Show some tough love parenting or kids won't learn to fend for themselves

  • Living
  • Wednesday, 06 Sep 2017

Teaching children to be independent helps to equip them with life skills and becoming competent adults. Filepic

Mondays always seem more trying as it’s the start of a new work week (for most people) after the weekend. It’s also easy to lose track of time towards the evening when you’re trying to finish up stuff.

Usually, No. 2 son sends me a reminder to pick him up from tuition. But last week, I was so engrossed in work that I had totally forgotten about him. Rather than make him wait while I brave through the jam, it was faster for him to catch a cab home instead.

That triggered a memory and I hastily made a call to No. 3 son to check if he was still making dinner that night. As it turned out, he didn’t feel up to cooking anymore, so I had to buy food back on the way home.

In my defence, before a lynching mob starts gathering to chide me for neglecting my motherly duties, I am not alone in my parenting beliefs.

A few years ago, I came across an article by Amy Carney entitled 8 Things Kids Need To Do By Themselves Before They’re 13 which struck a chord with me. Heck, given how so many families these days grow up with maids who do everything for them, many kids can’t even fend for themselves when they are 18, much less 13!

When I read the story, I could hear my own voice echoing her words.

Basically, Carney advocates “parenting on purpose” and that one should work to build necessary life skills in our kids. It said something along the lines of “don’t judge me if my kids eat crackers for school lunch” or “didn’t turn in their homework because it’s still sitting at home”.

What some may view as a lack of parenting, Carney deems as practising tough love in her bid to raise children to be competent adults.

We shouldn’t have to wake our kids up for school (they have alarm clocks for that), deliver their forgotten items, pick up after them or do their homework (keyword here is THEIR homework). And, we shouldn’t be fixing everything right for them.

She wrote four words which I felt made a powerful statement: “Hold your teens accountable.”

So many of us complain about millennials being irresponsible and acting as if they are entitled. Perhaps, part of the fault lies with parents who set their children up for failure by being overly protective and never giving them a chance to solve their own problems.

Carney ends by saying, “It feels good to hover over them once in a while, but in all seriousness, it’s up to us to raise them to be capable people. I want to feel confident when I launch my kids into the real world that they are going to be just fine because I stepped back and let them navigate failure and real life stuff on their own.”

When my housekeeper went back to Indonesia for good, our household went through a paradigm shift as we had to manage on our own. I had always insisted that the boys do small household tasks like wash their own dishes, peel potatoes and pick up their clothes, despite having a maid.

Having grown up in a household in which the men are treated like lords, I am also very adamant that housework is not the mother’s (or sister’s or wife’s) job, but a shared responsibility, and boys are just as capable of doing chores.

Now that we’re on our own, some new “talents” have been unleashed. For instance, No. 3 has turned out to be a pretty good cook while No. 2 can handle the garden quite well.

So, while it was unfortunate that I could not fetch my son back that day, I know that he’s independent enough to find his way back. And the boys won’t starve when I’m attending an event or am out of the country.

In a couple of weeks’ time, No. 1 son will be leaving for Britain to finish his studies. The other boys jest that I must be glad to finally have the him out of the house as I no longer have to keep feeding him anymore (he’s forever hungry, you see). They forget, though, that over there, he’ll still be eating me into the poor house!

I’ve been a bit of a nag, trying to make sure he has everything in order before he leaves. It tugs at my heartstrings to see my firstborn take on this new adventure without me to guide and watch over him.

But I’m also quite confident that he can take care of himself and thrive wherever he may be. That to me, makes up for all the times the boys had to make their own meals and do all the other stuff for themselves.

The trick to not doing the dishes, Patsy has since learnt, is to see who can outlast the rising pile of plates in the sink. Share your thoughts with

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