Best Mom Tip #18: Ignore your kid’s stats

Your kids will be given statistics to cover every aspect of their lives while they are with you. Height/weight percentiles, IQ tests, recital scores, reading levels, batting averages, class rank, SAT scores. You’re going to get Varsity team rosters, honor roll lists engraved in school hallways, and official-looking documents detailing your kid’s mastery of scissors. And you, concerned and proud parent that you are, are going to want to share this information with others. I’m asking you not to do it. Just put down the report card and go see what’s on Oprah. Because, for the most part, this stuff is crap.

The problem with all of these statistics is that human beings don’t really categorize well. Your kid might be brilliant, but be totally unable to carry on a conversation with a fellow 6th grader. How do you quantify that? No teacher ever says, “Billy is in the 86th percentile in non-awkwardness.” Of course not–you just find out that Billy can’t read as well as 40% of the other kids and then you obsess about why Billy is falling behind in reading and why you’ve failed as a parent (you’ve always been an avid reader, but your husband on the other hand…) and how he is ever going to pass his driver’s test and get into college and find a wife if he’s basically as dumb as a potato. Or something like that.

As a teacher, I have known children with genius IQs and ones that had IQs just above the level to qualify as mentally disabled. Although useful in determining why a child might be having problems in the classroom, these pieces of information did not predict success in life. I have seen kids with amazing athletic ability, but no sign of tenacity who quit at the first sprained ankle. I have known kids who beat themselves up over SAT scores because it meant the loss of Princeton, when they could have gone to a state school for 2 years and transferred with a little more effort. I’ve known incredibly intelligent kids with no friends and phenomenal athletes with no morals.

My own son came into the world in the 95th percentile for both height and weight. My daughter was in the 5th percentile. They are both average and perfect right this moment.

In the future, I will be proud of their work ethic and how they treat others. I will be proud when they keep trying at something that does not come easily for them. If their IQs turn out to be above average, I will thank God that there is one less mountain they may have to climb and then I will put away the report so that they don’t think they are better than other people. At least I’ll try–it’s hard to keep such amazing talent to yourself.

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