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Domestic CP - July 2007

Corpun file 19480


The New Paper, Singapore, 20 July 2007

Will the rod harden our soft and pampered youth?

By Tiah Kiang Choon

RECENTLY, my colleague at the company which I'm interning at was interviewing a replacement for one of her subordinates.

She asked the usual questions, like 'what are your plans for the future' and so on.

One of the candidates mentioned that he dropped out of Shatec, an institution in Singapore specialising in hospitality training.

He said that he dropped out because he felt that the training was tough. He also said that he foresaw work in the hospitality industry to be difficult and therefore, was not to his taste.

According to my colleague, he said it in a matter-of-fact tone. She was flabbergasted, to say the least, and immediately told him off for his attitude.

Yes, it's been said often that today's youth are too soft and pampered.

But it's not just about the ability, or lack thereof, to take hardship in a job.

What's got me worrying is the general failure or unwillingness to discipline the young when it's needed.

The rod: use it or spare it?

I'm not a parent, but I've had my share of encounters with the worst of them.

A few years ago, my uncle asked me to offer his son (then 14) tuition in Mathematics and English. I wasn't really that enthusiastic, but since we were family, I thought I would do him a favour.

Now, my uncle had never punished his son before. Sure, there have been a couple of scoldings, but none fierce enough to make an impact.

So during the lesson, it came as no surprise that I was having trouble getting him to concentrate and to actually do his work. When I told him off, he slammed his hands on the table, glared at me and threatened to complain to his dad.

I definitely wasn't going to take that from him. So I stood up slowly and stared at him with all the fury that I could muster.

I have to admit sheepishly, though, that for emphasis, I added a smack on his head too.

After that, he was quite a docile student, and things went more smoothly.

With parents working increasingly longer hours in the workplace, the care - and disciplining - of their children is left in the hands of maids or grandparents.

Of course, the maids don't really dare to discipline the children for fear of consequences, and grandparents will be grandparents and spoil the children.

A colleague lamented that when she tries to discipline her daughter, the 4-year-old would immediately run to her grandmother to seek refuge. Her grandmother would then try to stop the disciplining from taking place.

So children grow up without proper disciplining for their actions and their misdeeds go unpunished.

When the children start going to school, many parents expect the teachers to teach their children manners and the correct values.

Ironically, it is these very parents who descend on the school to demand explanations and apologies when teachers try to discipline errant students.

I come from a family that was never afraid of using the rod when necessary.

My parents used to cane me when I got into trouble in school or failed to do my homework. True, no one likes to be punished, but sometimes it's the only way to drive a point home. It worked for me.

Yes, many would argue that there are better ways than corporal punishment to discipline a child, such as time-outs and withholding of privileges. Counselling is also seen as a means of getting children to see the error of their ways.

But I feel that there is way too much emphasis on counselling these days. It pops up almost every time a student gets into trouble.

Student talks back to teacher? Counselling.

Student steals? Counselling.

Student hits bus driver? Counselling.

It seems to be the one-size-fits-all solution.

But has it really worked?

I have my doubts.

The writer, 23, is a second-year political science undergraduate at NUS.

Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

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