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Parents' Guide

Education, Scholarships, Parenting Tips

Pledge to be a Better Parent

Mental Health

In Singapore, more than two young people aged 10 to 19 committed suicide every month in 2015*. This rate might not be the highest among all age groups, but remember, we are talking about teenagers who are not exposed to the pressures faced by adults at work, in their social life and even in relationships. Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed around the world, not just in Singapore. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2020, mental illness will be one of the top five causes of death or disability among young people. Research from around the world also suggests that child depression and anxiety – and the substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide that often go with it – are now most common not among the lower echelons of society, but among children in families higher up the social ladder, where the pressure to compete is more intense. It's not an exaggeration to describe the younger generation as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.

* Source: Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)

Release The Pressure

There are many instances where parents have pushed their children over the edge in the pursuit of academic excellence. As a result, children now keep the kind of schedule that would make a CEO queasy. In Shanghai, China, ambitious parents are enrolling their children in preschool MBA programmes where they learn the value of team building, problem solving, and assertiveness. Some are barely out of their diapers.

SuicideLonely 12-Year-Old Girl Sadly Commits Suicide Because She Barely Passed Exams

High expectations made her try to kill herself

Pri 5 boy falls to death after failing exams for the first time

This graduate’s life ends with a tragic death. After further investigation, her cause of death is even more tragic

Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection

Parents need to manage expectations of their children’s studies

It Changed My Life: How a mother lost her 11-year-old son to depression

Don’t get us wrong. We are not suggesting that you should let your children slide into mediocrity. If your children have the capability to excel, by all means encourage them to chase after their dreams (even if it means getting good grades in the process). But grades alone do not define your child’s worth. Reared on someone else’s definition of success, with failure not an option, our children end up as a generation of worker bees who are masters at playing the system but devoid of personal spark.
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What is your definition of success for your child?x

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

These days, our children are so busy racing to piano lessons or Kumon classes to “hold infinity in the palm” of their hands. When adults hijack childhood, children miss out on the things that give texture and meaning to a human life, including moments of solitude and even of boredom. Inadvertently, we are drilling into our children's head the message that what matters most is not finding your own path, but putting the right trophy on the mantelpiece, ticking the box instead of thinking outside it.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
~ William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

Grades

Your child's worth is more than grades. Join our community and help to inspire change! Click to Tweet

Share and Inspire

If you agree that your child's worth is more than grades (and you’re not alone, trust us), please take a moment to talk about your experience in the comments section below and help us to inspire change. While you're at it, please consider becoming our ambassador and help spread our message to like-minded parents. Our future generations will thank you for that!

You can also share your parenting journey with our community of like-minded parents. We're not looking to showcase infallible parents with perfect kids, but people with different sets of circumstances and experiences.

You should also check out Dr. Shefali's Conscious Parenting Masterclass.

Further Reading

Here is a collection of articles that you may find useful and informative. We will add more as we move along so do check back regularly.

Don’t Forget about the Myth of Childhood Depression
What Do Anxious Teens Need?
The downsides to Singapore’s education system: streaming, stress and suicides
What are some flaws which makes the Singapore education system so stressful?
China’s Cutthroat School System Leads to Teen Suicides
The Culture of Kiasuism
How to talk to children about suicide: An age-by-age guide
Students with helicopter parents have a higher tendency to struggle in college, and in life.
The silent tragedy affecting today’s children (and what to do with it)

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Jocelyn Tay
Jocelyn Tay
Guest
July 16, 2018 11:08 pm

I came across this article today https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bunmi-laditan/im-done-making-my-kids-childhood-magical_b_5062838.html and I think we also get caught up in the “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” parenting model which is why many parents compare the grades, schools and achievements of their children. We keep telling our children not to give in to peer pressure, yet we are the ones who cannot resist.

PGA
PGA
Admin
January 1, 2018 12:34 am

Here’s a great post about teenage depression: http://www.scarymommy.com/daughter-depressed/

Kevin
Kevin
Guest
February 6, 2022 10:48 pm

I’m with you on this one, Stephen! However, sometimes my relax approach is perceived by my wife as if I don’t care about the academic development of our two sons. Whatever it is, I will gladly support this pledge!

