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.
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.
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.
What is your definition of success for your child?x
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”
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.
If you agree that your child's worth is more than grades (and you’re not alone, trust us), please take a minute or two to make a pledge to be a better parent on the guest-book below and help us to inspire change. 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.
Update – 14 Feb 2018:
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.
@Zoey, the pledge is the first step in making a commitment to push for change. We hope like-minded parents will stand up and be counted so that we can collectively inspire others to change their mindsets for the sake of our future generations. There are some follow-up plans, but they may be premature to discuss now.
from Singapore wrote on December 20, 2017 at 10:30 am:
So what happens after I make the pledge here? Will there be any follow up? Do I need to do anything else?
from Singapore wrote on December 19, 2017 at 2:33 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.
from Mumbai wrote on December 19, 2017 at 2:22 am:
I watched the video and feel sad that the situation in my country has become worse in recent years. I pray that our children will not be pushed over the edge like those in japan, HK and Singapore.
from Singapore wrote on December 18, 2017 at 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!!!
Lilian Aw Yeung
from Hong Kong wrote on December 4, 2017 at 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.