Exam stress

exam stress lady with fingers on nose

November always seems like the longest month of the year to me.  There’s the end of year functions, school prize-giving’s, concerts and…. Exams.  The stress of the exams alone is enough to warrant a long beach holiday where there are no books, pens, Annie apples or Uppie umbrellas.

These days I know that I don’t have much to stress about since my boys are in the foundation phase of school, yet I still do.  What if my son fails grade 1?  What if he doesn’t remember that the legs of a bed are actually called “voete” and not “bene”?  What if he forgets how to use a number line and ends up on the wrong number!!

Then I wonder whether I’m  not more stressed out then they are?  Quite honestly, they seem to be rather calm and self-assured.  I asked each of them how they feel about getting their reports at the end of the year and how they think they’re going to fair.  Both answered with a list of gifts I could choose to buy for them when they get their excellent reports.  Right.  That settles that dilemma then.  Then I had a discussion with a friend which may have helped stop the nightmares (mine that is).

She argued that maybe I’m stressed because I don’t have faith in their capabilities or that I’m more worried about whether I as a parent have done enough.  And that if either of them come home with less than excellent results, then I would feel as though I have failed them. Or worse, that I failed as a parent because of that one day I let them watch TV for an hour instead of the usual half. (ok, ok, it happened more than once) Of course, I defended myself saying that was ridiculous and explaining that if I didn’t put in the effort with them now, how would they understand the importance of getting good results later when it really counts?

Bad move on my part because that’s where she came at me with the “You can’t make them do their best by forcing them to study”.  I’m not forcing, I’m just insisting that they get good grades so that they never feel disappointed for not trying harder.  The average Joe is well, just that, average.  And in today’s times, average doesn’t get you very far.

The turning point came for me when she said that perhaps I was more concerned about how people around me would react to less than superb results from my kids (like the grandparents).  She suggested that I place less emphasis on their grades and rather focus more on making the process more fun  – “don’t look at the pot of gold at the end, make it a rainbow to get to the gold”.  So I’ve tried it and…. It works.  Well at this level anyway.  There’s no bribery of a gift for getting a good report.  There’s no fighting about sitting with the school work.  There’s now just an understanding that when they make an effort, they get good results and that in turn makes them feel good… and may result in a small reward, like a remote control car.

This article was originally written for Jozikids by Fatima Kazee in 2014.

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Fatima Kazee

Fatima Kazee

Fatima Kazee, mum to a teenager, a pre-teen and ‎a little princess.  Part-time wife to a fanatical fisherman. She’s addicted to sneakers, anything chocolatey & is an invaluable member of the Jozikids and Kznkids team.

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5 Responses

  1. Hi Fatima

    I can so relate to all of those concerns and you've pretty much addressed them all. As parents we often succumb to bribery in getting the desired results for better grades on tests, exams, projects and assisgments. Our high expectation of our kids for me, stems from not wanting to look bad in my societal circle of kids and relatives kids….I've come to the realisation that kids will perform at their best in a supportive and loving enviroment where yes the small victories they bring, ultimately brings the look of happiness on our faces motivating them to do the good, better, best they can.

  2. Interesting read with good humour. I also understand the pressures. This time of the year its routine for our social networking contacts to put up pics of their kids excelling – everyones kids seem so bright!

    A bit of a controversial statement but none the less – I think its also important for kids to learn how to deal with failure. It is valuable for individuals to fail once at least and to realise that sometimes the implications are not huge and they can pick themselves up, reflect on the learnings and move on. In my work I have met older individuals who have never failed anything and this fear of failure hampers their personal growth to an extent where they are also afraid to try a new hobby in case they won't be good at it. Teaching them to accept consequences is important but not always easy.

    1. Your comment is so insight – full. Failure , is a word loaded with prejudice, dogma and judgement. If a child/ student can say ” I had poor results for my test today” with equanimity and carry on regardless, then he or she is very successful!
      The “marks” are a very one sided reflection of an extreme,y one – sided system, that is itself, a failure.
      Children , who come into this world today, are very courageous beings. To come into a world where so much works against them. Parents are there to love and support them , be there for who they are in their wholeness.
      I have found that when I work with parents on their anxiety and beliefs, the children are free of that burden and more at peace with themselves.

  3. Hi Sudeshnee. I'm really convinced that the anxiety we feel as parents or mum's comes from wanting to feel that we've done our best and in turn that they do good. But like you say, with the right support and caring environment they will flourish at their own level best. And it ought to be good enough for all the people whom they matter to.

  4. You're so right Zaheera. I guess it's part of the mothering instinct to want the best for your child. But failure in itself can be used in a positive way to help them realise their weaknesses and strengths. And work on that.

    The social circles do put a lot of pressure on us to feel that our kids are also the best at everything! I suppose being able to ignore that and be happy in the knowledge that all kids are different and thrive at different things, helps.

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