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Tough Love With More Love Than I’ve Ever Given

6th grade is hard. There are lockers and multiple classrooms and teachers who expect you to take care of yourself.

Alexander didn’t turn in three pieces of homework this week and he’d completed all of them. He’d simply lost them somewhere in the locker or in transition. When I dug into his binders with him I noticed graded homework assignments that were less than stellar not because he didn’t understand but because he didn’t take his time and do good work.

My kids are smart, they were just sort of born that way. There are a lot of smart kids and a lot of smart adults.

What I’ve learned in my lifetime of gifted kids and self esteem pandering is that folks who learn to work hard have the most success. B students who work hard learn more in school than A students who sail through could ever hope to. They learn discipline, they learn study skills, organizational skills and they learn to persevere. My son hadn’t been challenged yet in school. Well, not until Tuesday night.

Tuesday night I saw the mess that was his binder and decided to double check his english homework.


There were tears (I held mine in) and recriminations. He reminded me that he was only in 6th grade and I was getting confused with Jane’s 8th grade work. I told him I didn’t give a shit (quite possibly using exactly that word) and ninety minutes later he’d rewritten his 8 question homework assignment in a satisfactory manner.

To be clear I don’t really care about Tuesday night’s homework. I don’t care if he gets an A, B or even a C. What I do care about is my son learning to work hard and I told him so. At 9:30 in the evening he headed upstairs tired physically and emotionally and I stood in the living room watching him with a heavy heart.

I told him that I push him because he’s worth pushing and that when I ask him to work harder it’s because I want to ensure a successful life for him, one where he can be in control because he has a sturdy foundation. I told him I loved him and that all I want is to be a good mother.

And the most surprising thing happened.

My son looked down at me from the stairwell and said, “I know Mom. Thank you.”