Monday, July 29, 2013

UBC day 29- Mission accomplished!

Today I had to attend a Parent-Teacher meeting at the elder one's school. They have just finished their first unit test, and we had been called for an interaction to discuss our kids performance. To say the least, the little one is a genius of sorts. He had yet again scored 100% marks.

"Well, what do I say," began the teacher, "he has performed exceptionally well, standing first not just in my class, but in the entire class 4. All I can say is, advise him not to be overconfident after this performance."

I was aghast hearing that. I wanted to tell her that this is not a first for my child. He has always been a top performer, scoring full marks in every exam he writes ever since he was in first standard. And I have never seen him pride and gloat about his performance ever. This winning streak is not restricted to academics but he also excels in sports and creative arts. There you can see awards for Karate, Abacus, Skating, Olympiads, Spell-bees, Drawing, GK, Debates, Extempore speeches, name it, he's a pro!

But the subject of this post is not to gloat about his achievements, but it is to pat myself for the policy that I consciously adopted in order to make him immune to his achievements. I had been receiving a lot of flak from family and friends for this, but I stuck to it and now I can proudly say, "I was right!"

I realised that he is a child prodigy, when he was just 6. He had won several awards in the very first year of school. Instead of being happy, I was seized with anxiety. When everyone in the family was busy showering praises on him, I was secretly hoping that the success does not go his head. I was worried that if it does, what would happen when he does not succeed.

That's when I made this decision. I decided to celebrate only his participation in events and not wins. Every time he put his effort for something, we rewarded it by doing something he loved, like taking him to the planetarium, or a favourite cartoon movie, or spend time however he wished, or ordering his favorite foods. There would never be a materialistic gift given, no toys, no glittering gifts. I encouraged him to put all the effort he could, but never showed too much excitement when he announced that he had won something. I also never prodded him to stretch himself or work towards winning.

Over a period of time he learn't that winning or losing is a by-product of his effort. I realised that the lesson had been ingrained in him, when someone congratulated him on his success and he merely nodded and said thanks without a trace of emotion on his face.

That person asked me, "What have you done to your son, why isn't he excited on his win?"

When I explained, she said, "Are you out of your mind? He is just a small child, if you don't celebrate his wins how will he be motivated to do better or win again? You are teaching him wrong things."

I had suddenly begun to doubt my own style of parenting. Was I wrong? Was I responsible for depriving him of his happiness? While these self effacing doubts continued to muddle my head, something happened.

He is a spell bee champion, he stood first in the school round, and then fifth in the inter school round, he bagged the second place in the state round and was placed eleventh nationally. He was preparing for the international oral round after he cleared the international written round with an 'A+'. He had put in quite a lot of effort and he was hoping to crack the oral round too.

After a non stop winning streak, the inevitable happened! Unfortunately, he did not make it to the top 20 in the last and final round. I was hoping he would not take it to heart. Imagine my relief when he took it quite coolly.

 "It's ok mamma", he said, as if I was the one who needed to be consoled, "I did my best, but maybe the top 20 did even better."

That's it! No tears, no sad face, no drama, no hue and cry. I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I was of my child. More than that I was convinced that my style of parenting is not wrong at all. But secretly I wondered if he was actually upset. I wondered if he would still be motivated to put his efforts again. That doubt was laid to rest when a close family member called him and gave him the gyan about how there is always a next time. And my little champ promptly answered back,

"I'm not upset at all Aunty, I might have not won the trophy, but the prizes were only for the top 20, so I have actually not failed because I performed really well. I am happy with my effort. And my mother says, that I must only put my effort and not worry about winning or losing."

That was all I needed to hear!

This unit test came close on the heels of that spell bee competition and we celebrated his efforts after the exams were over by going to his favorite pizza joint. Today, the day of the results, was a quiet day, of sobered down pats and muted 'well done's'.

I wanted to explain all this to his teacher when she talked about my son getting overconfident. How would I explain to her that this child has not been reared that way at all and who could know that better than me?

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