Why would a teenager commit suicide over a failed exam, or for that matter, over anything? People take their own lives out of despair, when they see no light at the end of the tunnel. The future is pitch dark, they see no point in living.
Once upon a time, I, too was guilty of pressuring my children to “get all the A’s they can”. Then my family and I had the opportunity to live in another country, where the children began to experience a different culture, a different approach to education. In this school, the children learned to love learning.
Every single day, they looked forward to school. Yes, you are still expected to do well, but it was miles away from the kind of pressure they have had before. The atmosphere was so positive and encouraging. Yet the standards of achievements were high. Until today, my children still consider this particular school the best they have ever attended.
It proves that academic excellence can still be achieved with a positive and encouraging environment. In short, school does not have to be hell for children. For that matter, did you know that some teenagers in Asia did very well up to secondary school, but failed to shine thereafter? That is partly due to burnout. They have been pushed so much that by the time they step into college or university, they have lost interest in learning.
You have two choices: To have a child who is happy to learn AND excel, or to have a child who cringes each day at the thought of school and excel. Which one would you choose?
Every girl wants to make her parents proud. Every boy wants to make his mum and dad happy. That’s ingrained in their hearts and minds. But if a child thinks that the only way his worth is measured is by his grades and his parents show in more ways than one that they are never happy with his grades despite his best efforts, you have trouble brewing.
If a child seems smart but has trouble learning, it does not help if you the parent keep playing the blame game. Explore possibilities. Your child might have a condition that needs a totally different approach, or something at school might be too upsetting for him to focus, or it could be a matter of hanging out with the wrong crowd. All these and more need to be dealt with tactfully.
A respected teacher of mine says, “The purpose of education is to awaken the conscience.”
We want our children to grow up into smart adults, so that they can contribute to humanity in their own way. Let them feel the pain of the homeless people on the streets, and think of ways how to help them. Let them learn how the blind struggle for a living, and invent systems to alleviate their suffering. Let them witness other children their own age going hungry, and think of how to deliver food to them.
This should be the dream of every parent. Excellence in academics might be one way, but not the only way. There are many, many other ways for your children to excel. Let your children be your gift to the world, by you polishing them to become rare gems over time with a lot of patience, wisdom and long term vision.