. Tried baseball when he was a tyke. Tried soccer a couple of times when he was young. He never watched where the ball was and got hit in the head a couple of times which made him pretty upset. I remember watching him at one game and he was picking grass and throwing it around most of the game. I Made sure he learned to swim (took a couple of tries--the first time at four years old he screamed so much, I didn't dare try lessons again until he was seven years old). Put him on a USS swim team for awhile when he was 12 or 13 (that lasted four months). Tried tennis for awhile. He's 18 now and is a total nerd. Every once in a great while he can be coaxed into going to the gym to work out and that's it. Some kids just aren't inclined to do physical things, it would seem! They are who they are. I haven't given up though, hence the nagging to get out of the house and work out every once in awhile.

By Patient (Patient) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 12:30 am: Edit

Indeed, they are who they are. Also, you never know when they'll discover an athletic passion. My brother was the archetypal engineering nerd (MIT, built computers before there WERE computers, glasses, awkward, etc.). Sometime in his 40s he turned into an utterly fanatic runner and snowboarder having done NOTHING his whole life. Now at 57 he has run dozens of marathons, and he teaches snowboarding at Lake Tahoe on the weekends, travels the world following winter, and his townhome in the mountains is dripping with his medals. He is one of the most amazingly fit people I know. Go figure.

My son was born a baseball player. At seventeen months he was swinging a bat and clobbering a wiffle ball that we had suspended from a branch because it was clear that that was what he wanted to do when he was outside! My husband is a complete non-athlete, and I am athletic but didn't compete much. So it wasn't that we fostered anything, it was that he showed us where his talents were. He loved playing just about any sport but baseball was where his passion was. I think a lot of it is just watching them and following their lead.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 09:25 am: Edit

TRUE. Friends or children may read posts. But to tell child's incredible story, I know my kids and they would laugh and say,'Mom, you want to blab all about me all over the world.That's you all right!'So I'm not worried, our relationship is firm.(They always point out how I said the wrong thing to waitresses, toll takers, their friends, a teacher, the neighbor, etc., etc., etc.)

Sometimes there is a latent talent in these VERY BRIGHT KIDS , like kids who frequent C.C., that doesn't appear until college or later. Languages in point, as with mine it was languages. Never a good student in h.s. in languages but as S is very verbal, once he actually got into a foreign country, the fact he learns foreign languages easily, and actually inflections and subtlies of different languages, is apparent.It was great and marvelous awakening to see this.
Once again I am very sorry to share so many boring personal details.


By Cheers (Cheers) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 05:00 pm: Edit

Achat; I have two boys, one of whom is a natural athlete. (The coach tells him to do something and he can make his body do it the first time. Sigh. I never could do that.) However, neither boy is super-competitive.

Fortunately, they went to to high schools that required year round sports participation. High schools with mandatory sports participation are more likely to have "D" level teams. Non-competitive kids can get a start. My younger S started as a "D" team goal keeper, moved up to the "B" team and is sometimes called to sub for the "A" team.

If we did any 'steering' --and trying to steer teenage boys is like herding cats--we steered them toward team sports, ie basketball, baseball, football, rowing, and soccer.

The social rewards of high school team sport are HUGE, HUGE, HUGE--never mind the physical benefits. Good luck herding your boy!

By Almondeyes (Almondeyes) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 12:11 am: Edit

Demingy - same here. My parents made my responsible very early on. School, younger siblings, you name it. Hell, my mother hid nothing from me. If I had a question, she answered. When I was six and wanted to know what prostitution was, she turned to me, gave me the answer, and never batted an eyelash. Coupled with family problems around the 5th grade, I became a very "adult" 10 year old. Although I don't look my age, I'm often told I'm light years ahead in maturity.

Sometimes I'm angry that I grew up so fast, but parents aren't perfect. They're people too.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 01:37 am: Edit

Almondeyes, thanks. "Although I don't look my age, I'm often told I'm light years ahead in maturity."--Sounds familiar.

