How do we separate ourselves from judging our child by what shows up on their report card or what their teachers say about them? How do we see our child’s true potential, even if they’re failing tests or struggling in school? How do we see our child’s true potential even when they are doing well in school?

During Sabina’s fifth grade year, she was in remote school due to COVID, and she wasn’t doing well. Throughout the year, I received dozens of emails from her teacher that said Sabina refused to participate in class and wasn’t doing her work. Each time I saw an email with her teacher’s name in my inbox, I felt sick to my stomach. The teacher’s words and my daughter’s school performance had a powerful, negative influence on me and how I was relating to my daughter.

Our relationship became entirely focused on me trying to get her to do things others wanted her to do. I was checking up, monitoring and nagging Sabina. I judged her based on what she was or was not doing in school, which only left me frustrated and angry with Sabina.

This was not the kind of relationship I wanted with my daughter. I knew I needed to step back from the situation to see things more clearly. I realized I’d gotten caught up in a fear cycle: fear of her not passing fifth grade, fear of what her teacher thought of me as her parent, fear of what others were thinking. This fear caused me to lose sight of my daughter’s beautiful, creative spirit.

I decided to give up relating to my daughter exclusively based on her school performance. Instead, I appreciated her for who she is and kept my eyes open to see her true potential. This took practice.

Every day, I practiced seeing Sabina’s true self. Every day, I practiced trusting that everything would work out. Every time I returned to those beliefs, I felt relief and peace. I began to enjoy being with my daughter again. I began to laugh and have fun with her and pay attention to the wonderful things she was doing, like redesigning her room, making lovely artwork and baking delicious desserts for our family. This was the daughter I know and love.

Most of us have been conditioned to associate good grades and doing well in school with success in life. However, we’re missing a very important piece when we forget to pay attention to what makes our children uniquely themselves.

Imagine shining a light on the delightful spirit of who our children really are, rather than seeing them solely based on their academic performance or what other people have to say about them. Imagine how good this would feel for our children and for ourselves, as parents.

Children have unique brains and ways of thinking and doing things, and many of them don’t fit into standard school curriculums. Many children don’t perform the way school expects them to, but it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with our children. Most school curriculums only recognize a tiny sliver of all of the talents and intelligences that exist within our children.

Albert Einstein said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree then it will always look stupid.” What if we put this fish back in its natural element of water? How will it be seen now? Clearly, it will succeed brilliantly because it’s in an environment where it’s natural abilities can shine.

Your child also has a place in which they are in their natural element too. When you shine the light on your child’s true potential and help them to find their “water”, they will thrive in the world!

Invitation: Ask yourself the following questions and write your thoughts and insights in a notebook.

1. What are your child’s interests and natural abilities? (These may or may not be related to school.)

2. How would it feel if you related to your child based on their natural abilities and true potential instead of how they are performing in school? How would you and your child benefit from this?