If I must pick a few core parenting tips, have faith in children would easily be placed at the top of the list.
As parents, we should never underestimate our kids and make all the decisions for them. By doing so, we are depriving their opportunities. What opportunities? The opportunities to be able to fail when nothing big is at stake; the opportunities to own up their mistakes and the opportunities to learn from them.
Young people often astonish us with their thoughts and insights. As they absorb new things much faster and have the skills to do so. A lot of the time they can do a better job than us if they put their mind to it. Just look at how savvy they are with technology and our difficulty in catching up. What we need is to be patient and be willing to stay on the sidelines to allow our kids grow at a rate they desire.
I used to work with someone who graduated from a local university with first honour in English. But she didn’t have a resourceful background. Her parents couldn’t afford any tutoring classes and she often had to take part-time jobs to support the family. Out of curiosity, I asked how come her English was so good and what she told me moved me to tears. She realized the importance of mastering English when she was in secondary school. But she was attending a local public school where English language environment was lacking. In order to achieve her goal, she created the language environment by recording all the TV shows she could find and replay it all day when she’s at home. She would imitate how the words are pronounced and keep rewinding and replaying the tapes until she could repeat the lines like a native. She was able to achieve it without spending any money.
Recently, I came across the story of Jonny Kim, an Asian American who had been a Navy Seal, then a doctor. Now, he’s about to complete the training at NASA of becoming an astronaut. He was one of the 12 being selected out of 18,000 candidates. When he joined NASA two years ago, he was only 34. Very impressive achievement right? Do you know what subject he took for his undergraduate degree? Maths.
In our time, being a doctor is definitely a dream come true and a great honour to the whole family. But I’ve seen many cases where kids are forced to take Medicine to fulfill their parents’ dreams. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a professor from the University of Hong Kong who told me that it’s unfortunate and a waste of resources to see students dropped out of Medicine when it became hard and the students found out they actually don’t want to become a doctor. They are in discussion to take initiatives to assess whether the prospective students are passionate about becoming a doctor as a life-long career.
Back to Jonny Kim. When he was serving in the Navy Seal, he saw two of his friends shot on the face and he could do nothing to save them but watch them die. That was the reason for him to pursue medicine and he did after his term in the Seal. What made him took up not one, but three extremely difficult jobs? Nothing but his own will.
Here is his word of advice for young people with a dream – “All good things in life are hard to get – persevere, don’t give up, believe and love yourself”.
From both of their stories, this learning point stands out for me –
Perseverance is the key If our kids are to lead an accomplished and happy life. But, perseverance has to come from within. To persevere, one has to be the driver of her actions and want it enough in order to stick through the hardship.
As parents, we should trust that our kids want to achieve something. They may not know yet but if they do, all we have to do is to show support and they will take care of the rest.
I also have similar experiences with Hillary.
Whether it’s her entrepreneurship journey or her other passion – debate, Hillary has gone above and beyond, far exceeding my expectation. There were indeed many hard times that went behind the scene. What makes her still doing them? The main reason was – these are things she asked for. She really enjoys the process and is excited for the improvement that comes with the experience she has accumulated. She has an ambition to see them through and how far she could go.
So parents, I would say be tactful when introducing something to your children, be it an interest, a sports or a career. Don’t force them but encourage them. Let them run their own show.