How you discipline leaves a lasting memory

  • Letters
  • Monday, 08 Jul 2019

HAVING read “Yes! It’s all right to rotan the kids” (Sunday Star, July 7; online at, I had to write in as I feel deeply about the issue of inflicting corporal punishment on children.

Our only son Eu Gene (EG) was born 22 years ago and, naturally, we love him dearly, especially after a long anxious wait of 12 married years for him. With both of us parents working from home for many of his formative years, EG enjoyed abundant love from us and was never left overnight alone with any relatives. So at any time, EG could feel, see and hear any one or both of us, so much so that he never needed pacifiers for added comfort.

During my wife’s pregnancy, I had already made up my mind to avoid physically punishing him while learning the ropes of parenting. And I did not, except for once trying to manage his naughtiness by preventing him from coming into the house from the garden with the pet dog – and that was enough to strike a huge fear of insecurity at such a young age.

As a father, it was easy to forget but EG rightfully remembers. There was no physical pain, only bodily isolation but I now realise the unnecessary psychological scar, which is difficult to erase and forget for any child receiving such a punishment.

My late dad never used the cane or his hands on me except for one occasion of lightly tapping my right palm with a ruler for dropping from first to sixth position in class in one of my primary school years. That was all from him, and even then, I remember it till now, so how can I blame our EG for not forgetting?

My mother disciplined us, especially the boys, differently by using the cane, which I remember too. I did not forget but I forgave and that was why I was able to transition to become a parent who did not physically punish my own child.

I do not blame my parents, for I knew they tried to the best with their knowledge and ability to raise 10 children while working hard to put food on the table. There are no perfect parents for we are only human and subject to err on the child-nurturing learning curve.

Many developed countries have long banned adults from hitting their kids. For example, New Zealand passed an anti-smacking Bill in 2007.

Parenting opinions differ in countries depending on social norms, such as stressing obedience to elders, which means teaching kids to respect and accept their elders’ words and instructions without question.

However, it should be understood that children are bound to also be influenced by external stimuli such as the behaviours of peers and teachers. Hence, we as parents should not be too hard on ourselves because we learn along the child-raising journey in different family and environmental settings.

Looking at the whole picture of raising kids, I believe developing countries will eventually abolish corporal punishment.

It is reasonable to say that inflicting physical pain at whatever age comes with psychological torment as well as losing personal dignity and self-confidence.

It is natural for the affected child to question not only his or her own security within the family but to also doubt the love from parents when disciplined in this way.


Kuala Lumpur

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