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Teaching Your Children the meaning of Success; and it is Not about their Grades

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In Singapore, the focus on grades has long been an issue for both children and parents. In this meritocratic society, the pressure for children to do well in school has become a problem for our children. In recent news, there was an 11 year old boy who committed suicide because he had failed his examinations, creating yet another debate on the Internet of whether our educational system has been too harsh.

Our society has unfortunately created a flawed definition of success. Success has been sadly defined as scoring good grades, going to top schools and then ultimately, getting a good job and earning a lot of money. This mode of success has been further emphasized by our meritocratic society in which a job is only a good job if it requires you to have at least a Bachelor’s degree and pays you a minimum of $5000 a month. At a young age, children are placed into the rat race in which we call life, and they struggled to understand what success should mean to them.

As parents, especially single parents, the need to define the true meaning of success is very important. If we take a step back from society’s influences, we can appreciate that success is not just performance-oriented. How well your children score in their examinations is not going to determine how well they will cope with stress in a highly competitive working world in the future. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to define the meaning of success to their children and help them to develop healthy self-esteem and great self-confidence in their younger days.

Here are some suggestions in which you can help your children define success.

1) Teaching the basics
Parenting boils down to three things – reliability, consistency and stability. As a single parent, these can be a challenge if you are sharing care and control of your children with your ex-spouse. Nonetheless, try to create an environment in which your children know that they can depend on you as well as to know that rules will not be changed by their whining. When you are reliable, consistent and stable, your children develop a great sense of belonging and security. These are primary factors that will help your children to find their own inner sense of success, even if the world is against them.

2) Build a Good Foundation for your Children
Good foundations can mean different things. On one hand, a good foundation in education allows your children to manage their school work better and excel in school. On the other hand, a good foundation in life skills will help your children to become a confident and happy adult. As a single parent, teaching your children how to be resourceful is an important duty. Learning how to be resourceful will help your children to be adaptable, a skill which is very much needed in their future careers. In addition, helping your children to maintain a positive sense of well-being is also fundamental to develop their self-esteem and confidence level in the long run.

3) Spend time doing activities together
This is often a challenge for single parents since everything depends on them. Nonetheless, you can carve out little pockets of time to spend with your children. It could be communication during dinner, or reading to them before bed. Perhaps you could bring them to the park for a walk over the weekends. Even chatting during the time when your children help you out with the household chores is considered spending time together. However, it has to be quality time. Talk to your children and try to understand what is going on in their lives. Engage them in conversation, not interrogation and you will be well on your way to be super mum or super dad. Importantly, make your children feel that you are there for them and not trying to interfere in what they are doing. This is especially important if you have teenage children.

4) Work on redefining their internal view of success
Most of our children are made aware of the performance-oriented success that our society is focused on at a very young age. It is up to us, the parents, who can help to redefine success. This is particularly important when it comes to education. Instead of focusing on their grades, which is a performance-oriented success, lead your children to think about what they have learned from school. Instead of asking why they have not scored well in their examinations, ask them what they have learned from the examinations and what they think can be handled better. Change the focus of an external, performance-oriented success that is made popular by society to a focus of an internal, experience-oriented success. Encourage your children to learn and experience things, not to cramp books and force results out of them. Children learn best when they get to measure their own growth instead of being placed into a competition with other children. Hence, remove your children from the “rat race” of attaining better grades and teach them how to value their own learning.

5) Defining the idea of failure
Remember the boy who committed suicide because he had failed in his examinations? Do not make a big fuss when your children fail. It is not the end of the world. Children fail for many reasons. It could be that they did not understand the concepts, or it could be that the subject is not their strengths. Regardless of the reasons, do not make failure into a bad thing. It is natural for children to fail as they are still learning. Take for example the time when your children were learning to walk. Did they not “fail” countless times by falling down before they learned how to walk? Learning is just like that, so instead of blaming the children for not working hard enough; encourage them to continue trying the next time.

6) Nurture your children’s strengths
It is common for parents to focus only on education when their children are in school. However, it is equally important for you to nurture your children’s strengths. If you realised that your child is talented in art, encourage him or her to be better at it. Give all your children the opportunity to explore their strengths. It will give them an internal push to do better and better at it. Perhaps your child could be the next Van Gogh! Children respond well to encouragement from their parents, so do the right thing for them and help them to develop their talents.