In primary school, I didn’t have to put in much effort to do well in class. Then came secondary school and things changed. For some reason, I had always preferred the Sciences, but I began to falter in Math. I wasn’t sure what happened but my test results for Math turned from bad to worse.
“A will start teaching you next week,” my mother said a few days after she saw my report card in Secondary 2. I had hit borderline. One less mark and it would have been an F. A was a neighbour, a smart chap who excelled in his studies. For 3 months I was under his tutelage. I quickly saw the gaps in my Math skills. Concepts like fractions and decimals were especially confusing. I was making the same mistakes over and over again. But with A’s patient teaching, I knew exactly where my learning gaps were and learnt to fix them. By the end of that year, my Math soared from almost-fail to almost-perfect scores. My parents’ decisiveness to send me to the right teacher was the U-turn I needed. Had my parents not done what they did, I would never have gone to university to major in Mathematics and Computer Science.
I believe virtually every child is born smart and intelligent, including yours. Unless a child has a serious neurological condition, he or she would have the potential to excel and shine. But at some point, that child might be struggling to do better. What is needed is timely intervention, without which he or she would continue to falter and likely fail miserably. Consider these reasons why intelligent children fail to shine:
Parents did something but did not fix the issue. Some parents are hasty in taking action. They are eager to help, they want to help, but do not have the tenacity to identify and pursue the real issue. So they just send their “problem child” to, say, a tuition centre, expecting the tutors to fix whatever problem is at hand.
Undecisive parents. These parents knew something is wrong, but keep sweeping the problem under the carpet. They are good parents, but the everyday challenges of managing work and family keep them so occupied they fail to see the urgency of taking action.
Parents play the blame game. Some parents take the easy way out. Instead of taking the necessary step to identify the problem and intervene, they thought that playing the blame game will motivate the child to do better. “If you could just work a little harder …”, “Don’t be so lazy …”, “I don’t believe a smart child like you can’t figure out a simple sum like that …”
Parents play the wait-and-see game. “Perhaps Adam will do better someday.”, “Perhaps Sarah would be ok when she’s 18.” Maybe. Maybe not. Eighteen is the time when most kids go to college. By then your child would have missed A LOT. As much as the brain is plastic, bear in mind that the brain learns best at a young age. Any learning expert can tell you that the younger the brain, the easier and faster it absorbs new things. The older the brain, the harder and longer it takes. The later the intervention, the more your child needs to do to catch up. It’s just the way it is. All your inaction does is to prolong the issue, making your child’s learning journey unnecessarily more arduous than it already is.
Parents expect the problem to resolve by itself. Some problems will. Some won’t. Learning issues likely will get more complicated over time. Some parents opt to ignore their child’s learning issues, thinking the problem would resolve by itself. Believe me, ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to your child’s missed learning opportunities. On the contrary, it brings much heartache with long term consequences. I have met teenagers whose learning issues failed to be identified and addressed early e.g. dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia. These are common learning issues, but if the parents fail to address them, the child suffers for life. Some dyslexic youths who never received timely assistance become suicidal and depressive because of the daily pain they go through, thinking they are stupid, useless and life is pointless.
Unconducive learning environment. A child is like a fish in a river. Put a fish in a clean river, it will swim happily and grow. Put the same fish in toxic water. It will suffocate and die. Your home vibes affect your child more than you think. Parents who constantly fight over money. A TV or radio that is constantly blaring out loud. An unconducive, or worse, a toxic environment is sure to drain a child emotionally.
Lack of role model and ambition. If the child cannot imagine where he will be one day, how does he get the energy to motivate himself to excel? Children need to be inspired, to have fire in their hearts to wake up, to get excited, to succeed. Tell them success stories of their grandparents, aunts, uncles. Come up with real stories from your own family so they want to do better. Plant and nurture the seed of ambition so your child has a mental picture where she’s going.
Lack of structure at home. There are children who are overly structured to the point they never have a childhood. Super ambitious parents draw up a tight daily schedule such that their children have no time to be bored. But children need some time to be bored everyday so they can get imaginative and creative. A completely structure-less life won’t do your child much good either. Children do need some kind of order and structure to feel safe and loved. Children are born not knowing how to structure their day. They have little idea when to eat, when to pray, when to wash, when to spend time with Mom and Dad, when to sleep. It’s the parents’ job to show and guide them in age-appropriate ways. And make sure they know when to do what, with whom, how and where. At least a good amount of the time.
No matter your background, your timely input and intervention is critical to your child’s success. My story is not unique. I am one of many lucky children whose parents made it their business to provide what I needed, when I needed it most. Giving the help that a child needs is common sense, but so many parents fail to take the critical step to do what it takes to provide children with what they need when they falter. As the saying goes, “A problem identified is a problem half-solved”. To correctly identify the problem is one thing. Doing what it takes is another. Doing what it takes might mean having to invest, to pay for the intervention that your child needs to overcome the current hump, the mountain they need to climb to reach the next milestone in their life. Extra help might mean money. You must be willing to make that sacrifice, so that your child gets the intervention he or she sorely needs. My parents were never rich. Our kitchen zinc roof leaked. Every time it rained, we had to place a pail underneath to catch the dripping water. Else, someone would slip and fall on the cold cement floor. But my parents never had second thoughts to put my learning needs first. I hope you’ll never hesitate to do the same for the sake of your child’s future.
Featured Image: RoboMichalec