Opinion

Is Kiasu Singaporean Parenting Really Going to Give Kids a Bright, Wealthy Future?

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Joanne Poh

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If you look only at the numbers, Singaporean kids have everything going for them. In a recent survey 52% of local parents proclaimed that they would be willing to get into debt for their kids’ education. The amount of money the average household spends on their kids is staggering, mainly due to private tuition.

While Pokemon Go is mainly an adults’ game in many countries due to the fact that kids don’t receive smartphones with data connections until they’re at least in their late teens, it’s not uncommon to meet primary school age kids in Singapore with state-of-the-art iPhones.

There’s no doubt about the fact that Singaporean parents want the best for their kids. Unfortunately, for most, “the best” means nothing more than good paper qualifications so they can go on to get safe, boring and high paying office jobs.

Character development aside, is the Singaporean parenting style really going to make their kids better off in future? Is it going to turn them into motivated, innovative people who’ll do something great?

 

Helicopter parenting makes kids prone to depression

Describe the stereotypical Singaporean kid and the words “happy”, “carefree and “creative” are, well, the last things that come to mind. Instead, words like “hardworking”, “tired” and “busy” seem more appropriate as they shuttle from tuition to piano lessons to homework at night.

A recent study showed that “intrusive” parenting with overemphasis on good grades could cause children to become anxious, depressed and critical of themselves—even much later in life. Children whose parents overreacted at mistakes and imposed their expectations of good grades on their offspring became fearful of making mistakes.

It doesn’t take a genius to tell that most Singaporeans are a risk-averse bunch who fear failure. That’s why, despite our high academic rankings, we’ve mostly churned out a lot of bankers. As many as 1 in 4 people suffer from depression, according to an NTU study, but half do not seek help because they fear ridicule. Doctors say there are scores of young professionals burning out and landing in their offices for stress-related ailments, which can escalate into suicidal thoughts.

Now, we’re all quick to blame the long hours and stressful working environment. But people prone to stress and anxiety are more likely to think they’re trapped in a job they hate even when they have other options. Parents whose parenting styles make their kids more prone to stress and anxiety could be setting them up for tough times ahead.

 

Poor social and networking skills

I wasn’t really surprised when I read that report last year lambasting Singaporeans working in the hospitality sector for having poor social skills.

Many Singaporeans are socially inept. This probably stems from a childhood filled with tuition and after-school activities, and having all their decisions made for them by their parents. When kids do not have unstructured free time and are unable to make decisions for themselves, they become underdeveloped in their ability to react spontaneously with others.

Many Singaporeans have complained that their parents forbade them to date when they were still completing their studies, and suddenly when they went out into the working world they were expected to instantly find a mate, settle down and produce grandchildren.

In the working world, being socially inept is definitely a handicap. While your good grades might get you a nice entry level position, the higher you climb, the more your position depends on whom you know and how much people like you.

 

Poor health

All that studying can’t be good for health. More and more kids are now obese from all that sitting around, and this looks set to increase the already sky high diabetes rate in Singapore. One in two children also has rotten teeth, probably due to eating too much processed or hawker food.

There have also been numerous reports about how Singapore teenagers aren’t active enough, probably because all their free time is spent either studying or playing video games.

What’s that got to do with parents? Well, sporting skills and a love of being active are best picked up at an early age. If your kid spends the first 12 years of his life hunched in front of a desk, it’s going to be much harder for him to find physical outlets later on in life. Someone who grew up playing tennis or basketball is much more likely to have the coordination skills necessary to pick up and enjoy new sports as an adult.

Poor health is not just a drain on resources, it also affects all areas of your life including your relationships, your emotional stability and, yes, your work and income. Parents should think of that the next time they see their kids staying up late to finish their tuition homework.

 

Parents aren’t teaching their kids financial literacy

Many Singaporean parents are very proud of the fact that their children are now well-paid PMETs, while ignoring the fact that they are terrible at managing their money and have zero financial literacy.

One such parent with whom I’m acquainted reportedly flies with one of her kids in first class when on going on family holidays, while the other child is forced to fly economy. She does this to teach her kids that if they don’t get high paying jobs in future, they’ll be relegated to economy with the other plebs.

The message amongst typical Singaporean parents seems to bet that you should strive for the highest paying, most stable job you can manage, and then spend all of the cash you earn on the luxuries you deserve because, social status, face, blah blah.

Parents who buy their kids every gadget they desire or give them huge allowances are also not doing them any favours in the long run.

You don’t need to go so far as to enrol your kids in a course on financial literacy. Nor do you have to make sure they’re stock investing whizzes by the time they’re 12. It’s far more important to talk your kids through financial decisions so they can learn by example. For instance, teach them to analyse whether that toy they’re begging for is a need or just a want, and encourage them to save up to buy something they want instead of handing it to them.

What do you think Singaporean parents can do differently? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Fangsing

    Yesh veri true. I guess Im one of d victim. Juz cant get enuf. I reckon due to globalisation we simply can find everything u can name it in Singapore and to make it worst online shopping. U shop outside and u shop at home too. Juz too overwhelming.