Trisha Reloaded

Dedicated to Trisha, as always. Dedicated also to L, my source of inspiration, and the reason why I choose to see the bright side of teaching.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Being a Parent-Coach

Being a parent of an 8-year old girl, I'm often asked by other parents if my girl is taking this or that lesson. Like, is she taking piano, swimming, or ballet lessons? Does she go for abacus lessons, or Kumon (since she's struggling with Maths in school) or Speech and Drama (since she's quite shy)?

The answer is, No. Other than a ballet class which lasted barely 1 year, my daughter has not attended any extra-curricular or enrichment classes taught by professional teachers and coaches. Going by modern, middle-class parenting standards, this is quite an anomaly, especially since I have only one child and many would assume it is my duty to pour as much resources as I can afford on her. Some parents have reacted with a bit of shock at my lax attitude towards what they deem to be essential developmental classes for children which would give them a headstart in life. Why would an educated parent like me not invest in my child's development by having her learn a skill from a professional?

To be honest, I struggle with this question quite a bit. Not least because I see practically every kid I know of learning piano, earning silver or gold awards for swimming etc. There are 2 main reasons why my girl is not one of them.

1) She has no interest in attending classes taught by strangers. She is, by nature, wary and shy towards strangers. This could be both a strength and a weakness, but for now, rather than force her to attend a class, I prefer to not force her if she feels uncomfortable about it.

The seond reason is more important to me, and it is this:
2) I believe, as far as possible, that the parent should be the coach, rather than an external, unfamiliar person who doesn't know your child's personality, needs and insecurities. I think many parents either claim they don't have the time, or the skill to teach their child, say swimming, and so outsource it to a swimming coach but I would like to challenge parents to make the time to teach your child something that you do know, or if you don't know how to swim, attend a swimming class together with your child! After all, if you feel swimming is important for your child to learn, then what excuse do you have for not knowing how to swim?

My daughter has told me unequivocally that she wants ME to be her coach and I have not regretted the moments we have shared while I teach her whatever skills I have. I have taught her how to play badminton (she's in the school's Badminton Club now), tennis, table-tennis, pickle-ball, and even the recorder. Just last week, she learnt how to cycle on a 2-wheel bike, thanks to Mama Coach. We are still working on swimming, which would take a longer time since it necessitates a more troublesome visit to a public pool.

What are the benefits of being a parent-coach? Well, I can't quantify the value of parent-child bonding. Unlike a coach who may use a more demanding and impersonal teaching style on my child, my girl and I have mostly lots of fun in the teaching and learning process, and the sense of achievement and thrill when your child has mastered something - like hitting a smash in badminton - is shared by both the learner and the teacher in a way which is more meaningful and memorable than getting a tangible acknowledgement like a certificate.

At the end of the day, I want my daughter to have fond memories of the times we had when "mummy taught me how to cycle". If you outsource most of these to external parties, then it is a real pity I feel. Of course, I am no pro and I may not be teaching my child the correct methods. But since I am not too concerned about raising an Olympic champion, I think I can live with such imperfection. She can always go on to learn from a proper coach later on once the interest is ignited by me.

Lest you think I'm disdaining such external classes, I must emphasize that I do see the role of these classes to teach various skills at a more professional level. By all means, enrol your child in such classes if you feel your child needs the discipline and rigours of proper training. But do not neglect the importance of being a parent-coach. Some skills can be learnt in a more relaxed way, and I'd bet if you ask your child, he may just tell you he won't mind having you as a coach.

There are 6 weeks in the year-end holidays. Ample time for your child to learn a new skill. Why not teach your child something? Then when your child utters, "My Daddy taught me this!", you'll know it's all worth it!

"Parents are the pride of their children." Proverbs 17:6b.