Let your kids be who they are
My mother’s friend who lives in the country planted sunflowers in one section of her garden and moss rose in another. But the flower seeds must have gotten mixed up, and some flowers were growing in the other part of the garden. Interestingly, the sunflowers growing on the moss rose-side of the garden are shorter than average sunflowers, and the moss rose growing on the sunflower side of the garden grew twice as tall as the other moss rose.
She thought: “Maybe, the flowers are competing. The moss rose in the sunflower section grew taller but did not last long. And the sunflowers in the moss rose section became stout and withered. They must have been stressed out as they compared their appearance to their peers.”
Some kids are moss rose and others are sunflowers. Even if you plant a rose in the sunflower garden, it does not grow up to be a sunflower. When you place a child in the environment that best suits his character, he will grow up happy and healthy.
When I was in college, I tutored two middle school students. One was not academic but was good at dancing. The other was brilliant academically and mastered very advanced concepts. I taught the first student for three years, but his grades did not improve. The second student had to stop taking lessons due to financial reasons. I later learned that the one who was good at dancing got into a college and studied theater and film, and the academically brilliant student got into the most prestigious university in the country.
We say, “If you are incompetent, you can’t do it no matter what.” Every child has different talents and interests. When you push a child with a talent in art to do sports, the kid seems incompetent. If you try to make a pianist out of a kid who is brilliant in science, he will fail. The youth suicide rate of Korea is highest in the world, and the biggest cause is grades. Every year, 350 teenagers kill themselves, and three high school students committed suicide this month alone. One of them was crying in the elevator as he went up to the roof. Who pushed him to end his own life?
The moss rose in the sunflower garden must have struggled to keep its head up and grow taller, but it could never reach the height of the sunflowers. The sunflower in the moss rose area must have been stressed as it stood out and could not mingle with the other flowers.
Children are fragile, and when they are faced with a crisis, they may make an impulsive choice. Parents who want their kids to be happy should understand what their kids are good at and what they like. When a child cannot excel in an area even after trying so hard, that may not be his strength. He may be a genius in other ways.
*The author is a guest columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Eom Eul-soon