I had a mini rant about this last week in Mislaying The Positives but since then, other things have happened, not even to me, and I’ve got hot under the collar all over again. So, here we are: a whole blog on the subject.
First of all, parents should be proud of their children. I am proud of every new book level, every goal scored, every positive comment, every spelling test, every homework completed. Everything. I think both of my boys are amazing and I cherish every single achievement, no matter how big or small. So does my husband and so do the grandbears.
However, I do not feel it necessary to tweet or publish every single accolade on Facebook. As explained last week, I do think we should shout about amazing achievements, especially when a child has overcome some sort of hurdle or adversity to get there. Those not-so-braggy-brags are hard earned and I think anyone reading about them would genuinely be happy for the achievee (not a word but clearly should be) and their parents. For those of us whose children have additional needs of one type or another, these amazing moments can be harder to come by. We often have to hunt around for them in a miasma of ‘can I have a word’s and phone calls home and red lights in the ‘below expectations’ box. These amazing moments shine brighter for it and I’m very much in favour of people being able to share them and other people being happy for them. This was the motivation behind the #glowmo hashtag invented by @mumdrah (I think) which many of us in the online adoption community use to highlight these hard-won moments of glowing pride.
What I have much more of a problem with, is parents of children with outstanding reports, outstanding scores, amazing comments, publishing the lot on social media. Why are they doing it? I know they’re proud and rightly so, but why can’t they just congratulate one another, praise their child, tell the grandparents, share it on a family whatsapp group and leave it there? They’ve already got the warm glow of their child’s amazing achievements – why do they need public acknowledgement too?
I wonder whether they publish these things genuinely without thinking about how it might make others feel or whether, actually, they want to show off. Either way, it’s not great. And I do have to wonder whether if their child got all low marks or all negative comments, they would still feel moved to post it on Facebook. I rather suspect not… I can’t help feeling it smacks of a certain I’m alright Jack-ness, without a care for the not so lucky.
When you see your child’s report on its own, you can see it for what it is: the achievements of an individual child with their own individual set of strengths and difficulties. You can consider it within the context of them – the only context it should ever be considered in. As soon as someone else publishes their child’s report, you have a comparator. You would never mean to compare them but if their child has all these high scores and yours doesn’t, it would be pretty much impossible not to notice. No matter how proud you are of your child, and how well you know the context of their achievements, these sorts of accidental comparisons can wound.
As I write this, I don’t know whether I’m practising some form of inverse educational snobbery. My experience of school was one of being branded a swot for working hard and gaining good marks – not attributes that improved one’s social standing. So perhaps the experience encouraged me to keep successes to myself. Or maybe it just highlighted to me, from a young age, that dangling achievements in people’s faces naturally upsets them.
It’s very unpleasant to inadvertently make others squirm, just by getting a higher mark or a better grade. Sometimes people make their feelings on the subject known, even if you haven’t flaunted anything, and I think, at times, I have probably been guilty of down-playing achievements out of embarrassment. This isn’t right either – surely we need some sort of non-braggy, non-hidey middle ground.
What it does tell me is that the child who has been bragged about on social media is at risk of alienation from their peers – anything that marks a child out as different can be (and often is) used against them. Their wellbeing is equally as important as the child who has not achieved highly and feels lesser because of it.
More to the point, knowing how divisive achievement can be, I have absolutely no idea what would motivate someone to provoke these difficult reactions in others on purpose.
Perhaps it’s just me, but the reward for doing well, is doing well. That’s it. No pats on the head or public bragging needed. I suspect I have my mum to thank for this – who, whilst all my friends were bribed with x amount of money for A’s, less for B’s etc., refused to give me any amount of money for any grades, because, in her words, “You should want to do it for yourself, not for money”. And as annoying as it is to admit it, I think she was right. The reward was the satisfaction of the achievement itself. I’m sure she’d add that it isn’t about the public glory either.
I’m wondering to myself now, whether when a young person works hard and does well, they should be able to shout it from the rooftops, whatever their circumstances, if they so wish. But then I know, that if it were me up on a roof, I’d collect the words ready to shout out, and at the last moment, I would stop myself, because I would be worried about how that shout-out might make others, who couldn’t make the same shout-out, feel. I don’t know if this is right or wrong. Do we want a generation of children hiding their light under a bushel? Do we want a generation of children shouting every attainment loud and proud? Or, more importantly, do we want a generation of young people who work hard, do their best and, crucially, care about those around them? It’s possible to work hard, achieve high, be appropriately proud of oneself yet not demean others with your successes. It is.
It just requires a bit of thought and consideration and not posting children’s reports on social media.
As a parent of two very different children, with reports at very different ends of the spectrum, I can honestly say that being on the receiving end of someone else’s less than humble report brag has always been unpleasant. However, when you are already worried about your child and already on it with the school and already accustomed to keeping your head down at pick-up and already concerned about the future, someone’s less than humble report brag is akin to them pouring a whole bag of salt into your already open wound. No thank you. A little more consideration for others would be marvellous.