Monday, February 14, 2011

How do you teach your children?

Yale law Professor and self-described 'tiger mother' Amy Chua provoked international debate when her book 'Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother' was published recently. The Chinese-American was called nuts, a despot and a monster for her extreme parenting methods, which among others involved calling her daughters 'garbage' and hours of Mathematics and spelling drills. Sonia Ramachandran and Chandra Devi Renganayar find out if tiger parenting is the way to raise cubs that will rule the world

Datuk Farshila Emran, managing director:

One of my daughter's teachers told her that she had better be careful because the discipline teacher was a "tiger".

My daughter replied, "She may be a tiger but my mum is a lion."

I have three children. When my eldest daughter Khalesa was slightly over a year old, I sent her to play school. She cried the first two days and I gave in. When she cried on the third day, I slapped her in front of the teacher.

My action shocked Khalesa and she immediately stopped crying. That was when I realised that the soft approach does not work.

If any one of my children is rude, I will slap them no matter where they are. I don't care if they are embarrassed.

Some parents do not want to take action immediately when their children misbehave. They prefer to do so in private. But if you take action later in the day, the child might have forgotten what she did.

My youngest daughter, Lubna, wanted to accompany me out one day but her brother Mukhlis was not allowed to do so.

She turned to her brother and said, "Na na na na neh! You can't come with us." I immediately slapped her.

When she asked me why, I told her it was because she was rude to her brother. Children are not mature. If you slap, pinch or cane them, they know they have done something wrong.

If you use the soft approach by explaining to them what they did wrong, they might not understand. I once caned my daughter because she did not complete her homework. It is for her own good.

I told her that the moment I receive anything from her school telling me she had not completed her homework, I would slap her in front of the school assembly. I have to put fear in them, otherwise they will not know I'm the boss.

My husband, Dr Mohd Sharif Abu Hassan, is not strict.

If I shout at the children and he comes out of his room, I will look at him and he will immediately return to his room.

I never, however, use harsh words on my children.

Children will forget the pain of a beating but they will not forget the pain caused by harsh words.

For example, if your mother hit or pinched you when you were young, would you still feel the pain now?

Of course not. But if your mum had called you 'garbage' when you were younger, won't you still remember that?

Once, my daughter's piano teacher came to the house to give her lessons. She was sleepy, so she just banged on the piano. I went over and slapped her and she immediately woke up.

Then I told her why I slapped her in front of the teacher.

I explained that the piano teacher had travelled all the way to our home to teach her so that she could earn a living.

I told them I don't care if I beat them in front of their friends because their friends are not going to be there when they're in trouble. I told them they should be proud that their mother cares about them, looks at their homework and hires tuition teachers for them instead of saving that money for make-up, etc.

Nobody can nurture them better than their own mother. We are 'tiger' but we are not "tiger gila". (mad tiger).

My children are allowed to go to the playground in front of the house on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

On other days, they will just look at the other children playing but will not dare to ask if they can go out.

Khalesa always comes first in class.

If she is performing on stage (Khalesa is in the Permata Seni Choir), I send a professional make-up artist to do her make-up and if she goes outstation, I put her, together with her friends, in one of the better hotels.

I make sure Khalesa studies five hours every day. She has a packed schedule every single school day with a maximum of 30 minutes gap between activities.

Besides tuition, there are classes for mengaji (reading of the Quran), Bahasa Malaysia, vocal training, creative writing by a tutor whose mother tongue is English, art, piano, as well as sight reading. She also has English classes at the British Council on Saturdays.

I know Khalesa's capability and I know she can achieve 100 per cent in her examinations. So, if she comes home with 96 per cent, she would be afraid to enter the house to face me. I will evaluate the questions and if the mistake is due to carelessness, I will spank her.

Lubna, who is 5, has a teacher who comes over every day for three hours to teach her living skills, storytelling and to help her with her homework. She also goes to the British Council for English classes during the weekends and to the gym for classes three times a week to lose weight.