I know parents are people too. Unfortunately I was just feeling particularly bitter due to some recent stuff. That is one thing I like about the Parents Forum, it helps to put things in perspective and bring one back to reality. :)

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 07:39 pm: Edit

I have a wise mother in law whom I love and respect greatly. She and I have had many discussions about parenting. She is the mother of 5, all of her friends had 4-7 kids as well. Several years ago she and I were discussing the changes in parenting over the years. She commented that in her era parenting was "pass-fail"- if your child turned out to be a solid citizen and happy enough person you passed. No one read books about the topic (and she is a person who reads everything)- they talked about their kids with their friends while they played bridge, smoked cigarettes...etc.. the kids got along, or didn't get along- but the moms didn't fuss over them. Parents attended HS sports and such, sometimes were scout leaders and let their kids organize the rest of their time for the most part.

It seems that over one generation we have become obsessed with optimizing our kids' life experiences and as a result feel guilt laden when things aren't perfect. The reality is, only some things are within our control- kids have genetic predispositions in terms of potential, talent, disability, personality.. .etc. YOu can nurture these things in the best way possible, and your child will feel great about themselves. Or, you can fight this reality and increase your stress and theirs.

I know that I have gained a lot from the idea of taking at least some elements of parenting "pass fail"!

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:53 am: Edit

"The reality is, only some things are within our control- kids have genetic predispositions in terms of potential, talent, disability, personality.. .etc. YOu can nurture these things in the best way possible, and your child will feel great about themselves. Or, you can fight this reality and increase your stress and theirs."

wonderful! if you have a book?? I need to send it to a couple of friends expecting first children next month.

Robyrm- I was fortunate to have parents similar to your MIL, right down to the smoking, bridge players LOL. But this wasn't necessarily the norm of their social circle. There were books being read and lots of evaluation/testing of very young children. In my early childhood the mothers were blamed when children had problems- *weren't normal*- and by my teens fathers sometimes judged the culprits. I guess my point is that it seems to me we already have a generation parenting who were raised with the idea that if the results aren't *successful* someone somewhere must be at fault and that it definitely influences their child rearing choices. But I am not absolutely not a professional of any kind in this area and wonder if you see this connection at all? I really like the pass-fail idea. My parents used to ascribe good parenting outcomes to lots of luck and thought the idea one could control the process significantly, in the way many of their friends were attempting to do, largely an illusion. And now I'm off to the library to look for that Sternberg book.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:10 am: Edit

Just catching up and I really do enjoy all thes comments!

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:17 am: Edit

Robrym, enjoyed reading your post and you are right about the parents of my generation (age group 40-47) trying to be perfectionist. Also made me feel better.

I am still cleaning out from the books I bought every year 'What to do with your X-year-old child'. :-)

"Pass-Fail" hmm...will need some getting used to.

By Achat (Achat) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:27 am: Edit

Mstee, thanks! Reminds me of my kid..

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 07:35 pm: Edit

The whole idea of "nurturing a child's nature" (style of being ) is found in the literature about "temperament" in kids...any/all of the following authors are worth reading:

Chess and Thomas (originators of the theories of temperament)- books are less user friendly
Bill Carey- Understanding your Child's temperament
Stanley Turecki- The Difficult Child (title says it all)
Mary Kucinka(?sp) Sheedy- several books by her- the most parent friendly reads, I think..

All have similar theme, ideas, etc.

A book I have read and not felt so keen about was "Nurture by Nature"- a bit strained in application...

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:36 pm: Edit

So what do people think about a parenting book entitled "Pass-Fail Parenting"?? I used to think that people would only buy it if the bookstore used completely opaque bags! But, with the whole "Screwing in a lightbulb for Dummies" series doing as well as it has, I am beginning to re-think it!

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:40 pm: Edit


I'd buy a book called "Good Enough Parenting," but I'm a devotee of the French saying "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien."

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:49 pm: Edit


Bruno Betelheim coined the "Good Enough Parent" phrase- I never could get through the book, I must confess. I should look back and refresh as to why!

My French is murky though(and my fluent son just left for school!)...what is "le mieux"? The rest I have!

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:58 pm: Edit

Marite; You are starting to sound like Xiggi!
Robyrm;I think you would have to forward a philosophy, something that can easily be said in a few minutes. This would then give you air time somewhere- CNN, FOX, Operah, etc.People will pay attention to a philosophy, but not an excuse- if you know what I mean.Families are smaller nowadays, so they may feel pass/fail is great for #3 but #1, well, need a philosophy to start.
Actually, I feel very guilty about obsessing about small details of parenting when so many folks have really very confounding situations to deal with every day.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:04 pm: Edit


"Better is the enemy of good enough."

