Sunday, July 26, 2015

From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate (II): 5 Learnings on How to Let a Child Fly

Color Art by Lim's son

By Seow Lim*

One of the most valuable teachings I learned while working to improve my relationship with my 13-year old son was that I should let him fly by himself instead of trying to fly for him. On my first blog (From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate : A Little Story on How Povi was conceived) I wrote about how I found my path on helping him to be well-balanced, self-motivated and happier. Throughout the process I understood what he wants to be, and how I could maximize his interests and potentials, versus trying to mold him into what the test-driven economy that I had believed in. Essentially, I got to know him better, his own personality and needs.

Here are five of the lessons I've learned, that I want to share with you:

The Creative Power of Free Time:

Not having free time was stressful or him. He did not know his full potential, nor did I, because he was mostly becoming an automated follower of routines. With free time in his hands, I have a kid who can explore his various interests and expands on them.

With free time, he cooks dinner for us once a week. He took a Cooking class for a semester in his school. He started making banana cake, quesadilla, fried rice, wantons. His cooking is better than mine! His attention to details is great– cutting in the best shapes possible, following instructions of the recipe appropriately. He has so much sense of achievement that he has volunteered to make dinner for our family.

Next year he is taking global cuisine in school. I am looking forward to it. It will be delicious!
He has grown in self confidence, self regulation, caring for others with this new skill that he has mastered. I now have a son who is so much more independent and take the initiative in caring for his family. I am so proud of what we achieved together.

Wonton soup, made by Lim's little chef

Decision Making Autonomy

I now let him decide how he wants to occupy his time. Before, I thought that he should be excelling on the areas he liked, such as Mathematics. So he started to attend to the advanced class. If Language and Arts were his weaknesses, why not to take more writing and reading classes? The result backfired: for a period of time he didn’t even like Math anymore because he had to solve difficult problems, so he felt extremely challenged and stressed.

When I realized that I was not in the right direction, I cancelled his after-school classes, and told him to decide to either relax or choose how he would like to spend his time time. After few days he told me he liked Math, Science and Computer programming. He also told me he was curious about C programming. Then we went online and look for courses in Introduction to C Programming. He took an online course offered by Stanford University. We let him do it at his own pace, with no pressure. He got started to be able to organize his schedule, spending 30 min – 1 hour a day on it.

He then went to to find Math problems to challenge himself. He got so excited that he reached a certain level with the various categories. Now, these Math problems are shared with his friends. He is also starting to write online novels with his friends. He enjoys free-range creativity, not wanting to be tied down by the writing homework… I let his creativity fly…. and he achieves much more because he is self-motivated.

Discovering New Potentials

My son had always told me that he hated sports. I used to sign him up to basketball lessons, martial art lessons, soccer lessons and had to cancel them after a few classes because he just got really mad when the schedules arrived and we got into arguments why I had to let him learn all these stuff that he didn't like. I have since stopped trying to 'encourage' him to like sports "my" way.

After I stopped filling his days up with activities, one day, he came home from school and told me he got in second place in sprinting in his Physical Education class. It didn't take him long to realize he was good on that so that his track and field teacher invited him to join the track team. Instead of telling him that he should join, I asked him, "I thought you said you hated sports, you sure this is what you want to do?" I no longer wanted to push him to like sports "my" way, it is up to him to discover how he wants to spend his time.

He decided to try out for it, so he was in the track team. Then he realized that he could do hurdles, shot put and long jump too. I asked him why he thought he was good at this? He said: "Because I think I have a physics calculator in my brain. I calculate how it will work most optimally and it turn out to be exactly how I imagine it to be".

Exploring New Interests

One day in June, he told me he wanted to try to build a PC. We decided that perhaps we trade off our Summer trip to letting them build something that they want to use. I let my husband be the good guy. This was a great decision. Even my 7-year-old boy participated in helping his brother in building it. They both took one whole weekend, reading through manuals, figuring out what to do.

Now my teen boy knows a lot about PC components and performance. He built his own Google site to help other friends in the neighbourhood to build their own PCs at the lowest cost. He has listed the PC he has built on eBay hoping to sell it so that he could build another one! He handles all the RMA and returns needed when he ordered the wrong parts or when he received faulty components too.

I am so happy about his drive to learn and distribute his knowledge. He grew up in self-confidence, self-motivation, empathy, sharing and helping others. And he wouldn’t give up until he got the PC working.

Counting on Supportive Parents 

What role did I play in his growth? What did I gain for myself? I am now a lot less stressed because I no longer have to run his life and his schedule. His academic achievement is still important to me but I don’t have to drive him because he is self-motivated. I just need to be around, listen to his needs and wants, and give him the support he needs.

I put my smartphone away when he wants to talk to me, I give him my complete attention. I analyze the pros and cons with him, and let him make the final decision. I realize that without free time for him and me to understand each other, we are just running around like chickens with our heads cut off, busy, stressed, bad relationship.

Now I ask him thought provoking questions everyday like "If you had a time machine for a day, what would you do with it?" "Is there any natural leader in your class? What do you think a leader needs to do?" By listening to him attentively, I understand how he perceives others, what his true interests and passions are (yes I have to listen attentively the very technical analysis such as why a PC is much better than a MAC because of ...) .

But the most important progress is that he wants to share everything with me now. He wants my opinions on all his analysis. He has made it a habit to discuss with me every day. The quality of time we spent together is extremely high. His teachers are so impressed with his happiness level and well rounded improvements. (I am no longer concerned about his happiness so I am back working on with the help of our fabulous team on our social mission to help parents develop wholesome, well balanced, healthy and happy kids).

I let him fly by himself so he realizes that he can go farther and higher.

* Seow Lim is POVI's creator and founder. Get to know more about POVI

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