The gifted children pushed to the edge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am


Being the parent of a gifted child turned out to be more of a headache for Cathlien Yim Yeung Shui-chun when her son's school began demanding better academic results.

Yim's son, Carter, was found to have a high IQ for a Primary One pupil, prompting the local elite school he used to attend to pressure even Yim herself to get involved in the boy's studies.

'The class teacher called me 20 times in a month, asking why I couldn't [help my son] study,' she said.

The pressure became so great - with Carter having to complete up to 12 exercise books for each subject - that it caused the child to hallucinate and undergo psychiatric treatment.

The nightmare ended after three months when Yim transferred her son to an international school, where he has studied since.

Carter, now 12, now enjoys going to school in a less choking environment. 'Teachers now encourage me when I can't do something instead of punishing me,' he said.

Carter has also become a volunteer translator for Evangelical Lutheran Church Social Service, which called on parents and schools yesterday to encourage better balance between study and play for children.

The group released a survey yesterday which found the expectations of parents and children often diverged significantly.

But while cases like Carter's Primary One experience may seem extreme, pressures and mismatched expectations between teachers or parents and children may have grave consequences, according to the group's social worker, Daby Tam Kwan-wah.

'It's always about a lack of communication and forcing children to [do] something they're unwilling or unable to do that result in children's suicide cases, which have seen an increase recently,' she said.

Tam said a balance between study and relaxation was essential when parents planned activities for their children.

Out of a total 862 primary school pupils and 450 parents the service polled, over 80 per cent of parents thought they allowed their kids to be creative when choosing what games to play, but only 63 per cent of children thought they were given such freedom.

The survey, conducted from May to July this year, also showed more than half of the children did not meet the recommended nine hours of sleep a night due to stress.

'I needed to study until midnight during the year-end examination last year and woke up the next morning at 7.30. But I couldn't sleep well the whole night,' said Lee Ka-man, now in Primary Four.

The poll also found around eight out of 10 children said they lived up to their promises, while more than half - or 55 per cent - of parents thought their children kept their promises.

'This clearly is a matter of expectation,' Tam said. 'When a child finished three out of four things, [is it] a promise fulfilled? Parents' expectations might be too high.'