Your child's total development should be your top priority.
For a few minutes I want you to imagine yourself as a sixteen-year-old boy or girl. You’ve just entered Form 5 and you’re doing eight subjects for CSEC. You’re in school from about 7:30am to 3:00pm every day and then you have extra lessons from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. You then have to complete homework from your eight teachers at school and your 4 lessons teachers. When you finally finish all your homework, it’s about 10:30 p.m. You try to go to bed at 11:00 p.m. but although you are very tired from such a long day at school and lessons, you don’t fall asleep until around 12:30 a.m. You wake up to your mom banging on your bedroom door at 5:30 a.m. because if you don’t leave home by a certain time, you won’t beat the traffic and you will make everyone late. On the way to school, your parents lecture you about going to bed too late and they remind you that CXC is around the corner so you need to get more serious if you want to get ones. They then inform you that you will no longer be going to football practice until exams are over because you “cannot be wasting time playing no football when you have CXC coming up.”
Oh and it’s only Tuesday.
I hope that this scenario sounded so dramatic to you that it was very hard to imagine. The sad reality though, is that this is the day in the life of many children, and not only children in Form 5. This is a typical day for children as young as 10 years old. We are putting way too much pressure on our children. We are overdoing it. We’ve been overdoing it. It’s no wonder that so many kids are suffering from major burnout and having serious mental health issues.
Our kids’ academic careers are very important and it is our duty to ensure that they are educated. Actually, it is law that children receive formal education. But in our one-sided thinking about education being mainly about academics, we neglect so many critical elements that ensure the holistic development of our children. Yes, getting a high-school diploma is important. Yes, your academic education puts you in an advantageous position for life outside of school, especially in the working world. But what good is any of that if we don’t equip our children with the other tools and skills that they need to properly function in the real world.
Are we teaching our kids that you should only strive to produce good results regardless of if that comes at the expense of our mental, physical, emotional and social well-being? Are we teaching our kids that their worth is directly related to their work? Is it that taking breaks and getting good rest should not be priorities? This is exactly what we do when we put so much pressure on our kids to achieve academic success and act as though the grade that they get on a Maths test at 10 years old is some indication of how well they will do in life. Even CXC CSEC grades serve as no real indicator of future success. I know many incredibly successful and wealthy people who didn't do well in school but who used their unique skills and gifts to lead very fulfilling lives.
Many of our unhealthy habits and beliefs as adults began when we were children - our toxic relationships with work, our mismanagement of stress, the low priority with which we treat our health and well-being, the way we attach our self-worth to the type of job that we do and so much more. We need to do better for our children.
We need to focus on developing our kids holistically. We need to be honest with them about what really matters in life and stop over-inflating the things that don’t. This is not to say that we don’t have high expectations of our children or that we move to La-La Land. But we need to help them to build healthy skills and traits such as accountability, self-awareness and grit. We need to show them that their education far exceeds what happens in the classroom or their academic acumen. Your education never ends - it is a lifelong process. We need to cultivate a love for learning in our kids. And putting unnecessary stress on them to achieve academic success at the expense of their happiness and health, does the exact opposite.