Childhood – is it the happiest time any more?

What would you say when it comes to children and childhood? Would you say that childhood is the time of joys and happiness without bitterness, despair, and shattered dream? I would say it’s becoming the thing of the past, at least for many kids born and living in big cities in Vietnam nowadays. Here’s why …

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Three years ago, a 6 year-old girl living next door came to my house and started to talk about her parents’ different possibilities of prizes, given that she was preparing to take examinations to famous primary schools in town. If she got into Doan Thi Diem primary School, her parents would buy her an iPad and an iPhone. But if she got into Le Quy Don School, she would get an iphone only. She added that it would be used to call her parents to pick her up after class. In the end, she could not get into Doan Thi Diem. Consequently, her mom was angry at the little girl partly because she failed and more importantly because she was scared of other moms laughing hard at her for that.

There goes a more recent story. “Teacher, I am very busy, so I have to finish all the homework here. I have so many things to do at home. I have one IQ class in the morning and this English class in the afternoon. In the evening, I have to study math and learn to write beautifully/uniformly for a school notebook competition” said a 7 year-old little girl in my tutoring class on Saturday.

In our first tutoring lesson, when we (my sister & I) asked questions, we were particularly surprised at how the kids reacted. They (aged from 7 to 8) requested us to give marks to them and later praised who the best student was at the end of the lesson as their teachers often do in school. This is just astounding, because I don’t think that in any case I would dare to ask my teachers that back to my time in school. But there was more as the lesson went. One girl suddenly cried when all were doing a small exercise. What happened? asked my sister. She shocked us as she said in tears: Huong could do this exercise while I couldn’t, I hate her so much.

At that moment, things seemed clearer to me that the children had been taught to compete but not cooperate both in school and outside school. Probably, they have been taught to feel ashamed of themselves when they get lower scores than their peers. And probably they have been taught that they must be, if not the best, better than others.

The boy next to my door, 10 years old, often sets alarm at 4 am. His mom proudly told me and other moms that he does that himself and that she doesn’t force him. She added that he just wants to be well-prepared before his class starts. His brother is studying at a gifted high school, specializing in math, he wants to do the same thing, and that’s why he has to study math with 4 different teachers in extra classes all week long??? But seriously, is it something to boast about?

Here you go the role of parents in this destructive trend. The time they spend on taking kids to school and extra classes and the money they spend on those classes, arts and sport activities are apparently not meant for their kids’ happiness and will. For many parents, their time and their money for kids are called investments. They want to raise kids that are able to stand out in class, to win in competitions and to make parents proud of their upbringing. As a result, parents are often upset and nag at children when the children fall short of their expectations. At the end of the day, it is sad that tolerance for risks and failure is not what lots of parents want to teach kids.

Impressive, I would say. Is it the way the children want to live their life? Certainly NO! It’s their parents who want so. Yes, but is it the only reason? I don’t really think so. When looking deep inside what is happening around me now, I can think of other forces. One I know for sure is: it is the society that pushes them to give up on them period of innocence.

It’s wrong, so wrong. Children should not be deprived of their childhood fun and innocence. What many are doing do nothing to help but to corrupt and destroy their life hopes and dreams. It’s time to ask yourself: what do you want your children to remember about their childhood?

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