Maybe "The Good Enough Child"?

BHG: Xiggi and I are French speakers, that's probably why.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:10 pm: Edit

I think all things are cyclical, fundamentally. The current trends in parenting will be tempered and refined over time by lessons learned from the past. Truthfully, I agree that the substance or philosophy has to resonate- which in my mind it does for the very reason you mention. When I see people obsess over microdetails (and I am the first to say that each person is entitled to pick their battles) my general feeling is that they don't have enough real things to worry about!

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:16 pm: Edit


There's a book about Chinese only children called Only Hope by Vanessa Fong (Stanford University Press, 2003). You may enjoy reading about the consequences of China's One Child policy on family dynamics.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:29 pm: Edit

Robyrm; True.But obsessing is a very personal female thing.It can be the only think you have do control over- personal worries.I think there would be a good market for parenting books.The only thing that really matters to so many, their kids.
Marite; You are SO well read!

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:32 pm: Edit


Thanks. I'm the ultimate couch potato. When I'm not posting on CC, I read (don't watch TV).

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:35 pm: Edit


That would be interesting. I live in Asia and work throughout the region. I have observation based perceptions of the differences between western and eastern parenting philosophies- and how they vary country to country. Years ago I thought it a revelation to understand that American (Western) parents parent to foster independence, Asian (Eastern) parents parent to foster dependence on the family. Now I see for example, that among Japanese parents "all is permitted (in young children)" while among the Chinese "all is forgiven (again in young children)."

I'll take a look at the book you suggest, thanks!

"Better is the enemy of good enough"...explains a lot by the way!

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:38 pm: Edit

BHG- my personal approach to not obsessing....I write everything down that I am planning, doing, wanting to do, wanting to improve- and when I think I have done enough..... I laminate! It worked for the 2 college tours I did with my boys (perhaps my most obsessive outlets in the last 2 years!).

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:54 pm: Edit

You are absolutely right.
I think people who obsess enjoy obsessing.It is absurd. My husband says it's so nonproductive.Making plans is the way to go.Like Tdad said, 'You raise them then you let them go!' But there is always that one child, that one who gets up your crawl, knows how to push your buttons, and that's the one you worry about-
Marite has the right idea.Better is the enemy of good enough.Buying Better is what the U.S. is based on.Capitalism.Build A Better Baby.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:07 pm: Edit

Yes, my #3 child has been experimenting with me since the day she was born.

One person's good enough is another person's better, no?

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:16 pm: Edit

Ha, Ha! And I KNOW my oldest is fooling around with my head too!You have a much better way of expressing yourself- please post a topic.Give it a small amount of thought, it will take off!

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:16 pm: Edit


>One person's good enough is another person's better, no?>

Yes, indeed.

This discussion reminds me of a neighbor I had in London. He had a vintage American car that he was trying to restore. He'd decided to get rid of the spots of rust on the chassis. Once he started, however, he could not stop. So the car was completely stripped of paint. One week, it rained constantly. When the sun finally came out, the car was covered with rust. The car was never seen again in the neighborhood.
You have to know when to stop, says she with a Gallic shrug.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:33 pm: Edit

Time to laminate this for now. Child #3 needs to be walked to school to give tours to newcomers (chance to check out potential new buddies and other interesting characters)...

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:07 pm: Edit

So what do people think about a parenting book entitled "Pass-Fail Parenting"??

I like the title. It absolutely would have appealed to me! I picked up Tureki's book because of the title LOL and that and Kitzinger's "Crying Baby" were my bibles. From your posts so far I am pretty sure it would be my new standard baby gift. I actually think it would be very reassuring to first time parents. A couple of my friends read "The Good Enough Mother" -? correct title? before even trying to conceive.. way over concerned and already worried about failing before they were even started. "Pass-Fail Parenting" would definitely have appealed.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:44 pm: Edit

Just did a google search and evidently my friends were reading Winnicott's "The Good Enough Mother" -- Betelheim's parenting book was too late for us to have been reading pre-children I think. Though we all read "Uses of Enchantment"

By Achat (Achat) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 08:09 am: Edit

Looking back on this thread, thanks for the advice Cheers and everyone else, appreciate it!

