Many of our parenting practices are borrowed from traditional wisdom, or passed down from our own well-meaning parents. But modern scientific and psychological research has shown that it’s time we replace these practices with even better ones. If you are still following these common parenting practices, it might be worth relooking at some of them!
1) Making your child finish all their food
Children are fussy eaters, and there are times when they will just NOT eat. So a common scene at the dining table is parents attempting to make their child clear their plates. The unique Singapore variant of this coercion is to scare our kids by saying, “If you don’t finish all your food, your future girlfriend/ boyfriend/ wife/ husband will have pimples!”
However, experts say that pressuring your reluctant kids to clear their plates has a long-term negative effect. According to dietician and family nutrition expert Maryann Jacobsen, this practice causes children to “lose sight of their internal signals of hunger and fullness”.
By the time they are adults, they can no longer listen to their body’s intuitive eating cues. They also tend to be at higher risk of overeating and obesity, as studies have shown. Instead, allowing your child to eat intuitively is linked to a lower likelihood of eating disorders, nurturing a healthier relationship with his food!
2) Refraining from praising your child
Singapore parents arguably tend to be more disciplinary and hesitant about bestowing praise. We often hold the traditional belief that sugar-coating our words too much will prevent our children from developing the right resilience to weather setbacks.
However, praise is an important feedback mechanism as your little ones struggle each day to learn more about the world. Avoiding praise entirely (or worse, only giving negative feedback to your child when he’s done something wrong) can be counterproductive to building your child’s self-motivation.
You might have heard of this influential Columbia University study on praise, which showed that praising children’s intelligence produced self-defeating behaviour like avoiding risk. Yet praising their effort increased their motivation to learn even when facing setbacks! By recognising your kids’ efforts with constructive praise, you reinforce for them the right values for success in life.
3) Not talking about death
Talking about death is still taboo in Singapore society, whether because of cultural superstitions or simply wanting to avoid a sensitive issue. Parents may also habitually skirt this topic for fear of upsetting the little ones.
This parenting practice of shrouding death in euphemisms like “sleeping” or “going away” may be outdated. Experts say that giving your children honest answers about death and loss can equip them to deal better with future grief. Keeping an open dialogue about death prepares your child to face such inevitable trauma with calmness and understanding.
4) Not talking about sex
Another taboo topic for many Singapore parents is sex. Understandably, many of us might squirm when faced with the formidable responsibility of explaining the birds and bees to a curious child. Furthermore, there are still traditional worries about the moral dangers of developing your child’s sexual awareness too early.
Increasingly, however, research is showing that being frank with your kids about sex is the way to go.
According to HealthHub Singapore, children who feel free to talk to their parents about sexuality issues are less likely to engage in risky sexual activities. Keeping sex a mystery prevents your kids from relating to their bodies healthily and, in the worst case scenario, leaves them vulnerable to sexual predators.
5) Telling them to respect their elders
Obedience and respect for one’s elders are deep-seated principles that most of us grew up with in Singapore. In turn, we may want to incalculate this in our children, ensuring that they grow up polite and well-behaved.
Arguably, however, elders don’t always know better. Telling your kids never to talk back to their elders no longer makes sense in a fast-changing world, where critical thinking skills are more important than ever. The World Economic Forum report lists critical thinking as #2 in the top-10 skills needed for the global economy.
Besides, we can all agree that age doesn’t necessarily come with graciousness or good-heartedness. Let your kids know that standing up for themselves is the right move, if their elders treat them insultingly or make unreasonable demands. Instead of teaching your children to automatically revere their elders, why not teach them that basic respect must go both ways, regardless of age?
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