And while playing sports was difficult for me, classroom work was not. I loved math, English, social studies and even tolerated science. Homework was fun for me and I guess for much of my school career, I was the teacher’s pet. But when I got to college, things changed. I didn’t understand everything, I had to study harder, I had to go the extra mile. Fortunately, I was well-prepared in high school and was able to pull myself up ‘by the bootstraps’ and get a pretty decent GPA in college.
So I guess I have high expectations for my students and for my own children. Education is important and as parents, we need to push our kids and cheer them on through the educational process. My husband and I were talking the other night…he is the math department chair of a school in the area. About this time every year, there is a mad rush of parent e-mails to his inbox. Each e-mail is worded differently, but the gist of the e-mail is that the class their sweet child was placed in is too hard and he must move them. Every semester, he is faced with dozens of requests…multiply this across the various departments. Kids go home and complain about a teacher, or the content is too hard, or the child doesn’t get along with another child in the class. We thought back to our own education. We couldn’t remember anyone moving classes when we were in school. You just went, did the best you could and got the grade you were given. My parents rarely intervened in my education to make it easier. And if something was hard, they expected that I would study harder!
Why do we give our children an ‘out’ when they are preparing for the biggest part of their lives? They are going to college or to a job and they better be prepared for hard! When they are little, we are looking for the best preschools so that they can begin their education early. We are convinced they are geniuses and will certainly be Ivy-league educated when they reach college age. But by the time they are in middle school or high school, we tend to want to make their lives so much easier. In some cases, we even coddle them and assure them that it is OK to quit whatever it is that is making their lives so hard. Not only do we see this in school, but it then begins to translate to other areas…we quit college or move from major to major, we quit a church because of tough relationships, we quit a job after a short time because we can’t get a long with co-workers, we jump from relationship to relationship or marriage to marriage because we realize that our spouse isn’t everything they were cracked up to be.
Don’t get me wrong…there are appropriate times to leave a church, a marriage or a job and I have experienced all of these situations either personally or with family and friends. I would never counsel someone to stay in an abusive relationship or to stay in a job where there is questionable ethical behavior. But, in general, it is too easy to quit and ‘move on’ these days so that we don’t have to do the hard work of working things out. There is value in this kind of problem solving and in learning to compromise and be flexible when it comes to relationships with other people. The world does not spin around, me, you or our children and the sooner they (and we) learn that, the better off we are.
I think of depression era children and the farming families that our nation is really built on. My own parents were farming and manual labor children. They would wake early to deal with farm and household chores before going off to the bus stop. They would return home from school, finish homework and work late into the evening with more farm and household chores. They didn’t quit family, the farm, the school, their classes, their churches. They muddled through…they rejoiced during the good times and suffered during the difficult times. And they are better for it.
If we don’t allow our children to suffer and experience ‘hard,’ we are doing them a disservice. So, let’s stop berating ourselves because our kids are having to work so hard, whether in school or in a job. Let’s encourage them to finish what they have started, let’s have discussions about how to work things out and let’s encourage them to do hard things.