By Achat (Achat) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 08:15 am: Edit

Robrym, I'd buy a book called 'Pass-Fail Parenting'. Would take off so much pressure from parenting. And you should sell the book in India too to middle-class parents.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 08:26 am: Edit

How many experiments did Dr. Frankenstein conduct?

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:01 am: Edit

I do believe part of successful child raising is teaching the child to be adaptable to different environments, opinions, and people. They also need to learn to deal well with adversity in any of those situations. Having imperfect parents is part of what kids have to learn to deal with, just as we need to deal with imperfect children, if we are to get through the process without going crazy. I think all households, all of us are dysfunctional to some degree, and learning to deal with the discrepancy between the ideal situation and the situation at hand is a most important skill.

A poster on another thread compared children to flowers, with the hardy marigold (or dandelion) that thrives in nearly any condition as opposed to the fragile orchid that needs a lot of nurturing to live. But our kids are not flowers in that one of the very things that we can teach them to varying degrees is become more resilient. But some kids are more resistant, or just not as able to make that crucial change in neediness as well as other. I have read with great interest about some true marigolds, children who are raised in the most adverse situation, having a life that no person should have to tolerate, and yet they somehow thrive. And then there is the child who has had every nurturing opportunity, and yet he fails miserably and the feeblest excuses are given for his issues. His parents were not solicitous enough or too solicitous or untimely in their attentions. All theoretical, course. Most of us have children somewhere in the middle of those two courses and our job is to increase that resiliency so to deal better with the adversities that life will certainly dole out.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:10 am: Edit

Too many.And it was always, 'well my parents did so and so and that didn't work for me, so this is the thing to do!'And then , 'so look how marvelously it is working- wow, look at the results!'- Until maturity or the rebellous teen years, and then, 'Look at what I have created!A free thinking independent minded individual who doesn't think like me!'Shock, shock.
I wonder if what all my angst is really about is just losing the kids.Son came home to visit for a few days and here I am saying things like, 'our house is always open and here for you' 'and so Friday evening we will all go to the movies together and brunch Sat.'-And he doesn't want to do it, he has other plans. -
So the parent is trying to regain the past, trying to stall the aging process.

By Optimizerdad (Optimizerdad) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:17 am: Edit

" #3 child has been experimenting with me since the day she was born."

That has to be one of the best lines I've read on CC .

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:06 am: Edit

Such a fun discussion! We have four girls and they are so different that I sometimes marvel that they're all really our children. I guess you could say that our first was the experimental child but that was more because I was a neurotic first-time mother than anything else. :) I hated letting her out of my sight and my husband had to beg for me to get a babysitter occasionally so we could actually go out for a burger at McDonalds, or to a movie. I was much more relaxed with my other three and, as a result, enjoyed them much more when they were babies. The nervousness had left by then. They all have their little quirks that make them challenging but all in all, they're pretty good kids.

I've never pushed my kids into anything, I think because I'm a very non-confrontational person so I probably let them do things occasionally that I shouldn't have. They've all turned out pretty well, though, so I guess I didn't make too many awful mistakes. We have two who are tremendously gifted athletes, much like my husband, who love sports and have been playing soccer for 15 and 12 years respectively. The other two would not dream of running around on a soccer field in 100 degree heat! Two are artistic, one loves all things computer related, and one wants to be a teacher.

I've always loved kids. I used to babysit for several families on a regular basis from the time I was 13 until I left for college. I wanted a big family. I was fortunate to be able to be a stay at home mom and, although there were days that I thought I'd rather be anywhere else, thankfully they were few and far between. For years, I spent about 20 hours a week volunteering in our local elementary school. Those are days I look back on with such fond memories. I remember when my kids were very young (and I had them very close together), my mom telling me to enjoy them at that age because it doesn't last long. I thought, sure sure but she was so right. I look at them now, two in college, and the other two close behind, and there are days when I wish I could turn back the clock and have those elementary days back. I'm happy with the way they've 'turned out' and have a good relationship with all of them. What's funny is that I'm closest to my first, the experimental one. :) I'm not sure why this is but I've often thought it might be because we lost two babies who were born prematurely, the first one being before my oldest daughter, and I still remember how ecstatic I was when she was born healthy.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:01 pm: Edit

In my snippier moments I have described a subset of parents I know as "PPCs"..."parents of perfect children." These people define themselves as follows. When the kids are in 7th grade and need to make canopic jars and such for King Tut's tomb, the "PPC" is the one who says (as other parents are griping about yet another project) "Oh, they have a project to do, why I never know what Precious has to do, she always does it herself." The other defining moment is when they announce to their friend the other "PPC" at the school awards evening "Isn't it amazing how you always see the same families here. It just shows how important it is to be involved with your child."

