Academic success = Successful Parenting?

I am tired, tired of hearing about how 'kiasu' Singaporean parents are, and the extend that they go to ensure that they give their child a good headstart (or so they think).  Came across this article a few days on how parents 'queued overnight to get their tots on the 2013 waitlist of a popular Bukit Timah pre-school'.

2013…their tots are like barely a year old now and they are scrambling to secure a place for their child in a preschool. Putting this into perspective, when K was one, I was waiting for him to take his first steps, hear his first word, worrying about his meals (something which I am still doing) and wondering when will he ever reach the milestone of sleeping through the night.

I came across another article recently about 'Why Chinese Mothers are Superior', that highlighted some interesting attitudes among some Chinese parents. The majority believed that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Inversely, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun. There were other studies reflected in the article that "compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams."

The next half of the article about how a chinese parent will react when the child gets A- is absolutely horrifying. It might work for the compliant and obedient child, but try it on the strong willed one, who will have the tenacity to battle to the end, and see how it turns out. There is so much about this article that I have to disagree with, especially when there is no mention about the importance of values or consideration of the child's personality. How about natural ability? All children are wired differently, so no matter how much hard work, punishment, rewards, insults etc, will be able to work on some of them who simply do not have what it takes to reach a certain level of achievement.

How about parents with kids who are naturally intelligent and are able to reach high achievements at a young age? They are indeed blessed to have kids like that, but bystanders do need to stop taking their achievements as yardsticks for their own child's achievements, or think that their methods as excellent case studies to use for their own children. Pace of development, environmental influences, personality traits of the child, learning styles etc can vary greatly from child to child.

Sure, I agree that alot of children these days have gone 'soft', they give up too easily and do not have the resolve to finish a task when they are not able to succeed in it. Work ethics are also important, children need to be taught that work will not always be fun all the time and they still need to learn the responsibility to finish what they started. To have the desire to succeed for yourself (and not in comparison or competition to another) is of importance, but at what cost? And what about the process involved in reaching that destination?

Successful parenting is more than just producing children with high academic achievements or high achievers. It is teaching them to show compassion to others, loyalty and integrity, knowing how to deal with failure and have the resolve to pick themselves up and the tenacity to try again. And what matters more than achieving success in life is family and relationships, and knowing how to be content with life. Afterall, success according to the world's standards is always defined in material terms, and in the accumulation of wealth, there will always be something better, bigger, newer and nicer, the never-ending treadmill of going nowhere.


Phillipians 4:11-13.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

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Banish Singlish?

How much of Singlish do I speak? I can confidentally rate myself a 5/10 for the use of Singlish in my speech. Apart from the occasional "Aiya" and "Wah lau eh" (this word only comes out when I get very frustrated by the driver in front of me when I am at the wheel), the "lah-s", "mehs", "one" are rarely used in my daily speech. However, I have the ability to switch to colloquial English peppered with Singlish terms whenever there is a need for, as I feel that this makes me alot more approachable to certain people that I come into contact with. 

I don't speak perfect Queen's English, or English with an accent. My spoken English is simply local English with an effort to watch my tenses (which tends to go a little haywire when I get excited). Nevertheless, despite the lack of spoken Singlish at home, the boy speaks rather Singlish-ly.


"I am very sharp one," and the other term he uses goes like this, "Why ah?"

I still can't figure out where he learned to always add the word "one" at the end of his sentence. I have been gently trying to correct his English, "There is no need to say 'One', Kyle," but he has been rather quick to point out my error as well.  

"That's a big one," as I pointed out a fairly large tomato at the supermarket.

His question to me then was, "Why is there a 'One'?"

I had to break into a long explanation why the word "One" could be used in this case.

As for the other term, "Why ah?" I noticed that my helper tends to pepper the end of all her questions with an 'Ah'. So I told him not to speak like my helper, whose pronounciation of the word 'bag' tend to sound like 'bug."

Unfortunately, I tend to let 'Ah' slip into my sentences whenever I get frustrated with him. "Why do you have to do that ah?" And his response to me will be, "You just said "Ah" Mummy." He will then give me a 'I caught you not speaking properly' look' :} And that will usually break the tension and leave me feeling a little embarassed.

As for attempts to banish Singlish totally? I don't think it will be possible, since he is exposed to Singlish on a daily basis, being in a regular kindergarten with classmates who tend to speak Singlish at home. However, there will be an effort to remind him to speak proper English, yet giving him some flexibility to adopt some Singlish terms in his speech.

The best consolation I can think of is this: Especially If you have heard how most primary school kids speak these days…I am certain it will be a breeze to assimilate in primary school when you are able to speak the same 'language' as most of your peers.



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Bright or possibly Gifted?

Thanks to a comment left by a new reader recently, who posed the interesting question to ask if K is a gifted child, I went to do a research online on the topic of gifted-ness.

It seems that the term "gifted" is rather commonly used these days and lots of parents are also much more well informed, looking at the popularity of schools and enrichment centres who advocate gifted education. These programmes constantly challenge the child to tasks that are more difficult; multiplying the child's intelligence, or stimulating the right brain to improve their photographic memory and overall encouraging giftedness in children.

How do the experts define giftedness? Some view giftedness as an unusually high level of development in abstract reasoning skills, while another view is to perceive giftedness as "exceptional potential for learning and academic achievement in relation to chronological age peers". There is also Renzulli's "three-ringed" approach which defines giftedness as the convergence of three traits (above-average intelligence, creativity, and task commitment), while others have used Gardner's multiple intelligences (linguistics, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal) to define giftedness as superior performance in any one of these areas. 

Each of them seem to have plenty of differences in their definition of giftness, but there seem to be one common denominator: Giftedness is regarded as a high level of performance or the potential for such performance beyond what is expected of typically developing individuals. For added interest, read this link on characteristics of gifted children and this link explains the difference between a bright and gifted child. 

Using these articles as a reference, there are lots of children who are very bright and some very likely gifted these days. I know of many kids who are able to understand instructions by 18 months, long attention span in interest areas by age 2, recognition of letters/alphabets, rote counting, of first word and interest in puzzles by age 2. Show extreme curiosity and asks many questions, ability to memorize and recall facts easily, ability to do one-to-one counting for small quantities by age 3 and ability to read easy readers by age 4. Generally, it seems giftedness can be observed in many areas, not just academic excellence alone.

According to Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D, 'gifted children would demonstrate development that is at least 30% more advanced than their peers. It seems that it is much harder to determine giftedness since many children are exposed to various activities by parents; these activities actually make them learn faster regardless of ability. All children are like sponges and absorb learning quite rapidly, and enthusiastic parents certainly help in their development. For example, a gifted toddler may learn to read at three, and so will a bright toddler. However, a gifted child would need much more stimulation and any learning activity needs to match their intellectual capabilities. If it does not, the child would lose interest in learning and may become disillusioned and probably disruptive. On the other hand, a bright child would do well in most learning environment and would usually be toppers. They adapt to learning quite easily and are viewed as "good, obedient children". Naturally, a bright child is easier to nurture compared to a gifted child.'

Interestingly, although not commonly known, gifted children are classified as special needs children as they need just as much attention and educational resources to thrive in school as do other students whose physical, behavioral, emotional or learning needs require special accommodation.

Regardles of whether a child is just bright or gifted, there are all blessings from God. I believe almost every child in some way gifted in the eyes of their loving parents. A parent's role is to nurture their interests and potential, and expose them to as many experiences as they can to maximise the child's potential.

I am also extremely thankful to have a bright and healthy child, however do wish he can be a little less manipulative at times. 

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