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Beware vanity parenting

Youngsters are often maligned for being retrograde versions of the previous generation - boisterous babies and terrible teenagers who spend too much time on their mobiles and being rude and generally anti-social: we've all said it, haven't we?

However, this week has reminded me that the root cause of many of these supposed societal ills is not the children, but actually their parents - and not the ones who are too liberal, but the ones who claim to be sensible and doing the best for their children. The ones who want the very best for their children.

Many parents - especially in affluent places like Hong Kong - rightly want the best that money can buy for their children, and sending them to one of the UK's internationally renowned independent boarding schools is the high watermark of this ostensibly admirable aspiration.

And, in my job, parents invariably begin with the premise of wanting the best school for their offspring.

However, a leading psychologist reminded me that "parentsneed to be careful lest in wanting the best for their adolescent, what they really want is the best reflection of themselves."

Many parents know the names of "top" schools and have decided that is exactly what they want for their children. These are schools with outstanding academic results, first-rate facilities for learning, sport and the performing arts, and supremely confident students who are destined to be leaders of governments, industries and the professions in the many countries from which they come. An admirable aspiration indeed.

But the truth of the matter is that not all of us are destined to be at the very top of the pile of one of those things: children may end up having a talent outside the classroom, or on the sports field, or might just end up being very average but a very nice human being - and what's wrong with that?

Every child has a talent or a passion and it is a parent's duty to send them to the school that is going to draw this individual talent (or talents) out of their individual child - and this school might just not be one of the supposed "top" schools.

Many admirably aspirational parents devote more of their energy to choosing a "top" school and having their child tutored for entrance exams than they do giving thought to whether this is actually the right school at all.

An over-tutored child just scraping through the entrance exams, only to have to fight for their academic life for another five years is good for no one - neither the school nor the individual child.

Your child will thrive where they are happiest, and they are likely to be happy at a school that is best suited to their own interests and talents - not the one with the allegedly better reputation.

As a headmistress of a leading girls' school said this week: "Embrace the child you have rather than the one you want them to be."

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