What does it really take to raise a high flyer?

Recent news reports highlight the huge amounts of money some parents spend on training for their children to develop social skills and leadership qualities. Many parents sign up their young ones for a wide array of enrichment classes and experiential learning.

But is it really beneficial to pack our kids’ schedules with classes, or to cram their young minds with as many lessons and experiences as possible?

In his book The Hurried Child, David Elkind expounds on the importance of spontaneous play for children in fostering interpersonal and social smarts. In fact, he advises parents to allow their children to be children, and not leapfrog the childhood phase altogether. Emotional maturation is a gradual process that begins in childhood and continues through early childhood. Overzealous parents seeking to accelerate this process through external coaching may have to contend with their child developing anxiety from the pressures of meeting certain expectations. This will in turn hinder a child’s sense of identity, sense of agency, willingness to try new things, and take the joy away from truly learning and enjoying a subject.

It is more pertinent to remember that children look up to parents not just as authority figures, but also models to teach them how to respond to the world around them. To truly raise a high flyer, parents need to recognise that the everyday things they do at home matter. Giving their child small responsibilities, connecting with them, affirming them when they do well, confronting conflict with courage, and modelling the right values – all of these contributed to building a strong sense of identity, self-esteem and resilience in children.

I believe that while the acquisition of learning skills is very important, children also need to acquire good behavioural skills and values. This is largely done through observation and modelling after patterns of behaviour from adults. Thus, parents must first be good role models for their children, instead of obsessing over sending their children to various enrichment classes and programmes to develop social smarts.

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