Lousy Parenting

Friday, April 06, 2007

I was in the train today, and since it was Good Friday, it was significantly crowded. Public holidays usually cause congestions in a small city like Singapore. Taking the train across town was usually a quiet, lonely affair, one in which I enjoyed simply reflecting on life and how things were doing. It's not like you could do much standing all the way while waiting for your stop. Unfortunately, this moment of deep reflection was shattered today. Halfway through the journey, a piercing scream rang out through the train, and the cause of it all was one little girl, fairly chubby, screaming at the top of her lungs for goodness knows what reason. Now I'm a pretty tolerant guy, but when the screams carry on non-stop for about 10 minutes, and it doesn't seem like the guardians are doing anything about it, it gets REALLY REALLY irritating. Sadly, this reminds me about the very thing which plague just about every family living in a modern society, particularly the affluent ones.

It's called Lousy Parenting.

Children today are spoilt. They do what they want, and largely get away with it. Most parents simply couldn't care less about what their children do. I was appalled when I saw that girl hitting the man carrying her (presumably her father) and trying to hit her mother standing next to him. They kept telling her that "everyone was looking at her", in a vain attempt to get her to stop. When I was younger, I NEVER cried in public. To create a scene by kicking and screaming would warrant disciplinary action from my parents (usually a slap on the face and then daring me to cry again), of which I am now grateful for. My parents were a lot more considerate to others when handling their children in public. I truly believe that the parents I saw on the train utterly FAILED to discipline their child. Now, I'm not advocating abuse, in that you severely beat your child or take your anger out on them, but if you as a parent cannot teach a child from young to be considerate, then you have FAILED as a parent.

Let's face it, children cry when they don't get what they want. It's a natural impulse. This however, does not mean we give in to their cries, or that we merely tolerate it. It's a nuisance, especially when done in public. Hearing a child scream and yell in public is painful for everyone else to hear, and they will no less realise just how much of an utter failure you are as a parent. Teach your child not to scream when they don't get what they want. If they want to cry, fine, but make sure they do it quietly and do not disturb the peace of others.

"But we can't control our children from screaming..." This is an excuse, an excuse for parents with poor parenting skills, and who do not even want to work hard at bringing their children up right. There are a lot of children who are trained not to cause a racket whenever they are in public, and they get there not by 'natural talent', but by proper disciplinary actions taken at the appropriate age. "But disciplining a child is cruel... I don't have the heart to beat him/her... " Let me say this, if you can't raise your hand to discipline your child, you don't love him/her enough. If you choose not to discipline your child, you're taking the easy way out, and chances are, you're going to have a very rebellious teenager in the future. Choosing NOT to discipline a child isn't a sign of love and patience, it's a sign of negligence and fear. If you're scared to do it, then you're not fit to be a parent.

As I thought about these things, I also came to realise that the problem might run a little deeper. At the risk of blatantly generalising, I'd wager that MOST cosmopolitan families have a problem when it comes to disciplining children. I've seen or read cases where parent blame everyone and everything but themselves for a child's bad behaviour. Sometimes, it is the school which gets the blame, when the truth is that the attitude of the child was NOT formed from the school, but from the homes in which they were brought up. Many children are no longer raised by their parents, but by nannies and maids at home, who seldom scold them for any wrong, if at all. Parents ought to take a lot more interest in their children's life, and not just comply to their requests as compensation for time not spent with them.

A fine balance has to be maintain when it comes to discipline. It is NOT to release your anger, but to train a child to understand the wrongs that he/she has done. I won't delve into how you should parent your child, since I'm not a parent yet anyway. However, I can share my own experience growing up, and my views on what poor parenting and good parenting is.

When I was younger, I got scolded, and caned a lot. They were done with the sole purpose of teaching me the difference between right and wrong, to have me learn about life and how to live it right. I was also shown the right amount of love, in which my parents would tell me frequently how much they love me, and spend time with me, especially after a disciplining session. I grew up trusting them a lot. As I grew up, they gave me more and more freedom, although always availing themselves if I needed them. I remember particularly that in my High School years, my friends and I used to head out to LAN shops to play games in the afternoons. I ALWAYS told my mother that I was going to play games, and NOT to study or any other lie, just to get her to let me go. She even sent me there (public transport where I grew up was very VERY pathetic). In return, I promised to be home on time, and I kept my word. This freedom was given to me only when they felt I was mature enough to use it responsibly, and I'm proud to say I didn't let them down. My results in High School was not perfect, but it was near the top and I always tried to do them proud. Unfortunately, this isn't the case nowadays. I see children given the same freedom when they were hardly 10, and abused it in the long run. As they grew older, it had become second nature to them, and their parents don't even know it.

I am a very strong advocate of the cane. I grew up in a time where caning was normal even in schools, and I turned out just fine. I also understand that some parents refuse to use the cane, but choose instead to talk to their children. While this may work when they are older, it would be too late as some attitudes would have already been formed in the earlier years. Furthermore, the lack of discipline in the earlier years would cause children to be less respectful of their parents. If your child does not respect you (not FEAR you), "talking" will get you nowhere.

Choosing to discipline your child does not show that you do not love him/her. Instead, it shows just how much you DO love him/her, although he/she may not understand at that point. I am very glad my parents did what had to be done, even though it probably hurt them too each time they hit me. In the end, it was all worth it. To go back to the incident, the girl finally stopped crying and the parents continued to console her. While peace was finally returned to the train, I sincerely worry for the child, because if her parents don't start being more firm, she'll end up walking all over them, causing a huge commotion every time she doesn't get what she wants. It would be fine if it were to stop there, but it might also be an indication that the child would eventually lose all respect for her parents, and we'd have yet another rebellious youth in the making.

As if we didn't have enough already...

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Posted by Gerald at 4/06/2007 11:16:00 PM