The Time I told him not to study his 听写


The day that I found out that K had 听写 was the night before, just when I was about to turn the lights off in the room to retire for the night.

“Mummy, I have a test tomorrow”

“Huh…test? What test?”

“Chinese 听写 test.”

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?!?”

“I forgot.”

“Did you get the list of words over the weekend?”


“How could you forget all about it…”

“I don’t know…”

I glanced at the clocked on the table, “9.15”, and decided that we are not going to revise his 听写.

“Ok, we have to sleep now…it’s too bad that you did not remember that you are going to get a 听写 test tomorrow, and make an effort to study for it this afternoon or over the weekend. It’s your responsibility not mine.”

“But how…”

“Just too bad, we sleep now…”

I slept soundly through the night, without tossing or turning in bed, or worrying about what he might experience the next day. It was just a 听写 test after all, and no 听写 test is going to rob me of a good night’s sleep.

I took the risk. The risk of failure from his very first 听写 test in primary school, as I wanted him to face the music himself. Face the consequence himself, a chance to experience some failure and possible disapproval from his Chinese teacher.

The day after, he came back with the result of his test.

Spelling 2

He didn’t fail it at 70/100. As it was a test on 汉语拼音, he didn’t managed to do too badly despite not revising, so ‘failure’ was manageable.

“I didn’t do so bad..”

“So you are happy with what you got?”

“Not really…”

“Do you think you would have been able to get better results if you have learnt your 听写?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“What are you going to do the next time?”

“I am going to make sure I show you the list next time on Friday, I will learn it and you have to test me to make sure I know it.”

Spelling 1

Learning from Failure

What am I able to teach my child from this?

What seemed like a little opportunity to allow him to experience failure, turned out to be a valuable lesson for him to learn the natural consequence of his actions, and then be motivated to solve the problem responsibly himself.

Somehow, the ability to shelter your child from failure or any form of uncomfortable situations; failure, disappointment, worry, fear has become associated with effective parenting in our culture. It is normal parenting instinct to worry about our kids (alot) and most of us parents are afraid of our child failing. In our education-obessed environment, it always has to do with failure in a certain subject or with tests and exams. We think that once our child start to fail in school, it will be hard to catch up.

I have heard this before from a fellow mom, that it is crucial that the child maintain 90% for all their subjects in Primary 1-2, so that they are able to manage Primary 3 demands. There is some truth in that, taking into account the jump in academic standards from Primary 3 onwards.

However, I see these lower Primary school years are times when I can help my child develop some coping skills later in his life. By preventing failure from happening, I believe I am depriving my child opportunities to experience natural consequence. As it will be from failure, that he will learn about self-motivation, use failure as a lesson to learn from his mistakes and to improve himself.

If I don’t allow failure now, when then?

Learning can happen not just through formal teaching sessions, but also through incidental opportunities. Children can learn effectively through observation, social interaction or through experiences of problem solving.

Do link up and share your experiences teaching your child!

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  1. Well done, mummy and k! I told myself if ever my kiddo throw me last minute assignments, I’ll sleep over it too! Im sure it’s a lesson learnt for k! I said this many times, I rather they make all these mistakes now then later. At P1/2 there’s a lot of grace, this is the best time to falter and learn.
    Homeschool@sg´s last blog post ..A Love letter to my Champion

    Rachel Reply:

    Yes E, I rather let him learn the hard way now since the consequence is still manageable…

  2. I too don’t believe in last minute learning. It’s great that K has grown to be more responsible since that incident.
    Dominique Goh´s last blog post ..Writer’s Workshop: No Fuss Vacationing

    Rachel Reply:

    I find that for boys especially, we have to make sure we ‘train’ them about responsibility and consequences early, and not wait till they are older. As most of them tend to be more playful and less conscientious than girls generally. I don’t want him to grow up depending on me all the time to motivate him to study – which is just about one of their few responsibilities right now growing up.

  3. I agree with your parenting style. When my daughter forgot to learn her spelling, I let her decide to sleep or to learn it. When she chose sleeping over learning, she was well aware that she had to face the consequences. I don’t want to tell her what to do. I gave her the right to decide and to own the results.
    Christy@kidsrsimple´s last blog post ..Our family photoshoot with Imagegarden

    Rachel Reply:

    Indeed Christy, we need to ensure that our children take ownership over their responsibilities.

  4. Well, it really depend on the child. Some are lagi happy they do not need to learn or do the homework, they dont care if they fail or pass, they just happy go lucky :(

    Rachel Reply:

    Eileen, K used to be like that with school, until he started understanding the consequences of things. Simply when the parents don’t let the child be expose to consequence, they continue to be ignorant that their actions or their lack of ownership will cause distress to them. It took me 2 years to train him about consequence, and this is not just through academics, but in every part of daily life. All you need is to allow them to feel distressed. Some parents may think it is a cruel way of teaching children but I think it’s absolutely necessary to teach accountability. E.g., don’t clean up toys after play, I throw away. Don’t take care of your things, you lose it and feel upset. Want to sleep late, go ahead, and the next day you suffer feeling extremely tired in school.

  5. It’s counter intuitive to what I would do, but you’re right. Homework and spelling is their responsibility so they have to learn to face the consequences.
    Susan´s last blog post ..Teaching Children Gratitude

    Rachel Reply:

    It’s normal to want to protect our child from things that make them uncomfortable…but I realized that as long as I continue to protect him from experiencing consequence, he is not just the only one who will suffer from not having ownership over his own things but I will be suffering along with him

  6. Thumbs up Rach! I wouldn’t know what I will do yet cos we haven’t been to the primary school stage, but so far, i had always been the one hearing complaints from the school and then struggling with my boy to help him on what he’s lacking behind..

    I think you are a very good mother to not overly shelter your boy. I myself is trying to strike that balance as my boy has asperger’s. it’s not easy to strike that balance and let my own boy face the consequences himself as chances as he wouldn’t even understand what it implies… i hope i know what i will do one day. :)
    Ting´s last blog post ..lil moments i am thankful for

    Rachel Reply:

    Ting, sometimes we don’t give our kids the chance the prove us otherwise. Despite whatever limitations, it is always good to take the risk to test out things with our kids. Have you tried with your son to test to see if indeed he doesn’t understand the meaning of consequence? It can simply be through daily life like keeping toys, or through misbehavior. When they feel the consequence of their behavior they will stop doing what will cause them this distress.

  7. If for me, I will surely ‘boils’ up and make sure we go thru it before sleep! I hope I will have the patience like you by then. Feeling ashamed as I read…

    Rachel Reply:

    Fiona, there isn’t a need to feel ashamed. We as mums all learn through experience. It took me quite a bit of self control not to respond as I would usually have, scream and get mad for his carelessness. I told myself, “Its not my spelling, why am I getting so worked up..let him deal with it himself.” Sometimes we need to take that manageable risk and try to do things a little differently, for all we know, we might get a better outcome at the end of the day.

    Fiona Reply:

    Thanks for the comforting words!

  8. I love this! I think I would do the same too! but ask me again in a year 😀
    Adora´s last blog post ..Playdate

  9. I agree that it is important to let children experience failure. Looks like he learnt the lesson that he has to prepare much more effectively than if you had hounded him.

    I only hope that I will remember that lesson when it comes to my turn.
    Lisa´s last blog post ..Gross Motor Dice Game

  10. Dumpling has Ting Xie since last year (though they have not quite started this year) and yes, I agree that they do get lala once in a while! :p She has gone for her Chinese classes not being prepared and did not like doing not-so-great in that Ting Xie. Let’s see how she fares when she’s in formal school next year. Ha!
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