David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | david@davidaltshuler.com

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

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There is nothing more important than my child being Number One. It's not about skills; it's about place value. Unfortunately, I've been going about the business of making my child Number One all wrong. Fortunately, I now know what to do to ensure that my child is Number One from now on.

Previously, to ensure that my child was Number One, I helped her by making sure she was studying constantly and by doing her homework for her. When the homework got too difficult and time consuming for me, I hired tutors to do her homework and write her papers. I also had to make sure that my child understood the work so that she could do well on exams. When my child would try to fall asleep after five or six hours of studying with her tutors, I would poke her and slap her to keep her alert and attentive. Of course, I also prepared her snacks high in carbohydrates to keep her focused. When these foods didn't work efficiently, I gave my child amphetamines and an intravenous glucose solution.

All these interventions worked well enough--my child has A grades in all her classes--but there was a problem. There was another child who also had A grades in all her classes. My child was Number One but this other child was also Number One.

Worse, the children were friends, playing together on weekends and wanting to have a "sleepover" whatever that is. Out of the question.

My child refused to compete with her friend. "We both have A grades, Mommy," my child said. "She is my friend. I don't want to beat her. We can both be Number One."

What nonsense. I tried to explain to my daughter that, mathematically, there is only one Number One. How could there be two of the same number? In order for my child to be Number One, everyone else's child must be some other number. Number Two, for example.

That's when I got the good idea. Since there is nothing more to do to help my child be Number One, I am going to help this other child be Number Two.

If this other child's parents were to get divorced, for example, this other child would be upset and unable to focus on her studies. Therefore I have taken a handkerchief from the mother's drawer and placed it at the home of a neighbor--a bachelor. (I got this idea from a play that one of my child's tutors was reading to her, "Othello," I think it was called.)

Now, I won't have to pay so much money to tutors to keep my child as Number One. Maybe, I'll even be able to take the IV needle out of her arm. Most importantly, my child will now be Number One all by herself.

Helping this other child to be Number Two by having her parents get divorced is such a good idea. I don't know why I didn't think of this years ago.


At the risk of "explaining the joke," here's why this mom is wrong as wrong can be: she's teaching her kid to be dishonest; she's teaching her kid to care only about being Number One; she's teaching her kid not to care about learning; she's teaching her kid not to care about friends.

She's also attempting to commit an unconscionable act. As those of us who have read "Othello" (or had "Othello" read to us), will remember, it ends badly.

The shift from inspiring your child to be Number One by "helping" her learn to inspiring your child to be Number One by harming her classmates is not as big a jump as it might first appear. The more I think about it, the more blurry the distinction becomes. Helping your child to cheat versus harming another child--both motivations may be the same, both outcomes may be the same as well. Of course, there's a difference. I'm just not sure it's a significant difference. If the intent of helping your child is the same as the intent of harming her classmates, then the message, "It's about winning" is all that our children will hear.

As more and more parents focus on their child being Number One rather than on helping their child acquire skills to the best of her ability, the more reprehensible behavior we're going to see.

You heard it here first.



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