Looking at your child’s grades can sometimes be a very disappointing affair. You see so much potential in them but somehow they just keep under-performing and you can’t seem to figure out the root of the problem. I have heard countless problems throughout my years of being an Auntie Counselor. I have seen my fair share of students with problematic grades or results. I have listened to countless parents unleashing the torrent of troubles they face while parenting their child in a pressure-cooker examination system. (Pressure cooker for parents; the kids seem to be all right!)
I also had plenty of opportunities to meet other parents who managed to guide their children to academic success. I have always wondered why some students do better than others. Over the years, through my observations, I realised that a child’s academic success or failure can be linked to their parents’ actions.
So from my observations comparing these 2 groups, I would like to highlight 5 sabotaging behaviours that parents may be guilty of and solutions to counter-act these problems.
1. Being unrealistic of your child’s capabilities
This is one of the biggest mistakes that many parents are guilty of. Every parent wants their children to be born smart with unlimited potential. Not only must their children ace their exams, they must also excel in dance, speech and drama, piano, swimming, taekwondo and other sports. Overly-high expectations may be detrimental to your child’s educational development.
If your child is scoring 20/100 and you are asking for 91/100 for the next test, it will not only be unrealistic but also stressful for your child. Your child will be demotivated by the seemingly incredulous task at hand, and you will also constantly feel disappointed that your child is not performing up to your expectations.
It’s easier for tutors or teachers to gauge your child’s academic abilities and set achievable goals because they are judging the situation in a more objective manner. Tutors and teachers are not blinded by parental love or expectations for your child.
When I teach students who are scoring 20/100 for their exams, I would tell them to aim for 55/100 for the next test. I would break down the goal into smaller, more achievable steps. Setting overly big academic goals for weaker students is like telling them to jump from one cliff to another. We need to set smaller goals for them so that they can see the road ahead.
Once they reach that goal, raise the bar higher.
“Good job, you got 55 marks. Next test I need you to get at least 75 marks.”
Everybody wants their children to have limitless potential. And that is understandable. However, have you ever taken a step back to compare your expectations versus your child’s abilities or pace of learning ? Have you looked at their strengths and weaknesses? Most importantly, are you setting achievable goals for them?
2. Weak Parenting
Failing to perform well for academia can be due to many factors. But the most common factor I see in cases of students who are consistently failing or not doing well is due to – Weak parenting.
Just like the picture of the tofu above, weak parenting builds an unsteady character foundation for your child. This leads to ill-disciplined behaviour or a general lack of resilience in your child.
What do I mean by weak parenting?
Weak parenting can come in many forms.
– over-pampering your child
– being over-protective of your child
– always giving in to your child’s demands
– not enforcing a sense of discipline in your child
– leaving your child to do whatever he or she wants, all the time.
Over-pampering your child and not enforcing a strict discipline is hazardous to educational development. Your child will be picking up more bad habits than good ones. Make sure good habits like finishing their homework after school or being aware of their school schedule (tests, exams), are cultivated since young. Your child must also obey instructions and be able to delay gratification. ( Only allow them to play after they have finished all important tasks.)
Without a rigid set of rules, your child will be doing whatever he or she wants to do at that moment. They may end up being absorbed in computer games instead of studying. They may forget important test dates and not revise accordingly. He or she will be prioritising leisure time over work time.
Also, being over-protective of your children will simply keep them insulated in a bubble. This causes more harm in the long run as they are unable solve problems themselves or fend for themselves in tough situations.
In primary school, your child is still too young to make mature decisions for themselves. Even if they may be book smart, they are still a long way from attaining wisdom.
If you are guilty of weak parenting, and always feel like you cannot control your child, do talk to your partner about this and step up the discipline. Talk to teachers and tutors for help. But remember, the foundation always begins from home and there is no substitute for that.
3. Blame shifting
“It’s the teacher’s fault!”
“The teacher can’t teach!”
“I enrolled him in a lousy school!”
“My son hangs out with bad friends! I can’t stop him!”
Well all that may be true. There are good teachers and bad teachers, good friends and bad “friends”, just like there are good policemen and bad policemen, good politicians and bad politicians. But the point I would like to make is this:
If your child only learns how to put the blame on others, just like you, how will he learn to solve any problems himself?
After whining about your problems, accept it as a fact and start looking for a solution right away.
Can you get a external help from tutoring? Can you sacrifice some of your time to coach him? Can you write in to the school? Can you talk to other parents about this issue and raise it to the principal?
Your child must also learn to actively react and seek help and not just remain like a sitting duck waiting for someone else to solve the problem for him. Who do you think they look up to as role models? You!
Take the problem into your own hands and look for a solution. Then teach your child how to be resourceful and active in his learning journey as well.
4. Leaving the child to do revision themselves
Here’s what most parents do wrongly when they ask their child to revise.
Parent: “Go revise your math!”
*Child flips open his file and stares at it blankly.
Child: “Okay! Study finish already!”
Do you think that is efficient studying?
Instead of just giving instructions like “go study”, parents should take a more active approach. Give your child specific objectives.
Examples of Specific Objectives:
– “I need you to do this assessment book, pages 1-15, on the topic – Plants.”
– “I need you to do this past year exam paper and finish it in 2 hrs. I will go through the answers with you later.”
– “You keep getting these questions wrong. I want you to cover up the answers and redo the questions.”
– “Memorise these words for spelling. Write each word 10 times. Cover up the words and spell it aloud to yourself. I will test you after dinner.”
Instead of just telling your child to revise for a test, give them specific tasks to do and specific instructions on how to do the tasks. Children are too young to really understand what are the effective ways to study.
By the way, do download our FREE ebook “The 10-Step Study Formula“ on effective studying!
5. Not encouraging a reading habit since young
Yes, reading is an important skill. Yes, it helps to build up language skills. Guess what? It also trains a very important skill that probably 80% of students who attend tuition do not have.
Being able to sit quietly and concentrate on a book is almost equivalent to exam-taking. Same concept – You sit on a chair for long hours staring at a piece of paper with words that don’t move or jump around like games on an iPad screen.
Restrict time spent on iPad or smart phone gaming. Such games can be overly-stimulating, have lots of colours, graphics, effects and may require lots of fast reactions. It’s good for building a child’s response time but you need to balance it with the ability to sit still and focus.
I can tell which students have a reading habit and which students don’t, simply by their classroom behaviour.
Those that read are able to zone out all other distractions and focus on their work and finish it fast. Those that don’t will try to strike up conversations with others or respond to the tiniest sounds or actions taking place in the room like somebody dropping a pencil or someone coughing.
Buy some books for your child that appeal to his or her interest and encourage the reading habit. Is he interested in space travel? Buy books about astronomy. Is he interested in dinosaurs? Buy books about dinosaurs. The key is to start young. So parents, if you are reading this and have young children, start the habit now!