These parents are justifiably proud of their children's successess and often intolerant of any deviation from perfection and of whomever they can blame for this. On some level, they appreciate that their child has attributes and gifts that they bring to the plate- but in reality they think their kids are "CPP"-"children of perfect parents"!! They assume that all those kids who aren't winning awards have less involved, less caring, less successful parents...which clearly is not always the case.

I completely agree with Janinemom that kids need a bit of adversity in their lives, preferably when they are young enough that Mom and Dad are still around, to thrive ultimately. It gives them a chance to learn to develop coping skills and especially optimism in the face of struggle. Kids have long lives ahead of them and no matter how "perfect the child" or how "perfect the parent" there will undoubtedly be ups and downs...

Some of my gladdest moments as a parent over the last 6 months have been seeing my kids assume responsibilty or profess optimism in the face of challenge or less than stellar outcomes.

I have also enjoyed watching them at awards ceremonies- particularly when they have challenged themselves with something they weren't sure they could do and it has turned out well for them.

Life is entropic, I want to help them to be ready for it all!

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

Oh dear- I confess to being a horrible PPC at times. But having spent the early part of my motherhood known as a PWC (parent of wretched children) by most of my community from the pediatrician to the grocery clerk I do enjoy this brief moment of glory.

Not too long ago, there were several threads on this board about pros and cons of academic recognition and I felt I was in the minority in not really approving of valedictory honors, award nights, honor roll lists.. essentially any recognition of high academic achievment where the average and low achievers have no choice in being part of what becomes a competition. IMO This seems to be a bit different than straight out contests like sports, academic teams, talent tryouts. One reason is because I don't feel it is fair to those who aren't the top achievers. Another is because I believe it is "probably preferable for motivation to be internally --rather than externally --generated" (Sternberg's "Successful Intelligence") It is hard to separate it out, since accomplishments will receive recognition and should, but I am much happier when I feel my kids aren't working for gold stars but just for their own satisfaction.

is this too OT to discuss again? or does anyone besides me really care? LOL

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:11 pm: Edit


I am truly ambivalent. Kids are motivated by so many different things.
For example, my S could not care less whether he gets a prize or not. But many other kids do care, whether it is a star or an actual money prize. And suppose a prize is awarded to my S, it will not motivate him to try harder, but it may motivate another kid to try harder in order to one day get a similar prize. I really don't know.
My S was tremendously inspired by meeting a (young) Nobel Prize scientist a couple of years ago. It was not envy, nor did it involve a strategy of taking easy courses in order to boost his GPA. Nor was it visualizing himself actually receiving the Nobel Prize. It was visualizing the possibility that through hard work, he could achieve something as important as what the scientist had done. What I am trying to say is that we may want to look at the implications not just of getting recognition or not, but also the motivational impact on others.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:27 pm: Edit

I don't think my kids ever think about the "prize" as the motivator. I think they tend to be self motivated. I do think academic recognition is important, not as a motivator but more to recognize excellence and achievement, just as is done in other arenas such as sports and what not. I don't think most achievers do what they do FOR the recognition. Still, recognition in academics is important in my view. It does not affect their efforts but it is nice to have the efforts recognized after the fact. And as Marite indicates, might have motivational impact on others who are not as self motivated. I know they like the recognition afterwards but I know that recognition does not drive them, nor would they perform any differently if there were no prize.


By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:32 pm: Edit

I don't think my kids ever think about the "prize" as the motivator. I think they tend to be self motivated. I do think academic recognition is important, not as a motivator but more to recognize excellence and achievement, just as is done in other arenas such as sports and what not. I don't think most achievers do what they do FOR the recognition. Still, recognition in academics is important in my view. It does not affect their efforts but it is nice to have the efforts recognized after the fact. And as Marite indicates, might have motivational impact on others who are not as self motivated. I know they like the recognition afterwards but I know that recognition does not drive them, nor would they perform any differently if there were no prize.


