The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, leaving marks on all our lives. I’ve had my fair share. My husband’s income got reduced by half. The kids were confined indoors during the CB (circuit breaker) lockdown period and started HBL (home-based learning). I authored a book and started a social enterprise to support mothers. Masks have become an entirely new necessity. My brother did not come back from Dubai for Christmas as he usually does.
But perhaps the greatest impact made by this global pandemic is the acceleration of the digital economy. The new reality is that this digital age has redefined success and is here to stay. The sooner we embrace the technological advancements, the faster we can leverage opportunities to our advantage. It is even changing how we parent our kids.
Then and Now
I was brought up in an era where the route to success began with good grades at school, leading to a place in a good university, which would pave the way to a good job (e.g. doctor, lawyer, engineer), in order to provide for a good life. My ‘tiger mum’ sent me for various tuition classes and piano lessons. Her intentions were good — to give me an edge in life. I studied for the sake of results, not for the joy of learning. When I finally graduated, I was so relieved, and so lost. All that education did not prepare me for life. What was I to do now?
The truth is: our transition into the digital age in one generation means that many of us are still bringing up our children using yardsticks that our own parents measured us against. Except that, just maybe, those yardsticks might be a little outdated?
Our kids have the fortune of growing up in a world where a university degree isn’t the only passport to success. Traditional professions are becoming obsolete and new ones are springing up virtually out of thin air. With information now readily available online, my father’s marine hardware middleman business was squeezed out of profits. At the same time, relevant influencers — some just kids! — make more money than many with an MBA today.
With the world being more connected, the skillset that our offspring need is not the expert regurgitation of facts. As a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein goes, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of minds to think.”
Parenting in the Digital Age
So, let’s stop to think, shall we? Success used to be defined by the attainment of the 5 C’s: cash, car, condo, credit cards, and country clubs. I achieved it all yet was left ironically unfulfilled.
I have decided not to send my children on a quest for material gains and specific professions. Why waste 20 years of their lives chasing an irrelevant stereotype when it may not give them happiness and satisfaction? Instead, I desire and strive to break away from the deeply etched notions I was brought up with.
These school holidays, binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix got the kids interested in chess. It even inspired my six-year-old to challenge her older sisters, two of whom want to be actors. My eldest, a J.K. Rowling fan, spent most of her time writing a book as she connected with her passion to create fantasy fiction.
Two years ago, I would have filled their holidays with homework. Today, I am more interested in creating spaces where they can commune with their inner compasses of joy.
Redefining the Stepping Stones to Success
What if success is measured by one’s contribution to society? We would take more time to discover our individual geniuses, and work on our innate strengths. Why not raise a generation of children who are securely anchored in their personal talents, living a purposeful life who are making worthwhile contributions, and finding fulfilment in doing so?
The race each will run is unique. After all, how do you compare a teacher with a scientist or a counsellor with a surgeon? Each is a respectable occupation, all in service to our world. How could you deem one less successful or more valuable than the other?
(See also: Sibling Rivalry Across Two Generations)
Life shouldn’t be a competition. And if my kids need to compete with someone, it shouldn’t be with their classmates, siblings, or my younger self. The only person I want my kids to compete with is themselves.
Life is a celebration of the diversity of who we are each born to be. Take time — and give your children time — to discover their individual passions and interests. Encourage them to enjoy learning for the sake of understanding their world, not merely for performance.
Rather than sending them on the blind pursuit of grades, help them acquire essential skillsets to set them up for success on their unique journeys in life. These include creative thinking, the ability to connect the dots, and in-depth appreciation of cause and effect. Empower them with a healthy self-image to anchor them when they face storms along the way. Offer challenges and allow them to fail so that they can build resilience and perseverance.
Raise Successful Kids Despite the Pandemic
Billionaire Warren Buffet has another take on this. He measures success by the strength of his personal relationships, if people he cares about love him back. If we did the same, we would spend more time connecting and empathising with others instead of categorising and compartmentalising one another.
As we usher in a new year with vaccines on the horizon, don’t let the COVID-19 pandemic leave only negative impact on your life. Instead, inject yourself with new perspective and redefine the definition of success for you and your kids.
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