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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Does Nagging Help?

A few years ago we met a boy who explained to us quite seriously that he wanted to come first in mathematics in the eleven plus examinations. Some children want to pass the eleven plus. Other children want to do well. Very few children set out to be first.

Can we take a ten year old seriously if the avowed intention is to win an Olympic medal? To win an Olympic medal takes talent and ability, hard work, good coaching and lots of support from the family. Having access to money also must also help.

We need to go back to 550BC to King Croesus of Lydia (now Eastern Turkey) who issued the first coins with fixed values. But was Emperor Yung Hue of China who issued the first paper money in around 650AD. He used paper money because there was a shortage of coins.

So while cash in the form of money is now more than two and a half thousand years old our ten year old striving for the Olympics will probably rely on credit cards and electronic transfers.

So would we take a ten year old more seriously if he or she said: “One day I want to be an International Banker.” To achieve this goal it would also take talent and ability, hard work, good teaching and lots of support from the family.

We once had a wonderful `A’ level girl working for us who set out to become an international lawyer specialising in Arabic property law. No one else in her family was in law or property. She simply had her sights set on a field where she hoped to be able to make a good living. We can’t help wondering if her life now is dominated by paper money or by electronic transfers.

We took the ten year old boy, mentioned in the first paragraph, through a GCSE mathematics course as he already could do all the mathematics covered in the selection papers. Over the course of the summer holidays he worked through the most challenging GCSE chapters from a range of text books. He wrote notes, copied down examples, revised and worked steadily.

This is the drive and determination that is needed to become a champion. Winning a medal is hard work. Nagging may help a child to keep focused – but it is very unlikely that nagging on its own will make a world beater.

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