This is a very good question! As parents we tend to worry about our children’s hurt feelings when they don’t measure up.
The important thing here is: How does the child explain her low grade?
Does she say, “I guess the teacher doesn’t like me,” or “The test wasn’t fair,” or “I can’t do math” ?
The first two responses put the responsibility of the low grade on external sources, meaning it has nothing to do with Elena. There’s nothing she could have done differently to get a better grade.
The third response points to her low ability to explain her grade. “I can’t do math,” implies that she sees herself as incapable and therefore not able to improve. Her performance in math is stable, doesn’t change.
But perhaps Elena says, “I didn’t study enough. I planned to study, but I got busy watching tv, and then I forgot about the test.”
Here she has taken responsibility for her low grade. Her belief is that if she studies more, she can do better. Her performance on this particular test was a result of something over which she has control: how much she studies.
Next: How parents can guide their child to a more accurate, healthy view of their successes and failures.
This is a great point. How we as parents respond to these situations is SO IMPORTANT in helping our children learn how to take responsibility and still maintain a positive self-image. And unfortunately, I think sometimes parents are too quick to respond critically, just reacting based on past experiences from their own childhood without even realizing it…
Yes, scm, I agree that we as parents tend to react based on our past experiences. This is why it’s so important to gain awareness about our past. This is not an easy process, but can be fostered over time and has great rewards.