Academic peer pressure

I received a lovely phone call from Hannah when school closed for the holidays the other day. ‘Dad, guess what?’ she said, all excited. ‘What?’, said I, equally excited and not a little intrigued. ‘I received a distinction for academic achievement, and an A-grade pass and a R100 gift voucher from the school for Exclusive Books.’

Immediately my heart leapt with pride and I stopped what I was doing and took her out for a celebratory lunch. However, such is the nature of this amazing child that her joy was short lived. In the car to the restaurant she said, ‘I felt a bit bad, dad.’

‘What about, baby?’

‘Well when I was called up on stage to receive the award, one of my friends burst into tears.’

Now this little friend is a delightful little mite I’ve met on several occasions and is somewhat of a cutie in the gang of four friends that Hannah hangs out with.

‘Isabella (not her real name), cried because she did not get a distinction, and she says her two older sisters always get distinctions and good marks, and now her parents will be disappointed in her.’

Oi Vey, what to say, what to do? I mean I get Hannah’s empathy with Isabella, and although I want her to be proud of her achievement, I don’t want it to be ‘tainted’ by the sadness of someone else’s lack of achievement. So there I am thinking, this is all my fault anyway. Because I’ve always told her not to boast about her achievements and if there are children less accomplished than she is, she should help them, if they wanted to be helped.

Should 9-year-olds really be stressing about this kind of thing? And if it’s not bad enough to be doing it among themselves, should they even be freaking out about what their parents are going to say? I really don’t know, in my day, I got a slap on the back and a ‘well done my boy, you’re brilliant.’ And that was just for getting a good attendance report. (We won’t talk about the academic achievements).

Is academic competition and pressure good or bad at this age?
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