From the moment our children are born, their development is measured and analysed. Right at the very start of life they are observed and given a ranking according to how well they take their first breaths and this sets the scene for a seemingly endless range of evaluations that continue their entire childhood until they graduate from high school.
Most aspects of a child’s progress are recorded and compared to what is viewed as ‘ideal’ progress: The Blue Book given to babies, the Early Years Learning Assessments, School Readiness indicators, assessments during the first few days of Kindergarten, NAPLAN and finally the battery of exams that occur at the end of more than a decade at school. All this data is poured over by doctors, educators and parents as they analyse a child’s improvement.
At this time of the year, NAPLAN results are often the main topic of conversation during parent get-togethers. Parents discuss their child’s performance to gauge their child’s success levels for the different aspects of the tests. It is ok to admit, while it is good to get an idea of how other people’s children are doing, it is also nice to be able to brag about how well your child is progressing.
Much of this information is important, however, many of the things that matter so much more are not on this list of examinations. There are other elements that are completely different to these. There are topics that are infinitely more crucial to a child’s success than their height and weight percentiles or their recent sporting success.
The conversations that we need to be having, the ones that really count, start much like this:
Is your child happy, not just because they recently caught their favourite Pokemon, I mean truly blissfully joyous?
Do they feel optimistic about the possibilities that life is bringing their way?
Are they healthy, based not on measures written onto growth charts from a visit to the community health nurse, but measured by a more diverse set of life skills?
Life skills like:
Are they socially connected?
Do they feel they matter?
Are they an active part of something bigger than themselves?
Are they able to enjoy the simple pleasures life has on offer rather than needing to be continually connected to their electronic device?
Do they know, deep in the core of their being, that with the right measure of perseverance the can achieve anything in this world?
Societal pressures emphasise the importance of literacy and numeracy. However, we need to ensure the wellbeing of our children is considered equally as important.
Some things we should consider:
Finding a balance between league tables and lifelong learning.
Mindfulness mattering as much as mathematics.
Belonging being of greater importance than being in Band 6.
Rather than the 3 R’s we need to help our children rock with an overabundance of resilience. Meaning needs to matter much more than minimum standards, and connections should matter as much as calculus.
It is up to us, as parents, to change the current conversation. For our children to live truly successful lives we need to change our dialogue towards the things that really matter. We need to stop analysing and evaluating them. Instead we need to encourage and raise them up to a height where they can envisage their destiny. We need to help them believe they are important in the world and encourage them to find the inner harmony that will let them excel at being the best they can be.
About the author: Tim Heinecke
Tim Heinecke is Australia’s number one student engagement guru. Being a father to four school-aged children as well as having been a school teacher for more than 20 years gives him insights into better ways to inspire young people. Tim is the founder of the Student Engagement Institute and he has shown thousands of teachers and parents how to better engage children in their own educational journey.