The S word I won’t use

18 May

When my oldest brought home her first report card in Kindergarten, I looked at the data and swelled with pride over her wonderful marks.  And in that moment I made a split second decision that I don’t think I will ever regret.  I decided that when it came to grades in school, I would not tell my daughter she was smart.  In fact, I knew then and there that I would never look at a report card from any of my kids and use that S word… smart.

I have 5 children, and while I would love to believe that they will all be brilliant and make fantastic grades, I realize that there is a decent chance that there will be at least one child who will struggle in school.  Maybe it will be a learning disability or a flat out low IQ.  But if I use grades as a standard for smartness, what will I do when a child works really hard and comes home with a C? Am I willing for him to assume that he is not smart?

So instead, when papers come home or report cards are issued, I say, “Your grades are a great reflection of how hard you worked.” Norah is a great speller, so she has heard me say, “One of your strengths is spelling.  I struggled with spelling, so I’m thankful it is easy for you.”  When grades aren’t great, we talk about what (if anything) should change in the way we approach homework and tests, and we have frequent conversations about carelessness and reading directions thoroughly.  (Lest anyone think I go easy on Norah, we spend A LOT of time hashing and rehashing math.  It isn’t a strength for her, but the grades she brings home are more because she rushes to get done with her work and not so much about her intelligence!)

As the kids get older, I look forward to the individual gifts that my children will discover.  That report card full of C’s may just come to a child who can fix a problem with our computer or play beautiful music or build amazing things.  It will be so great to discover a million ways that they are smart in their very own ways!


(Thanks a million to my friend Cindy who has for several years been such an inspiration to the way I think about this. The ways you spur me towards better parenting are endless!  Love you!)


One Response to “The S word I won’t use”

  1. Cindy Lang May 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    Oh friend, on a week where I am weepy anyway you are making me cry! Thank you for the sweet tribute – I’m so far from being a good mom most times but it’s good to know that sometimes things I say at least make sense. Here’s to loving each of our kids for exactly how God made them – unique and special!

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