The day I read about the tragic news of a Primary 5 child who plunged to his death because he did not want to face the remainder of the day due to his poor grades, my heart actually skipped a beat.
It was not because I am the type of Kiasu Mum who will punish my kids for not meeting my target marks, in fact, I DO NOT have a target mark for my children to meet, but it was more of getting a self-check on whether I am putting my children through high stress UNKNOWINGLY!
I read through the article and it stated that the boy’s mum cried out that she did not expect him to get 80 marks and it was “only 70 marks” that she had asked for. That gave me a wake up call too. What if I thought that I am a good mum who is doing the best for my kids and that my expectations (if any) are reasonable, but the kids are actually feeling too stressed out by my expectations or actions? It never occurred to me that my kids may be stressed. Have I looked out for signs that they are feeling stressful? Have I been doing a self-check on myself and checking on my actions and my facial expressions when they bring back the exam papers to me to sign?
Kids, nowadays, are indeed subjected to too much stress, from peers, from teachers, from tuition teachers, from parents, from grandparents, from society. And to make things worse, they are more vulnerable than previous generations who are more resilient and know how precious lives are. Their vulnerability comes from being too sheltered, too scared to fail, no chance to fail, and comes from growing up in a safety net around them and not permitted to take controlled risks. Are these the results of our “can’t afford to fail” mentality expected of our children?
The first thing I did when I returned home that day after I read the news was to catch my girl in a relax mood to talk. I asked my eldest if she felt stressful with the exams preparation. She answered yes. I was surprised as I had never thought that she was stressful because she played more than she studied and I detected no signs of stress in her. Neither is she taking any academic enrichment classes outside school that will cause her stress.
Me: Why do you feel stressed?
Missy 11: I am worried that I will not do well in the examinations.
Ok, stress noted and acknowledged. Then, I started to talk about my learning journey of how I fared a 238 for my PSLE, went into a better than average school with lowest cut off of 232 (now a top school), and began to ace my Math which was my worst subject in PSLE, ace my way to University and ended up just an average worker in the workforce and not earning as much as those who fared average in school.
ALTERNATIVE ACADEMIC ROUTES DO NOT DEFINE OR CONDEMN YOU IN ANY WAY
Me: Well, that’s more to life than getting good results. So what if you do not score well in P5 SA2 exams or PSLE? When you grow up and look back, these are just 2 small chapters in your life. Just accept that you have done your best and have a pat on your back for that. If you do not do as well in PSLE, you may go to an average school, or take the slightly longer route in Secondary School of Normal Academic or Normal Tech. These are just alternative routes to learning and they do not define you or condemn you in any way. It is not going to stop you from achieving success in life with other talents. Maybe you are not academic incline in Primary School, and it doesn’t mean you will not realize your academic potential in Secondary School when you meet a good teacher. The most important thing is that you have tried your BEST and be HAPPY.
I recalled with my gal on the time she failed her Math in P3. Now, fast forward 2.5 years later, I really appreciate that failure.
I told her: The most important thing after a failure is what you do after that. Do you reflect on your failure and get more motivated to do better or do you wallow in self-pity or self-destruction and waste the ‘Failure’ experience?
In my girl’s case, it was a good failure which I am happy that it happened. Without failing, she would probably not have experienced and gone through what the failure made her to be: More resilient and more motivated.
I had earlier mentioned in my previous post that PSLE Year will not be an enjoyable year. Now I think about it, it doesn’t have to be that way. Since teachers in school are putting pressure on the PSLE students, all the more I should moderate the stress by planning activities for destress and enjoyment. How can one waste one year of life to mug for examinations?
PARENTS AS CHEERLEADERS
I feel that parents are the best supporters and cheerleaders in their children’s lives. As cheerleaders, your job is not to scold your teammates and instead your job is to motivate and give encouraging words. Who doesn’t know that positive words go towards better self-esteem and better performance for an individual? This is commonly known in sports team or workplace where coach/boss give a pat on player/employee’s back, in relationship when a husband give encouraging words to his wife or vice versa, and certainly it does more good than harm for a parent to give encouraging words to his child.
I seriously hope that PSLE can be scrapped one day. It does not provide much value add to move to Secondary School and beyond. Since we are doing away with school ranking, why not do away with an exam that serves no significant purpose in life except create a whole lot of unhealthy stress in our young children and us, parents? Further, in a recent news, ” South Korea and Singapore, both high achievers at school level, are below average in the graduate rankings.” Now, that’s some food for thought on our education system.
CHECK OUR FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
Back to the tragic case of the P5 boy, all I want to say is that when a child does badly, he knows it. We don’t have to reiterate to him on how badly he does, or show him a disappointed face combined with a slow shake of head. We should never never punished physically for bad results. Most of the time, the child feels worse than us. After a while, our emotions subside and we may feel it was not such a big deal after all. But the child, on the receiving end of the parents’ disappointed faces or negative words may feel it for a long long time.
And never compare your child with another person, especially siblings. If my hubby constantly compares me with another woman, you will be sure I will detest that woman instead of improving myself. I supposed the same thing applies to comparing academic results. Comparing serves no purpose.
Nevermind that my girl is in the 2nd class from the bottom as long as she is happy and enjoys learning. Having said that, academic basics and foundation are still necessary to be reinforced to the ability of the child. As Confucius said,”Different strokes for Different Folks (因材施教)“, it is how the parents coach their own children according to their aptitude that will benefit them. I am determined to make PSLE year for her a less stressful year and one that she will not remember for an unpleasant learning journey.