Grading Myself

Toddi Gutner

We’ve all done it. Found ourselves doing to our kids the very thing we vowed we would never do because of how it made us feel when our parents did it to us. Well, I had an “ah ha” moment yesterday when I opened my kids’ report cards and stopped myself from repeating one of my father’s notorious comments to me when he used to open my report cards. He would scan my grades—usually all As and B—and then ask, “What’s the B for?”

I felt my overall accomplishments were minimized and I was forced to focus on what seemed like my failures. I know my father only meant to encourage me to do my best, but in the moment, that wasn’t the message I got.

Granted my kids are just finishing first and third grade, but when I looked at their grades, I zeroed in on their lower marks. And then, I stepped back. I slowly went over each mark and focused on the highest grades and then looked at where there was improvement over the course of the semester and the year. Then I sat down with each child and asked how they felt they did in school this semester and reviewed their grades with them. The message I tried to impart was: Did you do your best? If not, think about how you can do better. I’m not sure if the change in my reaction and behavior made any difference to them, but it did to me.