of lessons taught, learnt and observed

I was giving tuition to my cousin this evening. It will be his English CA1 tomorrow, and I’m going to give him tuition for 3 consecutive days. He is a good looking little boy, all of 11 years old, with an impish grin and bright, mischievious eyes. He is usually quite a delight to teach since he’s naturally quite clever and has a sunny disposition. And he is all questions. From the universe to miracles, he has this desire to acquire knowledge, and a natural curiosity. All in all, a good boy.

I was a little angry with him today though. He refuses to trust my authority on the English Language for some strange reason. My English might not be perfect, but we’re talking primary 5 English here, I think I can handle it just fine thank you very much. But nevertheless, after proving to him time and again about a punctuation error, he merely states that he ‘may’ be wrong. *throws hands in the air* Hey, whatever works for you, little buddy.

The tuition session soon ended, and he looked tired out. His mom came to the table and so I was trying to explain to her which areas that he is weaker in. And then his mom started berating him so badly that I got a little shocked. Sure, his grades are not of the fantastic sort, more of the above average sort, but she was piling on the criticism in waves. And I could just see the fight go out of his eyes, those plaintive eyes, and my heart ached. I was sorry that this had to happen. He’s 11 years old, come on. She was just criticising him harshly about his laziness (though he always finishes his homework) and how he actually wants poor grades which is the reason why he doesn’t check his work. She was just putting him down throughout that painful 5 – 10 minutes. This can’t be good for his confidence level for the exams tomorrow. This is not the first time she has so harshly criticised him, previously, she used to say that he has ‘low intellect’ as a reason for the way that he’s been performing.

I don’t understand. I truly don’t. It’s obvious she loves her son to bits. She’ll buy him the toys he wants and I find it hard to believe a mother can not love her child. I just don’t understand the reasons behind the berating she does. What’s the objective? Reverse psychology? Honestly? At 11? I just don’t think it’s that healthy to be crushing his ego at primary 5. And I think the effects are showing. Today he wrote a composition about how his father hit him ‘as if he was going to kill him’ because of a lie that he told. And how his parents still have not forgiven him for the lie he told, and how he has not forgiven himself too for the same lie. Mind you, this was a lie about completing his homework when he actually hasn’t. It’s not exactly a matter of life and death. Previously, he drew a comic strip with his friends and him as the hero. When he was introducing the characters, all of them have an intelligence quotient and he made sure his was the highest.

I find this all very disturbing. Do the parents understand the likely damage that they’re inflicting on the poor kid? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that this can’t be very healthy on the boy. He had already given up choir, the CCA he loved the most because his mom wanted him to concentrate on his school work. Surely, there has to be another better way to bring up a kid.

Is it the chinese thing? Are we still believing in the frigging chinese superstition that one should not praise one’s kids because they’ll get big headed and be full of themselves? Or that this will drive the children to succeed? And it doesn’t matter how the kids feel about the parents after they’ve succeed? So the parents are actually being noble? That’s a subversion of nobility if there’s ever been one. What is it about the chinese upbringing? Why do such damage? Why is there such an aversion to praise and why is there a  glorification of putting down your children in public? I find it twisted. And the only way one expresses love is through the mundane, by pushing more food to your plate and making sure that your daily needs are met. Is this the only way? Is this the chinese way? The East / West divide? Well, I guess if the parental affection gets communicated in a roundabout way, it’s better than nothing at all. One just has to pay more attention. As long as the kid gets it. As a kid, I don’t think he gets it. This roundabout way of seeing that your parents adore you. And he’s just hurt by how his parents, especially his mom, seems to think so little of him.

So yeah, for all those people intrigued by the government benefits of having more children, for goodness sake, stop damaging them. Don’t screw up their lives.

5 Responses to “of lessons taught, learnt and observed”
  1. ted says:

    Kids are direct, adults are the ones who grew up into convoluted beings.

  2. Dee says:

    Hah, that’s actually an old-school view that children are the property of parents. This view was not just limited to Asia but it was found in places like Europe, America, etc. too! Today, you can still find remnants of such views held by certain conservative families like in East/West Germany, the Southern Belt of America, etc.

    Such a form of upbringing had a rather harsh impact on society: it resulted in children who grew up, lacking in empathy and often suffering from severely stunted emotional growth. Often, many of these “adults” would also support rather extreme/harsh policies in areas like politics, education, etc. as they usually learnt the attitude of harshness and non-forgiveness from their parents and society.

    Various studies have also indicated that this form of upbringing was one of the major factors why much of the German population was able to ignore the atrocities practised against their Jewish counterparts, during the Nazi reign. It didn’t matter if they bore witness to such acts, it was probably that they no longer had the heart to empathize and to even do anything about such atrocities.

    (Of course, the upbringing practised by many German families during the 1920s to 1940s was extremely harsh which included beating a child repeatedly with various objects, extreme psychological punishments and little to no physical contact with a baby/child. This system of upbringing was likely due to the belief that to nurture a tough and strong child, one had to be as harsh as possible when raising a child. Of course, this view is now reviled in many parts of German society and debunked by various forms of research.)

    Which brings us to a disturbing point: could it be that such upbringing caused some of the older generation in Singapore to become completely desensitized to certain areas of politics, etc.? (Okay, it might be a long jump and that’s my opinion, anyway!)

