Monday, October 8, 2007

Beware cultural differences: We need parenting for Singaporeans by Singaporeans

(Published - ST Forum. October 8, 2007)

I refer to Mr Tan Ching Wai's letter, 'Re-air Supernanny during prime-time evenings to educate parents on how to discipline their kids' (Online forum, Oct 3) and believe the writer has made a good suggestion in empowering parents with such informative television programmes.

However, we should understand there exists cultural differences, which in turn lead to cultural limitations in parenting in general.

Firstly, the use of the reason of parental preoccupation with 'basic survival and increasing material needs' is not justifiable, simply because it reveals that these couples simply are not ready for responsible parenthood. Having children in modern society now involves making decisions.

Secondly, we have to note cultural differences. There are many parenting guidebooks in the bookstores, the majority of which are written by non-Singaporeans. We need to have a fairer balance and involve more relevant and perhaps local contributions to parenting information.

After all, one of the many goals of parenting is to ensure the child assimilates into his/her social environment. To parent and empower a child with different values, owing to some Western-authored book in the library, may not necessarily guarantee the child fitting into a group of children who is brought up by parents who do not have access to the information.

Discipline and respect for authority are only a fraction of values we should inculcate in our children. We should also look for ways to empower our children with a sense of purpose, such that they not only do not take things for granted, but also treat relevant domains of their lives, such as education and enrichment, with more seriousness.

Lastly, the problems of parenting and child discipline are not confined to the family. They also inform of continual work-life imbalances and other problems in larger society. With increased stress, owing to competitiveness and other socio-economic issues, certain groups of parents are stretched. If some weight could be lifted off their shoulders, we might perhaps see a change in attitudes which in turn influences a change in parenting.

Ho Chi Sam

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