By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:36 pm: Edit

BHG, a true PPC (per my definition) would never admit the children had been anything but perfect...the PWC phase would be ascribed to other variables and misinterpretation, I assure you are off the hook!

Marite, I worry about kids at acheivement oriented schools who never get recognized for anything- I wonder who gets motivated, and who just feels beleagured (SP?) in the face of evidence that you are not "special". Some kids opt out for other reasons, but many just develop a feeling that no matter what they do it doesn't matter. I think this is where service, volunteering to help others, seeing how you matter to others can really make a difference- but I am not sure this takes the place of evidence of public recognition (though it can result in it).

Clearly the best reason to do well at anything, to work really hard, is for the unmatchable sense of passion and accomplishment it can bring.

By 3togo (3togo) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:40 pm: Edit

> Sometimes I wish I hadn't emphasized independence and the virtue of a good argument; they think EVERYTHING is negotiable--but mostly I'm kind of pleased with their verbal skills.

hehe ... I just keeping telling myself ... that independent streak makes parenting tougher on us now but is a great life skill ... at least that is my rationalization!

By 3togo (3togo) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:47 pm: Edit

For #1 I thought we (parents) had more control than we truly do and that the trick is to help guide her to blossom into who she wants to be ... so it took me a while to understand the goal.

For #2 the big lesson was that he was nothing like #1 so other than understanding the goal almost anything I learned about parenting #1 was useless for #2.

For #3 I relearned my lesson from #2 and that each kid has their own interesting, challenging, and amazing journey to becoming who they will be

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:53 pm: Edit


I like the idea of recognition for different kinds of achievement, not just the purely academic ones. I also like to remind my S that there are many different ways to excel.

Actually, the one who graduated from elementary school practically without any kind of recognition was my S, and that's because he was so advanced in math and science he was not taking classes at the elementary school and because in order to accommodate his high school science class, the rest of his schedule had to be jiggered. The teachers must have felt badly about the fact that the one kid who everybody knew was more advanced than anyone else in his grade was not going to get anything, so they cooked up a "poetry prize" for him. It was the first, and possibly last, time it was given out. We all had a good chuckle over that.

I do think emulation can work for a lot of kids. I was brought up on the motto, "If others can, you can, too." Took me a long time to realize it was not quite true.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:55 pm: Edit

"that independent streak makes parenting tougher on us now but is a great life skill ... "

LOL I spent the first half of my kids' lives muttering almost the same words under my breath almost 24/7

"we may want to look at the implications not just of getting recognition or not, but also the motivational impact on others".

I have sons very similar in ability and have lots of first hand experience with the motivational impacts of competition (positive & negative) though it does make it hard for me to imagine situations where children aren't motivated and inspired daily by their peers and elders, just because I haven't experienced it. I am sure you are correct that this is important. But when I think about the world's truly great problem solvers, artists, poets.. it seems to me they followed their own muse. I wonder how much modelling they actually might have done?

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:13 pm: Edit

My children went to a progressive Quaker elementary where they didn't get grades, let alone awards for academic achievements. I think this helped them value learning as a process, without the constant emphasis on results. They have figured out that results do count; both are fine students. This brings to mind a bumper sticker- "At a Friends School ALL students are honored".

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:22 pm: Edit


I'm trying to think of the perspective of the teachers who organize awards ceremonies as well as the kid who is being recognized and the kids in the audience. Teachers have to think about both types of kids. When the media report on Intel, Siemens, IMO winners, I think there is a motivational element.
I'm trying to line up a medalist in a major competition to come to my S's high school and give a pep talk to students, to motivate them to join an academic club and to show that medal winners are not a breed apart. I hope that she'll inspire some to join the club and to strive to excel.
My own kid will do exactly as he wants with or without the recognition; but he is the least competition-minded kid I know.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

"When the media report on Intel, Siemens, IMO winners, I think there is a motivational element."

absolutely agree from first hand knowledge! LOL motivated mine to get involved and try for that gold star. BUT they were already convinced they could do absolutely anything... not that they are always successful in their pursuits, but they do believe sucess is a always a more likely than not result of any pursuit.

