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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Parenting: The battle between Bruce Banner and The Hulk

Just like Bruce Banner, my emotional reactions are almost impossible contain. When I experience any form of discomfort, anxiety or rage…I turn as green as Nickelodeon’s extinct slime!
My most recent episode came yesterday when I decided to check on my 11 year old’s grades and found out he had a D in mathematics. Now before you judge me, let me give you a little background information on our current school year situation.

I have raised my children to care about their grades. I have explained to them that grades are not a true measure of their intelligence. However, when it comes to our education system, they are extremely important because it is the way society measures intelligence, work ethic and effort.
I do not demand straight A’s. “Tiger mom” is not a title I hold. I am more of a Liger mom; the balance between hippie mindset and structured discipline. A’s and B’s are acceptable. I do not accept Mediocrity, which is what I refer to as C’s. This entire school year however has been a battle with getting C’s due to assignments not turned in or careless mistakes and not rechecking their work. This year I chose to give my 11 year old responsibility for his own grades.  I let go of checking everything piece of homework and every single assignment and product.

I checked grades 3 times a marking period and had a review on why they were slipping. When he told me it was because he didn’t understand the material I made sure I was available to go over anything he didn’t understand. In December, Santa bought Jayden a new special edition Xbox One. Santa wrote a note that unless grades improved, said Xbox could not be opened…. 5 months later… the Xbox is STILL in the unopened box.

Fast forward to yesterday. I go to check grades and find that he has a D in mathematics. The D was due to a 5 page assignment that was graded individually and he got a range of C’s-F’s on each one!
Enter the hulk. I yelled to the top of my lungs

I lost any ounce of patience that I had left. I saw red and turned green. The exact things I said are a bit of a blur to me. I may have even used profanity. It was not my proudest moment but I lost all self-control. Emotions tend to do that to me. All forms of entertainment have been banned from now until the end of the school year. No TV, no playing with toys, no Electronics unless they are for educational purposes, no going over friends’ houses, NO FUN OF ANY KIND IS ALLOWED…Monday through Friday. He is to come home from school, redo failed assignments and complete I-ready.

This evening when I came home I was still fuming. But after guitar practice and homework review with Tristan I decided to watch some Ted Talks. I encountered a Colin Powell Ted Talk about children needing structure. My first instinct when my child fails is that somehow I am failing. I wanted to know if structure is somehow missing in Jayden’s life. I will always blame myself for my children failing. I once judged a close relative for stating “My children failing in life is not my fault, I did my part as a parent providing them with every opportunity.” Jayden was only in Kindergarten at that point so that statement seemed absurd to me. My first thought was, “no, you failed to provide structure for your children.”

My takeaway from the Colin Powell speech was that even when kids have structure they can still have mediocre grades in school. Apparently Colin Powell was a straight "C" student his entire life but somehow was extraordinary at following orders and eventually he became extraordinary at giving orders and managed to reach the highest rank in the military.

I decided to have Jayden watch the Ted talk with me. I had to summarize the speech for him to explain my analysis of it. I reiterated that it’s not the fact that he has a “D” that bothers me. Rather the fact that I know he is better than that. I told him it is ok to fail, but it is not ok to accept failure as an ultimate outcome. His teacher always tells her students: FAIL stand for First Attempt in Learning. It’s a wonderful message, but my first reaction to failing has always been to get overemotional and over react and release THE HULK. I usually need a day to return to my Bruce Banner alter ego. I return the same way as the comic book character always does, tattered, disoriented and filled with shame and guilt. But once I dust myself off, it is back to work to find the solution to my parenting hurdles: Which are just as complicated and difficult as physics and calculus.

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