When it comes to things like being courteous to elders, doing something for others and thinking for themselves, I’m afraid that many Singaporean kids fail miserably. Their sole mission from adolescence to teenage years seems to be to study, get those grades and secure a high paying job when they grow up. There's so much focus on academic achievements, and practically none at all on filial piety and basic courtesy.
This has resulted in many Singaporean kids being rather spoiled, entitled little brats. It’s a problem that will only get worse, as the new generation of parents, are now coddling their kids and showering them with attention and toys to make up for the fact that they’re forced to study so hard.
Here are some 4 steps you can take to prevent that from happening:
1. Reward your child with experiences instead of things
Okay, we get it, the poor kid spends 60 hours a week in school and tuition, and he needs to enjoy a treat every now and then.
But if you’re not careful, and keep lavishing your child with toys and attention, one day you'll be at the shopping mall and your beloved offspring is rolling around on the floor at Toys R Us screaming his lungs out because you refused to buy him that Star Wars lego set he wanted.
Caving in to a child's every whim and fancy can have serious repercussions, because kids can grow into very materialistic beings fast. When you want to reward your kids, how about giving them experiences and a bit of your time instead? When junior aces the PSLE, take him out on a road trip up to Malaysia instead of buying him an iPad.
And by holding off on that Xbox purchase, you’re also teaching your child to value time spent with loved ones over acquiring stuff. Because one day, the time spent with your child is going to get less and less as they become adults.
2. Teach your child graciousness (and lead by example)
We all know that old saying "Blame the parents, not the kids", and when we see kids in public who are unbelievably rude, it's clear that it's because of how they've been brought up and what they've been taught.
These parents teach their kids to be selfish and kiasu by warning them that if they don't, they will lose out to others. They constantly compare them with other kids and encourage a self-centred, me-first mentality. A regular example in Singapore (sad to say...) is that mother you sometimes see on the MRT who nags her kid to rush for the train seats the minute the train doors open, even scolding the kid if he’s not fast enough.
In order to raise kids who are not spoiled and self-entitled, we should be doing the opposite —making a conscious effort to teach them to think of others and place others first. That could mean encouraging your kid to give up his seat on the bus, respecting the elderly, and praising good, considerate behaviour.
3. Don't do everything for them
A majority of Singaporean kids tend to do nothing but study, study, study. And by nothing, I mean that away from the books, they literally they don’t have to lift a finger to do a single thing for themselves. The mother (or maid) will be at their beck and call, so that their child's sole focus is to continue studying.
I’m a firm believer that kids should be made to help out around the house, even if their tasks are as easy as bringing the plate they've just eaten off of to the kitchen sink to wash. This also teaches them to respect their mothers who are not their maids, and their maids who are after all, still human beings.
When your kids learn to be responsible for themselves and considerate towards the people around them, they will also have better work ethics and greater independence in future. All of which are great life skills to have.
4. Help them learn the difference between needs and wants
The number of adult Singaporeans who are in credit card debt is climbing annually. Put a stop to that by teaching your child the difference between buying something he needs vs something he wants. Most parents tend to pander to their kid's every whim, and this only results in a vicious cycle of overspending for both the parents, and the child when he/she grows up.
Before making a purchase, talk your child through the decision-making process to help him/her understand how much time and effort goes into getting something. For example, getting a new toy is equals to 3 weeks of pocket money. This is for the child to understand the meaning of cost.
Another good way to help your kid understand the meaning of spending is if you happen to be at an amusement park or the arcade, decide on the allotted money to spend playing games (i.e. $5) and give your child that amount in a bag of coins. Explain that each game will cost a different amount of coins and it's up to him/her to decide what they're going to spend on. When the entire bag of coins is used up, then it's time to go home. It will help them to understand that money doesn't flow freely and that their decision making is important.
Whatever you do, resist the urge to say yes or no to your kids’ requests without talking them through the reasoning process. These are big opportunities to instil some life skills into your kid, so don’t let them pass you by.