When Shefali was twelve years old she had A’s in every subject. Her mother was thrilled and Shefali imagined her father would be equally as thrilled. Instead, her father simply smiled and said, “The A’s are fine, but what’s more important is that you feel you learned the best way you could.” At the time it was hard for Shefali to understand why her father had to be such a “spirit-dampener.”
By her late teens Shefali began to understand. Regardless of whether she got a high grade or a C, her father would say “The C is fine but what is more important is that you feel you learned the best way you could.” As she grew older Shefali gradually came to understand that her father was teaching her not to attach herself to the grade, but to instead focus on the process of learning.
Shefali was fortunate. It is unnerving for parents to take such leaps of faith; but leaps of faith are exactly what children need and deserve.
Shefali grew up to work as a doctor of psychology, international speaker and author. In her recent book, The Conscious Parent, Shefali writes, “Since it was abundantly clear that my father’s approval of me was unaffected by the grades I brought home, I never felt any fear when my report card came out…the absence of fear that I enjoyed allowed me not only to derive pleasure from learning, but also to surpass my own expectations.”
No doubt this way of looking at grades could be unsettling and unfamiliar for those parents accustomed to doling out rewards for high grades and punishments for low.
“We need to teach our children,” responds Shefali, “to approach life not with their focus on how much praise or how many accolades they can receive, but with their focus on what they are putting into it…our children need to know that the quality of their inner life will manifest in their external circumstances.”
Our children are so much more than their grades. Many of us can recall being told (and consequently believing) we were not talented or smart in certain areas based on our grades, only to find out as adults we were more adept than we ever thought possible.
Shefali was fortunate – she was encouraged to find her value from within rather than seeking it from others.