The Only Test That Matters

Let’s talk about tests. 

We want our kids to do well on tests. 

Yesterday, I had two conversations that I didn’t think were related, but were. 

One was with a mother who has a son in third grade and test prep has been coming up in his school. He goes to a really high-performing school and he’s getting stressed about testing. She is realizing that he has some literacy gaps that she wants to close, so she wanted to talk about potentially working together. She was worried about how he was going to do on his tests. 

The other conversation I had yesterday was with a friend of mine who’s a therapist. She was telling me about this test called Adverse Childhood Experiences Test. It is a way for therapists to gauge what has happened in someone’s past. There are questions like, “Did you have enough to eat growing up?” “Was there violence in the house?” All of this helps therapists understand who is in front of them and what they might work on. 

One of the questions is, “Did your parents love you?” She would get a lot of answers like, “Yeah, my parents loved me. I haven’t spoken to them in six years, but I know they love me.” Or, “They love me but they didn’t take care of me as a kid, but I know they love me.” 

And so, she and several other people in her practice changed the question to, 

Did your parents delight in you?”

Wow! What a different question. 

When you hear a yes or a no, you really understand part of the relationship dynamic that was going on in the house. 

So when we answer yes to “did your parents delight in you?”, we know that this child has a grown up who was on their side and was looking out for them. 

Pediatric neurologists, classroom teachers, everybody who works with kids knows that when kids have an adult who is with them and delights in them that they are more likely to succeed as an adult

When we are thinking about test prep, what I really want you to prepare for is that test when your kid is 25 or 30 and talking to a therapist or just talking about their childhood to anyone else, and they get asked that question. Did your parents delight in you?

The test that I don’t want you to worry so much about is the end of the third grade test, and the end of fourth grade test, which is really to measure how a school is doing. It’s used to measure what is going on in a classroom, not something Harvard is looking at. 

Harvard does not care about your fourth grader’s test scores!! 

Instead, think about whether there is delight in your relationship. 

This is for two reasons. 

One, every child needs an adult who is looking out for them and delights in them. They are more likely to do well with an adult on their side. 

The second reason is for you. You can’t fake delight.

If you are with your kid, and you are so present with them that you have these feelings of delight, this deep warmth of being thrilled to be with them, or seeing that as so hilarious or so silly, or so smart, or so talented, or so creative, that feels amazing!!

Seeing the absolute good that is so present in your child is good for you. 

Think about all the endorphins that you get and all of the oxytocin that’s being released in your brain when you’re having that bond and seeing this being that you raised and cared for, and made dinner for, and stayed up late with and fought over homework, as just a truly exceptional being. If you could do all the hard work of parenting, then you deserve those feelings of delight as well! 

So, I invite you to think about not just love but, to really ask yourself, “am I delighting in my kid?”

 Am I telling you to spend a half hour or more everyday worrying about delight? No. Please don’t worry about delight. 

You’re hearing this now, and it will pop up again and you’ll think about delight and you’ll look over while you’re making dinner and you’ll just say, “Wow, you’re so cool, you’re so funny, you’re so sweet.” Whatever you’re feeling for your kid, let them know, and let those feelings of delight come in and wash over you. 

I promise it will be so good for both of you. Not just love, but delight. That’s really the only test that matters.

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