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  • confusedsafferinkorea
  • Waygook Lord

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Children without knowing failure
« on: June 19, 2014, 05:17:44 am »
I know I  am going to be branded a 'Korea hater' by some, but there is so much truth in this article.

I have noticed this even from my co-teachers, not my present ones, fortunately, where every activity I do which involves competition (which I believe to be healthy), no one is allowed to be a loser.

It is this very attitude that prevents students in the classroom from learning English, they don't want to speak it because they don't want to make a mistake.

At the beginning of the year when I get my classes and throughout the year, I, through my co-teacher, emphasize to my students that it is ok to make a mistake, we will not laugh at them and we will help them.

In my classes everyone has to speak some English to me or my CT every lesson and in the beginning they were reluctant, but now even the shy ones are doing it and gaining confidence.

How I wish Korean education and indeed society would rid themselves of this paranoid fear of failure.

This is not only true for Korea, the over-protective parent syndrome, of course. As an educator back in SA, I came across this often, but it is at a different level here.

So, to those who want to roast me for posting this, well do what you must, it is not an anti-Korea post, it is a post of genuine concern.  I would like to think that my efforts in the classroom are making some difference to this, however small it may be.


http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/culture/2014/06/399_159273.html





Children without knowing failure

‘Overprotective parents can lower psychological resilience of young people'

By Park Jin-hai, Yoon Sung-won

Lee Kyung-jun, a third-grader at a pricy alternative school, is a dear boy only to his parents. The chubby child, who has a problem with anger control, goes wild whenever his demands are denied by either his teachers or friends.

Recently, when his friends said that there was no space for him in the back seat of his friend's mom's wagon, he lost his temper. This time, he brought out a cutter knife he picked up in the woods and made strips of scratch marks on the vehicle's door.

"I went speechless over what the child did. It is one thing for a child to get angry and express his feelings with words. But a child actually carrying out a violent act in real life is quite another," said the mother of the damaged wagon.

"What was more surprising than the child's act was his mother's reaction, though," she added. The mother did not apologize for her son's behavior, but instead blamed the other children for blocking the boy's entry into the vehicle and wondered aloud how hurt his son must have been to respond in such an extreme way."

The "little emperor" syndrome ― a reference to a brigade of highly pampered and spoiled children triggered by the China's one child policy ― is also seen here as the age of women giving birth gets higher and the birthrate hits new lows.

Those children, who never experience failure in their young lives, get a rude awakening when they grow into their 20s and find as they look for work that the world does not revolve around them. They find the fierce competition in the job market even more difficult and daunting.

Park, 29, is one of many longtime jobseekers who confessed that failure to find a job gave him an opportunity to sincerely look back at how he has lived his own life, probably for the first time.

"It has been five years since I started to seek a job. Looking back, I was full of so-called ‘unwarranted self-pride' and arrogance," Park said. "I think I believed I could achieve anything I meant to get once I wanted it, but I didn't imagine that getting a job could be more difficult than any other competitions or trials I have faced in my life."

Park said it was when he realized there was no major ordeal in his life; his parents both had enough income, he could get not-so-bad school records in his teenage years and he could even serve his military obligation in a relatively favorable environment where he was allowed to have some privacy without harassment from his seniors.

"But as I had to see hundreds of companies eliminating me from recruiting in the document-examination stage, I felt so frustrated that I came to wonder how many wrong choices I made and if I still have time to amend them," he said.

After he entered college, he studied his major, spending time on club activities and travel rather than for deliberating about his future career or acquiring skill-qualification certificates because he had dreamed of doing such things since he was younger, Park said.

"Some may blame the country for being incapable of addressing the youth unemployment issue. But I don't want to because now I think I was naive and lacked a sense of reality," he said.

Seong Jin-suk, 39, has never had a proper job and lives with her family in Seoul. She graduated a well-known university in Seoul with good grades. She said that her father was the "best" father of all, deciding the smallest things for her, from where to dine to which university to go and which major to study.

