A simplified childhood

Over the last 2 weeks, I had come across a few quality articles on parenting, not just in Singapore, but generally, how we are overscheduling our childrens’ lives these days, packed with activities and what not, providing little free time, or freedom in return.

In a nutshell, we are maximising their activities, and minimising their free time. 

In a post by Simple as That, Rebecca discusses how parents nowadays are carting our kids from one activity to another, the days of kids being kids and playing all day long has been erased from our society’s collective memory. We’ve devalued what children need most and replaced it with excessive adult control.

She also added that what stops us from simplifying is fear. Fear of missing out. Fear that we may be impeding our children’s future success.  Fear of what other’s may think.

Closer to home, in a separate commentary published by Channelnewsasia, Nirmala Karuppiah, a senior lecturer at the National Institute of Education’s Early Childhood and Special Needs Education Academic Group argues whether it is really necessary for parents to send their kids to expensive enrichment classes.

She argues that there should also be opportunities for young children to take risks, make mistakes and even experience failure in order to grow, develop and learn. They should also be imbibed with positive values to guide them in making the right choices and judgments as well as the resilience to pick themselves up and continue, if things go wrong. Building trusting relationships with family, relatives and friends will prepare them for future challenges and complexities of school, work and life.

She also added that we should provide young children with the appropriate environment and experiences to develop and become confident, considerate and responsible citizens in the future rather than packing their weekends with expensive, structured enrichment classes.

Both articles made separate points, but share a common ground – that is, excessive activities/ classes might not necessary be the best for our kids.

On a separate note, a third article, also published by Channelnewsasia, talk about children and kids taking the path less travelled. The article profiled 4 different kids, and discusses their achievements and their parents’ parenting methods.

Not that there’s a right or wrong. To be honest, each parent has their own style of parenting, and it is pretty common to hear husband and wife discussing or arguing about what’s best for their kids, for they might share a different view.

Quoting Calvin Soh, father of Dylan Soh from the third article, he wants his children to “find themselves, know who they are, be productive for the greater good, to find purpose and profit from it”.

And personally, I think that also reflects Dave’s and my views as well.

Academic excellence has been proven to bring one success since medieval times. In ancient China, there’s the “状元”, a title given to the scholar who achieved the highest score on highest level of the Chinese imperial examinations. After which, he will return to his hometown, and given a post as a state officer to govern the county that he is assigned to.

Even in contemporary Singapore, if you do well in school and in your studies, you can apply for a scholarship with the civil service and when you return from your studies, not only is a job guaranteed for you, you will also be on the fast-track career path.

For many generations, this has been a winning formula. It has been proven and tested.

And as humans, we naturally have an innate fear for the unknown. Why do you want to pursue something else that is not guaranteed? Or no precedents?

Nobody from Singapore has ever become an Olympic gold medalist before. This all changed in the 2016 Rio Olympics when Joseph Schooling finished his 100m butterfly swim with a time of 50.39 seconds.

During then, it opens talks and discussions about how we can even groom an olympic champion locally. Of course, without the dedication and support of his parents, it would be hard to make it a reality.

Which led me to think about the role of the parent.

Each of us is different. Every child is unique. Which is the entire reason why diversity exists in this world.

We complement each other. Some of us are better at some things, and we might suck at certain.

As such, it is unrealistic to expect the best out of everything from your child.

Not all of us are born Einsteins.

Not all of us are born Mozarts.

Of course, they are both at extreme ends of the spectrum.

Many of us are in fact, mediocre.

But it’s alright. Because we do not need to be the best at everything.

Rather than be the best, it is more important to know who you are, recognise your limitations, find purpose for yourself, as well as embrace the way you are.

And these are things that we probably haven’t been saying to our kids enough, or encourage enough.

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