Thursday, December 8, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I'd rather let my kid climb a tree than play on the iPad
Thursday, August 25, 2011
'Mum, can you buy me ... ' It's a question our children aren't ever allowed to ask me, when we're at the store
That incident reminded me of the Marshmallow Study done in the '60s. A group of four-year-olds was offered one marshmallow but told that, if they could wait for 15 to 20 minutes, they could have two. The theory was that those children who could wait had the ability to delay gratification and control impulse. It was observed that those children who could do so did well in school and in life 20 years later.
Many of us who are now parents grew up in the '60s and '70s when we did not enjoy many material comforts. In my family, we would eat chicken and meat only during festive seasons. I remember going to Chinatown once a year to buy a dress for Chinese New Year. A birthday would warrant an egg and, if times were good, a plate of noodles.
In our eagerness to give the best to our children, often we tend to give them what we would want or had missed out on. We would not blink an eye spending S$300 on a themed birthday party, for instance. And providing music or ballet lessons is not enough now; we have to have deportment lessons or equestrian lessons too. I have seen children as young as nine with their own personal iPhone.
We have a policy in our household. Our children are not allowed to ask us to buy anything for them when we are shopping at the supermarket or department store. They are not allowed to buy anything that has been mass advertised, and we would never buy them any branded merchandise.
We feel that, as long as our children are provided with a basic nutritious meal, there is no need to eat fast food. A simple pair of jeans that can be bought from the neighbourhood shop is sufficient, without the need to pay five times the price for a branded label affixed.
They were taught from young to distinguish between needs and wants. We would never give in to what they want no matter how loud their protest but we would not spare a dime to provide for their needs.
Here is the million-dollar question: Are we parents able to distinguish between what our children need and what they want?
We have a few simple guidelines. Firstly, some wants are created by advertisers, and children with impressionable minds can be hooked by slick presentations. If we give in to their demands, our children will grow up believing that, if they make enough noise, they will get what they want; and they will believe that what is advertised is always good.
Secondly, we are very clear on what our children need in life. They need to establish a good relationship with their parents, communicate with their family members and friends and bond with the community. Thus, we would never buy communication devices that would allow them to play games at the dinner table. We have seen some children who are preoccupied with their iPhone at parties - it deprives them of the chance to socialise and they become insular.
Finally, we always remind ourselves that we parents are in control. A firm "no" often silences our children when they throw tantrums. The greatest disservice we can do to our children is to give in to their whims - we would be helping to develop children who are ill-disciplined and spoiled.
M Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled discusses the elements of discipline, which include the ability to delay gratification. As long as Maslow's basic physiological and safety needs are satisfied, we should focus on helping our children to grow into mature, loving human beings who can contribute to society, not little emperors who would terrorise it.
Every year, during the Hungry Ghost Festival, my husband will suffer from asthma attack. This could be due to the burning of paper offerings.
Yet we do not ask the Community Mediation Centre to mediate and ask our neighbour to stop this practice. We understand the need for our fellow citizens to express their religious practices.
Instead, my husband tries to stay indoors as often as possible and increases his medication dosage. Nevertheless, he would be incapacitated sometimes and would need a couple of days of rest.
Therefore, I am concerned when a family who have relocated to Singapore have requested that their neighbour stop cooking curry. They had resorted to mediation because they could not stand the smell.
"Can you please do something? Can you don't cook curry? Can you don't eat curry?" they implored.
Maybe it is timely for us to remember that just as we are given freedom to express our culture and religious customs, we have to co-exist in our common space, such as the air we breathe.
It would be difficult to insist on the fragrances and smells that one will encounter. At best, we can decrease the space allowed for smoking, which has been proven to affect health.
Some would consider Singapore a melting pot of cultures, where different spices and flavours simmer together to form a great, delicious Singapore curry.
In fact, curry can be found in the cuisines of the four main races of Singapore, from Devil's Curry cooked by Eurasians during Christmas season to the ubiquitous curry chicken cooked by the Chinese to the "sayur lodeh" cooked by Malays.
The basic Indian style of cooking is to use a variety of spices such as turmeric, coriander and cumin as a base for a stew. From vegetable to mutton, eggs to jackfruit, we can make a curry out of any food.
Yes, the use of these spices will release an aroma that some people will need time to get used to, but I am sure that Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans will be able to acclimatise and accommodate the smell.
I feel strongly that it is inappropriate to ask the local family to only cook curry when the neighbour is not at home. It is equivalent to asking my neighbour not to burn paper offerings when my husband is home, which is a ridiculous request.
When we welcome guests to our homes for a meal, it is only polite to accept graciously what is offered on our table. If a guest finds the food offensive, the acceptable etiquette is to decline tasting the food, not demand that the host stop cooking it.
Friday, August 5, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Why they decided to have all six children
HERE is my take on coping with work and having children and related incentives. I am a mother who often works 12 hours a day. My job also requires me to travel frequently.
When we had our first three children, my husband and I did not employ a maid as we believed they should not grow up being served hand and foot.
We were overjoyed when the fourth arrived, even though our finances were tight and I had to take no-pay leave because paid maternity leave stopped at the third child then. What was more, we could not use Medisave to defray delivery expenses because access then was limited to three children as well.
The fifth came barely a year later and there was no baby bonus, nor could we use Medisave for the delivery costs.
Five years later, we welcomed our sixth baby. My parents disapproved of our decision to have all our children as it was clear that we were struggling financially. However, we refused to give up any one of our six. We preferred to have all of them than to have that extra holiday or more personal time.
My children do not have tuition or enrichment classes, yet two of them are local undergraduates.
For us, each child is a priceless gift. That is why we should stop seeking more incentives from the Government or blame social pressures for not providing the right environment. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
“I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not want to offend the Muslim community,” said MM Lee.
“I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration — friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians — than Muslims. That’s the result of the surge from the Arab states,” said the former Prime Minister of Singapore.
“I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam. I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate,” he added.
Well at risk of making any generalization, allow me to bring up one counter example. I have great Muslim friends in my work place. We have worked together, went on several field trips, took part in cooking competition, cried together, did high five and basically doing what friends would do to help each other.
In the course of my working with them, I have learn to accommodate our activities so that they are free to worship and practice their religion. For example, during overseas field trips, I ensure that all the food are Halal, that Muslim teachers and students are given time to pray at the required time and every possible effort is made to ensure that they can worship in a mosque on Friday.
Once, when I was organizing the opening of a school, the Guest of Honour requested some private time for him to pray. Although we have to make some changes to the programme, we took it as an opportunity to learn to respect each other cultural and religious values.
Yes my Muslim friends are distinct and separate yet these distinctions do not prevent them from integrating with us. All it takes is for us to find space in our heart to welcome them.
After all I am sure that as human being, our hearts are big enough to accommodate all human being regardless of race language or religion.
Or have our heart began to shrink as we grow older?