It’s been a long 6 days since my last post. I have been busy and I mean busy. I have always wanted to do an article about how much Asian parents put their kids through the rigorous and grueling education system in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and not to mention our small island called Singapore. I read an article posted on the Life! Television Section dated 24 May 2012 and the article talks about the interview with Ken Jeong, who is a Korean-American medical doctor turned comedian. It is an article about Ken Jeong and his comical theatrics. But when I read it, I can’t help but think that Ken Jeong’s parents must be so petrified and astounded when the actor decided to moonlight in comedy clubs whilst still being a medical doctor in 2007.
After Dr Amy Chua, a professor in Law at Yale University, wrote a book entitled “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, it became the talk of the town because she angered the American population by saying that American parents are not as strict as Chinese parents in their upbringing of their children. These comments stirred critics against her as she made serious remarks and allegations against the lax in education that most Amercian parents have done with their kids. I can only say that she is correct to some point on what she portrayed and I quote her from her Wall Street Journal interview and she said, “Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you. By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.”
I don’t have to read her book to understand what she depicted because I grew up with a Tiger Mom. Even until today, I feel bad about not being a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. I feel especially inferior when my brother’s resume boasts that he had been educated in Stanford University. When I was much younger, my mom compared my results with my cousins and of course with my brother, who was always the top student in school. I couldn’t catch up no matter how hard I tried. My mom made sure I followed my brother to the best schools in Singapore and I bet she was disappointed when I chose to major in Economics and Japanese Studies in university. I think somewhere in me I still have that logical and mathematical intelligence because I excelled in Statistics, something which I never understood why.
Whilst my brother runs a successful orthopedic practice, I am here blogging about Tiger Moms. You must be thinking I have a bad relationship with my brother and I dislike his presence but on the other hand, I have a great relationship with my brother. From our teenage years, we understood each other strengths and weaknesses. The difference between my mom and me is that whilst I want the best for my children, I want them to be happy and learning because they are happy with what they are learning. I told Mark that I hope Caden can be a K-pop star because I think he really looks like Nickhun from the sensational South Korean pop group 2PM, but my mom told me a different story, saying that Caden will become an engineer in the future because he likes his Lego.
For my mom, I believe she thought that ordering her children to do all the Ten-Year-Series she could find, would help her children do well in their school assessments so that they come up top in class. She forgot that different children learn differently and at a different pace. She also forgot (AS A TRAINED NURSE) that nurturing a child’s learning capability would increase his or her appetite for knowledge exponentially. What a child becomes in his future will depend on the kind of intelligences and the exposure he or she gets. Being given the opportunity to learn and being encouraged to learn and excel at what your child is good at is extremely important. Take Lee Hom for example, if his parents did not train him in music, would he have the music knowledge to know how to write a song, much less to say become such a popular Chinese Music artiste and a multi-millionaire. Hence, I believe in engaging intelligences to see how you can bring out the best in your child and not to order or force or coerce them to do something they utterly dislike such as becoming an unhappy doctor and then turning into a professional comedian mid-way through his life. Nonetheless, I am happy for Ken Jeong because he is living his life and doing what he likes to do best. If you have something that you are passionate about, you will become successful in that avenue because you will put in effort and hours in even the smallest of projects because you are interested and passionate about the topic or subject that you are doing.
Do you why my brother became a doctor? Firstly, I admire the fact that he told me that he wanted to see his patients walk again. But I believe he became a doctor because he was genetically disposed to become one. My brother is very methodical, mathematical and logical in his thinking. Sometimes, I laugh because his movements are very mechanical and sometimes robotic. If he is not a doctor, he would have been a very successful aeronautical engineer, something which he was passionate about. He excelled in all his Science subjects especially Physics in school, just like my Dad who is a graduate in Chemistry. My mom forgot that genes matters too. Whilst my brother could read heaps of Science books, he didn’t know anything about dressing or branding or dancing (he likes to wear loud orange and red polo tees). All he knew was what he was best at, the Biology, the Chemistry and the Physics he majored in. Not to mention, he was exposed to nature from a tender age and had the making to be a doctor since young. He loved to catch tadpoles and guppies and then dissect them. He loved to catch spiders and tear their limbs apart, something I would never endeavor even if you give me US$10000 to do it on the spot. To me, my mother and my brother are the most cruel people around. My mom could give me an injection even though I was not prepared mentally. Honestly, I am very afraid of blood, needles and knife, so is my dad.
To be a medical doctor, you must be able to stand the sight of blood, and as a surgeon, I believe you have to be very methodical and logical to handle a very intense and serious operation. You must also be clear-headed and not be affected by the outcome of the surgery because if you become overwhelmed with emotion then you cannot take the next leap to be a better surgeon. What makes excellent doctors and what makes mediocre doctors? An excellent doctor wants to help his patients and he or she is passionate about the subject that he or she is doing and wants to research more on it. A good doctor explores different options to improve the method of surgery or investigate different ways to make the operation safer for the patient and that the recovery rate is being met with high standards. If you are such a doctor, you will get the respect from patients because you have garnered and put in your efforts with a passion to learn about that subject and be good at it so that in turn, you have the capability and abilities to help your patients recover from their accidents or medical ailments. A mediocre doctor is one who forces himself to go through medical school so that he could have an M.D or MBBS in his credentials and hopefully get the monies and respect that he thought he deserves.
