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What two words do Asian parents say most to their children?

19 Dec 2014

Dr Josephine Kim_1

Dr Josephine Kim from the Harvard Graduate School of Education was one of the speakers at the parent seminar, “Helping Children Flourish - Growth in Resilience, Empathy and Hope”, organised by the Ministry of Education.

Retired principal Mrs Jenny Yeo shares about a holistic development of children, discussed by education experts during a Parent Seminar, “Helping Children Flourish - Growth in Resilience, Empathy and Hope”, organised by the Ministry of Education.


Are school results an accurate indicator of your child’s ability and character? In some cultures, school results are a clear indicator of whether a child is growing up well. But in Asia, a child may be doing brilliantly in school and yet suffer from socio-emotional issues. One of the speakers at the seminar, Dr Josephine Kim from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, shared about this.

A student who is doing poorly in school will generally trigger the alarm bells of teachers and parents. On the other hand, a student with excellent academic results who is unable to socialise with others may raise a few eyebrows but yet not come across as someone who needs help. As a result, the underlying problems are not addressed and such children may not do well in life and in society.

Dr Kim highlighted six aspects of a balanced and healthy child: intellect, physical, emotional, moral, spiritual and social. If a child is too focused on one aspect, he or she might be overstimulated in this area and under developed in another area, which are both undesirable.

Most parents are concerned with their child’s academic results. When we see our child after a day of school, the first thing we often ask them is, “Do you have any homework?” Instead, a better question we could ask our child after school would be, “What’s the highlight of school today?” or “Did anything special happen in school today?”

Play seems to have a bad name for Asian parents. Even when we buy presents for our children, educational games are often seen to be the “right” choice. Another speaker at the Parent Seminar, Dr Maureen Neihart, an Associate Professor and Head of Psychology at the National Institute of Education (NIE), emphasised the importance of doing something fun daily and weekly.  She advocates consciously scheduling at least two hours a week doing fun activities with one’s child to build up positive emotions and resilience. Watching TV does not count though! 

An article Taking Play Seriously explains that play is critical for a child to thrive.  Play provides the opportunity for a child’s creativity and imagination to blossom. Through play, children learn to solve problems, make decisions and this helps them to develop socially, emotionally and physically.

Sleep is also important for children. Did you know that a pre-schooler and a teenager need the same amount of sleep? This is about 10 to 12 hours a day. Sleep deprivation (i.e. less than six hours a day) makes a child more prone to depression and this could lead to other problems.

So remember to let your child play and rest. If you are wondering what two words most Asian parents use on their children, it is “go study”. This may be necessary but should be used in moderation. Parents would do well to let their children know that they have their parents’ unconditional love, regardless of their school results or what they achieve.