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.
from Singapore wrote on December 21, 2018 at 11:35 am:
I’m praying that we have the strength to build up the courage to move ourselves away from the toxic and competitive environment in Singapore.
wrote on November 24, 2018 at 11:10 pm:
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.
from Singapore wrote on October 15, 2018 at 4:26 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.
from Singapore wrote on September 28, 2018 at 10:08 am:
I find it very hard to ignore the kiasu mentality here in Singapore. Is there some kind of support group for this?
wrote on August 19, 2018 at 11:52 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.
from Singapore wrote on August 11, 2018 at 11:38 am:
Good article and information. Been trying to give my kids more room to be themselves. It's hard because of the competitive culture here.
from Johor wrote on July 8, 2018 at 11:31 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 us. I think it's important that we look at the environment that we're putting our child in and not create unnecessary stress. That's all I have to say. Thank you for this!
wrote on June 18, 2018 at 11:06 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.
from Singapore wrote on June 13, 2018 at 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 to learn from their mistakes and failures, move on and strive to improve.
from Singapore wrote on June 8, 2018 at 11:33 pm:
Things are getting from bad to worse! Read this article! https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/numbers-and-ages-down-child-suicides-experts-explain Why isn't MOE doing something about it? What can we do?
from Singapore wrote on May 17, 2018 at 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.
from Singapore wrote on May 7, 2018 at 10:38 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.
from New Delhi wrote on May 6, 2018 at 12:00 am:
from Singapore wrote on April 25, 2018 at 11:38 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.
wrote on April 20, 2018 at 11:27 am:
I love the Jay Shetty video. It's so inspiring. I wish I watch this earlier. It would changed how I treat my boy,
[Name withheld upon request]
wrote on April 11, 2018 at 3:05 pm:
As someone who had attempted suicide during my teens, I would surely attest that 'some' parents can drive their kids to depression which can lead to suicide...
Please do not use my real name.
from Penang wrote on April 9, 2018 at 10:54 pm:
Thanks for the information!
Stephen wrote on March 20, 2018 at 11:05 am:
Hi anonymous on March 16, we appreciate your "feedback", but we prefer that you channel your negative energy elsewhere. True, this pledge may not achieve any ground-breaking change. However, we firmly believe that what always has been is regarded as what always must be simply because imagination is sluggish and the courage to push for change is lacking. It only takes one to start a movement, so imagine what a bunch of "random people" could do.
from Singapore wrote on March 16, 2018 at 10:10 am:
Grades do not matter? Easy for you to say so. I guess your kids must be doing well in school. What is this pledge going to achieve? Nothing!!! It won't change the system. Not with a bunch of random people here!!
from Hong Kong wrote on March 12, 2018 at 2:44 pm:
I don't know what to say. All these makes me very sad for our children. But here in Hong Kong, all those tutors are superstars, celebrities, just like in the Korea video. You see their faces on billboards everywhere! As long as the demand is strong, things will not change. We need to do more if we want to change the situation.