The Bible gives us some insight into these questions through the parable of the talents. In the parable, a man traveling into a far country gives money to each of three servants for them to invest while he is gone. To one he gives five talents, to another he gives two, and to the third he gives one. It is interesting to note in Matthew 25:15 the phrase “to every man according to his…ability.” Did the master have similar expectations for each of those three servants? The answer can be viewed from several different perspectives.
Three principles can be drawn from this passage. First, the master did not expect the same outcome from each servant. He did not expect all three servants to end up with ten talents.
Second, he did expect each one to do something. It is quite obvious from the passage that the master was not satisfied with the servant who did nothing. In no uncertain terms he said, “Thou wicked and slothful servant. Thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.”
So what did the master expect? The master expected each servant to do his best according to his ability. The first servant was diligent and increased his five talents to ten. To that servant the master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The second servant, who had only two talents, doubled them. Did the master chide that servant because he had not earned as many talents as the first? No—rather, he commended him because he did his best according to his ability. So the master said to the second servant, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
What can we learn from this passage? The same three principles apply to our reasonable expectations for our students’ grades. First, not all students should be expected to earn straight A's. Second, we should never be satisfied with students who don’t put forth effort to perform according to their ability. Third—and most important—we should expect students to do the best they can with the abilities that God has given them.
What expectations do you have for your child(ren)? Certainly, I trust that you are encouraging each one to do his or her very best. Some parents are disappointed when students who have given their best have not earned straight A's or even A's and B's. Straight A's or As' and B's for some children may be unreasonable. On the other hand, some parents have little or no expectations for their children. Children ought to always be encouraged to do their very best, which takes reminding and inspecting—but each of us, as parents, should desire for our children the commendation that the master gave to the servants, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”