Once again, Singapore’s exam period is coming. For one cohort of students—and their parents—it will be an extra stressful time, as the PSLE exams are just round the corner.
So it was with great interest that I read a recent report on a minister urging parents to change their mindset about exams. He observed that examination grades should not be seen as the only way of defining a person.
I went to school well before the idea of streaming came about, so I have never seen fit to demand that my children be among the best and brightest at school. But I did cherish the desire that they would do well enough. And that’s when I discovered that I, too, could slip up when it came to handling education stress.
When my eldest son was growing up, he struggled in school and barely scraped through his exams. He was disinterested in his studies and would rather play with his friends. His teachers often contacted us, either to express concern about his grades or to complain about his lack of interest especially in Chinese and mathematics.
As my wife and I were weak in the Chinese language, we engaged a tuition teacher for him. But I decided that I could help him in maths myself.
I soon discovered, however, that it was hard motivating him to focus on the subject. Aside from being disinterested, he appeared to be unable to comprehend the problems. Often, I became impatient with him, losing my temper and shouting at him. Once, when he couldn’t answer a question even after I showed him the steps, I was so frustrated that I struck his face with my hand. Shaken, he started crying.
At that point, I felt ashamed. I had disciplined my son in past times for being naughty, but never when he failed to solve a math problem! I had taken out my unrighteous anger on a 10-year-old and abused him.
Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). God’s Word both rebuked and reminded me that my responsibility as a father was to train up my son according to God’s way, not my way.
I realised then that while studies were important, there were also other areas of his life that were just as important. Raising my son to live a life worthy of the Lord didn’t just mean making sure he did well in school: God also desired that he be Christlike and bear the fruit of the Spirit in his character and behaviour.
Another verse that brought me to my knees was Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” I knew I had to seek the forgiveness not only of God, but of my son as well.
So I sat him down and told him how I should not have hit him. I acknowledged that I was wrong and had been a bad example. That day, my heart sank when I realised I had wronged my son, but I also experienced joy when my son forgave me.
Parents are fallible and can make terrible mistakes. But we should not lack the courage to seek our children’s forgiveness. It shows them that we are just as vulnerable as they are—and that we follow a faithful and just God who is ready to forgive our sins if we confess to Him (1 John 1:9).
Lord, thank You for making me stewards of my children,
for they are ultimately Yours.
Please help me to bring them up in Your way,
Our worth is to be found in God, not in exam grades.
Check out more resources on parenting at https://biblical-parenting.org/