A U.K. mom launched a parenting debate on Facebook after writing a post about her son’s perfect attendance award and why he won’t be accepting it.
On June 30, Rachel Wright of Essex, England posted a photo of her 10-year-old son JJ, who had 100 percent attendance at school this year and was awarded an evening at a local play center.
Writing on the Facebook page for her blog, Born at the Right Time, Wright explained why her son would not be accepting this reward.
The mom listed four reasons:
1) We don’t reward luck. In this family we will think of as many reasons possible to praise our children. We will celebrate and reward them, but being lucky enough not to get sick is not one of them. He’s lucky to have not developed a fever, had an accident or live with a chronic illness.
2) 100% Attendance Awards can demonise the weakest. In this family you are not shamed for ill health, vulnerability or weakness. In this house you are not encouraged to spread germs when you are not well. In this house we look after ourselves and the weakest amongst us.
3) He had no control over his 100% attendance. In this family you don’t take praise for something you didn’t do. He had no control over his attendance. I took him to school and it would have been my decision to keep him off. I should get the reward (or not) for his attendance.
4) We are taking him out of school for 5 days at the end of term. In this family we value school and work but we also know the importance of making memories and having rest. So our son will finish his school year one week early and go to Italy instead class parties, watching films and playing end of year games (with permission from school).
Wright expressed her belief that rewarding attendance sends the wrong message to kids. “What on earth are we teaching our kids about value and worth? What are we teaching them about looking out for each other and looking after the sick or disabled in our community?” she wrote.
“As much as I understand the importance of attendance, there must be a better way of helping those families and children who don’t go to school for non-genuine reasons,” she added.
Wright’s Facebook post received over 25,000 likes, and the comments section is filled with responses from parents and teachers, many of whom engaged in debates about the mom’s choice.
In an update to her post, Wright said she loves that her thoughts prompted a discussion and values the opinions of those who agreed and those who disagreed.
The mom told HuffPost that she was surprised by the overwhelming response and added that she thinks about 95 percent of commenters were respectful. “It obviously resonated with people and is something that needs reconsidering,” she said. “I made a parenting decision public ― I’m pretty sure if several million people were allowed to debate any of the other parenting decisions daily, the resulting statistics would be much worse.”
As Wright referenced in her post, JJ’s 11-year-old brother has severe disabilities. The mom said she’s wanted to write about rewarding attendance for a long time, and her son’s award inspired her to finally speak out.
“As the parent of a severely disabled child, I have a strong aversion to rewarding children for not being sick,” she explained. “It is important that as a family we value all people and that sickness does not mean rewards are forfeited. Being sick means you are cared for, not punished. Since our eldest son was born, our values have changed and our perspective altered.”
The mom told HuffPost she’s planning an alternative event for JJ to have a fun time at the play center with other kids from his school ― those who did and didn’t get perfect attendance.
Wright has written about her journey as a parent of a child with special needs in her memoir, The Skies I’m Under. She said she hopes her book, blog and recent viral Facebook post make people think twice about things like attendance awards.
“I hope they consider the ways they view children and adults with disabilities or chronic conditions,” Wright said. “I hope that we can have a mature discussion about how we value and the need to reward things that children actually have control over determining.”