People have criticised the way I handle my children but I told them that these are my children and I will do what I like. My husband respects the way I do things. Although he does sometimes think I am too harsh, he understands that I am not doing it for fun.

When I beat, I really beat. I do feel bad about it later and cry in the shower. However, I never show them I am upset.

Dr Leow Mei Ling, housewife:

My only daughter, Emma Ooi, is 13 this year. She is a straight-A student as well as a gymnast who is gearing up for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Her Mathematics capabilities are that of a 17-year-old. She can also play the piano and speak Latin. Emma is also a fantastic chess player and has represented her school.

I believe discipline is necessary for a child to have a disciplined outlook in life, whether in sports or education. This is the kind of training I gave her from the time she was a toddler. I insisted she has her own table and chair from the time she could sit. I don't believe in children running around the house.

I quit my job when she was born and I drive her to all her classes and activities.

Emma's schedule is packed, straight from the moment she wakes up to the time she goes to bed, with no time for television, play or anything else.

Her day begins at 6am, with preparations for school. She leaves school at 2pm to go for gymnastics training, where she is in the national team. That ends at 6pm.

Then it's home, dinner, homework and bed. This is her routine seven days a week, with music and Latin classes squeezed in as well.

Emma is also not allowed to sleep late and is up by 8.30am.

She started kindergarten at 4 and was enrolled in the Shichida Right Brain Training Method, developed by Professor Makoto Shichida.

I also monitor her diet strictly. I restrict fatty foods and salt.

My husband (Ooi Khean Min) agrees with me and feels that a rigid and regimented schedule equips a child with the tools for the future as it teaches them to multi-task.

If you don't guide your children, they will not know what to do with their time. I would rather Emma play chess than watch television for hours during her free time.

I think watching television is a waste of time. I would not allow her to go to the playground to indulge in normal play as it is not safe.

I do not believe in harsh words or caning.

I don't feel that I am depriving her of a normal childhood. Play is doing something you enjoy.

I feel she enjoys this. Otherwise, she would not have been able to survive this long.

I don't think I'm a tiger mum but I believe there should be discipline.

Faridah Hamzah, housewife:

I have been labelled a very fierce mother by my family members and friends but I won't change my ways in bringing up my two daughters. I have to be strict to bring out the best in them. It is to ensure that they have a better future.

I cannot start to structure them when they are older, can I?

My 14-year-old daughter, Fatin Zakirah, is a national gymnast and she is training for the Commonwealth Games. Her school teacher introduced her to gymrama when she was 7.

Since she liked it, I decided to push her to excel in the sports. Her 10-year-old sister is interested in singing, so I enrolled her for choir training.

My girls are talented and I want to show them the right path to improve their lives and be successful. I believe you can only achieve results if there is discipline and order at all times.

Their daily routine starts at 6am on weekdays and on weekends, it begins at 7am. Their days are occupied with school, religious classes and training sessions.

Their daily schedule primarily involves studying and training. Yes, there is television time but it's very limited. There is also not much time for computer games or hanging out with friends.

I make sure they are in bed by 11pm after they have done their homework. Fatin has shown her frustrations about not being able to spend time with her friends. However, I have advised her about getting her priorities right. Now, she understands why she needs to focus and work hard.

Since she is with the national gymnastics team, her schedule is much more hectic compared to her sister's. The only time I allow her to play computer games is when I drive her for training daily.

I also control my children's diet, especially Fatin's. As a gymnast, she needs to maintain a lean physique to perform well in the sports. I don't buy or keep any other food in my refrigerator except for fruits and juices. Initially, I had to guide her but now Fatin has disciplined herself to eat the right food. To support and encourage her, I also follow a strict diet rule in the house -- no sweets, chocolates or chips.

My husband supports my approach in bringing up our daughters. Yes, I rule with an iron fist but that does not mean I don't show affection.

My style of parenting is injected with lots of love and words of advice.

I don't believe in using harsh words or degrading my children's efforts to make them better. I show appreciation every step of the way and it has borne fruit.

Read more: Confessions of tiger mothers

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