    After all, violence begets violence. And while you might beat the devil out of a human, you might beat it into him as well.

  3. humanoidinterface says:

    Hi Dee, sorry for the late reply, I was kind of busy during the weekend.

    I think the sad part is when the parents don’t think of the child as property, but actually love him or her a lot. Which is the reason why they expect so much from them and pressure them to excel. I think ultimately, this parental pressure is, to their minds, for the child’s own good. I don’t think they delight in such abuse but they scold and punish them in the hopes that they’ll be better people. The problem is when the expectations are too high and unattainable, hence making the child feel small and helpless.

    Of course, there are also those parents who don’t really treat their children as assets but like you said, as property, as assets that will add value to their lives. All in the hopes that a more accomplished child will add more credit to them as parents. And there are housewives, or homemakers, who perhaps did not get the education they deserved when they were a child, and hope to groom a highly educated child so as to vicariously live through them.

    There are all types of parents, just as there are all types of people. And I think the issue of political apathy being traced to our upbringing is true in a sense. For example, the typical singaporean upbringing has resulted in children being more results oriented. Therefore, one will undertake an action only if there are results (or a guarantee of possible results). Hence, if there is no use in being politically aware since it will not bring about change, then more youths will be politically apathetic. If the system is such that change is brought about only from the top down to the people, and never from the people to the top, then there is no point in talking, no point in even knowing about politics. Unless of course, you have friends who are interested in this kind of things, and you don’t want to appear like a complete ignoramus. Then again, the acquiring of such knowledge is useful due to personal vanity. Either way, the utility of an action is weighed carefully.

  4. Dee says:

    Oh geez, I must apologise for a very late reply. Caught between an ageing installation of Windows XP and some project I was working on, I was forced to reinstall Windows XP. At the same time, I migrated to Linux and a lot of time has been invested into learning how to use Ubuntu. However, my pc just developed some hardware issues(I’m observing it now and if the issues don’t improve, I’m sending it to a hardware repair shop) which meant more delay in replying to you!

    Oh and apologies if my English isn’t up to scratch. I’m a little tired, today.

    Well, it is true that most parents love their child. Yet, this doesn’t mean that their upbringing didn’t influence their attitudes towards their children. For example: (do correct me if I’m wrong) many who’re in their 30s and beyond were raised in an age of “don’t speak”, “don’t see” and “don’t hear” where strict and harsh discipline was enforced. And often, many tend to assume the attitude of “All parents are right, so what my parents did was right too” or “My parents love me so what they did must be right” and thus, they in turn apply what they learnt from their parents.

    And ironically when one witnesses them punishing their children harshly and in turn justifying it, you often sense that they’re trying to convince themselves that they don’t suffer from self-hatred and that they’re failing at it miserably. After all, when one lashes out at another human in violence or even verbally, etc., (whether it be for justice, discipline or some other reason), often it’s not the other person he hates, it’s himself whom he hates and fears.

    Yep, it’s true that many wish or desire to live a life through their children. Yet, there are also others who struggle or aspire to a certain standard of ideals and impose these ideals on everyone in their life. Oh well, like you said, there are all sort of people and all sort of parents.

    Well, I actually was trying to point out that the upbringing issue might be the reason why many Singaporeans seem to have something missing in them, emotionally and psychologically, when you converse with them. It’s as though they’ve become superficial humans, pretty on the outside but empty or incomplete on the inside. Thus, lacking in ability to express themselves, they’re often also unable to comprehend or even understand the different in-depth issues that involve a society and its’ politics.

    A way to remedy this is to attend self-enrichment courses held by various organisations, like AWARE, etc., etc. I myself attended some seminar held by an MLM and it was really good because how many people can surround themselves with only positive people every day, hour and minute of the year? 😛 Besides, we’re only human and even the best falter. No one can be a mythical titan who’s the prowress to sway the masses, the godly power to remain pure and saintly in truly difficult situations. Often, I find that many are pure and saintly because they didn’t have to face the problems some have to. They didn’t have to grow up with abusive or alcoholic parents, they didn’t have to choose between prostitution and drugs for survival, they didn’t break apart emotionally but instead, they enjoy a life of stability and economic abundance. How bloody fortunate indeed. But this is all side-tracking. (And oh, to anyone reading this, let’s not get into a debate of whether MLMs are the greatest scourge of evil on earth, shall we? :p)

    Back to the topic:

    Yet, your point about the connection between the Singaporean upbringing of being result-orientated and political and social apathy is true, too. It is completely true that many youths are politically apathetic because of the way the Singaporean political system functions. How sad, though that many are often well-versed and well-read in politics and that our system rebuffs them as unconventional and challengers of the authoritarian regime. Note: I state that quite a few are well-read and well-versed in politics because often, many youths tend to pretend to be dumb because it’s “in” to sound dumb. And because many adults tend to take this at face value, they tend to form various ideologies about many young people too. And also, many adults tend to apply ideologies and mindsets to young people so they come away with rather skewed results.

    Phew… that was a long post! Perhaps in a few days’ time, I might find the energy and time to respond to that post about Christianity. 🙂

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  1. […] her latest entry, Humanoid Interface was talking about an experience she had giving tuition to a Primary 5 year old bo…. She said that although she knew that the mother really loved the child, the way the mother had […]

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