Jane
Jane
Guest
October 18, 2021 10:39 am

I have a daughter who will be taking PSLE next year and she is already feeling stressed out by all the expectations around her – from her teachers, her peers, etc. I saw how unhappy she was during the exams period and wanted to give her some positive encouragement, but the mommies in our chat group keep asking why I didn’t send her for tuition if she’s not doing well. So thank you for this!!!

Edward
Edward
Guest
October 15, 2021 4:24 pm

I know a lot of kiasu parents will not agree, but a failed exam is not the end of the world. It is important to put things in perspective. Many people have gone on to do great things even though they failed early in life. The important thing is to teach your child to learn from failure and improve.

Shufen
Shufen
Guest
June 25, 2021 1:17 pm

Thanks for the reminder! I had a difficult time with my son when he took his PSLE last year. Our relationship suffered because I was really like a tiger mum, always nagging at him and scolding him for not studying. I attended a parenting talk and learned to give him a bit of space. Things got better after that.

Lilian Aw Yeung
Lilian Aw Yeung
Guest
December 4, 2020 11:17 pm

This is so long overdue. I don’t know about the situation in Singapore, only read about it in the papers sometimes, but here in Hong Kong things are so bad that a group of volunteers have started a movement called Love Our Kids to help combat depression and reduce the pressure faced by children. I think their Facebook page is @LoveOurKids.LOK. You should check them out.

碧琪
碧琪
Guest
February 13, 2021 4:22 pm

支持行动!现在的孩子压力太大了,功课越来越沉重,休息时间越来越短,根本无法好好享受童年。

Sherry
Sherry
Guest
May 15, 2019 7:33 pm

I am a mother of three. When my eldest son was in secondary school, he was sent for counseling by the school for disciplinary issues – he was caught for stealing and vandalizing public property. Luckily both incidents occurred in the school so he was given the chance to make amends. I realized during the counseling session that this was his way of rebelling against my micromanaging his life by choosing which school he goes to, which subjects he study and which CCA he takes. From there I decided to take a step back when it comes to my younger… Read more »

Mervyn Tey
Mervyn Tey
Guest
March 22, 2020 7:08 pm

I think what’s important is that your child, at any age or stage, is making an effort and is growing into a responsible human being who may tomorrow actually end up doing very well in life, whatever the grades.

JoLynn
JoLynn
Guest
December 4, 2021 8:34 pm

I think this is a good reminder to all kiasu parents out there who keep pushing their children to compete in the rat race. Be more observant of your child’s needs or one day you will push them too far and it will be too late to regret.

Heidy
Heidy
Guest
July 8, 2018 7:21 pm

I may be one of those kiasu parent you mentioned. For 3 years, I drive my son everyday across the causeway to a top boys school in Singapore so that he can get a good English education. The commute is stressful and my boy was exhausted everyday. But then things changed when we have international schools accepting local students here in Johor. I enrolled my son in one and he really loved the change in the environment and the teaching style. I also learnt to ease off a bit on monitoring his academic performance and things are more happy for… Read more »

PGA
PGA
Admin
December 20, 2017 11:53 pm

Teens — like all of us — can bolster their ability to cope with hardship. Here’s a short primer on how resilience works: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/11/short-primer-resilience

Yanti
Yanti
Guest
January 8, 2018 3:13 pm

Why need to provide email to write entry?

PGA
PGA
Admin
February 5, 2018 10:33 am

The social stigma is unfortunate. As a society, we need to realise that academic achievements is not the be-all and end-all of learning (or as we put it, “grades do not define your worth”). However, we have encountered instances whereby parents and educators unwittingly passed their judgement on kids who are not academically inclined in casual conversations (e.g. “so-and-so is in class X, which is for those who cannot study well/have bad grades, so their future is bleak, etc”) and kids pick up from there and assume an air of superiority for themselves.

