05 August 2009

Parenting style

Now that I myself am a parent, evaluation on my parents and their "cohorts' "parenting style is inevitable. Sitting with some friends who come from the same cultural background who are parents themselves the other day, we started comparing notes and had a good laugh about the way we were 'parented'.

It seems that the popular style of our parents' generation is 'yell and threat'. We coined a hybrid English-Malay phrase for it- "Parenting Teriak-teriak" (Yelling style parenting).

In the Dusun society a child is expected to respect their elders (I guess it goes the same in any traditional society). This entails obeying every order given to you, no question asked. A stubborn child risks getting yelled at. If the yelling doesn't work, they resort to threat. I remember hearing "the police will come and get you" all the time from parents who got really frustrated with their children.

One of the favourite pasttimes of children in the villages was roaming about searching for rubber seed or something like that for games. As a child, I remember having so much fun outside that we tended not to notice the time, forgot all about going home before it got dark. Something that annoyed the parents so much because they have this thing about darkness-it is believed that spirits appear when it gets dark and may cause harm to people. Many such occasions triggered yellings from the parents. Oh such a cacophony! And the famous "ghosts will come get you" threat never failed to be used! How far they worked, I have no idea. But I was definitely scared when I was a little child.

Canings naturally followed yellings. The very last resort. If the yellings and verbal threats didn't work, one of the parents would produce the most dreaded one-meter long cane. That, I'd say, worked all the time. No child wanted to go through the pain of being caned, not to mention the humiliation. Failing the cane threat, a real caning session would be conducted. It didn't matter that all your siblings or whoever was in the house watched, you get caned when the parents deemed it necessary. Thank god in my household it wasn't often. (one such occasion was when one of my siblings played truant- now that is a serious crime in my household).

With the changing time, parenting style changes. At times I am tempted to keep a one-meter long cane in the house and use it to threat my kids when they try to kill each other. But I doubt that will ever work. I might even get reported for child abuse...One thing was passed on to me unconsciously though. I yell when the kids are being difficult. I hate to admit that but I do yell. Worse, it comes naturally. Changing this reluctantly-inherited-parenting-style is a hard work. I'm still trying.

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