Parents, nag kids less, show them more

Many Asian parents often tell their children to "go study!" ("Go study!"; Sept 26).

While the reason for such a statement is understandable, research has shown that adults' monitoring of an activity reduces children's intrinsic interest in the activity.

And when interest is low, it will be no surprise that performance is not at its best.

What may be a good way then to help children adopt good study habits without parents telling them to do so?

One method would be for parents to act as positive role models for their children. That is, instead of telling their children to work hard, parents can show them.

If children see their parents working diligently on a regular basis, persevering despite setbacks towards a goal over a prolonged period, this naturally influences them to do likewise, without being told or feeling compelled to do so.

They may even feel inspired, and cannot resist working hard too.

An additional bonus would be to help the child tie his learning goals to a higher purpose. That is, to help the child see how his effort invested now can facilitate him in making the world a better place in the future.

Research has shown that students who have only self-oriented purposes for studying (for instance, so as to get a job with high income in the future) give up more readily when they find schoolwork boring or tedious.

On the other hand, those who also have a higher purpose for learning (that is, who see their education as a step to help them help others) are better able to endure and persist.

Similar findings apply to the workplace too.

Importantly, when people - both children and adults - are able to regularly and persistently work hard at something of their own accord, and with higher purposes in mind, this will definitely be a step in helping Singapore achieve its goals of instilling a love for lifelong learning in its people, as well as building a more compassionate and supportive society.

Tan Yia Chin (Ms)