PGA
PGA
Admin
April 9, 2018 12:30 pm

So if you want your kids to succeed in life, don’t perpetuate a fear-based understanding of success. Start with the assumption that your children want their lives to work. Then tell them the truth: That we become successful by working hard at something that engages us, and by pulling ourselves up when we stumble. http://time.com/5210848/prestigious-college-doesnt-matter/

PGA
PGA
Admin
September 3, 2019 11:19 am

如果学习是要在建立在牺牲孩子快乐童年的基础上才能达到目的,那么这样的学习还有什么意义? https://www.facebook.com/parentsguideasia/photos/a.479141698871334/2407490846036400/

PGA
PGA
Admin
November 23, 2020 2:35 pm

“Genetically speaking, my wife and I did not give birth to little einsteins. But they are ours nevertheless to treasure, to savour and to nurture.”

That, ultimately, is the most important thing.

https://www.facebook.com/michael.han.9887/posts/1877085462430538

PGA
PGA
Admin
June 22, 2021 10:24 am

The hospital gave the diagnosis: “Sleep deprivation for long periods, excessive mental stress, and physical exhaustion.”
https://en.goodtimes.my/2021/05/28/daddy-im-so-tired-i-want-to-sleep-for-just-1-minute-the-9-year-old-boy-never-woke-up-again-when-he-slept/

Vivien Chan
Vivien Chan
Member
May 17, 2022 12:06 pm

I am a mother and I make sure that my child does not have to go any such pressure and anxiety, I keep boosting him to excel in class but do not put pressure on him. I give him his time so that he can explore his hobbies. He has been doing well and he is more happy this way.

Jenny Fu
Jenny Fu
Guest
January 4, 2022 3:49 pm

I just want to quickly get this off my chest. I used to have quite a laidback attitude for my son’s education, thinking that as a boy he might be a late bloomer. But my in-laws all have kids in the top schools and only mine was in a neighborhood school so everytime we have family gathering, they will keep talking about how good the kids are doing and whether they should go to Harvard or Cambridge. My son’s school also keep telling me that he must do better if he wants to go to a good school. So as… Read more »

Jonathan Ong
Jonathan Ong
Guest
September 28, 2021 10:09 am

I find it very hard to ignore the kiasu mentality here in Singapore. Is there some kind of support group for this?

Richard Chua
Richard Chua
Guest
August 19, 2021 2:16 pm

I hope I’m not the only concerned father to make the pledge here. I tried to convince my wife to ease up on the pressure she’s giving our daughter who’s taking O-levels next year, but she keeps saying that all her friend’s children are preparing well for their exams, some even taking special prep classes to help them score As, not just pass. Daughter wants to go to poly and her grades are good enough already.

Benjamin Fernandes
Benjamin Fernandes
Guest
January 27, 2021 11:47 am

I think people should relax and let children do what they truly enjoy, This way they will develop life skills that are useful when they grow up.

Mira
Mira
Guest
January 13, 2021 10:53 am

It’s so sad our children have to face all this in their life..

陳嘉燕
陳嘉燕
Guest
December 28, 2020 9:19 am

支持行動!

Nazree
Nazree
Guest
January 24, 2018 8:43 pm

Good initiative!

A Gunawan
A Gunawan
Guest
January 17, 2018 9:42 pm

We all want the best for our children but parents have their own pressures (specially middle and low income families).

Silvina Annisa
Silvina Annisa
Guest
June 27, 2018 11:11 am

Support!

Mae-Shanty Siregar
Mae-Shanty Siregar
Guest
January 23, 2018 4:22 pm

Good initiative! I’ll support the pledge!

Susan
Susan
Guest
November 24, 2020 11:13 am

Now that the exam results are out, i’m glad my son did pretty well. I think it helps to give them permission to take a break from revision in between working hard. At least that’s what I did with my son and he appreciates the balanced approach.

Saravana
Saravana
Guest
September 25, 2020 10:23 am

I am making the pledge here. Please tell me what else should I do..

