When I was a kid, I still remember the way my older sister used to cheer me up whenever I didn’t do well in my exams or class tests and the celebration when I passed the finals with colours. Today, the education environment is much competitive, and students keep struggling to maintain their position in that competition. Therefore, I usually find my students arguing over their grades like ‘Sir, I believe, I deserve an extra marking in this task compared to others, as I prepared the presentation and presented it as well.’ As a teacher, I observe such student behaviour as ‘self-confidence, competitive mindset or high achieving attitude towards learning. However, the question that puzzled me while listening to their concerns over grade is ‘what makes students think so intensely about achievement or accomplishment? How would it impact the way they foresee their future?
Accomplishments or achievements are the building blocks that enable students to construct a sense of success in themselves. Through achievement, one develops positive self-esteem, feeling of acceptance, competence and self-worth. This behaviour develops early in childhood and can have a tremendous impact on a child’s later achievement behaviour. Similar to achievement, self-esteem develops early in life, helping adolescents to develop their own concept of achievement motivation. One may ask, how would this sense of achievement and self-esteem impact adolescent in their character development?
At an early age, the mastery of tasks requires concentration and more frequent attempts are needed to achieve tasks. The sense of defeat and inability to accomplish tasks on hand are a certain way to learn defeat, but perhaps the more lasting message is the feelings that accompany the failure. To accept the defeat and move on or try-hard, again and again, are two of the lessons a child learn from the achievement behaviour. The fact that some teenagers and adults take the sense of achievement way too seriously depends upon how he/she have been brought up and what role did his or her parent, teacher and friend played in their early childhood. A child learns from the responses he gets from parents, teachers and peers. How he is doing and, in fact, the expectations of these significant others, can also affect his/her achievement motivation.
The Role of Parent, Teacher and Friends in Constructing Child’s Sense of Achievement and Motivation
As the child grows up and starts experiencing different phases of development, he/she needs a guide or a ‘significant other’ who cherish and motivates them during the time of their defeat or fall. For every child, these significant others are their parents, teachers and friends. How can these significant others boost the sense of achievement in their child? (Source: familydoctor.org)
- Building their confidence and self-esteem. Praise them—and be specific. Tell them exactly why you are impressed or proud of them. Spend time with them, and let them know how much you value them.
- Supporting them emotionally. Encourage them to talk to you. Listen and help them understand their feelings.
- Providing safety and security. Give them unconditional love. Maintain routines, so they feel secure. Make sure they know home is a safe place for them.
- Teaching them resiliency. Teach your child how to make it through the tough times. Help them cope with change, manage stress, and learn from setbacks.
However, achievement behaviour not always provides positive results in teens behaviour. There are limitations, as well.
When The ‘Achievement Behaviour’ Goes Wrong? (Source: Psychology Today)
Recently reviewer Kay Hymowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the 15,000 studies shows that ‘high self-esteem doesn’t improve grades, reduce antisocial behaviour, deter alcohol drinking, or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.”
The solution to this muddle is actually simple: If you want self-esteem, then do estimable things. Accomplishments can’t be given or downloaded into someone’s brain, as shown in the Hollywood movie The Matrix. The achievement must be earned through individual effort. It is the endeavour that generates a sense of pride and self-esteem. Imagine handing out a fisherman a prize catch (a fish). You may think you’re doing him a favour and saving him the trouble, but in reality, you are stealing his pleasure and wasting his skill of being a fisherman. A fisherman wants to catch his own fish, not be given one.
Remember, it will always feel good when after extensive hard work, you achieve something on your own without any help or assistance. This sense of achievement will eventually generate the feeling of pride, self-esteem and confidence. That self-confidence will boost your spirits, and you start seeing positivity in every situation and problem. However, achieving such a state is not possible without discipline.