What my 12-year-old son taught me about self-leadership

Singaporeans know about the dreaded Primary 6 year for a 12-year-old student as they sit for the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations). It is considered a high stakes national exam as it determines the secondary school students will be admitted to and the perception is that this sets the path of the student’s route to university. There are of course several exceptions to this notion and many students falter or “make it” in education regardless of the secondary school they go to. Nonetheless the national psyche still regards the PSLE year as a defining year for Primary 6 students.

As a mother of 3 children, my 12-year-old son is my second child to go through the PSLE this year. He also decided to apply for the DSA (Direct Schools Admission) route to the secondary school of his choice. The DSA is basically an early admission program that takes in a small number of students based on talent such as in sport, the arts or exceptional academics before the actual PSLE. Needless to say, the DSA is highly competitive as schools allocate a very small percentage to DSA admissions and the schools which offer DSA are considered highly desirable schools.
Thus, knowing how competitive the DSA route is, I was a little skeptical when my son said he would like to apply to DSA though the cricket category. But I agreed to let him apply when he seemed confident about what he was getting into and this has turned out to be a wonderful lesson in self-leadership.

 Keep calm and carry on

I have watched my son take tests, exams and quizzes throughout the year with a sense of calmness within him. Whether academic tests or cricket matches, he standard reply to my question of how he is feeling is, “I’m ok.” I could sense that sometimes things were not going smoothly for him but he managed to take those in his stride and figured out what needed to be done to improve himself.

Last year, when his team did not win the gold medal for the cricket league matches, he was very down cast and felt that he could have done better. But he used that as a way to motivate himself to better his batting skills and this year his team did win the gold medal. He just carried on with his work and what he needed to do to get better.

Even as adults when we face setbacks, we can sometimes get carried away with our self-pity or may get into a “blame game” about why things did not work out for us. A more positive way could be for us to keep calm and carry on doing our work.

Breathe and trust yourself

The DSA tryouts are stress laden as coaches are watching the students and students know that they are essentially competing against one another for coveted spots. My son attended 4 cricket tryouts out of which I was present for just one. When I asked him if he wanted my husband to be present for his tryouts, he said that it was not necessary as ultimately, he had to go out and just play well. He said there was nothing either one of us could really do by being there and that he would be fine.

Trust yourself. No matter what the outcome, trust that we have the resources within us to go on.

Have fun!

The day of the DSA interview was a stressful one for me. Obviously as a mother, I was worried that we would be late or that we would miss taking one of his certificates or something else would go wrong. My son looked at me, told me to calm down and said that I was killing his enthusiasm! As we waited for his turn for the interview, he chatted and cracked jokes with the other boys and genuinely seemed to be having fun – which I am sure would have been obvious to the interviewers as well.

Have fun at work! We really can inject some fun and humour in our work. It helps to release stress and boosts creativity. And after all, laughter is indeed the best medicine and boosts our mood instantly.

Regardless of whether my son gets through the DSA and the results of his PSLE, I am proud of him and the way he has showed up this year. He has been committed, focused and has shown a high degree of resilience. I know that wherever he goes in life, he will have the confidence within him to lead himself and make the best out of his circumstances.

Which moments in your life have taught you your own lessons in self-leadership?