10 In parenting

Rage against the machine aka parenting in London

I’ve been a bit (more than usual) ragey against the machine lately. The machine that is the school system(s) and society and the world in general that we live in.

My 7-year old’s teachers say that some parents have asked for more homework for their kids. I burst out laughing and say “No, thanks, not needed for us.” Thankfully the teachers agree and smile with me.

My 10-year old has a large number of classmates who have been tutored for years and who are visibly tired and stressed and really mean to others.

What are parents* doing to the kids these days?  Seriously. Why can’t we just let them be?

“But the world is a competitive place these days.”
“But everyone else is being tutored so only those kids have a chance of getting into good schools.”
“But they need to learn that they have to work hard to get anywhere in life.”

But they are children.

They need to swim at their own pace and just enjoy the flow and scenery. Sometimes they need to just float and stare at the sun and not be rushed and pushed and graded and evaluated.

I keep telling my kids that they do have to try their best at school and be organised and pay attention, BUT that in the end it’s not their grades that matter in life – it’s the fact that they are NICE people that matters.

Manners, empathy, awareness of others around you, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, respecting that and finding it wonderful is what matters.

I want my boys to have self-confidence but not be macho alpha males who don’t think they ever do anything wrong or are the best in everything – academics or sports or whatever.

The world really does not need more alpha males who only care about grades, diplomas, certificates, scores, whom you know, how much stuff you have, etc. etc. etc.

The world needs creative, imaginative, happy, confident and empathic people.

Sometimes it seems utterly impossible to raise children like that in London. It’s a rat-race here from the get-go (i.e. out of the womb), but even though everyone around me seems to be screaming “they need to try harder / study more / get more awards / be more alpha”, I will try my hardest to let them go with their own flow. With guidance, some discipline (*some* is always needed), a lot of love and quite a bit of freedom, I truly believe they could be the creatives that run the world one day.

Let’s see if the machine wins in the end or if the future does belong to those who can think outside the box, who will keep some of their childhood imagination (the more the better, but how rare is that in adults these days!) and who are happy to swim at their own pace and don’t feel like they have to constantly sprint for one medal after another to hang up in their trophy cabinet for the world to see.

Rant over.

*Note that I’m talking about parents putting extra pressure on the kids. Schoolwork should be enough for kids and schoolwork for my kids of manageable and enjoyable. It’s all the extracurricular activities and competitions and extra work that parents put their kids through that’s driving me bonkers. It’s not unheard of in private schools that parents ask the teachers to test their kids more 😐

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  • Reply
    February 14, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    There are parents like that even on this little island of ours.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I love this post so much! Thank you.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I agree with Kerli as well, as I think Primary Education is fantastic, where we live, after you get used to differences from Estonian system. 🙂 It’s secondary education what parents worrying, because in lots of areas they separate high achievers(academic) from children who might not be so academic but they thrive in other areas. It will be age, when parents can’t influence their children as much as in primary age and everyone panics about environment your child will spend next 6-8 years. And they are hoping that children will mix “suitable” friends/schoolmates.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Contrary to your experience, I absolutely love the style of education in this country (from the state-run (not single sex private) primary school as we don’t know about secondary school life yet personally!) and specially because it is not the “rat race” for all sorts of tests, markings and being the best at everything. In the school I’m talking about, children have a fair amount of freedom to express themselves in all sort of creative ways, the subjects are made so interesting to them that I often want to join in myself! They are also encourage to think outside the box but still play by the rules. Everybody is encouraged to try their best and are helped to achieve more but not to the point where they are left stressed, disappointed or depressed. Most state-run primary school children here, as far as I have seen and heard, are highly motivated and love to go to school as opposed to many in Estonia, which don’t (where we are from).

    In my opinion it is possible to raise happy, creative, imaginative, confident and empathic kids in London. I think it is up to us, the parents, how much we decide to push our children and how much we demand from them, even if their teachers or schools or other parents trie to tell us otherwise.

    • Reply
      February 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      I’m not talking about school work/life/set-up, I’m talking about parents – parents putting extra work on their kids.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Agree. School has become such a different place since we were younger. Tests, quizzes and deadlines all the time! I am dreading frehman year in high school as I have heard horror stories. I am trying to cultivate a love of learning and self motivation to figure things out, but it’s difficult when learning seems to equivalent to passing or failing a test…

  • Reply
    February 12, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Oh, I totally agree with everything you said! I admit, I tutored my children, not from age 7 though. Just year before their 11+exam(Kent exam) and it was more to do to give them confidence to take the exam. I’m glad I’m full time working so I managed to avoid the pressure on the school playground before and after the exams. I wish we would have only comprehensive schools in here and everyone would go to the local school so you have good mixture of kids with different abilities like it is in real life. I try to notice what my children good at and what they enjoying doing and then help them show the way they could use those skills in their lives. Just take deep breath and don’t take any notice what people say , trust you guts and you’ll be just fin and your boys as well!

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