30 August 2013, by Petrina Kow
I was recently invited to be a part of the board of directors for a non-profit organisation which seeks to create a brand new children’s museum. We had the inaugural meeting last week and I had the privilege of meeting the other members of the board who were made up of incredibly passionate, engaged and knowledgeable individuals.
A rather intimidating bunch on paper, with lawyers, architects, successful entrepreneurs and social change makers in the midst. But when we all got together to discuss our shared vision of a future for our children, the child in us emerged and were soon clamouring for more play time, more freedom and more autonomy! Everyone sees how stressful the situation is for children here in Singapore, everyone shares the common pain of struggling through exams, and everyone almost, wants out.
Which led me to think, how did we get here? And more importantly, what can we do about it. I think I’m not generalising when I say complaining about the school system in Singapore is a given when you meet another parent. And I’m also aware that it’s especially acute here in Singapore.
Whether it’s anecdotal or peer-reviewed scientific studies, I think the results are in, and we do really need to take a good long hard look at ourselves as a nation and prioritise. Let me share some of the points that were raised not just at our meeting, but comments that had been repeated many times over.
- Too stressful because too much emphasis is placed on doing well in exams.
- Too narrow a definition of success.
- Not engaging the whole child from Primary school onwards.
Same old, same old. And sadly we keep hearing about it.. And this is where I thought something’s not quite right. If I remember correctly, we were all subject to the same stresses as our children when we were in school, but how come our parents never seemed to complain back then?
Then I realise it is really is a case of an evolution of a society. I think we’ve also gotten so used to ‘outsourcing’ that we’ve almost given up our very basic responsibility as parents to do some actual parenting! I also think that we are in such a hurry to get somewhere all time that we don’t just allow ourselves to just BE ourselves. Which leads me to Solution Number 1: Enjoy every moment with our children.
I think if we had a tape recorder running the whole day, we’d be surprised at the number of times we are either hurrying our children to finish something, do something and or get somewhere. To be fair, I must say we are all a really well-meaning bunch. And many Singaporean parents just want to provide the best for their children, but somehow that translates to spending more money on tuition classes, enrichment classes and helpers when really all the children really want is our time. I think even if we can do just that, we’d have a more compassionate, empathetic, patient next generation already.
Another thing we could try doing is Complain Less (now that we know from PM’s recent National Day Rally message, the education system will be improved for our future generation.) Or better yet, just talk about what’s working. For instance, instead of complaining about the school system and how things aren’t working to your liking or your child’s liking, how about we look at what is? We were struggling with this at one point, but the breakthrough for us happened when I realise I needed to focus on the larger lesson here, which is perseverance. Sure, there are still ways to improve the system, but that’s not our battle at the moment. We just tell our child to focus on what’s working, what needs to be done and how we can do it to the best of our abilities.
The third thing is to Train yourself to be a Better Parent. I mean we get to go for courses to upgrade our workplace skills and better ourselves, why not take courses to be a better parent? Read books, attend courses, talk to other parents and surround yourself with like-minded parents to get the ‘right’ influence. Find out about better ways to talk to your children, to engage them and steer them in the right direction. Be with them, have fun with them and most importantly, LOVE them. I think if we can have just one mantra, let this be it!