Parents must manage 'kiasu tendencies'

I head a local family charity and am also mother of a schoolgoing child.

The recent spate of suicides has awakened society to address an often taboo topic ("Death of boy who fell 17 floors ruled a suicide"; last Saturday).

My charity recently ran a Children's Day campaign emphasising the need to celebrate and praise children for who they are rather than what they do.

Before suicide becomes a trend among our young, parents and schools need to work together more intentionally to curb the trend.

In Primary 1, parents are briefed by schools that there would be no exams. This is a good move to allow children to focus on transiting into primary school life and acquiring the love for learning.

However, I learnt from another mother that there was a Primary 1 "test", with desks arranged to simulate an exam setting.


    Samaritans Of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

    Tinkle Friend (for primary school-aged children): 1800-274-4788

    Singapore Association For Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

    Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

    Institute Of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

    Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

There is value in preparing children for life, but parents today start drilling children from the time they can sit up straight, and worry about the Primary School Leaving Examination before the child attends kindergarten.

Children pick up parents' sentiments from a young age. Even for self-motivated and high-performing children, making a big deal out of exams can cause undue stress and prematurely set them up for failure if they don't meet "the grade", whether expected by parents, school or themselves.

Although my family and I have instilled at home the discipline of independent studying and life skills (for example, time management) rather than the ability to perform academically, our child has picked up the stress of exams through the emphasis on preparations.

An imaginative child, he soon learnt that creative reasoning had to make way for key words in order to score.

Life comes to a standstill for many families during exams. Tuition and enrichment centres thrive on teaching exam techniques.

While our meritocratic education system should constantly find better ways to motivate and manage students of various learning abilities and styles, parents have to manage their "kiasu tendencies" until we are convinced ourselves that grades aren't everything.

Young people desire to do well in school - whether academically or otherwise - and be recognised for it. Let's see our children not as a grade or digit, but for their unique personalities and gifts, with potential to do good and become responsible citizens.

Joanna Koh-Hoe (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Parents must manage 'kiasu tendencies''. Print Edition | Subscribe