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The Case Against Straight A's

I have seen too many kids get stressed out, anxious and even depressed in their mission to get straight A's. Let me tell you why I dislike the pursuit of straight A's.
09/16/2014 03:36pm ET | Updated November 16, 2014
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So, your teens are about three weeks into their school year by now and they are hustling. Let me tell you what they are hustling for. They are trying to keep up with their schoolwork, maintain friendships, keep up with their social activities and maintain their composure at the same time. Not a single adult I know would like to go back to high school. Certainly, many adults would like to be younger, but going back to high school is another story.

Please keep in mind that high school is no cakewalk. Take a moment to reflect on your high school years. I just took a moment to reflect back on mine and while I had many good moments, I also clearly remember being sleep-deprived and running to class to try to beat the bell. Lunchtime was another hotbed of confusion. Lunch period was always stressful. It's the most socially rich time of day and most teens are scrambling to find a table where they are allowed to sit and fit in. There is absolutely nothing worse than having no place to sit at lunch and scurrying to find a private spot to eat where no one can see that you are alone.

Actually, there is something that is worse than lunchtime and I have been railing against this for years. I am firmly against the concept of encouraging our kids to get straight A's. Yep, you heard that correctly. I believe that and I stand firmly behind that belief. I have seen too many kids get stressed out, anxious and even depressed in their mission to get straight A's.

Let me tell you why I dislike the pursuit of straight A's.

A. Every test becomes a potential failure experience. Any grade that is less than an "A" is considered a failure and a disappointment. Even if your teen has learned a lot and likes the subject, a less-than-perfect grade can spoil the class and dampen interest in the subject.

B. Life is about dealing with both success and failure, right? So, what lesson are our kids learning when we accept nothing but straight A's? I will tell you what lesson they learn. They learn that there is either success or failure in life and nothing in between. This is not a valuable life lesson.

C. In the pursuit of straight A's teens sacrifice sleep, exercise and good eating habits. I have seen and heard about this repeatedly. Is it really worthwhile to stay up until 1 or 2 a.m., skip breakfast and exercise and get sick in the service of getting A? I don't think so. I am a firm believer in encouraging balance in life. Remember the saying "fitness of body and fitness of mind?" Well that's my mantra for our teens.

There are many more reasons why I want parents to lighten up on the teens. Look, while the teens need to take their grades and life seriously we do not want to rob them of the joy in their lives and create tense and overly-driven kids. Please weigh in on this because I know that many of you will have alternative points of view. I would very much like to her what you have to say. I'm looking forward to your responses.