In many schools in Indonesia, December is the end of the first semester, marked by the distribution of students’ academic reports followed by the end-of-year holiday. During this time, parents with children studying from kindergarten to high school are invited to attend parent-teacher meetings at school, to discuss their children’s progress during the semester.
On such occasions, it is common that parents share with each other regarding their children’s achievements, indicated by marks as written in the report. For schools that apply a ranking system, the discussion includes a child’s position in his or her class as shown in his or her rank. In social media, some parents praise their children for making them happy with their good marks, which make them love their children even more.
In general the atmosphere is more about the academic result than the process. A child’s good academic performance is equal to successful parenting.
Back in my school days, I remember a friend approaching me to share how sad she was as she had not got the expected marks, which meant that she had failed to please her parents. Another friend told me how scared she was to meet her parents as she realized that she had got some red marks in her report. In Indonesian schools, bad marks are normally written in red. Another one said that she was stressed when her parents blamed her for not working hard enough so that she ranked low in her class.
“Work hard” is a typical formula parents and teachers tell children on how to succeed in academia. Unfortunately, this formula does not work for all. Some students work hard and get good grades.
Others work hard for ages but they still never make it, and worse they are labelled as either stupid or lazy by friends and people who should actually support them — their parents and teachers.
The education system contributes to this situation as it does not accommodate everyone’s needs. The system generally operates to meet the needs of the majority, be they those with certain intellectual capabilities or those who are able to follow certain learning methods. In many schools in Indonesia, the learning method is usually the directive one combined with a poor teacher-student ratio. In public schools, class sizes may reach 40 students or more.
A parent’s demands of their children may not end when they grow up and finish studying. The list may go on with parents expecting their children to have a good life, which for some is narrowly defined in terms of material wealth.
As life may take people in different directions, in a family some children may perform well in academia and later have a good life, while others struggle and fail to meet their parents’ expectations. It is very unwise that in such a situation some parents compare one child’s achievement with another and develop inferiority complexes in the less “successful” one.
It seems to me that in such a case parents’ love of their children is conditional, dependent on what the children can give in return for what their parents do (and spend) for them.
Of course, there are many wise parents who do not count up what they do for their children. They accept their children as they are and do not demand anything beyond their capabilities. These parents give their children unconditional love and support. Their love is not determined by the children’s success or failure, whatever these may mean.
As parents we have to motivate our children to fulfill their potential and to do their best. Nonetheless, we have to be sincere with ourselves whether we encourage our children to do the best for their own sakes or whether we actually push them to fulfill our unmet dreams.
There is no single formula on how to be a good parent. As a parent myself I found that parenting is a learning process and a journey to becoming a better person. As a lecturer, I also learn something every time I meet my students and their parents to discuss various issues in academia and the circumstances which affect the students’ academic performances. This enriches me both as a parent and a lecturer.
I wish my children to be happy and “succeed” in their lives. I agree with Jennie S. Bev who wrote that “Success is a mindset — it is not a journey or a destination, it is within you” (The Jakarta Post, Dec. 6, 2012, “Diaspora, love and equality”).
Indraswari, FISIP Unika Parahyangan
JAKARTA POST, Jan 2, 2013, p4