Asian parents have had to live through the “Tiger Mom” stereotype, where traditional parenting styles are condemned as tough, cold, and even brutal.
Yet, the stricter traditional parenting culture is just because Asian parents want the best for their children. Everything is for their own good! And the parents would know, because they’ve been through it! (Betul, kan??)
But one thing many Asian parents fear is that their children are hiding things from them.
So, what then? How are parents supposed to protect their children if they don’t know what is going on in their children’s lives?
1) DO NOT go through their diaries
This is the number one way to ensure that they will never tell you anything, ever.
When your child catches you reading their diaries (and yes, it will be inevitable), they will be rightfully angry that you invaded their privacy.
Everyone needs time to figure out their feelings on their own. They may not be ready to tell you yet, but once you have gone into through their most private thoughts, they will never tell you anything willingly anymore.
Worse, they will now be paranoid – and never write in their diary again.
2) DO NOT break a promise
A promise, to a young child, is like a commandment passed down from a higher power. They can’t explain why promises are powerful, other than it just is.
By breaking your promise to them, you show them that:
1. they aren’t important enough
2. your words mean nothing
Even if it’s something as simple as “if you finish all your homework I’ll take you to McDonald’s!”, make sure you follow through.
Plus, you will teach your child the importance of keeping your word, and when they are older, they will keep their word to you too.
3) DO NOT go through their phones
Similarly to the first point, going through their phones is a huge breach of trust, especially as their phone is a direct link to their friends’ privacy as well.
We get it, you’re scared of cyber-bullying and sexual grooming. It’s natural for you to be paranoid. Yet, children need to learn how to navigate their social circle and relationships (digital or otherwise).
What you can do is to discuss related topics extensively to help them understand the full picture. Talk to them about cyber-bullying, gaslighting, harassment, and what to do in those situations.
Give them a chance to join in the discussion and let them learn from there.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Create a safe space for your children. No child is born untrusting of their parents. It’s instinctive for children to look to their parents for everything.
Children have always tried to reach out. If they say, “I’m tired”, or if they slack off in school work, or they just say “I feel sad”, those are all signs.
Unfortunately, many parents, teachers, and even their friends brush it off, saying “no la, you just need more sleep!” or “you just need to work harder”.
By saying that, the child is taught that their negative emotions has to be suppressed and that they can only present a side of themselves that wants to be seen by the adults in their lives.
With rising youth mental health cases in Malaysia, parents are right to panic. However, no human being ever turns to suicide lightly. They only do so when it’s the absolute last resort and they see no way out.
The only way for your children to open up emotionally is to give them a safe space, trust them, and respect them. You’ll be surprised at how willing your child shares when you do these things.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.