DR. WALLACE: I'm a 16-year-old girl who is a very good student. Mostly, I get A's in school, and if I ever don't achieve an A, then I always get at least a B or a B+. This would make most parents very happy, but my parents are truly only happy with me if my report card is perfect. They seem to focus many times more on my B grade than my A grades. They always ask me "what went wrong" with every B grade, but they never praise me at all for the several A's I bring home.
My parents were born overseas in a country where grades are considered to be very, very important. As you might guess, my social life is very limited because I spend most of my free time studying under the supervision of my parents. I do love them very much, and they are wonderful parents in so many ways, but the pressure for me to maintain a perfect grade-point average is very difficult to live with and makes me feel like a failure sometimes.
The times I receive less than an A send my parents into a few weeks of a very depressed state, and this makes me feel sad for them — and me. I am an only child, so of course, all their attention is focused on me. I wish they had more hobbies or more robust social lives! Before COVID-19, they only had limited interests and outings outside our home, and now they rarely leave home except to get groceries once a week!
I keep telling my parents that I'm doing the very best I can and that I am not perfect. I am intelligent, but my parents want me to be an absolute genius, and that is just not going to happen, no matter how many hours I read, study and practice for the tests in my classes. Please tell me what I can do to get my parents to understand that I'm working hard and doing my very best. — So Much Pressure, via email
SO MUCH PRESSURE: You're an intelligent student who deserves parental praise, not criticism. Mom and Dad need to lighten their grip and take joy in the wonderful, intelligent and dedicated student you really are. To do otherwise — to be satisfied only with perfect grades — misses the point of education and could indeed do far more harm than good. Your letter here is living proof of this point and how counterproductive their stance actually is.
When you return to your school campus once COVID-19 closures have ended, you should seek the help your school provides.
Talk things over with your counselor. Ask to have a conference set up with your parents to discuss your educational progress and goals. Your counselor can help them realize how proud they should be of their daughter's academic achievements.
In the meantime, I suggest you start with the direct approach. Actually sit your parents down at the most suitable and low-pressure time of the week, and tell them that you are so very proud to have them as parents, which you are! Tell them that you love them. Tell them that you would like to ask them for a special type of support that will really help you. Then, calmly explain that you try your very best in school and that you crave their support and approval for the great scholastic achievements you regularly deliver. Look them in the eyes as you ask, and no matter how this conversation goes, end it by giving a big hug to each of your parents and thanking them for listening.
In life, we often want situations to work themselves out on their own. We don't realize that one of the most effective ways to positively change or improve a situation or a relationship is to earnestly ask for it — assuming you have a solid platform of performance and credibility to do so from. In your case, you absolutely have earned this solid platform, so do not be afraid to ask for what you are seeking. I trust their approval will follow quickly and, hopefully, will become a more regular occurrence to the benefit of all.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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