RECENTLY I received a question from a desperate mother who was having problems with her four children, aged between 5 and 13.
Her children disliked reading books or studying. She had given them lots of encouragement but to no avail.
She tried various approaches such as motivational talks, taking them on vacation just in case they needed a break, sending them to tuition classes and even teaching them at home.
Nothing worked and she felt hopeless and often cried because of her failure. She wanted to know what else she could do as things were getting from bad to worse — one of her children had been moved to a lower class because his grades were falling fast. More importantly, one of the children would be sitting for the UPSR this year.
Upon further probing, I found that the woman was really focusing only on education. When I asked about the relationship between the parents and children, there was not much evidence of them bonding or spending time together. All activities were geared towards education and studying on their own.
I needed to send her a message that there were no shortcuts to success. The children are, no doubt, not performing well. However, if parents only focus on fixing educational problems, they will find that things may get worse.
The pressure, the scolding, the shouting and instructions will only alienate the children further and make them feel that this is their parent’s ambition, not theirs. They will not buy the idea that they need to study, when the backbone of their life — the good relationship with the parents and a system to create some sort of discipline at home — are sorely missing.
For children to succeed in life, they need understanding, guidance and love from their parents. And parents must do everything they can to reinforce these three things, failing which, the children will feel that success is their parent’s agenda rather than their own.
Without the reinforcement of love, children would feel worthless. And when there’s no happiness, there’s no motivation to do anything, including studying.
If parents are serious about having their children excel in their studies, the love part cannot be outsourced to other parties such as schools or tuition centres. It must come directly from the parents and must be unshakably strong. Only then will the children feel happier, motivated and willing to go the extra mile to reciprocate the love shown by the parents by scoring better grades and making their parents proud.
Secondly, discipline must also be reinforced. Without discipline, just envisioning good education for their children may prove futile. For example, if the children spent all their waking hours in front of the television or computer, there will be little time left for studies. Parents must be firm but fair. When there is schoolwork to be completed or revision to be done, they must tell the children to do so, gently but firmly.
Having a fixed schedule helps. Parents and children can work together to agree on fixed times for play and study. There is no one solution for each child as each would require different schedules based on their age. There are things that can be negotiated but there are those that can’t, such as study time, meal times and bedtime.
Once these two areas have been properly addressed, parents will no longer find it hard to get the children to study or do their schoolwork. Chances are, children will be more than willing to do it voluntarily, though sometimes, a little prodding may be needed. There will be no more shouting, yelling or nagging. Children will realise that there is a time for everything — and that everything has its time.
They will feel motivated to do what is required of them and try to get more positive attention from their parents by getting good grades or showing good behaviour.
This way, the home will be peaceful again and the parents will feel they have done their duty in the best way possible.