Other kids misbehave on the spur of the moment. Smelly Boy is in control. He misbehaves after a considered decision.
Cost-Benefits Analysis of Punching Someone
In Primary 1, he considered punching a P2 school bus friend because that child spent the better part of the 1 hour journey calling the Little P1s "babies". We laugh but see it from Smelly Boy's perspective eh? What an insult! It is enough to make a little boy see red, paw the ground and charge with head lowered, and horns ready, to gore the erstwhile taunting adversary.
Not my son.
He stayed his hand, came home and raised his proposal for general discussion at the dining table. No, we did not give him permission to punch his friend. As a family, we were able to think up another solution.
Cost-Benefits Analysis of Disobeying His Teacher
In Primary 3, Smelly Boy did a roaring business selling caterpillars from our orange tree. He charged 50 cents per caterpillar and it was a full service contract that included fresh leaves top-up every 2 days up until the caterpillar had turned into a chrysalis.
His Teacher announced generally to the class, "School is not a mall. You are not allowed to sell and buy caterpillars in school." His Teacher also assigned a Journal Writing Topic for the weekend, "Do You Think The School Should Allow Children To Sell Caterpillars In School?"
Smelly Boy came home and discussed with me, "Mom, what do you think of selling caterpillars at the school gate?" Then, he presented his Cost-Benefits Analysis to me. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Sounds reasonable."
Predictably, it was not long before his business at the school gate was shut down too, but not before my son learnt to compute his business revenue using Excel. Unfortunately, he had no costs column to report. Else, he would have learnt how to tot up a Balance Sheet in Primary 3.
Cost-Benefits Analysis of Failing His Exams
So it was that in August of 2014, Smelly Boy came to me with his considered proposal of failing his exams. The long and short of it was that he wanted to...
(1) learn coding (i.e., write software programmes)
(2) build a flying machine and a 3D printer
When he was done with his Cost-Benefit Analysis, I decided to support him in his misbehaviour, with a slight change. I asked that he Just Pass, instead of Fail. I told him that he did not have to strive to top the class, but he had to pass every subject.
Pay-Off From Choosing To Pull Back On Academic Excellence
The decision paid off spectacularly because one thing lead to another. Predictably, his end-of-year exam results were poor. However, the machines he invested time in building from August 2014 to November 2014, earned him a coveted place in an industry-driven research competition. The things he learnt as he researched his hobbies and learnt deeply about things not included in the school syllabus helped his team develop a good product. Of course, it wasn't easy to get a place in the programme. Hence, the other boys in the team were really quite good at this sorta stuff too.
They won an award for their industry research.
Straits Times article, published 27 July 2015: HERE
Moral of the Story
I guess it is ok sometimes to trade academic results for some Unusual Learning Opportunity. I do think many of our young people make such decisions. The thing about Smelly Boy is that he will discuss such decisions with me, knowing that I will be open-minded enough to support him if the Cost-Benefits Analysis is sensible.
I don't expect Smelly Boy to be top of the game in every area all the time. I do expect him to know how to prioritise and throw out stuff wisely.
Perhaps other parents have highly gifted/talented children who can learn interesting stuff as well as excel academically. My Smelly Boy is just your normal kid. If I expect everything, I will get nothing. The only way I can help him achieve anything interesting is in the wise management of his time and energy resources.