For most primary school kids, last week and this week are exam weeks. Which means we have lots of stressed out kids and even more stressed out parents. When I was revising with Andre the day before his English exam, he wrote "John is worser than Jane" and for dictation, he wrote "the bright and groom..." and couldn't see why I was having a fit.
Anyway, this post is about targets. Many parents set targets for their kids for exams (or get the kids to set targets for themselves.) I believe this is a good practice as it gives your child something concrete to aim for, instead of an ambiguous "just try your best". But in setting targets, I've found that many parents completely miss the mark, ironically.
Targets communicate your expectations for results based on your child's ability and potential. They should therefore be achievable and reasonable. I've heard of parents who tell their kids they have to get 100% for every subject in their exams. This is just crazy. Even if it were achievable (yes, for some super kid, this might be!), it's just not reasonable. If that's not bad enough, there's sometimes a negative impetus attached to the target, ie if the child doesn't achieve this target, she will be punished for it.
This is akin to your boss telling you that you have to hit a 100% sales quota all the time, meaning that every potential client you approach, you have to win the contract. Anything less, your performance will be considered sub-par and your salary docked. How would you feel?
I have a cousin who when growing up, was constantly told by her mother that she had to be 1st in class or she needn't bother going home. She was so stressed by it that she even fantasised about killing her biggest rival in class. Till today, she's resentful about the anguish that her mother put her through.
There's a world of difference between aiming for a good result vs aiming NOT to get a bad result. One spurs achievement, the other builds a fear of failure. While both may elicit similar results in an exam, in the long term, the former is more likely to build self-motivation and drive while the latter is likely to erode self-esteem.
Naturally this doesn't mean the targets should be set so low that they don't challenge the child. Pitching the target at a level that will make the child work just that extra bit harder without demoralising him ("it's too hard! I can't do it!") is tricky but I believe most parents have a realistic idea of what their kids are capable of. What I feel is important is that the child should agree to these targets. This creates a sense of ownership and hence draws commitment from the child. Andre's form teacher negotiates targets for each subject with every child and gets the child to sign off on the "contract". I think that's great.
In setting targets, you have to be prepared for the possibility that your kid may not meet them. (Such is life!) Here's my personal viewpoint: following my reasoning above, I don't believe in punishing a failure to meet targets. If your child had gone through the due process of target setting with you, then chances are, he would be disappointed by his own result. Punishing him for it or withdrawing privileges only negatively reinforces the point that he is not allowed to fail and he has somehow done something bad. (I guess perhaps the only scenario that would justify punishment is if the child deliberately did badly, in which case you'll have to dig deeper into his psyche to find out the reason for this behaviour).
Instead, talk through the incident with him and find out what was the reason for the result - was it due to insufficient effort? carelessness? lack of understanding? difficult paper? Sure, you can express disappointment (we're still human afterall!) but after that, work out strategies with him for doing better the next time.
Conversely, if your child meets the targets, I encourage you to reward him. Shouldn't be lavish or expensive as it's a reward, not a bribe. It's just a gesture showing that his effort is appreciated and recognised. Common sense will tell you that will motivate him to keep trying. Ultimately, we should always remember to focus on the effort, NOT the result. At the risk of sounding repetitive, it's a marathon! Not a sprint! Since we can't escape exams in Singapore, we might as well use them as opportunities to rear confident children, not turn them into nervous wrecks.
Performing for Ghosts - Hungry Ghost month came & went. I don't miss the ashes flying about or watching out where I walk in case I trip over some offering. But I do look forward...
8 months ago