How Much Do Academic Grades Really Matter to You?

“When your children fall short, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it is just means you’re not yet finished.”
~ Jaci Mun-Gavin

The stressful exam period is over, I’m sure all of you – parents with schooling kids – are rejoicing now. It’s a fact that exam period is exceptionally stressful for parents and kids. Many of us would go the extra miles to prepare our kids for their exam – be it major public exams, or just normal school exams.

From getting our hands on past-year papers from elite schools to stocking up bottles of chicken essence, taking leave from work for last-minute revisions, and drafting grand revision plans, we’re getting increasingly hands-on. Give me a high five! =)

People labelled us as “kiasu parents”, but who cares. The good thing is, it brings us closer to our kids as we tackle questions together, revise for exam together, encourage them through the little things, or simply being there for them. That’s the beauty of family bonding over exams amidst the stress.

When exam is finally over, we’ve to brave ourselves for their results. When the results are not a true representation of their hard works, we plunged into disappointment. And even so, we had to hide our feelings so as not to further discourage our children. We heard of news that kids commit suicide over poor exam results, and we feared losing our loved ones.

Every cycle, I went through shock, disbelief, denial and finally acceptance. It’s hard not to panic when Edison starts coming home with test results below expectations. How much do academic grades really matter to me, you may wonder. Well, it doesn’t matter as much as I thought it would be.

While walking home with Edison last week, I was listening with half an ear as he chirped on about his last day at school. Last day in P3, I mean. And then, something about his Chinese compo test caught my attention.

“My teacher gave me a Popular voucher because I improved a lot in my Chinese compo.”

“Oh, wow! So you’re very good in your Chinese compo now?” I chuckled.

“I said improved. Not very good ah!” he replied, then asked innocently: “Are you going to give me the reward that you promised?”

I promised that I’ll bring him for a staycation of his choice if he studies well for his SA2. After some quick mental gymnastics, I replied, “Yes. The reward is to acknowledge your efforts and encourage you to work harder next year.”

He was beaming in pride and excitement.

As I’ve said many times, learning is lifelong and it should be fun, thus I didn’t push him too hard for exam. Edison is an average student. Even if I force him to study day and night, he’s still unable to get to the top. If a child is gifted, then he/she is gifted. Otherwise, there’s no need to push him/her to the limit. That’s what I think.

Just like a normal car, no matter how fast we accelerate, we’re still no match to a racing car. This is the analogy I often tell my husband V. To be honest, I’m less expecting of perfection as compared to him.

In fact, I’ve never attempted to develop Edison into the “perfect kid” who will live up to my dreams. I don’t want him to be a victim of today’s kiasu parenting. I don’t want him to be over-scheduled with tuition and activities. And I don’t him to live his childhood in a robotic fashion.

It’s worryingly easy to cross the line between being supportive and being obsessive. I used to think that I could be a very laid-back mom who has a healthy disregard for grades, and only cares about the moral and emotional well-being of my son. But as Edison is progressing from lower to upper primary, I’m finding it challenging to tame the “kiasu-ism” in me.

In this digital age, we’re well connected to the parents of our kids’ peers. It’s easy for us to fall into the competitive parenting trap. Put bluntly, parents like to flaunt their kid’s grades and results on Facebook. It’s hard to remain zen when you’re surrounded by parents who’re going all out for the kids’ grades.

Don’t get me wrong! There’s nothing right or wrong about this. To me, the hardest thing about parenting is not to compare my son and other kids, and not to compare my own parenting style to others.

Comparison is human’s natural behaviour. It might make you “lose face” if your kid’s result is below average, much worst if they failed. We made them feel bad, and as a result, our relationship suffers. If your kids were to make a comparison between you and their peers’ parents, you’ll feel immensely hurt too.

We all know that academic results is not a good indicator of our kids’ abilities. Whether they scored an A/B/C for their SA2, they’ll turn out pretty much okay in future. There’s always hope. Even if we can’t quit the rat race, we can always set our own rules and pace. Remember – exam is just a small part of our children’s lives.

The hope of me is that, even if he does end up slogging away in a menial job, he still have a memorable childhood full of life and hardly any huge worries. He will always remember growing up with us who loved him dearly regardless of his grades.

Last but not least, I leave you with a quote from Jack Ma for our reflection:

“I told my son: You don’t need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person has enough free time to learn other skills.”
~ Jack Ma.

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