QUESTION: Hello Rose! I’m one of your followers and I always read your columns. I just read your latest article “Raising Performers” and it led me to write this email to ask for advice.
I know every child is different, and I’m so proud of what my son has become. He’s the sweetest, most thoughtful, and most loving child (of course I’m being biased). However, recently, his teacher told us that he’s shy during recitation and a little slow in following instructions and in writing. Although I believe that having super high grades is not the only basis of a successful life in the future, I still believe in education (even though I’m not that very pleased with the curriculum of this institution which is owned and run by nuns). Anyway, this teacher told us the problem, but I didn’t believe her simply because I know my son’s capabilities. Please note, ma’am, that I’m not blinded just because he’s my son. I’m really good at taking criticisms, but this one I can’t take. He’s doing really great when I’m the one who teaches him his lessons and he’ll even show me how it’s supposed to be done his way (in Math subject). He doesn’t have a tutor because my husband and I trust him so much. We can see that he can easily comprehend. We really believe that he doesn’t need one but his teacher made me think of actually getting one.
I’m confused, ma’am. How can a child be so different in school and at home? I always tell him that we’re not asking for a perfect scores or super high grades, we’re just asking him to give it his best shot in everything. He said he’s shy to raise his hand even though he knows the answer because he’s scared that if his answer is wrong, his classmates might laugh at him. So I told him there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. But he’ll just tell me that he knows that but he still doesn’t want to make a mistake (well, I really notice his being perfectionist sometimes). By the way, we treat him like an adult. He decides on his own with regard to the type of clothes, etc. We also ask for his opinion on matters like what should we do with his aguinaldos or where he wants to eat. He’s also a saver, ma’am, he’s not used to buying stuff as he always thinks first whether he needs it or not, but he likes to dine out a lot. I’m thinking, am I not a good parent? I feel like I’m not able to bring out the best in him. Please help me.
I apologize for the long email ma’am. Thank you so much for taking the time. I know you’ll be able to give an advice because you have three amazing sons. Thank you in advance and more power!
ANSWER: Hi Net, don’t apologize for your long email as I like hearing other parents’ stories. You didn’t mention your son’s age but your story sounds like he’s in his early grades. There was also no mention of a sibling so I assume he’s your only child. Here are some points you can ponder upon:
1. According to Dr. Honey Carandang, our country’s foremost psychologist, parents are always guilty about something in their parenting, especially mothers. This is because we’re so anxious to raise our children to be the best they can be, that we always think there must be something we’re missing. I admit there are still times I would say to myself, “Oh I should have done this to the boys when they were younger, etc.” It’s a good thing that as I got older (and hopefully, wiser), I’ve come to peace with my parenting with the thought that I’ve done my best and the rest is for them to carry out.
2. There are additional challenges that come with the practice of “One Child Policy” and it’s good for you to be aware of them. For one, your son does not have to compete for attention, toy, food, etc. in your home. Most of the time, unico hijos (and hijas) get everything they want. They get all the praises and rarely get criticisms. They’re also deprived of the training provided by conflicts such as conflict resolution, losing to someone in an argument, getting laughed at or mocked, things that happen in the outside world. I guess, he’s more comfortable giving it his best shot in solving Math problems at home because he knows that mom and dad won’t laugh at him if he makes a mistake. Another thing that you should be mindful of is the parents’ demands and expectations from an only child. Since he is your one and only master piece, it’s possible that you will expect more from him, unlike if you had multiple children, you may be content in saying, “Oh, son 1 is good in academics, son 2 in arts, son 3 in personal relationships.”
3. Give him opportunities to hang out with peers. I hear a lot of parents arrange playdates these days for their kids, usually kids of their own friends. It’s good if your son becomes friends with your friends’ kids, but please don’t force the issue, even if you have been BFFs since grade school. Personally, I still prefer more “unchoreographed” encounters. Check out your neighborhood, there may be kids his age that he can have meaningful interaction with. If you live in a safe neighborhood, just let him find his own friends. One of the things I’m thankful for is the fact that all my sons had their respective peer groups in our village and I allowed them to roam around, go to the playground while they were growing up. I hope you have something like this for your son. Avoid interfering too much if you and/or yaya have to accompany him to the park.
4. Listen to the clues that your son is showing. It is very similar to a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? Given these, what opportunities can you use for him to develop his gifts and display to the world (in this case, maybe his classroom). Remember, his teacher already has an impression of him being too shy and a bit slow. If you know in your heart that he’s not, then there’s just a wrong perception that you have to correct. Remember, in your son’s class, the teacher’s perception matters a lot. It sets the tone not only for the grades she will give him but also the learning opportunities he will be given. If this remains negative, it’s a threat to your son’s learning.
5. You mentioned that you’re not pleased with the curriculum of your son’s school. While he is studying there, do not criticize his school or his teacher in front of him. This gives him the excuse not to excel. Subconsciously, he’d say, “Mama says my teacher and school are no good, that’s why I’m not doing well.” Then study the curriculum and the teaching style closely. I believe that there should be a match in the teaching style of the school and the child’s learning style. If there’s a mismatch, it’s better to move out of the school. You may get insights from my book’s chapter on schools and this article What’s The Best School For My Son? (Insights applicable to daughters too!).
6. Show your son that you and daddy also make mistakes, that you can laugh about them and they don’t diminish your worth. Tell him stories of great persons who had to make mistakes in order to be great. Borrow my husband’s mantra to the boys, “If you learn how to lose, you will never lose.” Also be on the lookout for subliminal messages that you might be sending to your son that makes him very risk-averse. Making a mistake and being laughed at by classmates is a big risk in his present world.
7. Your child acts a certain way at home and another way when in school because human beings are affected by environment. This is related to no.6. See if learning is fun and conducive to risk-taking in school. Does he have friends in school he can count on, whether his answers are right or wrong? Also, since he’s doing so well when you’re the one teaching him at home, have you considered homeschooling?
8. I’m glad to hear that your son is a saver. This is a window of opportunity to his boost confidence. You can encourage him to save on a regular basis, complete with his own schedule of savings provided in my website (free download of The Magic of Compounding excel file) and a Balance Sheet. This will set him apart from his classmates and may remedy his shyness. Having a high FQ increases one’s self-confidence!
I hope the above help you handle your son’s shyness and also help you overcome your doubts about your own parenting. To answer your question “Am I a good parent?” you bet you are. A good parent is someone who does everything to bring out the best in his/her child, raise him to understand his unique set of strengths and weakness, so that in his adult life, he will find his true calling, his own point of intersection.
Cheers to parenting!
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: To those who, in one way or another, were inspired or motivated by any of my articles, books and talks, may I ask you to share your story with me? I’m planning a simple milestone birthday celebration (yup, I’m Gold which rhymes with Old!) on September 28, 2014 at 3 pm as a thanksgiving and launch of my latest book and new website and I’m allotting some slots for you guys. So who knows, if you’re available, you may want to come and celebrate with me? Send your email to FQMomm@gmail.com (that’s really a double m).