After I got married, I became mature enough to realize that whatever intelligences my brother have, I do not possess. But whatever intelligences I possess, he does not have. I have linguistics and interpersonal intelligences hence I am able to write and I am able to speak and learn multitude of languages and never get tired of it. Besides Japanese, I also learnt French and Korean. I am able to communicate to all levels including children and C-level Executives. I am not methodical or that logical and I like to do things at the spur of the moment. I don’t have a standard practice but if you assign me a multitude of different projects with diverse topics, I can get them completed on time and because I use creativity to work around things. I will start all the projects at the same time, start prioritizing and then executing. I will get the work done for you and meet the deadlines that bosses want. I also get my way around things because I have interpersonal skills, something not everyone has. I don’t have to go to a Toastmaster’s course to be an oratorical speaker. I represented The University of The Ryukyus in the finals of an oratorical competition in Japanese, a third language to me.
I have a primary school friend, one of my longest friends in life because we have known each other for nearly 30 years. She is a creative soul and to add, she also has a great personality. Her name is Dawnne Goh and she is the Principal Educator of PurpleBubble Potential, an education business she founded with a partner because she believed that children are young individuals with their own interests and thinking. Dawnne advocates that children will learn better if parents and educators alike appreciate and guide their growth and development by assessing and developing them as individuals. Dawnne is the most gentle and patient adult I know and she genuinely loves to work with children. Before she started PurpleBubble Potential, she was a preschool teacher with Etonhouse for 4 years and then worked with Pat’s Schoolhouse for another 3 years. Dawnne worked in the media industry as a Director, Producer and Writer before she became a preschool teacher.
I knew Dawnne would be a good teacher for a long time. Why? Because she is patient and she is passionate to work with kids and teenagers (she used to be a relief teacher at Tanjong Katong Girls’ School). I know this is why she left the glitzy media world to become a preschool teacher. Recently, I engaged Dawnne’s services because I don’t know what to do with Caden. He cries and begs us to let him go whenever we try to teach him ABC and numbers. I have myself to blame because I will write up the curriculum and ask my helper to try to teach Caden simple ABC and numbers. I should have taught him myself but I didn’t have the patience to do it. On the other hand, Dawnne could sit and talk to Caden for 2 hours at a go. My mom and I were equally amazed that Caden reacted and bonded so well with Dawnne. After observing and engaging Caden in a spectrum of activities, Dawnne gave me a report on her professional opinion of Caden’s abilities.
Her main education model is based on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory. She has also incorporated a few other educational methods and theories which she found effective when she was teaching as a preschool teacher. Dawnne observed that Caden has Logical-Mathematical Intelligence and he learns through exploring and observing. He also had Musical Intelligence whereby he learns through information presented with rhythm and melody. After the report was out, I understood Caden a lot better. He loves to ask questions and will ask WHY, WHY and more WHYs. For a parent who has no patience, I usually walk away before I get angry or attempt to shut him up. This is because he needs to understand the process of things before he is convinced that they work this way. Caden is also very observant. During car rides, he would always look out of the window and report to us the on-goings, like there were 3 taxis in front of us and there were a lot of cranes when we passed Port of Authority of Singapore. Caden also loves to sing. He will teach my helper how to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and also dances when Barney comes on to TV. He loves Pororo too. All these programs have a music element to guide children to learn. You know, I don’t have to teach Caden because his best teachers are Barney, Pororo and Cbeebies. I was so afraid that Caden hates Chinese but now he sings Chinese songs and forces my helper to sing with him but my helper, who is Indonesian, begged him to stop because she didn’t understand Chinese.
Actually, I wanted to read Dr Amy Chua’s book and use her tactics on my children, but after seeing that my teaching methods do work, I realized that what I needed to do as a parent is that I must never, never give up on my child and that I must understand and nurture my child’s innate capabilities and not mold them into A-scorers. As long as they are happy in what they are doing and excel in it, I am happy too. I don’t think I can be a Tiger Mom because I don’t have the heart of stone. Your children are individuals and they will be individuals whether you like it or not. With so much of information on the World-Wide Web, they are going to learn faster, better and be more informed than you. I agree with Dawnne that we have to appreciate that our children are individuals and guide them along as individuals by focusing on their interests and analyze what is the best for him or her. Talk is cheap, action is gold. Be an informed parent to your child. They don’t need a tigress, they need an ally to help them become the best they can be.
I thank Dawnne for the inputs she gave for this post. I heard about multiple intelligences but never really read about it, so Dawwne’s observation and professional inputs towards Caden’s nature and interests helped a lot and now I understand him much better. If you need to learn more about your child’s potential, it is good to have a session with her. Her website is www.purplebubble.com.sg. Give yourself and your child a chance at growing up normally and reaching his or her fullest potential. Dawnne does not do marketing or advertising but because she is giving inputs as a professional and friend for my post, I thought it is only deserving that I mention her at the end of this post. Thanks old pal!