Feeling secure can free kids

Feeling secure can free kids

September 09, 2005|By LISA PREJEAN

"So, who did you play with at recess today?"

We were at the dinner table, and I decided to try an experiment. My aim was to ask questions only about the topics my children had mentioned on their own in the last 24 hours.

Most of those topics were unrelated to academics yet linked to things associated with school.

Not missing a beat as she lifted her fork to her mouth, my 6-year-old replied, "Everybody. The whole class played together."

How nice, I thought.

The more I contemplated what she had said, the more I realized how much that simple statement told me about her day.


No one was left out. Everyone got to play. There were no arguments to speak of. It sounded like all the students were having fun.

Part of me really wanted to know about her first-ever spelling test. Did she do OK? Did she remember what we had reviewed?

Yet all she wanted to talk about was friends and the fun they had at recess.

So I listened. With great restraint, I didn't question her about the test but allowed her to talk in detail about the things that are important to her.

The result? We had an enjoyable, relaxing dinner conversation. She seemed happy that I was interested in the things she values. In turn, she was more willing to talk about the things she knows are important to me.

I eventually found out the grade she received on her spelling test. That just told me she had remembered most of what we had reviewed over the previous few days.

Did it tell me much about my daughter? Not as much as our conversation about recess.

Don't misunderstand me. I feel academics are extremely important. Like most parents, I want my children to excel and will do what I can to help them achieve.

But I think too many parents overemphasize grades, and that sends a wrong message to children.

We zero in and ask them questions in drill-sergeant fashion: "What did you get on the test? Do you think you should have studied more? Perhaps we should take away a privilege so you can do better next time!"

If I only ask, "What did you get on the test?" I'm not too concerned about what my child is learning from me. Will it matter in 20 years whether she remembered at age 6 that "can" is spelled with a "c" and not a "k"?

No. But will it matter in 20 years that she had a mother who listened to her and cared about what was important to her in first grade?


So, I've decided to save the grade-related or behavior-related questions for last. When we come back together in the evening after being separated by work and school, we initially talk about the topics my children choose.

They feel important when I ask: "Did you like the new drinks we bought at the grocery store over the weekend? How do your gym clothes fit? Do you need any more supplies for your desk? How do your new sneakers feel on your feet?"

Then when it comes time to study, they're more willing to work with me because they know how much I care about the little details in their lives.

A child who feels secure in a parent's love can free his mind to learn.

We spend a few minutes each night reviewing concepts they've learned in school, but we spend much more time talking about the social and practical parts of their lives.

That balance assures that when it's time to work, I have their undivided attention.

But more important, they sense my unconditional love.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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