It's all about 'Respect'

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Any parent will tell you that bringing up a child is never all about rainbows and roses, cuddles and kisses. In fact, there are more exasperating and trying times than there are wonderful ones, but to me, I consider these periods as times when parent and child get to know each other better. It's when we try to understand our children, find out about their personalities, habits and idiosyncrasies. It's a process of bonding and growing together as a family.

We are often so engrossed in trying to mould our children into what we feel are upright beings in society. We try to prepare them for life, and ever so often, we forget that they are individual beings with their own personalities. It's been said that a child is a direct extension of us, and that their inborn nature mirror that of their parents'. Whilst I agree with this, I often remind myself that even when I see so much of myself and the husband's habits and nature in the boy, he is his own person, and how he chooses to act upon them is entirely dependent on his personality. As parents, we can only steer and guide him in the right direction, make him aware of society's norms, and teach him the difference between right and wrong.

It makes me wonder that when parents push their children to excel, be it academically or in extracurricular activities, are they truly thinking for their child's well being, or are they (subconsciously) making their children live their dreams? As a parent of a preschooler, I am in no position to comment on what parents of school going children face, but this will serve as a reminder to me that even next time, when I unwittingly get too caught up in preparing the boy and cheering him on in his mice race (they graduate to rats once they start work), I must never forget him as an individual, and respect his wishes.



Just last week, I was talking to some friends, catching up on life, and taking a breather off work. One of them posed this question to me:

“What if Caden tells you one day that he would like to be in F & B, and manage a restaurant in the future?”

Without even missing a beat, I asked her: “Why not? But if he chooses to make this his career choice, I will ask him if this is what drives him. If serving people and making sure their every visit to the restaurant is memorable – is his passion. If he tells me that this is what he enjoys doing, no matter how much money we have invested in his education, we will support him.”

She was pretty surprised at my response, and mentioned that all of us at the table, being in the F & B industry ourselves, should understand better than anyone else how this job can be so unforgiving. Crazy hours, working when others are enjoying weekends and public holidays, and living a pretty unconventional life. You leave for work when people are preparing to go home, and reach home when many are either going to school, or to work. It is an often thankless job, accolades are few and far in between because people expect good service, and when there is a slight lapse in service – people are so very quick to pinpoint mistakes.

I told her that in any kind of job, there are bound to be pitfalls. More so in Singapore where efficiency ranks supreme, people are increasingly heading home from work at later hours. It is difficult to maintain work-life balance when working over one weekend might mean a contract won over another company which insists on a strict 5-day week policy. When deadlines have to be met and clients need to be attended to, sometimes working way beyond the usual 8 hour / day is mandatory. Otherwise, with Singapore ranking Number One as the most expensive city in the world to live in – if we were to work the way the previous generations did (dinner at home is at 6.30pm, prepared by the wife who stays home because that’s the norm) how do we manage to earn enough to pay the bills, and basically survive – even at the most basic level?

I further added that majority of people think that the F & B industry is a 'dead end' option for those who never did well enough in school to be in another vocation. Perhaps it's true that it's a means to an end for some, but there are others who are passionate about their jobs as a server, captain, cook or bartender - for whatever drives them. They are happy at work, they genuinely try to give service above and beyond, and they try to better themselves at every available opportunity. I think they are better than others who are dragging themselves to go to work daily, dealing with office politics and working just for the sake of working.

Anyway, I digress.

It’s way too easy to forget that our children are their own persons, even though they may be entirely dependent on us for the first 16 years of their lives. Respecting our child’s wishes can be unintentionally forgotten in the humdrum of daily life, and when you have 2 (or more) kids tugging at your skirts and demanding attention 90% of your waking moments, sometimes it’s just easier to set the course of action for them. I totally understand that, but even when it makes things that much simpler when I make decisions for the boy, please let me never forget to ask him first what exactly he prefers, and then decide the best course of action according to what he wants.

It makes me think – when people say that ‘I treat my kids like adults and I expect them to act like it’ – aren’t they really saying that ‘I expect my kids to act like adults’, and that said, only adults are people?

The husband and I believe that respect from the boy is earned by showing him the values and meaning of respect. When we respect his opinions, wishes and feelings, we are teaching him about how choice can influence the outcome of things, and we think that this is a very important lesson in life. When we present him with choices, outbursts and tantrums too, can usually be averted, because these frustrations usually stem from the lack of control. By giving him options and allowing him to choose, we have shown him that we trust him, and therefore taught him to trust himself. Like us, he is not always going to make the right decisions, but we are firm believers in learning through experience. When he makes the wrong decisions despite advice, as his parents, we will not be quick to say ‘We told you so!’, because we have made unwise decisions too, and will not be who we are without overcoming stumbling blocks along the way.

