Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Twenty-first Century Parenting

Last week, Eugene and I attended a talk with the above title. It was organised by C's school PTA. It was a good session which helped us to stop and think and remind us of what we have or have not been doing as parents in this current day and age.

The speakers, Mike and Diane Constantine, are familiar with the Malaysian/Asian family and parenting scenario, having lived here for over 20 years. In his intro, Mike shared this, which can also be found in his book "Twenty-first Century Parenting":

Many twenty-first centruy parents feel like rats in a maze -- running, doing, achieving, earning. But even with all that rushing about, many also feel confused and unfulfilled. As American comedienne Lily Tomlin said, "The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you still feel like a rat."

If you don't live in Southeast Asia, you might not be familiar with kiasu. But here, we know it all too well. It is a Chinese word for a win-at-all-costs attitude....

If that attitude controls you, you risk becoming a hyper-parent. Here's a brief description of hyper-parents. See how well it fits you.

Are you a hyper-parent?

. You often negatively compare your children with other children.
. You feel you are in competition with other parents to raise the best and brightest child.
. You can always find time for one more tuition class but no time for sitting with your child, talking, or play.
. You never turn off your hand phone(s). Some people have more than one. How electronically connected do we really have to be?
. You are always doing two or three things at once. Multi-tasking is necessary, especially for a busy mom. But the danger comes when our lives are stuck in the spin-cycle, like a broken washing machine.
. You are often distracted, seldom focused on the present moment.
. You have no energy to discipline your child.
. You value your child's achievements more than strong character and healthy relationships.
. You often feel you are not doing a good job at anything.
. You buy new programs, new methods, new products, whether proven or not.
. You scold and bully often, but listen seldom.

Much of the rest of the contents of his book can also be found here.

My additional two sen's worth: We need to be self-confident and believe that our children will turn out all right without that extra Kumon, Enopi, mental arithmetic, ballet, tennis, or golf lesson, especially when they are not interested and it takes them away from being the children they are supposed to be. I don't mean to put down parents who send their kids to any of these kind of extra lessons. I send Caitlin to some music, art and capoeira lessons too. But it's simply because she is interested and requested for some of them herself.

Before getting caught up in the rat race, we need to consider if they really need the extra activities and weigh the pros and cons if we are putting too much on their plates and ours as well. Better a wise kid than a smart kid.

Mike Constantine wrote: "What good is an education if a person doesn't know how to live? Can top grades guarantee a child's success as a human being? Haven't we all known intelligent, gifted people who didn't know how to live? They had a brain stuffed with information, but they lived reckless, thoughtless lives. They may have been at the top of their class, but because they lacked wisdom they sank to the bottom of the barrel. Remember: parents have the responsibility to raise wise kids. Teachers can help, but parents need to see teachers as assistants, not as substitutes. As parents we must approach the task of raising wise children as though no one else will do it."

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