Oh horror of horrors. Earning a B+.
"But that's a good grade," I say.
"Not to my parents."
"I don't care what your parents think; that's a good grade."
"But I think I could have done better."
"I think so too. And now that you see what kinds of mistakes you made, I'm pretty confident you will next time."
Sighing..."But I don't think I should have lost 2 points here."
I explain why I think she should have. And I continue, "The truth is, you can be annoyed at me for taking off 2 points if you want to, but I think you should be more annoyed at whatever it is in your life that made you think that this wasn't a good grade. You're going to make yourself sick. Literally sick. For your own good, you need to stop putting that kind of pressure on yourself."
So, okay, that conversation actually took about 15 minutes, but those are pretty much real sentences that were spoken. Turns out she's never actually gotten anything lower than an A- before. And I expressed serious doubt that she would earn anything other than an A for the term. There was crying. There were apologies for crying. There was more encouragement from me. I think she left feeling determined to do better next time. I can't decide if that's constructive or ironic.
How am I supposed to react here? Quash her drive for excellence? Encourage rebellion against her own parents' expectations? Short of actually convincing her that her grade was good (an unlikely prospect, in my experience), I basically got nothin'. I've found that the phrase, "I'm worried that..." paired with some genuine concern can work wonders in diffusing the angst of the grade, but only temporarily.
Do you have kids? Here's my unsolicited advice: don't falsely inflate their confidence, but help them feel okay about who they are at whatever level of accomplishment is good for them. Being upset about a B+ is just. too. much. pressure. for a 14-year-old who should be lively, energetic, and free to seek out learning just for fun. Encouraging those qualities is what will produce a bright, articulate
adult who enjoys a life of the mind and who will find a fulfilling career doing something he or she loves. Pressure just makes them resentful and rebellious.