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星期四 2016年10月27號

【SCMP Education Post:Parenting Tips】Micro-managing kids and "checklisted" childhoods

Children should be able to lead varied and fulfilling lives with the freedom to make decisions for themselves. The modern world has meant that many parents have begun to micro-manage kids into leading predictable, pre-programmed lives, where making mistakes is frowned upon rather than seen as a sign of self-development …


I have spent the last four years consulting with thousands of wonderful Hong Kong families and I, myself, realise the financial and psychological commitment required to send a child to boarding school in the UK. I also realise what may spur Hong Kong parents into what may be construed as “over-parenting”. Who would not worry if their son or daughter was 6000 miles away?


That said, I am still positively reeling from a Ted Talk given by Julie Lythcott-Haims which focuses on how to raise successful kids - without over-parenting. According to Lythcott-Haims, there is a tendency for parents to “hover over every happening” and that they should be “micro-managing at every moment”.


The notion that children lead a “checklisted childhood” is hard to overlook. They have to be fed and watered, they have to go to dance class, get the right scores, top awards, partake in sports activities, start a club and even do community service. Lythcott-Haims mentions that kids have to perform at a level of perfection never seen before and that parents have assumed the role of “personal secretaries” rather than providers of love and affection.


Strong words, clearly, but should they be consigned to oblivion? Such structure may all be in the name of a child getting into an esteemed university and going on to have a career in the professions. Who would not like to attend Oxbridge or Harvard? Let us not forget, however, that this tiny handful of colleges denies almost every applicant and many successful people came from less prestigious institutions too. However, cramming for every test and parental pressure is perhaps less helpful for a child than leading a healthy life, following a balanced curriculum, discovery and freedom of choice.


Lythcott-Haims makes the point that kids often ask counsellors “what grades do I need to get into college?” and not “What might I be interested in?” Certainly, we do not want our children to burn themselves out and spiral into depression through putting material goals before spiritual goals and self-satisfaction.


Fortunately, British boarding schools have picked up on the “A* grades at all costs” frenzy and attempted to switch to a whole child approach to education where the Great Outdoors and a striving for happiness are vital elements of a child’s education. Importantly, children do not just hone their academic and character-building skills but also learn from their mistakes. I, for one, had to collect leaves from the playing fields after breaking boarding house rules and became a better and more grateful person for it.


We need to appreciate what boarding schools do for children and not get so bogged down with mark schemes and future careers. We also need to stray away from conversation based on academic successes. How far would the question “What was nice about lunch today” go in comparison with “What mark did you get in that Geography test”? Children will pick up on this and feel more loved for it. Indeed, the Harvard Grant Study actually found that happiness comes from love and human interaction as opposed to a love of work.


Another important point from the study, which Lythcott-Haims refers to, is that children need to contribute and do chores around the house early in life in order to foster a “pitch-in” mindset. This will bear fruit later on in life in terms of professional success and getting ahead in the workplace.


When it concerns Hong Kong children away at boarding school, parents may mean well by hiring online tutors, checking up on academic progress and general well-being via whatsapp and flying to the UK to be with children at half-term. However, where do we draw the line between being controlling and doing the right thing?


I have been to boarding school but I have not got children. As an empathetic person, I am on everybody’s side. However, we need to steer children towards self-efficacy, making mistakes and then learning from them and not getting too bogged down with structure and details.


When I consult with children and parents, I try to be as humanistic as possible. I ask children ‘do you have any friends in England?’ because compassion and interest in a person means so much more than academic talent and grades.


Hong Kong children are noted for being hardworking and studious and we do not want to lose that. We do, however, want to set them on “humanistic” path to self-discovery and self-efficacy.


Original article: 


1 寄宿百科 2 英國大學
3 談英國 4 赴英須知
5 赴英遊學 6 選校攻略
7 留英所得 8 親子關係
9 英名校大比拼 10 留英專家分享

陳思銘(Samuel Chan) 並非如一般外界人所認為的「富二代留學生」,家人數代都在流浮山經營海鮮買賣,父母學歷程度雖然不高,但努力工作賺錢把Samuel從小(9歲)就供養到英國寄宿學校格雷舍姆學院 (Gresham College)讀書,才能讓他早早就體會到英式教育優越全世界的原因。
Samuel Chan在留英之前亦都曾苦於在香港的教育體系中掙扎求存,但是香港朝令夕改的教育制度卻令他的成續止步不前,甚至感到老師也對自己失去興趣。直到接受英式教育後,他深深感受到兩地學制的差異:在英國,永遠是先發掘學生的興趣,再透過「興趣」作為推動其學習的原動力,釋放潛能。在英國,他獲得了使自己能夠表達自己並嘗試新事物的信心,最終以優秀的成續升讀英國頂尖的學府。
Samuel Chan留英長達15年,在諾定咸大學(University of Nottingham)獲得經濟學學士後,在華威大學(The University of Warwick)攻讀完政治經濟系碩士後回流香港。回流香港的Samuel鑑有感於香港教育制度無法充分釋放學生潛力,於是回流英國的他創辦了英識教育,以幫助更多有志留學英國的同學提供各類支援及顧問服務。
白手興手固然辛苦,但奮鬥數年英識教育終獲香港品牌發展局頒發「香港服務名牌」的升學教育中心,亦是同業首間獲此認證的品牌。後來,Samuel於2017年奪得「英國傑出校友獎」,該獎是英國文化協會及多家英國高等院校的共同構思,並由英國文化協舉辦,評選活動獲不少名人及王室人員支持及參與。可見,讓身為香港人的「陳思銘」的名字深深烙印在英國學術界傑出人仕的陳列櫃中。雖然事業受到肯定,但Samuel並不安於現狀,後來在2020年更創立Britannia Gateway 的學術培訓平台,提供更多元化的課程以幫助客戶適應英國課程。

論名氣,Oundle 未追得上 Eton、Wycombe Abbey 等頂級名校,但學校的學術成績在英國依然名列前茅。作為傳統名校,Oundle 非常重視全人發展,為學生提供多元課餘活動選擇。學校奉行英國碩果僅存的 House Dining System,或是令香港家長趨之若鶩的一大原因。
Bromsgrove 的師生比例是一比八,比一般的寄宿學校低。此外,綜合我曾到訪的學校,此校硬件設施之完善,可入選全英設備最佳的三大校園。校方不惜工本為學生提供舒適環境,甚至收購附近的酒店改建成宿舍,令宿生有名符其實的「五星級享受」。此校極具前瞻性,是國際化的英國宿校。
Brighton College 是英國首屈一指的私校,是香港家長最愛的寄宿學校之一。 看一間學校,除了教育宗旨、多元化活動、成績之外,更要看校長的魄力。十年前,校長 Mr. Richard Cairns 成為 Brighton College 校長後,把學校由全英國接近 150 名推至首 20 名。除了在教育方針上大力推動改革之外,也為了保持學生的求知慾而非常努力,是難得的好校長。
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