Having lived in Hong Kong for nearly 30 years, I’ve heard many, many complaints about the education system. I’ve heard complaints about competition for school places, the rote system of learning, too much homework, too much pressure, children not getting enough sleep, not enough time for play. Recently, an increase in the number of teenage suicides has been reported. A couple of weeks ago, we were told that ‘sleepless children will lack creativity’. Today the news is that ‘Hong Kong tiger parents have been warned against having unrealistic expectations amid an alarming rise in the number of children being tested for learning disabilities’. I believe it is much the same in many other countries.
Why is it that nothing changes?
I’d like to suggest that, until parents change their mindsets on parenting and how they want to live, nothing will change. Change begins with our self.
Right now, we live in a competitive, sometimes aggressive, world in which our children tend to be measured by academic success. Society is materialistic, and many are fearful about a lack of money. Hong Kong parents have very high expectations for their children. They have a strong work ethic, they push their children hard to achieve; and they can worry about how others see them.
Since everything is inter-connected, the world is our mirror, it’s easy to see that the nature of the complaints about the education system is what the universe is asking parents to look at within themselves.
How competitive are they themselves? How hard do they work? How much sleep do they get, how healthy are their diets? How much quality time do they have for family and friends – without the distraction of electronic devices? When do they have time for fun and spontaneity, for laughing and maybe even silliness? What is their way of living costing them?
Having a strong work ethic is great so long as it does not harm our health or relationships. What is the point in living to work and earn money if we have no time to enjoy it? How many on their death bed discover that its not money and status that matter, what is important is love and relationships? How many regret having worked so hard, regret not having time for family and friends, regret not following their dreams, instead doing what was expected of them?
As a parent, I (personally) see my role as preparing my children for life, teaching them how to take care of, respect and be responsible for self. I do my best to support them to be who they are, encouraging them to communicate openly, and to understand and accept difference.
Asking children to do what we think is best for them – how many of us fall into that trap – prevents them from being authentic and from learning from mistakes. In extreme cases, it can result in approval-seeking behaviour, poor self-esteem, deep inner resentment, and co-dependency.
Changing a mindset, changing habits takes a strong will and lots of practise. It can be done.
Perhaps it’s time for new parents to take time to consciously reflect on how they want to parent? To be mindful of how they parent. Are they willing to accept and allow their children to be who they are? Perhaps accept they do not want to be a banker, lawyer, or doctor? Are they willing to give their children time and attention, to enjoy simply being together – take a walk in the park, stroll along the beach, have a picnic, take time to listen, to hug and kiss? Are they willing to appreciate and praise rather than complain that children must try harder? Are they willing to be a role-model for living healthily and set boundaries as and when necessary? Can they let their children be children – encourage them to play and have fun?
How would it be to help our children to see their value, their uniqueness and encourage them be their best and to collaborate with others, rather than push them to compete and be the best?
Happiness is a choice. Being truly loving is a choice.