Pledge to be a Better Parent
Last Updated on 4 June 2022
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.
Lonely 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
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”
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.
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.
Proud father of two lovely kids, who at times pushed me to seriously consider editing out the word “lovely” from this sentence. (I am not alone in this.)
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.
Here’s a great post about teenage depression: http://www.scarymommy.com/daughter-depressed/
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!
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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 »
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.
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.
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 »
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
Why need to provide email to write entry?
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.
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/
“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.
The hospital gave the diagnosis: “Sleep deprivation for long periods, excessive mental stress, and physical exhaustion.”
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.
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 »
I find it very hard to ignore the kiasu mentality here in Singapore. Is there some kind of support group for this?
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.
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.
It’s so sad our children have to face all this in their life..
We all want the best for our children but parents have their own pressures (specially middle and low income families).
Good initiative! I’ll support the pledge!
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.
I am making the pledge here. Please tell me what else should I do..
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.
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.
Good work! What can I do to help?
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.
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 »
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.
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.
Lets not live through our children and force them to achieve what we could not become.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for this! I hope more parents will make the pledge.
Good article and information. Been trying to give my kids more room to be themselves. It’s hard because of the competitive culture here.
So what happens after I make the pledge here? Will there be any follow up? Do I need to do anything else?
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.
Thanks for the information!
Appreciate what you are doing! We need to change our mindsets.
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.