Singer Kelly Chan (with a child and now expecting twins) was quoted in ST Life! yesterday that her child rearing principle is: Don’t expect, don’t compare. Child psychologists would surely approve.
More often than not, children are expected either to fill the shoes of their parents with intimidating careers, or have parents who insisted on standards they feared they couldn’t meet (me guilty!); or parents who seemed perpetually disappointed in them (me guilty!); or households in which achievement was given less attention than failure (me guilty!). (Quoted from Robin Black’s article in Nov 2010 Oprah magazine.)
I fear i have fallen to that category of forever disappointed parent, even though i try very hard not to be one. I am forever comparing and expecting.
When Aaron gets distinction for his NSW competition, i am disappointed because there are others who got high distinction. (Needless to say I am never pleased with his school test results – but this justifiable not pleased.)
Recently this has even affected his soccer. His school soccer team is participating in the West Zonal school competition. Knowing that he didn’t score is disappointing but watching him warm the bench in the first half is even worse. (Actually he scored in two out of four matches.) (ME: See lah, still don’t lose some weight? How can soccer player be so unfit? nag nag nag…)
What about the other two, you asked? No more expectation, which makes parenting the two teenagers much easier now. Yes, i gave up! They have to walk the path they lay, whether it is smoothly tarred road, or rockily rough mountain trails (To improve intergeneration social mobility requires much more effort, like climbing a mountain!)
So why the high expectation on Aaron? Probably because he has always been the higher achiever one. As a young child, what ever he participated, he got a prize unexpectedly or got singled out.
Chess competition at 5-year-old – got a trophy for being the youngest participant. Chinese calligraphy – invited by teacher to further pursue as CCA . Swimming and soccer – invited by the respective school coaches to join the school team. Ironically, all these unexpected results fuel my high expectation in him. I am worried now that his go-getter attitude has waned and he is not doing his best. This makes me feel even more stressed.
Have I turned into a ‘Tiger-mom’ or have I always been one?
This negative vibe is bad for mother and child. I don’t want to be like my aunt, who continues to parent her adult children without wanting to let go and now feels the tension in the family.
Second son Ivan told me one day that he is angry with his new judo coach. His old judo coach, which Ivan really likes, went on a mission to Bhutan to train the Bhutanese at the invitation of the king. The new judo coach tells them, if you compete with RJC, HCI, you all will surely lose…terrible standards…etc. The old coach had always told them before any competition: Just do your best. Believe that you are just as good.
When I heard that, I felt he was talking about me rather than the new coach. How many times have I told the kids similar stuff – surely fail, sure don’t do well, etc.
Lee Kuan Yew (Hard Truths, page 8 ) feels that too strong a reliance on the state discourages personal effort and erodes the drive to succeed . This is true too for parents who over provide for their children as well and I fear this is the reason my kids are not performing to meet my expectation. (In corporate management, there is another category of ‘exceeds expectation.’ Of course, once you’ve crossed this, it may be difficult to even ‘meet expectation’ the following year.)
My single mother did not have any expectation on her kids and that’s why we were relatively stressed free. I would say to raise three kids who did well enough to qualify for RJC and NUS exceeded her expectation. Of course, once I was in RJC and NUS, the bar was raised for my younger sister and brother. My brother, 7 years younger, was often told by Granny: Don’t end up sweeping the streets while your sisters are graduates.
When I look at the reasons why some of my friends are stressed free mothers, I have only one conclusion: They are rich. Like Kelly Chan, they can afford to send their kids to overseas boarding schools or universities. Why need to partake in the rat-race that is torturing normal parents like me when they can go to Toronto or Vancouver, or closer home Australia?
So, one cannot really blame me for my parenting principle, if at all it exists. Having said that, knowing my problem is half the battle won. So I’m trying very hard to be a more encouraging parent to Aaron and the other two, as long as they know, their parents are not always there to remove any obstacles along the way.