I was at Kinokuniya on Tuesday looking for new books for my son. Then I decided to get one for myself on parenting. It’s been awhile since I last read from a hard copy book eversince I read the soft copy version through Kindle app on my iPhone. The only downside is I couldn’t read in front of my son because then he would think I am using my phone continuously when I am trying to reduce significantly his screen time. I don’t want him to think that if Mummy can use gadgets, why can’t I?
So anyway, I picked up “The Danish Way of Parenting” book by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. The former is an American mom married to a Dane while the latter is a Danish psychotherapist, also a mom. I chose the book because (1) it’s located in the best-seller section so it should be good and (2) just by flipping the pages I saw that the book relates to how the brain works which is something that I have always wanted to understand so that I can make informed decisions on what’s best for my son rather than just relying on what other mothers do.
I’m only halfway through the book but a lot of the things the authors said reminds me of how my parents brought me up. They are not Danish nor they are wealthy, but they have raised me successfully to be resilient and always positive, or as the book defined – a realistic optimist. These are the core characteristics that the Danes would instill in their children.
They don’t use praise as a default response when the kids achieve something but instead focus on the process or effort the children put in. By doing so, they believe that the children will understand that it’s the perseverance that matters most, not the innate ability. Too much praise will give the children the wrong motivation to be successful – i.e. to yearn for acknowledgement and praise, not because they willingly want to be successful. The idea is to mould the children’s inner drive so that they know that they are in control of their lives when shit happens. Of course in reality you can’t run away from being affected by external factors such as environment or fate, but those are beyond your control. But when shit happens, we know that only we can help ourselves and steer back our lives to the right directions.
As I reflect back, I remember, when I was young, my parents never forced me to study hard. I remember, they didn’t tell me which degree course I should take. I did it willingly, and I always found myself happy studying. When I didn’t get an A like I always do (not bragging but trying to paint the picture here), I remember my late dad always said, “It’s okay, I know you will get it the next time, even if you don’t get it the next time, I know you will try harder and not give up until you get it”. Not just when I was young but also when I’ve started working and doing my CFA exams. I wasn’t among the ones who pass all CFA exams at one go, so when I failed the 2nd level for the first time, I remember my late dad said just before I opened my results, “It’s okay, I know you will pass, even if you don’t pass, I know you will keep trying and eventually pass”. And that’s all that matters to me and I eventually earned my CFA charter. I passed the 2nd level the second time I sat for the exam. Failed the 3rd and final level the first time too but passed the second time.
So I never felt the pressure from them, any pressure that I have all comes from within, which is not necessarily a good thing too but it is something that I have learned over time, to set realistic expectations. One thing to note is that, every willingness comes from a driving force. Something must have fire you to be willingly, to be wanting the success. For me, when I was young, while it wasn’t my parents forcing directly, it was the environment that I was living in that shaped my desires. My mom was the bread winner and she worked tirelessly, she was an adopted child who never got the chance to study, she could only hide under the table to do her homework when she can. Had she was given the opportunity, she may have earned a degree or even got the chance to study overseas, like me and her life may have been different. So ever since young, I vowed to work hard, to be successful, especially when I was given all the opportunities to study, unlike my mom and most importantly to always bounce back from whatever life throws at you.
I hope I could instill this upbringing to all my children (when I have more). I hope the kiasu in me will not drive them crazy, something that I must be mindful of. I shouldn’t set any expectations, but I should inspire them instead. They must earn their own driving force.