The Psychological Aspects of Testing

Freeing Your Child's Achievement Mechanism

All children like to work hard. However, kids are similar to their adult counterparts in that they will always try to accomplish the easiest of a set of tasks first.

Each child has something within her which we at BeatTheTest call the Achievement Mechanism. The Achievement Mechanism is a psychological, as opposed to a physical, mechanism. This mechanism can be turned on or off by the child. We have seen that once the mechanism is turned off (as described in the Crab Bucket Syndrome), it is very hard for it to be turned back on again without a strong kick-start.

The Achievement Mechanism, when operated properly, will enable your child to achieve goals that they set for themselves. As a parent, you can stoke your child’s Achievement Mechanism or you can crush it. A lot of parents, contrary to popular belief, crush their children’s Achievement Mechanism by overly criticizing them and by comparing them too often to other children.

Most parents crush their child’s Achievement Mechanism by overly criticizing her faults. Extreme examples are parents with military backgrounds (including auxiliary service). Many military parents are unaware that the constant psychological breakdown of the soldier is necessary for a soldier to enter combat. These parents fail to understand that smart people run when confronted with combat; it is the idiot who charges up a hill to shoot someone who has a more advantageous position. Ex-military parents often run a military barracks for a home, where the parents are generals and the children are low IQ foot soldiers. Children have set activity times and set chores. Time schedules are overemphasized. Meals are rationed. Everything the child does is criticized. Physical aspects of the child are never correct. Clothes seem to be rumpled. Hair always appears to be unkempt. The intent of all this criticism is to break the child’s individuality down so that she can be prepared for the cruel world outside. We hate to remind these types of parents that your child is very aware of how the world outside works. They can see it on television or read about it in the newspaper. What we recommend is to lighten up and accept that your kids are not soldiers under your command. Many top colleges are filled with above average IQs and your child will not do well there if all you can do is constantly criticize her.

But worse than excessive criticism are the comparisons parents make to other children. Why cannot you be as smart as your sister Jennifer or be as good in math as your brother Roger? Why cannot you be as witty as Vincent next door? Why aren’t you as mature and tall as your cousin Baraka? Your child cannot be like other children because they do not share their genetic makeup or their life experiences. When it comes to other people’s children, the reality is that they have a different set of parents than your children do.

Children do not like to be compared to other children. They do not compare you to other parents. The reason is simple; they have accepted you as their guardian and there is nothing a child can do to change that. Excessive criticism and excessive comparison has a tendency to inhibit and eventually shut down the Achievement Mechanism. So we highly recommend that you avoid these behaviors.

Children need to set long-term goals to keep their Achievement Mechanism going. They are not able to imagine college, let alone graduate school, by themselves. They are just too young. But they can understand the steps necessary for health, happiness and wealth. If you tell your children not to work hard now, they will not work hard later. Many parents are shocked at the level of success Asian-American students have in school, and are remiss to admit that these children must have set goals that their parents want them to achieve.

The Achievement Mechanism can only be kick started by:
  • Setting realistic long-term goals
  • Emphasizing imagination
  • Letting your child take the steps (and also make the mistakes)
  • Encouragement and guidance.