Madeline Liew
Madeline Liew
Guest
August 19, 2021 11:49 am

My son takes online tuitions which saves his time and also energy which is very important and he studies according to his will and whatever topics he feel he has a problem in learning. This saves him from those hectic hours of outdoor tuitions, and make me away from the pressure. Maybe this is something other parents can consider.

Alisha
Alisha
Guest
August 7, 2020 11:21 am

Yes, I am concerned that my children are getting too much pressure from everyone around them, including us. Thanks for bringing this up and I hereby pledge to support this movement.

Rose
Rose
Guest
June 21, 2020 10:47 am

Good work! What can I do to help?

Eason
Eason
Guest
June 18, 2020 2:16 pm

I don’t know if I should feel angry or sad reading this. My son is still doing quite well in his studies but I can see that he is struggling not to disappoint everyone around him including us, his teachers, friends. The expectations is high because he has done well in the past. Now he has discovered new interests not related to academics and almost everybody is trying to discourage him from spending time on those and instead focus on what will help him do well in his exams. Learning is no longer fun or interesting to him. I’m worried.

Cindy
Cindy
Guest
June 13, 2020 4:44 pm

Its important that we let our children know that their lives are worth much more than just grades and competitive wins. Whether our voices can lead to any change in our pressure-cooker academic system, surely our love for our children is just as immeasurable – whether they excel in studies or not. As a mom of school-going children, I understand the anxiety faced by modern parents due to societal pressure. But let’s not vent our disappointments, if any, on them. instead of putting our children down when they fail, we should do more to lift them up – encourage them… Read more »

Sonya
Sonya
Guest
April 25, 2020 11:28 am

Parents these days put a lot of academic pressure on their kids ignoring their kids personal choice of learning. As a parent, I’m guilty of that too. So I’m thankful for these reminders.

Umar
Umar
Guest
February 20, 2022 11:39 am

Parents are responsible for this. On the result day a student thinks more about how his parents will behave with him if he got not very good marks than where he will got admission.

Nelly
Nelly
Guest
January 30, 2020 11:16 am

Lets not live through our children and force them to achieve what we could not become.

Rosita Wee
Rosita Wee
Guest
January 16, 2020 8:39 pm

I agree to this pledge. We should encourage our children by taking interest in their lives and also helping and guiding them how to deal with difficult situations in the light of our own experience.

Chloe
Chloe
Guest
January 14, 2020 3:40 pm

I am being considered a successful mother and also given the title of super mom. But I totally agree with you that there are at times I feel that our kids are not given liberty of choosing their own path.

Arya
Arya
Guest
January 3, 2019 11:32 pm

I watched the video and I must say I’m getting worried. My son is taking his HSE this year and both my husband and I are quite anxious as his grades are just above average. Guess we need to engage with him more to make sure he’s doing ok.

Valerie
Valerie
Guest
November 2, 2019 10:45 am

Thank you for this! I hope more parents will make the pledge.

Serene Ying
Serene Ying
Guest
August 11, 2019 3:42 pm

Good article and information. Been trying to give my kids more room to be themselves. It’s hard because of the competitive culture here.

Zoey
Zoey
Guest
July 20, 2019 10:42 am

So what happens after I make the pledge here? Will there be any follow up? Do I need to do anything else?

Yanling Mah
Yanling Mah
Guest
May 7, 2019 9:43 pm

Parents tend to put their child under stress expecting high performance from them and thus putting their child under great pressure and stress. Thanks for the reminder not to push them too far.

Sheikh Zadi
Sheikh Zadi
Guest
April 9, 2019 10:44 pm

Thanks for the information!

Tina Chauhan
Tina Chauhan
Guest
February 25, 2019 11:45 pm

Appreciate what you are doing! We need to change our mindsets.

April Jin
April Jin
Guest
January 22, 2021 6:24 pm

I do think parents are responsible as the school is only trying to produce over achievers to show off their credentials. Parents can set the values and love their children for however they are.

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