While attending university, she received allowances as well as rent from her parents. When she applied for jobs a couple of times and failed to land then, she concluded that she not the kind of person to have a job.

"Instead, I decided to spend less. I would go to a restaurant and play piano for some time and get some gifts in exchange from the owner," she said.

Kim Ju-hee, a child psychology professor at Sookmyung University, says that overprotective parents usually lower the psychological resilience of their children, which may trigger many social problems.

She said psychological resilience is like an "emotional spring" that brings a person brings back to normal after he or she experience hardships.

"Those children, who are used to being at the center of the attention, tend to easily stressed out and fall into despair when their demands are denied," she said.

"It churns out youths who give up job-seeking activities and become ‘cocoon' children, living with their parents under their protection. In worst cases, they cannot withstand the reality and commit suicide," Kim said.

"The escalating youth suicide rate shows that they cannot cope with stressful situations. Thus, as simple an incident as a lower-than-expected grade can actually trigger a child to take his own life," she added.

The youth unemployment rate, which stood at 8 percent last year, rose to 10.9 percent in February, the highest figure in the last 14 years. The rate for the 25-29 age bracket, consisting mostly of college graduates, was 9.8 percent, up from 8 percent a year earlier, according to a data from Statistics Korea.

Furthermore, government research showed that the number of economically inactive youths exceeded 5.4 million as of late last year, with the youth employment rate standing at 39.7 percent, down from 43.4 percent in 2000. It was more than 10 percentage points lower than the OECD average of 50.9 percent.

Kim said parents who do everything can to protect and provide for their children does more harm than good. "Too many parents today are overly engaged in their children's lives. They make an environment that their offspring can feel triumphant in at all times, believing that it will boost their children's confidence. But, in reality it deprives them of the opportunity to fail and rise above those failures."

She said that recently the RQ, the resilience quotient, has shed new light on educators and parents.

"Although parenting cannot be held single-handedly responsible for the emotionally fragile and economically inactive youth population, it definitely deserves a lot of the blame for the current social phenomenon," she added.

"Belated may it be, it is fortunate that more people recognize that good parents are ones who give emotional support with patience, rather than jumping directly into the problems their children face," she said.

jinhai@koreatimes.co.kr,


« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 07:08:46 am by confusedsafferinkorea »
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


  • confusedsafferinkorea
  • Waygook Lord

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    • October 08, 2010, 01:02:32 pm
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 07:07:20 am »
As a positive spin on this thread, perhaps we can share ideas on ways to encourage children to not fear failure (in English) and get them to use it without that inborn fear.

As I said each child has to speak English to me or my co-teacher every lesson. I do this by starting off my lesson with a question to the class, for example, which country would you like to visit and why?  We then divide the class and I take half and my co-teacher the other and each student has to answer. We correct them where necessary.

At the end of the lesson, time permitting, students line up in the class and as they go out, they have to say one expression they learnt that lesson. Two consecutive students in the line may not say the same expression and if they do they have to go to the back of the line. They are forced to listen to the person in front of them and also say a different expression. It works well.

You would of course,  have to get your CT on board with this and in my case they are totally into it with me, so I have no issues.
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


  • JLCutler
  • Veteran

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    • August 31, 2011, 02:50:38 pm
    • Seoul, Korea
Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2014, 07:09:42 am »
Good post, thank you.  There's a lot to be said about the subject and about parents who are very involved or rather not involved much at all in their children's lives.


  • Grimne_Lothos
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    • December 28, 2011, 12:56:27 pm
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2014, 07:10:58 am »
I think this is less prevalent here than pretty much any other first world country that I know of.  One of my favorite things about Korea is how much it encourages competition and celebrates success.


  • Hongsam
  • Super Waygook

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    • August 17, 2011, 12:24:57 pm
    • Ansan
Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2014, 07:14:24 am »
I also did what confusedinkorea does when I worked at public school. The students responded well to it.

A related issue, that I think needs addressing is the absurd marking system here. How can a person who knows absolutely nothing still get 60% or even 70%.


Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2014, 07:28:10 am »
I think having the fear of failure is natural, no one wants to be a loser.
However, I think it's imperative to instill the correct concept of failure with any student. Practice means failure. I hope students realize that you won't know what works until you find a million ways to find out what doesn't work. Kids need to experiment with what they learn, not just digest it.

With having that said, I have some kids who are very vocal with me, kids who are shy, and some kids who don't speak at all. I know students who know how to respond to me, but are just afraid to make a mistake. Sh*t breaks my heart. :/

Thanks for this morning post, #inspirationlevelup
Articles of Confederation, the supreme law of the land.


  • Hot6^
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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    • March 14, 2014, 02:46:01 pm
    • Bucheon
Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2014, 07:41:28 am »
I think it stems from the opposite end of the spectrum.

At an older age, or at a higher level of anything (sports etc) in Korea, if you are not first, you are last.

In the west we value 2nd 3rd etc... but here there is just 1st.

Kim Yuna was regarding as a Queen, gets silver, doesn't even make the front page of the newspaper, and no one even talked or celebrated it. People were to busy being pissed she didn't get gold, and because of that it was mostly views as a 'failure.' She didn't 'win.'

Korean culture is very competitive, because if you are first, well you're the King of the castle. Everyone wants that top spot and nothing less.

You put that mentality into a child.... well we all see what happens there.

CT's don't want to make the kids 'upset.' When kids don't 'win,' they can't see the value in second, third, or even that its just a game. CT's don't want kids to feel like 'failures,' so they don't allow for first or second.

I think this is a problem as well. When we play games, my co-teacher will interrupt, and always make it so every team gets the same points in the end etc... this actually frustrates the kids, because now they feel the work and completion they put into the game was for nothing. They aren't as willing to do competitive activities.

I have tried to explain, but to no avail.

I feel the way to remedy this, is to incorporate rewards, or place value in 2nd and 3rd etc... kids are reluctant to the idea, but it's it makes them start to realize, 1st isn't everything.
What you put into Korea, is what you will get out of Korea; it will not spoon feed you.


  • specter13
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    • November 29, 2010, 10:00:26 pm
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2014, 07:44:35 am »
I have talked to several friends about this topic.

One thing I remember we said that for competitions my friends and I felt worse getting a small ribbon saying you competed rather than getting nothing at all.

I know for a fact when I have kids they will not be cuddled in this way.


Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2014, 07:48:56 am »
Overcoming failure teaches you a lot more than unearned success. Everyone needs a challenge or they lose their competitive edge. If we only focus on rewarding success and not on learning how to deal with failure this is a problem. Also simply punishing failure is useless. I think another huge problem not talked about in this article is the issue of responsibility.
These kids are responsible for nothing yet have a lot of rights. If they have responsibilities there are no consequences for failing to uphold them (maybe a slap on the wrist). This also needs to be dealt with or at least addressed as problematic.


Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2014, 07:50:50 am »
From day one in my classes, I've tried to emphasize to my students that they can only learn from mistakes, and that making mistakes is a good thing in the classroom.  The results have been mixed.  Some kids have taken to talking a bit more, but others are still pretty clearly terrified of being wrong in front of their peers.

I wonder if gender politics have anything to do with this.  Two of my schools are all girls schools, and they're generally less reluctant to participate than at my two mixed gender schools.  Some are still scared of being wrong, especially in front of their friends, but I do have to wonder if a no boys (except for me, but I'm the teacher, I don't count) environment helps them.  I certainly think it makes them feel less self-conscious.

I do think participation ribbons in sports are a load of crap.  It cheapens success and coddles failure.  What's wrong with failing?  Everyone needs to fail at something sometime.


Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2014, 07:53:38 am »
This is why I love my current co-teacher.  Kids all get an equal chance, but they only receive points they actually learn.  My last ko-teacher on the other hand was a dumbass.  She exhibited the the same types of behaviours described in this thread.   One team of students does jack squat all class:  "Teacher, candy!" 

