When parents say one thing, but feel differently inside, it's very confusing and anxiety-provoking to children (of any age).
Mom: "Grades don't matter. Just do your best."
Kid: "Mom, I got a C on my Bio Test."
Mom: "Do we need to get you a tutor? Why did you get such a poor grade? You need to study harder."
Kid: "I thought grades don't matter??"
Mom: "Uh, right, but uh... I just don't think getting a C means you did your best."
Kid: "Sounds to me like grades do matter...."
Honesty is so important when we're speaking to our children. To make sure our inner voice and outer voice/tone align, we have to be willing to be honest with ourselves.
As is true so often when it comes to parenting, we have to look our fears straight in the eye. If we FEAR what will happen if our children get "bad" grades, we can't tell them grades don't matter. We have to actually BELIEVE grades don't matter, if that's what we say.
When my younger son, James, chose to attend public school in 7th grade, a letter arrived in the mail about 9 weeks after school started. It was addressed to "The Parents of James Harrod." Since I am one of James's parents, I opened the letter.
I was shocked and dismayed to find JAMES'S grades inside the envelope! Why were HIS grades sent addressed to me as if they were MY grades?? I was appalled.
I resealed the letter and crossed off the words "To the Parents of" and left the mail on the kitchen table for James to find and open.
When he opened the letter and found HIS grades, James asked if I wanted to see them. I asked if he wanted me to see them. He said he did and so I looked at them.
He wanted me to say how proud I was of his grades. But I had told him previously that HIS grades are HIS grades. He earns them. He lives with the consequences of them. If he makes high grades, certain options will be open to him. If he makes lower grades, different options will be open to him. I will love him no matter what grades he earns. There is nothing he needs to do to earn my love and acceptance.
If I now act super excited about his high grades, it would show him that his grades matter to me, and they don't. They matter to HIM, so I asked him if HE is happy with his grades. He was and that's all that matters to me. I reminded him that grades are a reflection of how well he mastered the material in the class, and not a reflection of who he is as a person. He might one day make a lower grade, and that is perfectly OK. Grades do not define who he is inside.
James continues to work very hard in all his classes, making high grades for HIMSELF. Because HE cares about his grades and wants to do well in school. He doesn't do it to please me.
What we say to our children needs to align with how we feel inside. Because children notice when there is a difference in what we say and how we truly feel. Inner alignment with our outer voice/tone is critical to helping children learn to trust us and their guides/coaches.
If you're feeling worried about something your child is doing, better to be honest and let them know than to say it's OK with you when it's really not. Even better to let go of fear and trust your child to make choices, to make mistakes, and to get the chance to experience what it means to learn from those mistakes. That's when real growth takes place for our children.
Look for times when you feel one way inside, but say something different to your child. Decide to either change how you feel inside or to say aloud what you're really feeling. See how that impacts your relationship with them and their relationship with themselves. Notice if their anxiety lessens as your inner and outer voices come into alignment.
Let me know how it goes and what you notice: firstname.lastname@example.org