Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Spare the Rod

The issue of canning children and students has surfaced again. It looks as if it is a no ending subject in the education circle and among parents too. First of all, we must agree that punishment is necessary to discipline our children and students. But is canning the way to discipline a child or a student? Do we think that by canning a child or a student, he or she can be disciplined?

With all this talk about the deteriorating morals of our youth – girls hugging K-Pop stars, Mat Rempits and the like – I wonder if the problem we are facing with our young ones has more to do with what happens at home rather than when these kids step outside.

It is not uncommon these days to encounter a family dining at a table where everyone, parents and children included, are not interacting with one another. Or worse, where the parents are watching YouTube and the child, left to his own devices, is screaming for attention from a distracted Mom or Dad. It is also not uncommon to witness kids running amok and misbehaving while the parents bury their heads in the sand.

In contrast, in many a European family, children are extremely well-behaved not only during meal times but also throughout the duration of their stay with us, which sometimes can stretch for weeks.

From where I sit, you would almost wonder if these Western parents have unlocked the secret to better-behaved kids. Frankly, I think we need to rethink how we are bringing up the babies.

Perhaps the prevalence of domestic help is to be blamed. Let’s face it – Malaysian parents still have it easier than many of their Western counterparts who do not have live-in maids or part-time domestic help. Raising children is entrusted to maids who feed, clean, clothe and even entertain the kids while parents are busy with their jobs. And children grow up not even knowing how to make their own beds or do laundry.

I think Malaysians need to take a good, long look in the mirror and come to grips with the kind of parents many of us are. If we want to raise kids who are morally upright, well-mannered and considerate, perhaps it is time we were too, especially towards our own offspring.

Realise that parenting is not like owning a pet. More than just feeding and clothing a young thing, it is about nurturing malleable minds who absorb stimuli like sponges and most importantly see you, their parents, as role models. So if the only conversations you have with your child are when you scold him or her for doing something bad, that is the only way the child will know to interact with people in general.

Like all things, the problems with our youth have everything to do with us, the adults, and how we carry ourselves in the world. That is what being grown-up means – an awareness that the world is larger than oneself, that every action has a consequence, and that someone else is always watching.

Note: I will be a father in July

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