It’s an unavoidable consequence of society that parents compare their child’s development and accomplishments versus the child’s peers – our friends’ kids and their classmates. Dr. Jessica’s daughter is an incredibly voracious reader – she’s 12 days older than my eldest who is not, shall we say, voracious about reading in spite of the fact that both his parents love to read. As the Rabbi taught us – kids are wired and our job as parents is to figure out their wiring. This benchmarking comes at a cost...
It’s frustrating to be face to face with something imperfect about your child. A lot of us want to “fix” them. The proliferation of tutoring programs and the overreliance on standardized tests to both fix and measure the progress of our children is testament to this compulsion. And the message we’re sending to our kids is that you have to be the best at everything and if you are not, I’m going to force you to spend extra time on the things you like least until you are the best at everything. No wonder the most depressed group of teenagers are upper middle class children – parents with unrealistic expectations. I recommend this article from the American Psychological Association – it made me think about how we are raising our kids and draws from multiple studies.
It’s not only academic – we benchmark against each other for extracurricular activities too. Experian released a report today about K-6 children’s involvement in after school activities - a perfect benchmarking tool. My husband will be thrilled to see the increasing interest in lacrosse starting in 5th grade. Soccer peaks in third grade. Massive internet usage is around the corner. Hockey peaks twice – 3rd and 6th. Anyone have a theory for that?
It turns out that third grade is the year when most kids start to pick up and focus on hobbies and sports. I notice this more already – Benjamin has much clearer preferences about what he wants to do (prefer drums to piano, golf to jujitsu) than he did 4 months ago. I thought he was just being a little cantankerous – but it turns out, he’s normal. Benchmarking perfectly. And we’ll have to work with him to cultivate his strengths and interests. And maybe, over time, he’ll come to love reading.
How do you deal with your own need to benchmark?
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