parenting the new generation zYour daughter’s friend came over to your place for a sleep over. After dinner, she left her plate on the dining table. You asked her to bring her plate to the sink for a wash. Then she commented, “At home, I don’t need to bring my plate to the sink, my maid does it.” Does this experience sound familiar?

Ms Minnie Chia, a mother of two and a Polytechnic associate lecturer in Singapore, shared her experience on today’s children, “The way a family functions at home has an impact on a child’s behaviour and eventually, this will translate to how she functions in the world. I would not take my daughter’s friend comments personally as she was only stating a fact about her family environment.”

Ms Jamie Sim, a stay-home mom also finds that the children today are different from the past. She finds them to be more inward looking and lack determination in overcoming life obstacles.

Due to the need for both parents to work, most children today are brought up either by their grandparents, or a helper. With these different caregivers who have different values and rules, our children may be confused. On top of that, our children are also “brought up” by the mass media around them. They are constantly exposed to news and information from television programs, magazines, newspapers and the Internet. This could also mean that they may receive information and values which could be exaggerated, misleading or misinterpreted.

Parenting in the Past
Similarly, the ways our children are parented today have also shifted. The parents in the previous generation believe that the best way to raise their children is to prepare them for their future, such as providing the best education and equipping them good character habits. Many believe in purely setting strict rules and failing to follow them would result in corporate punishment such as disciplining with a cane, feather duster or ruler.

Also, parents were not expected to provide any explanation for the punishments. Likewise, my mother showed her love to my sibling and I by helping us to narrow the best options, and providing for our needs. Her goals were to ensure that we would not become spoilt, disobedient or self-centered. We were taught to be diligent to the tasks given, to be respectful to one another and to be honest. Failing to follow would often result in a painful session of caning.

Parenting in a new era
Many families today place more focus on positive reinforcements to ensure good behaviours instead of corporate punishment. This could be due to parents being more educated and more aware of parenting resources derived from researchers and psychologists. Dr Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist in the 1960s did a study on understanding how parents can impact a child’s development. According to recent article published by The New York Times, she suggested an optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy.

Some moms like Jamie, believes that corporate punishments still have a place in parenting today. On top of other disciplining methods like time-out and reasoning, she still canes her daughter Hailey who is three this year. “It is still the most effective disciplining tool. I would explain the reason for disciplining her and caning will be my last resort.”

Other parents on the other hand, believe in avoiding corporate punishments. They would use other disciplining methods such as removing of privileges, encouragement and providing rewards as positive reinforcements. Like Jamie, my husband and I find that it is necessary to implement corporate punishments gently and appropriately, to enforce discipline when needed.

It all begins at home
parenting begins at homeIndeed, the way our family functions at home and the values that we hold would have an impact on our child’s behaviour and eventually, how he relates to the world. It is only right for us as parents to start parenting by setting the right values at home, to be involved and responsive to our children, so that they can learn the values from us. I think my husband and I should start listing our family values and have them frame up on the wall in our home soon.

What changes would you make in your current parenting journey? Share them with us below.

By Yvonne Chee

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This article was first published in The New Age Parents online magazine Oct/Nov 2012 issue.