With exams either round the corner or going on – half the mothers in this country are going mad with unnecessary anxiety and stress. I am suddenly in the middle of six kids and three mothers who are all gearing up for their half yearly exams. All the kids are below ten years of age, and you as an outsider would wonder how could their exams be such a mega event in their lives. As a theory you want to believe that these kids just need to ‘chill’ and enjoy their lives – while exams and all should just happen by the way. But I am taken by a rude shock when I see these mothers panicking like maniacs and over exaggerating the importance of these exams. No one is bothered about creating the right base for their children – all of them are just obsessed about performance. And it has compelled me to make my mental notes of things I am going to keep in my mind while my little one is growing up and the foundation of his or her intelligence is being laid.
1. Build a base that is strong and long lasting. And not the one that cannot survive beyond the exam time.
What’s the point if your child has by hearted a long spelling and written it right in the exam papers when basic words like ‘and’ and ‘the’ he is still struggling to read? As you go up the ladder, you are not going to cut off those lower steps.. Once you reach the top what’s the point if the two sticks open up because you have cut all the joints on your way up – you will fall down very badly. Teach your self and your children the importance of understanding words versus by-hearting them. You learn a language so that it can equip you to communicate in this world and not because you need to prove to someone that you know the big and complicated words.
2. An ‘A++’ or a 100% in exams doesn’t guarantee a healthy mind.
Are the school grades all that matter? A child may be naturally intelligent and scoring well in the exams – but overall is a very cranky and disobedient child. So then have you failed or succeeded as a parent? In your bid to show off to others how intelligent your child is, you have very conveniently ignored that the misbehaviour will also be noticed and you certainly need to get that right as well.
3. A grade at the cost of what?
A mother was so obsessed about their kids getting all the answers right in the exam that she made them study for hours a day before – shouted, black mailed and even beat them up if they failed to give all right answers. In the exam, the poor child was so much under pressure that the minute he realised he didn’t know an answer – he started crying uncontrollably. On being coaxed by the teacher, he confessed that he was feeling guilty of letting his mother down. Is that what we really want? And then we say that young children are getting heart attacks – where is the world leading! No other generation was ever under so much pressure of competition and performance.
4. Do not compare and certainly not demotivate.
Look he is so intelligent, look she is so smart – did your that friend know all the answers? How was this ones’ paper? — Never ever ask these sort of idiotic questions. How should it matter to you how are the others performing? You are teaching your child to do the same. Let him know that life is about getting better and better. And not about getting better than others. You are taking away from him his ability to value himself and that of his ‘individuality’
5. Teach them that learning is a life long process and not an exam centric thing.
You ask a child one question outside the book and they quickly answer – this is not going to be asked in the exam. So what? Isn’t this ever going to be useful in your life? Teach your child that learning is a life long process and exams are just a small, insignificant part of that mega project. So something that may not be a part of this exam, will be a part of the bigger exam of life. So don’t impart in their minds the wrong idea of living and studying for the exams – then you are helping him score better – rather you are stunting his overall growth.
6. Make learning a way of life and not just a exam thing – Work on your life and not according to the syllabus.
You wake up one day, because we are ten days away from the exam and start sitting down to study with your child – not so cool. All this while your kid was going to school, scribbling some things in the book you never bothered to read or check. And suddenly when one day the alarm bell rang – you want to start studying with your child. He is so used to watching TV for three hours everyday and suddenly you want him to give that all up and take his exams seriously. He is just a child. He doesn’t know how to get stressed about situations yet. For him, exams are not that big a thing. He will still love doing the things he has been doing everyday of his life. Why can’t we concentrate on developing good habits since the beginning and forever. Why do we over do things all the time? Over do TV viewing because we want him out of our way when we are finishing our work and then over doing studying because now he should know everything that is going to be asked in the exams. Work on your life and not on the syllabus.
7. Everyone is not going to come first.
No one wants to be second! Now this is human nature – everyone wants to win. But there must be some way to make a child understand that everyone is not going to be first in class. And what is there about coming first in class? You know some things and you don’t know some others. Even if you have studied it all, and understood it all – there could be spellings you forget or sums you miscalculate – and it should be allowed. Don’t make getting full marks your obsession. Your child will get stuck in that tornado and then never get out of it. Let him believe that exams are just about giving us a reality check as to where we stand. And once we know that, we can work accordingly to get better at the things we find difficult. Nothing to get disheartened about if we get a few answers wrong and there is someone in class who gets it all right. And before the child, you as the mother needs to get this right.
8. Your child’s mark sheet is not a validation for your motherhood.
Don’t subject yourself to believe that only if your child scores well in exams will you prove yourself to be a good mother. These things have absolutely no connection at all. If you happen to have a dyslexic child and you provide an environment for him to flourish – letting him score low marks, but build his self confidence and other skills – you are doing very good as a mother and need to patted on the back. Your child may be hardly scoring well in exams, but that is irrelevant because he is joyous in life – and in the end that is all that matters.
9. Your child was not born to take your redemption.
Everyone has some regrets about their childhood or about themselves. And they often see their children as means to fulfil those unfulfilled desires. Someone wanted to be an engineer, but her father didn’t have money to get her an admission in a decent engineering college. She pursued BSc and decided she will never let her child have to compromise like this – Great that she wanted to give the best to her child. What she started expecting was that she would make her daughter an engineer when her daughter wanted to do mass media. What’s the point? You force your dreams on them and they again grow up with regrets – is there ever going to be an end to this? You couldn’t come first in class, you want your child to do that for you. Nonsense!! Let them be. Let them dream and follow their dreams; not yours. Their purpose of existence is not to compensate for your failures but something else – and give them the freedom to explore what it is.
10. When the results are out – whatever the score – celebrate!!
Don’t over react if the teacher tells you that your child is the dumbest or the slowest child in the class. It doesn’t mean you have to go home and give him a mindful and then a series of restrictions or punishments. Take that as a challenge for yourself. Make it a mission to help your child, for the child’s betterment and not to prove the teacher wrong. First, accept that your child is slow and needs extra help. And then provide that extra help with a lot of compassion and not complaint. If your child is not understanding what is being taught – teach it to him in the way that he understands. Find interesting ways for your child. Don’t judge the little one and definitely do not belittle him. Give him a joyous environment at home, conducive for growth and tackle his issues with lot of love, patience and compassion. Forget marks – he will overall blossom better.