Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Dad's View: Testing

Posted March 15, 2011

“Dad, are you mad at me,” my nearly seven-year-old said.

I knew what she was talking about. We had discussed it at the dinner table. Not to mention, it looked like a monkey had tried to peel one of her pointer fingers like a grape.

“No, I’m not mad,” I answered.

My older daughter, who I consider one of the smartest kids I know (that’s how I should think, right?), had gnawed on her finger to the point that the top layer of skin had come off. I don’t want to be dramatic, but her finger was missing quite a bit of skin on its very tip.

“I did it during a math test,” she sheepishly admitted. “I couldn’t figure out a question.”

It breaks my heart. For somebody like myself, who suffers from generalized anxiety, I ache hearing that she’s reaching for perfection in the first grade.

“Your mom and I only expect two things from you, babe,” I said. “That’s for you to do your best and to take care of your body. I don’t care if you miss every problem on a math test as long as you tried your best.”

When I was in school, my stomach would turn for a week leading up to the SAT exam in high school. I never enjoyed any tests throughout my years in school until I got to college. In college, exams turned into a challenge. I loved it.

As a kid, I don’t remember my parents pressuring me to do well, other than the natural instincts they had to encourage me to do my best. I’m concerned for my daughter, hearing that she now experiences that same anxiety at such a young age. Where does the pressure come from?

My wife and I do not expect her to be a Mensa child. For Pete’s sake, she just started taking tests. Any ideas from where that anxiety to get everything right on a test comes?

Jay Hardy is the father of a six-year-old and a baby in Holly Springs. He's a former sports photographer and reporter for WRAL-TV. Find him here once a month on Wednesdays.



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  • cwhit517 Mar 16, 2011

    I remember a certain guy in school that would have anxieties almost every day. I'm hoping that her "worries" will give her an edge to challenge her into being as strong a student as her
    Dad. I'm walking down the same timeline road as you in my life but I can see you are already taking the best steps in reassuring her that Mom and Dad love her no matter what... take care. CWhit

  • NCCaniac Mar 16, 2011

    If she is a first or oldest child, it is not unusual for them to pick up some perfectionist traits (especially if they have a personality that tends toward that). It is only natural because first-born kids grow up watching adults and they also get tons of attention and praise as they learn and master each new skill. They can begin then to set their own high expectations of what they can accomplish...but sometimes their own expectations can be unrealistic and frustrating, even if you are not putting pressure on them because they don't understand how much work and practice it takes to master each new skill. If they have caught on to some things quickly, it can be quite a blow when everything is not mastered as quickly.

    That is where you need to continue to reassure them and help your daughter know that she is loved for who she is, not what she does, as well as help her learn that part of mastering various skills includes making mistakes...but that is OK.

  • rma8805 Mar 16, 2011

    Try changing the "do your best" to "do your best and know that what's your best will be different depending on the circumstances". If you're not feeling well, your best will be different than if you're having a great day.

  • MomOfTwins Mar 16, 2011

    My daughter has some anxiety with tests. We're working with her to just breath and relax before starting the test- that if she's not breathing then she's not getting the oxygen she needs and of course she's going to have a hard time (she's 8).

    They're doing speed math drills at school- how many addition problems can you do in a minute. She came home after two weeks of struggling to meet her teacher-set goal with a GREAT score- when asked how she did it so she can do it again, she looked at me and said, "Mommy, I just breathed in and out and in and out while she handed out the papers and then did my best."

    Your heart breaks to see them struggle, but I believe that teaching them how to deal with the world within their abilities is a large part of our jobs as parents.

  • JAT Mar 16, 2011

    It could have been something as simple as another kid saying if she got a question wrong, she's stupid. She'll probably tell you sooner or later but I would tell the teacher about it. Maybe the teacher needs to stress that trying is the goal.

  • scientistjo Mar 16, 2011

    It, like everything, is genetic.

  • moppie Mar 16, 2011

    I think it totally depends on the child. There is a ton of pressure from teachers and administrators when it comes to testing, but both of my children handle it differently. My 4th grader is totally focused, driven and wants to do his best. He tends to get test anxiety, mainly because he wants to get everything right. My 2nd grader is his polar opposite. She knows she will do her best, but doesn't "stress over a silly test", as she told me last week. She is much more laid back and easy-going in general, whereas my son has a Type A personality :)

  • hodgesfour Mar 16, 2011

    For our son, test anxiety is two fold. He wants to get all the answers right AND he wants to finish first. We have never pressured him to make certain grade--just do his best. The pressure is internally driven. I can't even begin to explain it!

  • leeandkaren2 Mar 15, 2011

    I would say some of it comes from the classroom...teachers are pressured to have the kids score great on test. In elementary school, the EOGs start in third; however, just like the pressure to read and write has been moved down to preschool, the pressure to get L4s or go above and beyond on all work, especially tests, has been moved down to the lower grades.

    It is sad. My son has had this problem to and no matter what I say, he gets overwhelmed about not being perfect on his work.

    The school system needs to back off with so much focus on testing and focus on our kids learning (pushing them all to high expectations--but not PERFECTION), but sill being allowed to be kids!