Parenting book author Christine Gross-Loh asks: "Are you parenting wrongly?"
Will you let your little child climb trees unsupervised and use cutting knives in the kitchen? While many parents are shocked at the mere thought of such an idea, here’s why it may just be something you should do.
We parents have always been told that we shouldn’t ‘bubblewrap’ our kids from the outside world, nor wrap them overprotectively in the ‘cotton wool’ of our care.
Instead, we should allow them to explore freely and learn experientially. This totally makes sense, of course.
However, would you go to the seemingly alarming extent of letting your 3-year-old scale a towering tree, or deny a grouchy toddler his meal?
Born in the United States with mixed Korean and American parentage, author and mum to 4 kids Christine Gross-Loh has travelled the globe and interacted with different parents around the world to come to one conclusion — most parents in her own society have been doing it all wrong.
The previously constantly-fawning-over-her-kids mum was very much similar to her American counterparts — eager, thoughtful and concerned.
Actually, it isn’t difficult to spot the similarities between an American mum and a Singaporean mum — both are constantly there for their kids, assisting them every step of the way.
What Christine realised after understanding how the Swedish, Korean and French parents do things, however, was that we could be parenting our kids wrongly.
How is this so? We explore a few points that Christine brought up — ideas that may initially shock you into disbelief!
What first took Christine aback started making sense after she learnt that allowing young children to take certain risks at times helps nurture their judgement of their own capabilities.
While we are so busy childproofing our lives to eliminate threats, parents often forget that since tots are innately drawn to new (and dangerous) things, letting them learn more about them would naturally enlighten them on what they can and cannot do.
Contrary to what many think, there is nothing wrong with letting your toddler cycle down the street alone, like they do in Sweden, or your getting 5-year-old to slice some tomatoes in the kitchen, a common sight in German households.
To prove her point, Christine referenced a Norwegian researcher’s study on how Sweden, where kids were given the freedom to explore riskily, has the lowest rates of child injury worldwide.
“What?!” We can almost hear the Kiasu Singaporean parents exclaiming in horror. “How can our kids learn if they don’t spend a long time in school?!”
While many local mums and dads — as well as those in America — believe in the necessity of longer school hours to allow a child to absorb as much educational content as possible, parents in Finland beg to differ.
Astonished at how Americans (and Singaporeans, for the matter) did not understand why children went outside to play after every 45 minutes of classroom learning, a Finnish teacher explained that it helped increase their ability to focus.
In addition to frequent outdoor breaks and shorter school hours, Finland’s education model also includes a late start into formal schooling and more variety of classes.
Before naysayers can start putting down such a system though, it should be noted that Finn kids are ranked among the top students in the world, proving indeed that equity in learning and flexibility, rather than high achievement, are must-haves in schools globally.
Imagine your grumpy child demanding his food right NOW. How could this be a good thing?
Christine explored this in Korean and French families and found that the former insisted on children waiting out their hunger to sit down for a meal with the whole family present, while the latter regularly frustrate their little ones deliberately to let them practise self-control.
Besides honing their ‘waiting skills,’ delayed gratification builds better self-discipline and has been proven to help children be more successful in the future.
Additionally, children in Korea who exercise good dining table behaviour are less likely to be picky eaters, and enjoy a more robust food culture as well as a healthier diet.
Because of her experiences, Christine now uses a different parenting method. She is no longer the ‘helicopter mum’ that she used to be.
Like her, we Singaporean parents would probably do well to reconsider our parenting styles, and explore tried and tested effective parenting methods used by other parents around the globe.
Who knows? We might even discover that the parenting methods that are seemingly ‘unconventional’ are actually the ones that bear the most results.
Whatever parenting methods we choose though, it’s a given that all we want is the best for our children — so let’s do the best we can, shall we?
Watch the video on the marshmallow test for children below and find out more about kids and delayed gratification, as explained earlier in this article:
Do you know of any unconventional parenting methods that have proven effective? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!