Our society is too caught up with ‘control’. As parents, we feel that we have to be in control all the time, because it is our duty to ensure that our child(ren) do not grow up to be rude, insensitive, and spoilt. We fear that our children will deviate from the social norms, and what seems acceptable in society. Are we more worried about being embarrassed or ‘losing face’ rather than how our children feel? When we push them to be better, stronger, and excel in school, are we doing it mostly for bragging rights?

For me and the hubs, please let us never forget that parenting is never about barking orders, ensuring that he always does things the ‘right’ way, punishments, or telling him that things won’t work without showing them why. Never let us lose sight of the fact that parenting has so much to do with relationships. It’s how well we bond with him, how we set boundaries, how we teach, and how we love.


10 comments :

  1. Knowing that we are bringing up a little person who has his/her own preferences and personality, makes parenting very more challenging. What works for u, may not work for your own child...and this process of parenting is a never-ending learning process.

    I can so relate to this post, often I still get remarks from the older generation about what they hope for their child/grandchild, "Hopefully become a doctor...lawyer.." In this day and age, people still have very set notions about their aspirations for the child. Like you, I am open to the future career choices my son makes, whatever that drives his passion.

    Somehow we still can't get out of this 'face' issue, coming from an Asian society.I get a little irate each time when I hear this from people to their grandchildren or their children, "Don't do this if not people will laugh at you, or people will comment that your mother never teach you properly.." It is setting up the child to behave well in front of others only when someone is watching. When a parent is able to ensure that the child knows his boundaries, respect for others and himself even when nobody else is watching, is when I think the parent has done well being a parent.

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    1. I agree. Many people are too busy trying to be 'perfect' parents that they tend to forget that parenthood, in itself, involves a lot of hits and misses, and what works for one child may not work on another. It's so important to recognise our child(ren)'s strengths and weaknesses, and capitalise on what works for their well being!

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  2. I'm quite inclined to support whatever my children want to be when they grow up. Definitely something that will drive them to be their best and preferably not a dreaded job for the sake of it. The only thing I really want is to live and be even better than where Ed and I are right now. It's true our job is to steer them toward the right direction. Now that I know Meg loves dancing I wouldn't mind if she chooses it as a career as long as it's her passion she wants to fulfill. But then again being a ks parent, I will also want my children to understand why having good grades is essential to be where they want to be next time. The only consolation for them is that I don't expect ridiculous distinctions for their subjects. Just enough for them to be where they need to be.

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    1. I understand totally where you're coming from. I think I've mentioned to you before - a little pressure is a motivation, too much is detrimental.

      Having good grades is essential, but to me (as I believe for you, too) - as long as they've tried their best, that's what matters. It will sadden me should C not perform as well as he could have because he is either too lazy to or because he is out to prove a point (knowing him, I won't rule out that possibility), but it is a fine line between encouraging him and making myself sound like I'm pushing him,

      Susah lah, these children!

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  3. Totally agree with your view, Reg! I miss your writing! I am guilty of making some of those mistakes like saying "I told you so" and then biting my tongue after. It's so easy to get trapped into the rat (or mice) race in Singapore and that is something I try best to avoid too. Thanks for the timely reminder that every kid is an unique individual and not to make them live our unfulfilled dreams!

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    1. I miss blogging too, Summer!! Hopefully I'll be able to have more free time these coming months! :)

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  4. I totally agree with you. When one has kids, we should always remember that our kids have to lead their lives the way they want to. We should raise them in a way that allows us to trust the choices they make. Even if a choice turns out to be wrong, it is never a done deal. Just sit back, reevaluate and move on!

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    1. When we were growing up, we also had our share of pressures. Tuition has existed long before we care to remember, and back then, I think the only consolation I feel was that there weren't too many distractions!

      Aiya... whatever it was, we turned out pretty okay, methinks ;)

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  5. When they're babies we have to do everything for them, then as they grow we have to figure out how to loosen the reins appropriately. Not keep it too tight or have it too slack. Parenting is such a challenge!

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    1. We never stop taking care of them, like we never will stop worrying for them, no matter how old they are. I just hope that I'll be able to hold the horses when the time comes!

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