The perils of overenthusiastic parenting

The perils of overenthusiastic parenting

A nasty week of traffic congestion signals that school has already reopened. Children are busy with books and engaged with their school activities while parents help them choose their classes.

A friend of mine gave me a ring asking me to suggest a gym that offers taekwondo classes. She is going to sign her daughter up for a course. But this 10-year-old child is already being tutored in a small group of friends outside school after class. She has to take a piano lesson every Saturday and go to a singing class on Sundays. Apparently, that's not enough. This time, the mother wants the daughter to learn a martial art. What a life!

In today's highly competitive environment, middle- and upper-class parents often face a big challenge to ensure their kids are provided with a wide range of academic courses and extracurricular activities. Most of them believe that these activities would lead their children to better opportunities in life and success in the future. And they hope to create a happy, healthy childhood for their kids.

Parents also monitor closely their children's school performance and their activities to make sure that they are doing well. Apart from getting involved in selecting classes for her daughter, my friend, for instance, often talks about her daughter's grades and friends to a teacher. She helps her daughter out by giving the teacher a call when her daughter has a problem with homework and assignments. She said that she feels guilty when she is not doing something to help out.

Most parents, including my friend, may think that the sacrifice is worth it because they believe that they are helping their children and making them happy. But in my view, my friend's interference may be undermining her daughter's ability to solve her own problems. And when she doesn't get to practise these skills she may not able to solve problems in the future.

By doing this, parents are delivering an unintentional message to their children that they are not capable.

When it comes to choosing a class for a child, I think it's very important to pick an activity that matches a child's natural interests and fits his or her personality. I told my friend that while her daughter may clearly excel at music, sports may not be her cup of tea. Although taekwondo is popular among children, it's not for every child.

Taekwondo is tough and powerful. This form of martial art requires a high level of physical training but it can make children physically and mentally strong. Striking, holding and throwing can be a disaster for girls. I suggested my friend introduce her daughter to a taekwondo class or watch a video of how people train in this sport. This way she could see whether she shows an interest in it and could let her make the decision on her own.

When I was young, my mother wanted me to learn Thai dancing but I preferred swimming. To please my mum, I took part in a class I was not interested in. After two weeks, I quit it readily. It's hard to be engaged in an activity or committed to something we don't really like. I personally think that it's wasting time pushing a child to do things they are not keen on.

Being intensive parents who keep stimulating their children to be engaged in a wide range of activities can be stressful, and it may not benefit the kids. Parents should teach life skills to their children and help them learn to be resourceful by letting them solve little, everyday problems and make decisions on their own. In this way, children can learn to develop the confidence needed to be successful adults and cope with the world that awaits them. At least, they will be able to fend for themselves when their parents are away. The truth of the matter is that a child will have to live independently without parents when they reach adulthood.

Again, parents who are overly involved in school activities and go to excessive lengths to reassure their children may be unintentionally hurting them in long term.

Sukhumaporn Laiyok is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Sukhumaporn Laiyok

Life reporter

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