I'm not at all clear that school honor rolls motivate those consistently not on them. I would think that continual public recognition of less than stellar performance discourages those students from even trying and that they sometimes come to believe that academic pursuits have no chance of success. I really don't think they see the same news reports and imagine they can compete in these contests. What are your thoughts?

To clarify: What bothers me is academic recognition in situations where not all students choose to participate.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:58 pm: Edit

This may not be a direct response to your query, but let'see if it is relevant.

Our high school adopted heterogeneous classes, with the results that kids who came in reading at 5th grade level were together with kids reading at college level. Some of the most vociferous critics of this policy were, unsurprisingly, parents of high achieving students. I was a bit taken aback therefore when someone told me that low-performing students were also unhappy about being put together with the high achievers. That person reported that a student had said to his D: "What chance is there for me to earn even a B when I'm in the same class with you guys?" The person who told me the story seemed to feel that struggling kids like that would give up if they felt that all their efforts would result in a C or D. I had not considered that aspect of the heterogeneous classes before (not worried about grades). In other words, a kid who does not imagine himself an Intel winner can still be motivated by the chance of earning a prize more in his or her league. That prize might be a B. As long as it's understood that the B in a non-honors class is not the same as a B in an AP class.

At my S's elementary school, there is a prize for the student who has improved the most during the last academic year. I've been to a couple of graduation ceremonies, and each time, the recipient of these awards have been beaming.

Kids have a pretty good sense of who is an excellent student and who is average and who is struggling. So what is the value of public recognition? Do the the pros outweight the advantage of awards and prizes? food for thought here.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:13 pm: Edit

I like the idea of award for student who improved most. In HS, many awards given for community service, service to the school, etc. Also, awards given in each technical field, as well as drama, art, music.

We never had awards in elem school, and I disliked them in mid school, because just scholastic and far more restrictive than HS. As long as posting pet peeves, I truly dislike Kindg. graduation ceremonies.

Must say, envious of kids having opportunities to meet Nobel prize winners, and to have sponsors for Intel and other awards. Our HS did not even have a math team until S & friend got one started.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit


Our hs did not have a math team until a couple of years ago, and it's been really limping along. That's why I'd like to give a boost to its membership. Would you believe that the only kids left from last year are my S, who will be graduating in June, and a rising sophomore? Hardly a team! We do have a strong science team. But I see the math team as more than a way to field teams for competitions. I hope that it attracts average kids who can come to see math as fun.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:26 pm: Edit

I've always been a bit conflicted about awards ceremonies. I have never seen awards as big motivators but I don't think that that is the only possible good to come of them. Everyone likes to have their efforts recognized, at least most people do. The way our schools did it was an evening ceremony, once a year, where only award winners and their families were present. Our schools were not pressure-packed achievement oriented like some are. The valedictorian is voted on by students (something I never thought was a good idea but that's the way it was). The academic awards evening, however, always paled in comparison to the athletic awards evening, which included a banquet dinner and local news coverage, etc. So I always enjoyed the fact that those kids who were academic achievers were recognized, too. The honor roll was only published in a newsletter that went home to parents.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:37 pm: Edit

>>The academic awards evening, however, always paled in comparison to the athletic awards evening, which included a banquet dinner and local news coverage, etc.>>

The same happens in many many districts. And it has parents of academically inclined students dismayed. Last year, the list of NMS finalists (which included an African-American) did not even make the school's newsletter, let alone the local paper. It was circulated in a newsletter that only goes to teachers and administrators on which I stumbled totally by chance. Athletes, however, are not only written about in the school's newsletter, but they top athletes are likely to be featured in our local paper as well, along with those from other districts.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 06:17 pm: Edit

You've given me food for thought. Athletic banquets are big in my area. The awards done during school, without parents. VERY low-key.

There is a big sign post outside of HS, which lists dates for tests, etc. The former principal used the board to post accomplishments of students (winning an instrument contest, debate team wins, academic accomplishments). This board could change every few days, and so many students got recognition. Looking back, it was nice. Oh well, he got promoted.

By Patient (Patient) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 08:18 pm: Edit

This is in response to the posts before all the posts on contests and awards....

Alwaysamom...I loved your post. I was too introverted to enjoy much babysitting when I was little and so I certainly didn't have as much experience when mine came along (finally, after much longing and surgeries and then serious pre-term labor!!). Fortunately, I have completely loved being a mom (most of the time) and love watching my children's selves emerge--for better or for worse, of course. i have learned pretty well on the job but I do think that people who babysit have a huge head start on those who don't.

