Deficit parenting

Quarantine D12

Another 2 days left of quarantine. Tomorrow I have the “delight” of what is known as a double covid test – 2x nasal and 2x oral tests back to back. Yikes, and who knows the medical / scientific reason for this, but then 24 hours later I’ll be a free-ish person.

I rang up a friend of mine this evening. Her son had just received his GCSE results and she’d posted how proud of him she was on FaceBook. I knew she’d been a little concerned so I rang to congratulate her (and him). A couple of things transpired from the conversation.

Firstly she was happy that I congratulated her, as I knew that his success was in no small part as a result of her stepping in to help guide him when things were going a bit wobbly with one of his subjects. He got the help he needed.

The other part of the conversation was how we now as parents are able to focus on what went right and the positive results, rather than anything that was less than perfect. Both of us grew up in households where nothing was ever good enough. No matter what our successes were, be they academic or in our careers, we were still held to some invisible and ineffable standard that could never be attained. The 99 successes were never seen but the one failure was. It’s a legacy that has made both of us very hard on ourselves. It’s what I’d refer to as deficit parenting. It’s a very hard pattern to break.

The next part was the fact, closely related to the latter, that her son was also able to say that he was happy with himself and his results. I think that is so important, that one can be happy with a result and not personally focus on the lower scores.

The final part is the response of other people – where you sometimes literally have to shut people up in their responses when they start making grumbly noises about “grade inflation” and “in their day”. It really annoys me – I think teens are exposed to so much more information, in a much broader manner with more context and more pressure than we ever were, and that as adults we often retroactively impose our vast experience and years and years of learning and reading more back onto our teen years when actually we were just a bunch of naive ignorant beasts. With a lot more free time and freedom generally than kids today.

It’s funny because today at school we were talking about taking the scoring away from learning feedback. Keeping score is such an ingrained part of life, academic, sporting and otherwise that it’s difficult to conceptualise other ways of knowing that learning has taken place, and whether mastery has been achieved. Or even, in some instances if mastery is necessary. In fact the whole idea of exams is quite ludicrous it seems. Particularly now. I get quite cross thinking about it in fact. My daughter’s friend had the misfortune of missing a few exams in her first year of university, due to being really ill, and as a result needs to resit the exams in September. But weirdly and very unfairly no matter how well she does in the exam she’ll only ever get a passing grade for them. If you’re going to insist on exams and scores, then at least do so equitably and don’t punish people for circumstances beyond their control.

Certainly in my life I find it more and more important that I know how to quickly find out how to do something, or to know something and to grasp the bigger picture, rather than to have an intimate knowledge. It’s something that bugs me when I’m learning anything that things immediately go into the minutiae. Like the Adobe Illustrator course I’m doing. Yes it’s a good course, but it’s detail detail detail, lots of these are short cuts etc. I’d rather first have the big overview about how it all fits together with the important stuff like layers and tools and then later the “how to”.

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