“I want my child to have a better social life than better grades.”
This statement was made to me last year, and I haven’t forgotten it. Better social life or better grades? Well, let’s think about this: As an adult, when you are at a party, does anyone discuss their GPA? But clearly there is more to the discussion than just that.
I’m not one to measure success by the amount of wealth, power or “stuff” a person has, but to reasonably succeed in life, a person does need a modicum of education, knowledge and experience. A child does need to achieve the necessary requirements to graduate from high school, and it is becoming increasingly necessary to possess a college degree for many jobs and careers.
In terms of grades, not every child is a genius, nor is any child ignorant. Each child has his or her own learning style, and learns at his or her own pace. Some kids only need to see or read something once to learn it; others need to read it several times and need more practice to learn it. Pressuring children to do more than they are able can be counterproductive. I would also add that our system of education is underfunded, yet our children are still expected to compete with other countries via government testing and “beat” them.
Arguably, too much of a social life for a child can hinder the achievement of the grades necessary to secure future employment. By the same token, social skills are also necessary in child development. A person not only needs know-how to succeed, but also the social skills to work as a team, listen, argue effectively, show empathy, follow social norms, and the like.
Have you made up your mind yet? This takes me to a final point: Children are too young to “network” yet, so should the focus be on the grades first and then the social life? Or should they build those lasting friendships first and then tackle those grades and activities that look good on college entrance papers and resumes? After all, that finger painting does not go on the transcript, but it does look great on the fridge.
Theresa is a former early childhood educator and has worked in childcare centers for more than 15 years. She is also an adoptive mother, living and taking care of her family in the Capital District.