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You Cannot Fail….

My mother says “You cannot fail your piano exams”.
When I processed this statement through my head long after the student has finished the piano lesson with me, my heart weighs heavily. This is so wrong. When a child looks to the adult closest to them for support and hears this kind of a threat, what kind of message is being sent?
Tiger Moms I know you mean well because you want your child to work hard, to be driven. And giving them the message of “failure is not an option”, perhaps the intent is to help the child to build grit. For you, your child’s excellence in all areas is your trophy that you wear proudly as a Mom. If they fail in an exam, it would mean a loss of face for you. But honestly, if you want the trophy, go take the piano exam yourself. Walk the talk. If you think that you cannot settle for anything less than a distinction, go take the exam yourself and see what kind of a score you get. I once had a student who got 93 marks out of 100 for his theory exam. When I asked him, was his mom happy? My student said, “no. My mom said I should score 100”.  
How to develop grit? I allow my students to fail. Yes, you heard me correctly. Failing is a life lesson that everyone has to go through. But what gets the student through failure is family support. The support must be there. Or else, the work has no meaning. Yes, the child might score 100 full marks….but it is for Mom’s credit. Not because the child wants it for himself. The child feels supported when Mom cheers him on even when the going gets tough. The child feels supported when Mom supports him with time to practise and time for rest. The child feels supported when in spite of a bad lesson, Mom encourages him to work harder. And when he misses the pass mark, Mom encourages him to try again. 
When the ultimatum is set at “You cannot fail your piano exams”, it can drive fear, anxiety and stress. It can put undue psychological stress on the child. My JC literature lecturer once said, “nobody is going to care about your grades after you walk out of this school. You don’t carry a sign around your neck saying you’ve scored an ‘A’ for literature”. My literature lecturer was an expatriate and he opened up our view of life to the bigger picture than scoring good grades. I am infinitely grateful to Prof. Whitby from NJC for helping a bunch of us retake our ‘A’ level literature. Looking back, each and every one of us that that retook the ‘A’ levels did pretty well in our career and in our life, in spite of the extra one year to get to the university.  
What if the child fails? Would he find the tallest building to jump off from? Would that make Mom happy? 

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