Thursday, 13 January 2011

Thoughts on parenting

No! Don't do that!

Heard this from a mother some time ago: One of the first words spoken by kids - at least Singaporean kids - is "no", not because it's phonetically easy (that came from me, deep in the language module of my Montessori course at that time), but because we keep saying "no" to them!

We say no to everything - when the kid keeps hitting his rattler on the chair, when he starts to cry, when he points to the TV.

Well, I imagine - perhaps not too wrongly - that many Singaporean parents don't really say "don't do that" (or better, divert the kid's attention to something else). No, Singaporeans abbreviate everything - "don't do this" = "no". But we understand one another.

Thing is, the kids understand too. And one day, unlucky parents find kids saying "no" to them.

They say no to everything too - when parents ask them to do homework, wash dishes, quit that computer.. Or if they're nicer kids, they say "later".

Of course I'm being extreme but I do have some (high) degree of resentment at all the "no's" when I was growing up.

Last Sunday, WSJ carried an article on Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". And today, I read all sorts of love-hate comments on the article, the book and the author.

No, I'm not going into the book but the discussion reminds me of my own upbringing, peppered with "no's". Like joining the choir in primary/secondary school - who proudly told me to sing to relatives when she heard me sing to a song on the radio? (I later went ahead regardless to join the choir in NJ but gave that up for CLDDS.) Like shortening the hem of my pinafores and GG skirt - they were calf-length omg! (Senior intervened for GG skirt cos I made our parade troop un-uniform!) Like going out with my friends, or until late at night.

Mother is lucky. She didn't get a lot of "no's" from me in my teens. After that, I'm independent and I no longer need to answer to her. I've come to the conclusion that those who keep saying no don't really know anything at all.

There are other things to say besides "no". If they're wrong, tell them, yes, but also tell them why. If it's not a right or wrong thing, or if they're too young to understand, divert them elsewhere, don't make them feel rejected.

PS: I suddenly remember this thing about learning to say no. If kids are brought up to have a clear sense of right and wrong, we can trust them to say no at the right time.

Please? Thanks!

Had meant to end with above but I had a flashback of this incident.

Last month in Singapore, I was heading for Orchard one day and was waiting at the traffic light outside our rented apartment. An angmoh lady and her boy of maybe six years old walked up next to me, waiting for the light too. The boy stopped at the edge of the pavement, and the mum simply said, "Could you take a step back, please?" And that wasn't all. When the boy did as told asked, she thanked him!

Wow. I cannot imagine Mother doing either of that! Please and thanks? WOW!

But really, is it something to wow about? Only because I've never experienced that. Strange that she would be nice and courteous to everyone but her kids! Cos "you won't be here without me"? Bah! (I got that line from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.)

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