Monday, July 14, 2008

SURROGATE PARENTS: A wake-up call we should seriously heed

From Voices, I Say

Thursday July 10 2008 TODAY


Disobedience, defiance to parents will also lead to problems at school


Letter from Ho Kong Loon


I REFER to “So much for parenthood” (July 9), about parents who foist their parental responsibilities onto the domestic help.


If not rationally, quickly and sensibly handled, a hydra-headed social menace would inevitably emerge, with dire consequences for kids, parents and society at large.


The emotional, psychological, physical and social needs of children in their formative years really make it mandatory that parents rightfully assume their leadership and role-modelling captainship, or retake it if it has been unwittingly farmed out.


Regardless of how busy they are, parents owe it to their children to ensure that their vital role in passing on good values and inculcating desirable character traits is not compromised.


Surrogate parenting, left to the discretion of domestic helpers, is at best a poor substitute for parental closeness, warmth and love, instinctively and generously given.


Under the most favourable circumstances, a helper might do a competent job of bringing up the kids under her charge. This closeness and affinity is at best temporary: Some kids suffer severe trauma when “Auntie” has to leave at the end of her work contract.


There is also the risk of helpers using the kids’ emotional dependence on them to their employers’ disadvantage. A very crucial element impacting the overall development of children brought up by their helpers relates to discipline.


Kids have an innate ability to use the emotional attachment to their surrogate parents as leverage against their parents. The hapless and helpless parents often give in to their kids’ demands and consequently, mollycoddling them becomes routine.


This all-consuming feeling of impotence to act decisively and firmly to arrest incipient disobedience, rudeness and defiance, degenerates into gift buying, generous pocket money and so on.


Extrapolating from this feeling of helplessness, parents make excuses for the kids’ slipshod schoolwork, poor work and social attitude, misbehaviour, and the list grows with the passage of time.


Schoolteachers find it increasingly difficult and exhausting to teach kids who have behaviour difficulties because they have been left in the care of helpers almost exclusively. The decline in pupil discipline is multi-dimensional, and surrogate parenting contributes substantially to this malady.


This is a wake-up call all parents must seriously take heed of.

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