A Suburban City Girl in A Small Town

Moment by moment……

Over-Motivated Kids

on April 1, 2013

Seven years ago, when Shelby was in third grade, I stood after a school presentation waiting to speak with her teacher. The guy in front of me had a son who was getting all straight A’s. Overhearing his conversation, I learned the homework given his son was decidedly not enough to keep him motivated and he was looking for extra work to give to him. I remember being a bit amazed. Here was his son, exceeding expectations yet it still didn’t seem to be good enough. After all, what’s wrong with just letting this bright boy be a kid?

I revisited this memory while helping Shelby study for an Algebra test  and it got me thinking: Are we over-motivating our kids?

In this day and age, I’ve noticed algebra is being introduced as early as 4th and 5th grade and by 8th grade, kids are expected to be able to present complicated, computer-generated presentations in their classes. Teachers are expected to rush kids through concept with the sole intent of getting to the next concept. This is particularly difficult in a subject like grammar or math, two subjects which build upon themselves. One cannot go the next level without understanding the current level. Yet there is no time to drill the current level, like there was in my day.

In my day, and I realize I’m going back about 25 years, concepts were drilled and then drilled again. Reading wasn’t a guessing game – it was introduced with phonics and grammar rules and then built upon into sentences and paragraph structure. Math facts were drilled and memorized as they were recited daily.

You see, we’re so into ‘higher-education’ that we’re no longer educating. We’re just feeding expectation. The expectation on a child is to learn yet the concepts are taught so fast, they cannot. The expectation on a teacher is to teach yet they cannot teach properly because of expectations being put on them. We’ve created this high stress atmosphere, no longer concerning ourselves with the character of the child but moreover the intelligence and the achievement of the child.

Here’s a rule I’ve set in my home. My daughter, Shelby, has been in special ed since 3rd grade. She had an incredible work ethic and always strives to do her best. Yet her best often is a C-average. How can I possibly tell her she’s failing? My other daughter, Emilie, has been diagnosed with ADHD. She’s a super-intellect. However, her brain moves so fast she often misses key information and needs to have concept repeated. Her frustration levels have been at all time high causing her anxiety while achieving a B-average. How can I possibly pressure her to do more? There are no awards given to kids like these! There are no acknowledgments given even to those in special education programs!

I refuse to over-motivate my kids. I refuse to exhort them to be what they clearly are not ready to be. I refuse to stress them out with the concept of ‘more, more, more’ and I refuse to miss out on precious time with them in an effort to create over-achievers. They are decent, respectful, kind and generous. They’ve already over-achieved as human beings. Anything else is just icing on the cake of their futures.



One response to “Over-Motivated Kids

  1. Rob Russo says:

    I think that like so much else in this society, education has sped up as well. Speaking from the other end of this issue, as an interpreter in many college and junior college classes, there is also the element of young people at college age who are still being taught the math classes that I remember taking….and I didn’t go to college. I’m curious as to how you see the excellent point you are making related to what I see every day? I mentioned math, but there is also reading and writing as well. I learned these levels in junior high and high school….these kids are apparently not.


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