Extreme Parenting Makeover


In 2008, the ex-sitcom child actor who played “Ah Boy” in the TV series Phua Chu Kang was found guilty of insubordination and sentenced to the Singapore Armed Forces Detention Barracks. His mother, unhappy with the sentence, spent $80,000 on legal fees to appeal against the ruling. That was not his first run in with the law.

The picture of a maid carrying the bag of an NS serviceman went viral a few years back, while a newspaper article in 2010 quoted a Primary school teacher who said that some parents insisted on standing outside the school gate to feed their eight or nine-year-old children.

Just last month, a man complained in his Facebook post of an ambulance parked under the passenger drop off point at a flat, and was therefore unable to drop off his kids on a rainy day. The ambulance was responding to an incident of cardiac arrest. The screenshot of the man’s comments made its rounds online and drew strong criticism from many netizens on his selfishness and parenting approach.

Stories like these sometimes make me wonder what has happened to our Asian values of showing respect, honor, considering others before self, building resilience and hard work. All religions and all societies have given parents an honorable status and exhort parents to inculcate values to their children. Confucius said “Honor your parents and make your brothers friends – this too is good government.” Mahatma Gandhi exerted that “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”

Parents too, are to love and value their children. Unfortunately, this has been distorted in the forms of over-parenting, helicopter parenting, over-indulgent parenting and more. What are the types of extreme parenting we have today?

Over Indulgent Parent Authoritarian Parent
Seldom says “no” Seldom says “yes”
Over praises Gives little praise
Doesn’t set limits Rigid, sets too many rules
Believe that the child should not lack anything Withholds, gives little rewards
Fearful of child Child fearful of parent
Allows disrespectful behavior Does not allow child to voice opinion
Does not expect anything from child Has overly high expectations of child

Over-indulgent parenting may give your child happiness – for a short while – and they may grow up to be vocal and opinionated individuals, but these children also tend to become self-centered, display a lack of consideration for others, are ill-disciplined and have an entitlement mentality. Authoritative parents may get obedient and compliant young children, but in the long run, these children will develop a low sense of self-worth, have repressed anger and may even rebel and reject their parents.

We want our children to be happy, but we must also remember that ultimately, the purpose of parenting is to raise responsible, self-assured adults that can contribute meaningfully to family and society. With so many parenting approaches and styles, many parents ask, “What then is the best parenting style and approach?”

We recommend the Backbone parenting approach. A backbone is firm and supports the whole body, but it is also flexible. Similarly, a Backbone parent is one who is firm in setting boundaries, following through with it and uses consequences when rules are broken; supports with unconditional love, but is also flexible and sees mistakes as opportunities to learn. Children of Backbone parents are self-disciplined, have a healthy self-esteem, and are responsible, secure and assertive.

So the next time you face a situation where your child faces some sort of inconvenience or “suffering”, is throwing a tantrum, challenges you with rude behavior or whines for the latest product… stop! As your emotions are running high and you’re about to react, put “think” between your “feel” and “act.” What do I mean? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my actions give him temporary comfort or help him in the long run?
  • Is the punishment age-appropriate?
  • Am I punishing out of my own frustration?
  • Am I helping her problem-solve or am I rescuing her?
  • Am I giving in out of guilt because I’ve not spent time with him?

As a parent, you need to be self-assured and be willing to let your children get upset with you from time to time. You don’t need to be their buddy or best friend. You need to be their parent.

To find out more on how you can be a Backbone parent, check out our Parenting with Confidence workshops here.



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