No matter what the government says about the joys of parenting, most of the Singaporean kids you see around you look plain miserable.
Their lives are a battery of school, tuition, CCAs and exams, and you’re more likely to see them in tuition centres than having fun outdoors. (At least, until Pokemon Go launches here.) When you overhear a conversation between a parent and a child in public, the kid is usually being nagged about how he needs to practise the piano or grilled about his latest math test results.
But when it comes to things like helping out with household chores, doing something for others and thinking for themselves, I’m afraid that many kids fail miserably. Their raison d’être is to study, get those grades and secure a high paying job when they grow up. And their parents (and maids) will do anything to ensure they can focus all their energies on doing just that.
This has resulted in many Singaporean kids being rather spoiled, entitled little buggers. It’s a problem that will only get worse, as the new generation of parents, many in retaliation to their own strict upbringings, are now coddling their kids and showering them with attention and toys to make up for the fact that they’re forced to study so hard.
Afraid little Aloysius is going to grow up into a brat who can rival China’s Little Emperors? Here are some steps you can take to prevent that.
1. Make a conscious effort to teach your kids graciousness
We all know those Singaporean parents whose kids are clearly unbearably bratty because of what they’ve been taught.
These parents teach their kids to be selfish and kiasu by constantly warning them that they’re about to lose out to others, comparing them with other kids and encouraging selfish, me-first behaviour.
One example is that mother you sometimes see on the MRT who nags her kid to rush for the train seats the minute they step into the carriage, even scolding the kid if he’s not fast enough.
In order to raise kids who are not spoiled and entitled, you should be doing the opposite—making a conscious effort to teach them to think of others. That could mean encouraging your kid to give up his seat on the MRT, volunteering your time as a family and rewarding good, considerate behaviour.
2. Reward your kid with experiences rather than stuff
Okay, we get it, the poor kid spends 60 hours a week in school and tuition, and he needs to enjoy a treat every now and then.
But if you’re not careful and keep lavishing your beloved with toys and attention, you could end up with a screaming child (just like this one) rolling around on the floor at Kiddy Palace because you refused to buy him that Star Wars lego set.
Buying too many toys for your children or caving in to their every whim and fancy can create serious problems, because kids can grow into very materialistic beings fast.
When you want to reward your kids, instead of reaching for that giant Frozen playset, how about giving them experiences and a bit of your time instead? When junior aces the PSLE, take him to the zoo instead of buying him an iPad. Head to the Botanic Gardens as a family on Sunday instead of hitting up Toys ‘R’ Us at Forum.
Letting your kids experience life is important, especially as so many kids these days simply have no lives, for lack of a more apt term. And by holding off on that Wii U purchase, you’re teaching your child to value time spent with loved ones over acquiring stuff.
3. Watch what you say and how you act
Most millennials in Singapore have heard this from the lips of their parents—if you don’t study hard, you’ll become a road sweeper.
It’s that kind of upbringing that’s partly to blame for Singapore becoming a country of materialistic, money-and-status-obsessed robots.
Your kids are going to learn from the things you say and do, even when you’re not aware that they’re watching. They’re like little sponges, sucking it all up. So watch yourself. If you don’t want them to grow up to be entitled, inconsiderate adults, you have to make sure you don’t act like one, either.
4. Curb the urge to do everything for them
Singaporean kids tend to do nothing but study, study, study. And by that, I mean that away from the books, they don’t have to lift a finger to do a single thing for themselves.
Assuming your kid lives with you till he gets married, that’s going to mean you’ll be doing a helluva lot of stuff for him over the next two decades, so don’t set a bad precedent.
I’m a firm believer that kids should be made to help out around the house, even if their tasks are as easy as just washing the plate they’ve just eaten off of.
When your kids learn to be responsible for themselves and considerate towards the people around them, they’re indirectly being trained to have a better work ethic and greater independence, which will serve them well when they enter the working world.
5. Help them figure out the difference between needs and wants
Many full grown Singaporeans have serious problems with credit card debt and overspending. Curb that by teaching your child the difference between needs and wants early, rather than pandering to his every whim.
Before making a purchase or acceding to a request, talk your child through the decision-making process. Help him or her to understand how much time or money something costs, and then analyse together whether it’s something he or she really needs, or simply wants.
For instance, if your child claims he needs a new pair of Adidas shoes for school, having a talk about it can help you to suss out whether he really needs them because his existing shoes are worn out, or whether he just wants to update his look because all his classmates have cooler shoes.
If he does indeed need new shoes, you can then consider all the options—by comparison shopping together, you might discover that there is a very similar and equally hip pair of Converses that cost less. Or you might reason with the kid and help him realise that it makes more sense to buy good old Batas because they cost one tenth the price.
Whatever you do, resist the urge to say yes or no to your kids’ requests without talking them through the reasoning process. These are big opportunities to instill some common sense into your kid, so don’t let them pass you by.
Do you think Singaporean kids are spoiled? Share your opinions in the comments!