Over the years, though, I have had three wonderful nannies: one for my son when I went back to work part-time when he was 5 months old; one to help me when my twins were born and I had "3 under 4"; and one when I started going back to work part-time when my twins were two years old. Of the 3, only one has had children, although all 3 are married! I sometimes wonder what my children DID to them!

Robyrm: I would love to hear what I imagine have been some devastatingly subtle remarks from you to some of those parents. I am too slow with the retorts and usually just clam up when someone acts like that. The only take I have on the "so-and-so does her own work" bit, though, is that I do sometimes say that in a situation where the perfectly professional science fair project has completely obviously been done by, or under the extremely close watch, of the parent--a whole different issue.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:26 pm: Edit

Patient: Comments about children being completely independent are usually not made to me alone, but rather for the benefit of a small group of parents who are comiserating- because these PPC's know that I am not an easily impressed audience! I am sure you can relate to the fact that because of what I know about individuals in my community, and because of how I know what I know-I am often left with just the internal clever quip, all the while saying "now isn't that nice for you" emphasis on the "for you" to cue into how self serving these comments are...

As to the "involved parents= rewarded kids issue"...for that I have usually invoked the inevitable situation of the uber involved parent whose wonderful, but challenged, child has struggled, and had issues glaringly known to the community. I will say something along the lines of "Hmm. too bad that wasn't true for..." or "I guess when you come down to it there is always a bit of luck involved in the roll of the genetic dice."

Life usually takes care of the rest.The stress of "being perfect" has exacted tolls on many of these people that I wouldn't trade for any reward!

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:37 pm: Edit


Just checked the Vanessa Fong title on Amazon. I will order- not only for insight into the Chinese children , but also for the dramatic parallel to the situation in the US and elsewhere- children of smaller families being expected to do more and more (of everything).

I haven't seen any books about the impact of the success of Asian Americans on changing parenting styles for non-Asian American parents-- but I think this would be interesting to look at maybe 10 years from now when the effects would have permeated the population a bit (I think this is inevitable myself).

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:38 pm: Edit


Your comments set me to thinking about the difference between perfect parents and "perfect" children. There are some adults who strive to be perfect parents, with the emphasis on themselves rather than on their children. They may want to spend "quality time" when their kid would rather take a nap; dress the kid in expensive gear, when the kid would rather wear scruffy clothes, etc... They are the ones who make great sacrifices so that their child can go to a selective college and feel betrayed when said child prefers to be in a less pressured environment. In other words, they are so focused on doing the right thing (by their light) that they forget their child's individuality. By putting great emphasis on being perfect parents, they put enormous pressure on their children to be perfect. Then there are the happy-go-lucky parents who somehow manage to "pass," and have well-adjusted children whether because their kids are resilient or because they had the right ideas about parenting.
To make a long comment short, would your book focus on parenting "Pass Fail Parenting" or on the children "Good Enough Children"?

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:13 pm: Edit

"Get a Life" would be my answer to many parents. They live vicariously thru children's achievements, and the pressure is enormous. No wonder so many of these children end up with eating disorders, depression, sense of entitlement.
I'm not a happy-go=lucky person, but because I worked and had a social life, child adjusted. I was writing reports at night when he did homework. I helped with elem school projects because I love that stuff. Memories dear to me are making a paper mache whale, teaching S to sew just well enough so he could make puppets, helping color signs for school election.
Many years ago, i gave a lecture on David Elkind's "The Hurried Child", and the parents rose in opposition.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:32 pm: Edit

Marite, given what Bookworm has just said about parental opposition to the ideas in the Elkind book, it makes me wonder even more about your question...I am not sure, would be the answer for now...But I will "ponder"...As I have for the last 8 or 9 years on this idea!

As for the moments of sharing with a child while you guide them through yet another school art project, I loved commiserating with my 2 older kids about how inept we all were in creating Grecian urns and other treasures, and celebrating the perfectly acceptable(but far from perfect) projects that emerged. It wasn't exactly blissful all the time, especially those "last minute" events, but all in all I remember them with a smile on my face! Child #3 is blessed with her dad's artistic talent, but hopefully will still ask for help every so often!

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