When I was a kid, the main child-related things my parents spent on other than the necessary food and clothes were Enid Blyton books, My Little Pony figurines and that very familiar cane with the colourful plastic handle.
Kids nowadays are way more complicated. Not only do they seem to wither and die if they aren’t within reach of a wifi-detecting device, they also spend hours each day in tuition classes, music lessons, sports coaching, math olympiad training and coding classes. Phew.
It’s no wonder than no matter how much money the government gives parents through the Baby Bonus and other incentives, the birth rate isn’t rising. If parents are going to continue spending as much as they can afford on their kids, child-rearing will always be expensive regardless of their income.
If you’re going to spend a ton of money grooming the next generation of Singaporeans, at least make sure you’re not throwing away your money on the following useless things, which many kiasu parents are guilty of doing.
Hiring tutors that aren’t actually improving your child’s grades
If the thousands of private tutors that spend hours breathing down kids’ necks are really that useful, everyone in the country should be heading to Harvard.
Bell curve aside, that is definitely not the case, partly because some parents hire tutors without even realising that they’re doing nothing for their child’s grades.
In a 2015 poll, it was found that 70% of Singaporean parents sent their kids for tuition, including 40% of parents whose kids were only of friggin’ pre-school age. But the real kicker is that only one third of all the parents with primary school age children in tuition could say that tuition noticeably pulled up their kids’ academic performance.
The survey results also indicated that many parents just sent their kids to tuition not because they knew it helped but because everyone else was doing it, which is a pretty sad reason to rob someone of their childhood.
While there are definitely some tutors out there who don’t know their stuff, are unfamiliar with the syllabus or are just not good at teaching, sometimes it’s not the tutor’s fault if the lessons are being wasted on the kid.
Some kids are just too unmotivated to pay attention, simply going through the motions each week without really using their brains or engaging with the material. And who can blame them, considering they have sweatshop-like schedules?
If a kid is overloaded with activities and is either at school or in some kind of class or CCA from morning to night every day, it is unrealistic to think that slotting in another 2 hour tuition session is going to improve his grades. Sometimes kids just need time to decompress and the space to study the material on their own. At some point, you get diminishing returns because the child cannot absorb anymore. If that’s the case, parents are better off cutting back on tutors or keeping only the one or two who are making a real difference.
Paying for classes to “teach” skills that are best obtained from the kid’s environment
I read with some amusement a recent news report that local parents are now enrolling infants in classes that purport to develop their physical and social skills.
For example, baby gyms that claim to help children develop psychomotor skills are all the rage right now, although it’s questionable that what they offer could be better than regular play dates at the local playground.
Ironically, the reason kids these days have such poor physical and social skills is that they spend too much time in tuition classes and other scheduled activities, and too little time playing and being active.
It has been well-documented that play is very important in the promotion of healthy child development, and plays an integral role in helping kids to develop social, cognitive and psychomotor skills.
Spending hundreds of dollars a month enrolling children in a structured environment that purports to develop these skills sounds like a waste of money to me.
Going crazy buying baby accessories, toys and clothes
The baby industry is a big, grasping one, and some young parents get sucked into a neverending cycle of purchasing baby-related goods.
It’s the same as a shopping addiction, except they feel even more justified in and less guilty about their spending, since these products are ostensibly not for them but for a loved one.
On my Facebook feed, I’ve seen young parents dress their kids in designer garb from Burberry’s kidswear line, exchange comments about pretty diaper bags and snap selfies in front of lavishly decorated children’s rooms, complete with wall stickers the kid will be ashamed of in 8 years’ time.
Sure, everyone wants their kid to have a nice childhood, and we’re not suggesting you deprive your child of anything that is integral to growing up healthy and happy.
But you really have to ask yourself exactly whose desires are being satiated when you buy that 20th pair of cute baby shoes.
What do Singaporean parents spend too much on? Tell us in the comments!