Yay – I’m legally married. Congratulations to both of us, W! That was a relief. Now, it’s time to start thinking about the next step in family planning. Raising our children. I recalled I have once asked someone about how she wants to raise her children. She told me that she would want her child to be raised to be exactly like me. I ended up marrying her, mostly because I think that her children are going to be brilliant (hehe).

Anyway, I took my time to pen down a few important priorities when it comes to raising kids. I have my fair share of educating children. I was a summer camp counselor in US for 3 months. The experience has been wonderful although it has its fair share of ups & downs. Mostly, I was grateful for this opportunity to interact & teach these young American kids (age 8 to 15), and had my first hand experience in learning how to teach, interact, lead & instill good values in them. As an Asian, I have also noticed how very different Americans raise their kids. Have you ever noticed the difference between an American (or Westerners) kid versus an Asian kid? American kid tend to be much more confident, independent, social & curious whilst Asian kid tend to be very shy, insecure, talk only if they are asked question & timid? This has definitely got to do with upbringing & the values that American focused in raising their kids. Time & again, facts has shown us that kids with these better attributes (American kids) will do much better in life & will have an easier time adapting to changes in their life. Also, my time in this US summer camp shown me that most decent Americans parents are not much different from us, W. They only want to raise a family, to be happy & be a good parent to their kid. Yes, I have my share of talking & interacting with American parents when they drop by to send their kid to the camp & to pick them up from camp.

Below I list down few of the more important points to effectively raise a child:-

1)      You are who your parents tell you.

So, to be a good parent, you must always praise them (not too much) and tell them that they are good person. Convince them on all the values you want to have in them. For example, both of you saw on TV that a boy cheated in his exam. You can take this chance to tell him that he will not do that in future. “Son, that boy is lazy & he is cheating in his exam. This is wrong but I know my son will never do such thing. You are hardworking, smart & even if you don’t know the answer to the test, you will not cheat because you know it is not right”.

Or if you are watching TV with your kid & it was showing a man being unfaithful to his wife (e.g. kissing his secretary), you can take this opportunity to tell your kid that you believe he will not be that man. You believe that he will be faithful to marriage & strong against sexual urges. “Son, I know in future you will be a man in control of your temptations. You will not be distracted by sexual urges like this weak man on TV. Your dad can control himself all the time & he has never cheat on mum. You will be like him son”.

2)      Teach them to be critical. Question everything.

One of the pre-requisite to raise an intellectually-smart child, is to encourage them to ask questions. Never stop them from asking any questions including what you deemed sensitive ones such as sex or religion. When they do ask, encourage them to ask further by guiding them along the line of critical thinking. Don’t just simply give them an easy answer to end the question. For example;

Son : Mum, why do that person on TV grab the auntie’s purse?

Mum : What do you think babe?

Son : Erm…maybe he like the flower purse?

Mum : But babe, he is a man just like you. Do you like flower purse for woman?

Son : No. Ok, maybe he wants money.

Mum : Yes, I think so too boy. Why do you think he wants the money?

Son : Maybe he is greedy mum. He wants to buy new toy gun to play.

Mum : Yes boy. But did you notice his shirt babe? It is torn & dirty.

Son : Ah yes mum. Why is his shirt torn & dirty?

Mum : Usually people who are poor & have no money to eat wear torn cloth.

Son : O….maybe he is poor & he wants money to eat mum.

Mum : Good guess, my boy.

3)      Between love & fear, always choose love to control.

As a parent, we must maintain control of our kid, until they are 18 years old at least. How do we effectively do that if you get rebellious kid that will question everything you do. Well, the easy way is to instill fear in them. This includes scolding them harshly, beating them or telling them that God will punish them if they don’t listen. Based on psychological point, statistic has shown that fear tends to work initially but in the long run, it will trigger a backlash. Kids that are succumbed to fear tend to lose confidence in themselves & will have a more negative outlook in life. Without confidence, they will not dare to think of anything better for themselves & will always settle for status quo (everything stays as they are). W, I think you can probably relate to this outlook in life. In fact, most of my 3rd uncle daughters are succumbed to this same fear-control technique. My grandpa almost never fails to shout at them & scold them when they are younger, for anything that went wrong. There is no speech freedom (they can’t say anything they want) & they should only follow instruction (whatever my grandpa says).

A better way is to instill love in them. Care for them, love them. Also, teach them to love others (neighbors, other races, their friends, teachers, etc). If you genuinely love them, kids will subconsciously know that whatever you restrict them, it is for their own good. Even if they cannot understand why you don’t let them play the knife or fire, they will listen to you. But do remember to take time to explain to them (point no. 5) no matter how young they are. If you assume they can understand what you explain, in time, they will be able to understand it (point no. 1). My mum used the same love-control technique on myself. Even though she was not always at home due to work, whenever she is, she makes an effort to cook for us good food or bring us out for fun. Eventually it dawned on me that she too was tired during her day-off, so my mum truly love us because she neglect her own rest time to make us happy. She loves us in her own way & everytime she restrict myself from doing anything (e.g. don’t go out during weekend), I will follow because I know it is for my own good. And now, I turn out to be optimistic, striving for a better future & never took the wrong path (although I did gamble for a bit, hihi).

4)      Freedom to choose. Let them explore everything but with guidance.

Freedom is a very important thing. We must always not be confused with the wrong choices people make on taking drugs, abusing alcohol, visiting prostitute, etc. Yes, these people are free but they were not guided properly & thus succumbed to addiction & eventually ruin their own life. Without freedom, kids tend to be withdrawn from society & if they are given any choices, more often than not, kids will not be able to take the suitable choice for themselves. Take your daughter dating for example. An unguided dating would be to allow daughter to start dating at 13 years old. But a good parent will hold on until their daughter display maturity (probably after 17 years old). Consider this. A girl whom have dated a few boys versus a girl whom have never dated & she marry her first boyfriend after dating a few months. Which do you think would make a better, more informed choice of her life-partner? Definitely the one who has a few choices. Yes, you can argue that maybe the one without choice will turn up happier in the end but these are things out-of our control. As a parent, our responsibility is to do our best in things that ARE within our control. In this case, we have to give them choice & teach them the benefit of having more choices in life.

The same goes for education subjects, choices of learning musical instruments, dancing, sports & even food (if you have never tried sushi, how do you know you don’t like it). Faith/religion freedom is very important W. As a good parent, we must not force it upon the child. The best is to explain to them a couple of different religion concepts & when they are matured enough to think for themselves, they will choose themselves. That’s why for most Chinese kids, even though they go to temple to pray etc, the kid might eventually end up as Christians/Buddhist/Taoist (mostly).

5)      Always take time to explain to them everything that we need them to do. Give logical explanations, examples & comparisons (choices).

As much as we are cool parents, give them freedom etc, there will be some things we will have to force them to do (they are still kids who don’t understand a lot). For these, always take time to explain to them why we want them to do it. For example, you want your 8 years old to start eating everything you served on the table for dinner. He is only willing to eat the eggs & chicken. Tell him he must eat the vegetable & take time to explain to him why. Ask him if he has been sick before. Ask him if he knows why. Explain to him about the benefit of vegetable & how it can prevent sickness with its vitamin & minerals. Tell him to explain his reason of not eating vege & try to counter that reason. If he say it taste weird, explain to him that’s because he is not used to it yet. “Will it help if I cook this everyday so that you can get use to the taste?” Smart kid will just quietly finish his share as he wouldn’t want you to cook that daily. Now, if he really hated that one type of vege, you should of course offer him a couple of choices for him to choose. Kids should eat all types of vege really but if he is young, it should be ok to give him choices until he gets older.