Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Parent's Dilemma In Getting Children To Study

CHONGQING, CHINA - MARCH 5:  A student does ho...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Once again the school exams are coming up. How are your children with studying? As for me, I'm sought of in a dilemma when it comes to getting my daughter to study. I don't want to be a nagger, but I also don't want to neglect my role as a parent.

It would be easier if our children naturally had the knack for studying. Life would be blissful if they would hit the books without us saying a word. Unfortunately, my daughter has inherited my bad qualities of procrastination, sleeping in, and wasting time. Her type is the "play first, work later" kind. She really has a carefree life, and I'm not sure if that is a bad thing or not.

Anyway, below are some of our parenting dilemmas when it comes to our children's studies:
  • Like all parents, I also want my children to excel. I know my daughter is quite smart. Not a genius but at least have the ability to be somewhere near the top of her class. Afterall, one of the reason I'm a SAHM is so I can give them the best nurturing. So, all that nurturing should bring about some good right? Plus, she is only in Std.2 and in a kebangsaan (national) school. We all know that the education level isn't as high or as tough as the chinese school. And the stuff she is learning is nothing new to her as I've taught her most of it before. SO, expecting her to pass with flying colors is really reasonable. It is within her capabilities.

    BUT THEN...

    We all know it's not very healthy for a parent to put too much expectation on a child. It might put too much pressure on them or make them despise school and learning. You don't want them to feel that they are a disappointment or a failure. That would just hurt their self esteem. The previous school exams, I kept reminding my daughter to study. But I didn't sit her down and force her to do work. I wanted her to learn that the results she get is directly related to the effort she puts in. I wanted her to learn that excellence is HER decision, not mine. Well, her results came in and some subjects were good and some were not. She had done better before. I asked her if she was satisfied with what she got, and she said "yes". So now, should I be happy that she is satisfied even though she could have done better? Or should I harp on the fact that her easy attitude had yield average results? "Should I set the expectations for my children or let them set their own expectations?"

  • When I was growing up, my mother left me to do my own studying. Fortunately for her (and for me), I was self motivated when it came to studying. On the other hand, I know some of my friends' parents watched them like a hawk. As parents, there are two ways to approach our children's studying:
    1. Encourage self motivation and self learning.
    2. Hold their hand, push/force/coach them to do the work.

    Of course if you ask any parent, the first approach would be the ideal. The second would require much effort and discipline on our part. Would you like to know which is the right way? Or are you more interested in which way works? The right way doesn't always work and the one that works isn't always right. Hope I haven't confused you yet:)

    Let me elaborate further...

    I think most of us will agree that self motivation and self learning is the right way. Afterall, if they are going to be successful in life, the drive has to come from within. One day, they are going to leave us and will have to take care of themselves. If we don't teach them to be independant now, what's going to happen to them in the future?
    Unfortunately, leaving our children to do their own homework and studying doesn't mean they will do it. We might end up having to meet the teacher to explain missing/undone homework or see a lot of red marks in their report card. Worse if our children are being hit on the hand for work not done correctly (yes, we all know it's happening in the chinese schools). So, now self motivation may be the right way but may not work for the child. We know that some children really need to be pushed and closely monitored. They won't like it and you also run the risk of making them hate school. BUT that may be the only way to get decent, if not good, results. Also, there is the argument that young children need the discipline and guidance. They are new to school and exams and need someone to teach them how to revise and prepare. Like a baby who is just learning to walk, you hold their hands until they are steady and can walk by themselves. So, the coaching and "hawk eye" may be necessary for self motivation and self learning to take place later.

    So what is our parent's dilemma? Figuring out if our approach is going to benefit our child or if it will make matters worse. Like with my daughter, I don't want to push her too much and cause her stress. She might rebel instead. But I'm afraid if I don't push her, she will just take things easy and not live up to her potential. Plus, every child is different. What works for one parent will not necessarily work for another.

  • Then there is the fact that straight A's on a report card doesn't guarantee a child's future success or happiness. There are so many aspects to intelligence, not just maths or science. Your child's talent may not lie in academics. If that's the case, why worry about what position they are getting in class? Why have such a narrow vision on your child's ability? Plus children may be late bloomers. I know I didn't start getting good results in school till Std.6. Maybe my daughter is the same? Plus, the fact that I was good in golf did not show up in my report card.

    BUT THEN...

    We also know that good results in school may be necessary to further other interests. For example, my good results earned me a scholarship so I could pursue my golfing interest overseas. So yes, a report card does not reflect your child's true talent but unfortunately the system is such that good grades do get you a little further in life. So, what is our dilemma? To worry or not to worry?

I guess when it comes to our children's studying, the tough part is finding a balance! To expect but not expect too much, to push but not push too hard, to be worried but now worry too much. Aiyayayay, if only we could see into the future to see what fruits our parenting methods will yield.

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  1. Hi Lian, just to drop by and wish you a Happy Mother's Day!

  2. a&a'smom08 May, 2009 20:40

    As for me, I have already set a routine for them, so they know they must study during those times. Evenings I allow them to play for 1.5 hrs. Afterthat is bath time & dinner. Then study time where I sit with them.

  3. What you described are my exact same thoughts, :) at least I know someone out there share my same dilemma.. I guess we will never have a specific answer... Moderation is the key.

  4. At this age, I think they still need guidance and nurturing lah. Maybe when they hit secondary school, they are more "stable" and will know what they want and dont?

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on developing effective study habits for children. I think it's important that parents take an active role in the developement of their children. Parents do need some critical thinking ideas all the time to help them in their immense job of bringing their children up.

  6. I have to agree with a&a's mom about the routine and with family first about giving more guidance in the early years. :)


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