A or F, Grades Shouldn’t Matter in a Family

It is both sad and heartening to read Jenny Yeo’s account (“Teach, don’t demand, success”; ST, Aug 24). Our children do face a lot of pressure to perform but their sense of self-worth should not suffer because of it.

Parents need to ask, just how important are grades that make us willing to sacrifice our relationship with our child, and in extreme cases, the lives of our children?

But let us not be too quick to judge parents or pinpoint failings in the education system. Today’s globalised world is highly competitive. Parents feel the heat too. Often, parents want their children to perform well because they want them to have a secure future.  Having encountered numerous everyday parents who are doing the best they can, we wish to make 3 recommendations for parents challenged by today’s academic pressures:

  1. Affirm our children constantly. Children need parents to show them that life is worth living, that they have value far greater than what their (academic) achievements can ascribe to them, and that no matter what happens they have the unconditional love of their parents. That will give them the protective buffer to build resilience and overcome challenges.
  1. Act courageously. Your child is a unique individual. Instead of conforming to peer or societal pressure while your child suffers in silence, help your child discover their talents and inclinations, and chart and choose their future accordingly. The late Steve Jobs said that “the only way to do great work is to love what you do”.
  1. Ask for help. There is no perfect child and no perfect parent. It is therefore perfectly alright to falter and fail, and get extra support as necessary, be it through extended family, forums for parents, parenting talks and workshops, or counselling. Honestly reflect on how we are coping as parents – are we cracking under pressure to help our children do well?

A Harvard Family Research Project meta-analysis of over 300,000 students showed that parental involvement, notably in communicating with one’s child and expressions of parental support, is associated with the academic achievement of students.

An A or F grade does not matter in a family; what matters is that we can keep going with the support of our loved ones, simply because being in a family means that we are there for one another –regardless.

Shelen Ang
Head of Research and Development, Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline ‘Support our children, whatever their grades’.
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