My eight year old daughter told us that she had a social studies exam yesterday and got an 82 on it. My husband's response: "excellent, nice job." And mine: "82? That's good but what questions did you get wrong?" To which the husband said "that's terrible! don't say that to her."
Who knew we disagreed so sharply on child-rearing? And I am not criticizing my husband; he is one of the most loving, involved daddies there could be. But we have a different approach. Complete positive reinforcement versus limiting positive reinforcement where the child doesn't perform as well as you would hope.
This conflict made me think of Amy Chua, the Chinese Mother who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She wrote about how Chinese mothers are tough and focused on achievement. She does not let her children have fun until all work is done. And work must be done perfectly. There is no positive reinforcement for imperfect performance and grades less than A.
That seems rather extreme. And it is sure to lead to some very unhappy childhood memories. On the other hand, we have to encourage kids to set high goals for themselves if they're going to do well in life. So I'm trying to figure out how to do that, without being the drill sergeant in the house.
So back to the social studies test. Emily brought it home and we looked at it with her. It turns out that the questions she got wrong were questions that she knew how to answer once she focused on them. By trying to finish the test quickly, she made mistakes and was careless. I think that she was confident, once we reviewed the test, that she knew the answers to the other 18%.
I think that it is perfectly fine to respond to an 82 score with the message that "it is good but you can do better." I want my kids to be ambitious and have goals that are heard to reach, but also to have the confidence that they can reach them.