When it comes to parenting, I like to think I’m a pretty chill mum especially when it comes to academics. Sophie is a pretty smart girl herself, so she has no problem grasping new concepts or learning new things. In fact, she’s getting on quite well with Hanyu Pinyin now according to her Chinese teacher. She started the year struggling with it initially and told me that she didn’t like learning Chinese because of that. So I’m glad that this areas is getting better and hope she’ll continue to have a positive learning attitude for what’s to come as her Chinese teacher did prep us that it will get more challenging.
Her current childcare is a pretty small class and one day, she told me that one of her friends was leaving the childcare. I’ve spoken to the child’s mum and knew about it beforehand so I explained that it’s because her friend was going to an Indian international school so she doesn’t need to learn Mandarin.
Sophie was surprised at my reply and exclaimed, “But you know mummy, she’s the best in class for Chinese! She always score the highest for Hanyu Pinyin, so she knows Chinese”
I was surprised, or maybe I shouldn’t be since knew that this girl has always been very attentive in class. So naturally I asked Sophie how come it’s an Indian friend who’s best in Chinese and not a Chinese? And then I think it progressed into a naggy sort of pep talk with questions like,” How come you’re not the first in class then. You didn’t pay attention in class like so and so right?”
Honestly, I didn’t even have expectations that she needed to get everything right but it just unconsciously came out of my mouth and I could see that Sophie wasn’t happy to hear those comparisons and felt hurt.
A few days later, I went to her childcare and recounted this incident to one of the teachers. The teacher reminded me that this kind of comparison hurt a child’s self esteem unknowingly and the last thing we want is to crush their spirit when it comes to learning.
I didn’t occur to me then that I might be sending the wrong message to Sophie.
That being the first in class is what I expected of her.
That she must be better than her friends.
That mummy will scold her if she’s not number one.
Thankfully, I was reminded and stopped making such comparisons. And it did occur to me that when I’m in my whatsapp group with fellow mummies, we sometimes tend to compare the progress of our kid. While it’s a good thing to have a gauge of where they should be at, and how we can help them along, these comparisons can sometimes become unhealthy and breed unnecessary worries and fears and I fear it will be worse when we make academic comparisons when she starts primary one.
So to make sure that I don’t fall into this trap of comparison, these are 3 things I’m reminding myself of.
1. She will develop at her own pace
I used to be more chill of Sophie’ hitting her milestones as a baby. At this age, it’s more important to teach Sophie to try her best instead of being the best. I’m sure that as she gets more confident in herself, she’ll pick up what she needs to know eventually.
2. Focus on her strengths, gifts and talents
This is something that I need to be more intentional to discover about Sophie so that she can play them her own strengths. Right now, I can say that she’s good at reading, articulate and confident in speaking her mind, has a good memory, is observant, empathetic and caring while having a rather wicked sense of humour and is armed with a positive and optimistic outlook.
They may not be your usual music, maths, sports or arts strengths but that’s where I come in as a mum to keep discovering her gifts and nurture these talents and strengths of her.
3. To surround myself with like-minded mums
This one’s for me and an important one too. There will always be mums who enjoy boasting about their kid’s achievement and I get that they are proud of their children. But such competitive behavior only leads to unnecessary stress. So I’m picking my mum friends carefully to ensure that they are not competitive tiger mums. After all life is too short to wasted on comparisons and being unhappy from the comparisons.
Leaving you with a funny homework from Sophie’s Chinese teacher!