"Your team.  No points.  Why?"  You didn't say one bloody word all class, dumbarse. 

"사탕 주세요!"

K-T:  "You should give students candy."

"To these 3 idiots who did nothing but throw crap and make noise all class?  Them?  Why?"

"You must understand students' feeling!"


The only thing worse than failure itself is calling failure success.  Many of these students have long careers as janitors ahead of them.  This is why I make them clean the classroom.   "This is the rest of your life if you don't study."



  • kjritchhart
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2014, 08:13:40 am »
Interesting thoughts.  Coddling children can often lead to more issues down the line and create a many problems.  Not just in the classroom but into adulthood and the job market.

Though, I have never had an issue with my co-teachers telling me to indulge the losing team or anything of the nature.  I can totally see it happening and sometimes see it with children around town.

I do something similar, try and speak to every student in some way during class.  However, the one that I think helps the most is when I make mistakes.  Often I mix up words or say them incorrectly (obvi correcting myself after) but when the kids see it they laugh and I think it makes them more comfortable.  They realize that even native speakers make mistakes and that it isn't the end of the world.  Obviously I don't do this on purpose but it definitely changed how much my students are willing to talk.  I have seen a vast improvement on discussions and their willingness to speak since my first mistake.


Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2014, 08:16:33 am »
Competition is mandatory and a healthy amount of competition is okay, it's how world turns. We live in a capitalist society. Children fearing failure is more of a conservative issue. I know plenty of parents who push their kids in sports in the U.S parallel to how Korean parents push their kids.
Articles of Confederation, the supreme law of the land.


  • cjszk
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2014, 08:41:01 am »
I think this is less prevalent here than pretty much any other first world country that I know of.  One of my favorite things about Korea is how much it encourages competition and celebrates success.

I don't know, Korean parents are irrationally overproviding for their children. When I was little Ajumas would accompany their children to the playgrounds and would tell me to get off the swing for her child. She would order it. That's the mentality that is the problem. It's not just a simple matter of spoiled children who know no failure, the parents don't know how to nurture their children to be strong, they only now how to nurture them to have the good life and teach them how they are so special to even influence external resources. The world bends to their will.


  • Hot6^
  • Hero of Waygookistan

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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2014, 09:28:42 am »
Where did you get the idea this only happens in Korea?  What about in America with the "everyone is a winner!" mentality?  I totally agree this kind of philosophy can be stifling to children, but I think it's dangerous to say this kind of anti-loser mentality only exists in Korea.  Also, my school must be different from yours because my kids go nuts for competition.  All of my activities are a kind of game, and both my co-teacher and I like to heckle the teams falling behind.  The other students enjoy smack-talking as well  :P

First off, I addressed your question in my previous post, you must not have read it.

Second. I think this idea comes from majority of how kids are reared in Korea. Does the generalization make an assumption about your class? Yes. Are we trying to say every single classroom in Korea works this way? No.
What you put into Korea, is what you will get out of Korea; it will not spoon feed you.


  • nimrand
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2014, 09:43:54 am »
As a positive spin on this thread, perhaps we can share ideas on ways to encourage children to not fear failure (in English) and get them to use it without that inborn fear.

As I said each child has to speak English to me or my co-teacher every lesson. I do this by starting off my lesson with a question to the class, for example, which country would you like to visit and why?  We then divide the class and I take half and my co-teacher the other and each student has to answer. We correct them where necessary.

At the end of the lesson, time permitting, students line up in the class and as they go out, they have to say one expression they learnt that lesson. Two consecutive students in the line may not say the same expression and if they do they have to go to the back of the line. They are forced to listen to the person in front of them and also say a different expression. It works well.

You would of course,  have to get your CT on board with this and in my case they are totally into it with me, so I have no issues.

I like these ideas, but how long do they take?


