Thursday, October 30, 2008

Traditional ways of disciplining kids are now deemed harsh and stifling (Ho Kong Loon, Today Voices, 29/10, p30)

I REFER to “Ill-behaved pupils on excursion” (Oct 29).

I share Mr Lionel de Souza’s unhappiness and concern about how the school children had misbehaved, and the apparent lack of supervision on the teachers’ part.

This phenomenon is not an isolated one. As a retired teacher, I have personally witnessed the proliferation of errant kids. The “I, me, my, mine, myself” genre has become the rule rather than the exception.

A better educated and liberal generation of parents has revolutionised the manner and approach to parenting. The traditional way we disciplined our kids is now deemed harsh, cruel, inhibitive and stifling. Kids today enjoy unbridled freedom, independence and rights.

I do not doubt the sincerity and good intentions of those who advocate a more liberal, lighter touch in raising and disciplining children.

But for many young parents, it is the inability to see the trees from the forest that trip them.

Mired in a relentless pursuit for a better life, the dues many working parents pay are usually less time with their kids, slavish dependence on domestic help, elderly parents or child-care centres, over indulgence and over compensation.

Teachers have their work well cut out for them when it involves managing kids who are restless, hyperactive, disobedient, aggressive, vocal or disruptive. In short, their hands are tightly bound, metaphorically speaking.

Educators today are well aware the parameters they operate within are distinctly marked out: No scolding, no corporal punishment, no writing of lines, no detention class, no deprivation of recess, no negative remarks, no threats ... the list is endless.

I taught the less-academically-inclined kids for 40 years. A glare from me was all it took to still a restless kid or alert an inattentive one.

Very few kids dared defy their teachers then because they knew they had no recourse to parental protection or interference. The discipline master or the school head dealt with cases of indiscipline firmly and effectively.

Can we as adults do much to remedy the present malaise and deteriorating state of discipline?

There are Singaporeans who will argue comprehensively, articulately and passionately that Mr Lionel, my peers and I are dinosaurs, time frozen by our mindset.

Are we?

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