  • confusedsafferinkorea
  • Waygook Lord

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    • October 08, 2010, 01:02:32 pm
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2014, 09:49:20 am »
Where did you get the idea this only happens in Korea?  What about in America with the "everyone is a winner!" mentality?  I totally agree this kind of philosophy can be stifling to children, but I think it's dangerous to say this kind of anti-loser mentality only exists in Korea.  Also, my school must be different from yours because my kids go nuts for competition.  All of my activities are a kind of game, and both my co-teacher and I like to heckle the teams falling behind.  The other students enjoy smack-talking as well  :P

First off, I addressed your question in my previous post, you must not have read it.

Second. I think this idea comes from majority of how kids are reared in Korea. Does the generalization make an assumption about your class? Yes. Are we trying to say every single classroom in Korea works this way? No.

 My comment was  actually directed at the OP, not you--my bad for not quoting him.  And I agree that every class is different.  I just find it a bit unfair when posts here portray certain societal problems as a Korea-only phenomenon.

Read my original post:

I stated that it is not only in Korea and that I had come across it in SA too.

This is not only true for Korea, the over-protective parent syndrome, of course. As an educator back in SA, I came across this often, but it is at a different level here.
There is no known medical cure for stupidity!


  • Tiggercs
  • Waygookin

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    • November 06, 2012, 06:50:46 pm
    • Jeollanamdo
Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2014, 10:18:45 am »
I've also noticed that some students don't speak or do the work because they are afraid of failure. My co-teacher thinks the same thing, so we emphasize quite frequently that it's okay to make mistakes. We have a school-wide point system at my high school, and we give plus points for any effort during class, and minus points for bad behaviour.  It's a lot of work, but I'm at a difficult high school, and it's so far the most effective strategy we've tried for student participation.

On a slightly different note, I agree that students here are definitely not exposed to failure enough, but it's not just the parents fault. In Korea they don't even fail students. Any student can do minimal effort, get zeros on every test, learn nothing, and they still advance to the next grade. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest problems for Korean education.


Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2014, 10:24:00 am »
CT's don't want to make the kids 'upset.' When kids don't 'win,' they can't see the value in second, third, or even that its just a game. CT's don't want kids to feel like 'failures,' so they don't allow for first or second.

at my present high school the school isn't into the whole giving out candy and prizes thing. but whenever i do games i'll always tally up the scores and make sure the class congratulates not only the 1st placed team, but also the 2nd and 3rd placed team.

and at my previous school i'd award candy for winning games down to third place. 1st place would get the most candy, 2nd a little bit less, and 3rd a little bit less than 2nd place.


  • cjszk
  • Expert Waygook

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    • August 23, 2013, 10:29:05 am
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Re: Children without knowing failure
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2014, 11:03:12 am »
I actually find that OP is spot on with a lot of his points. In many of his posts where he sites news articles. With this topic it really is a point- Many Korean children fear failure, they live in the bubble of their over-nurturing parents, and they don't know how to take command of their own lives and overcome.

To cite one part of the article again that perfectly defines how many Korean women treat their children:

Recently, when his friends said that there was no space for him in the back seat of his friend's mom's wagon, he lost his temper. This time, he brought out a cutter knife he picked up in the woods and made strips of scratch marks on the vehicle's door.

"I went speechless over what the child did. It is one thing for a child to get angry and express his feelings with words. But a child actually carrying out a violent act in real life is quite another," said the mother of the damaged wagon.

"What was more surprising than the child's act was his mother's reaction, though," she added. The mother did not apologize for her son's behavior, but instead blamed the other children for blocking the boy's entry into the vehicle and wondered aloud how hurt his son must have been to respond in such an extreme way."


This right here is the root of the problem in my opinion- mother's who want to believe their children are perfect and can never do wrong. Children learn that their parents want to believe they are perfect, they even think that they are perfect at times for this reason.
I also mentioned one thing that happened in my childhood. Other than that, there were multiple times in Tae Kwon Doe during a sparring lesson I went overboard and made my sparring partner cry. When this happened during promotion tests mothers HATED my guts, really LOATHED my guts. Korean mothers are the bane of why Korean children these days are becoming what they are...