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Monday with the Editor: Over-indulging our children

Hallo everyone

The 'N' Levels are almost over, save for subjects such as Accounts. The end-of-year exams for secondary schools are also coming to an end early this week.

So with secondary schools closing within this month for the end-year holidays, there are many youngsters pouring out into the streets and shopping malls beginning this week and lasting till the end of the year.

School breaks are a welcome change. But such breaks bring with them problems. Teenagers need more pocket money than they would during school days. That means two things - either the parents dish out the extra cash or the teenagers find part-time work.

Some teens will be out scouting for part-time jobs early this week. Others will unwind on the beaches and in the chalets. As these teens go about their holiday routine, what exactly is going on in their minds?

Of those who find part-time work, some do so to supplement the household income - it's still difficult times for some families despite the recovering economy. Some work to fund their holiday activities. Others want the money for a new mobile phone.

Those who need not work have it easy. Many of them have parents who can afford to give them ample pocket money each month. But not all teenagers who do not work are lucky with pocket money. Some come from poor families whose parents would rather they stay at home than go out to work. Their parents will not hesitate to work extra hours to bring home more cash during the holiday season so that their children need not work part-time. Perhaps, it's because these teenagers, especially the boys, are precious to these parents.

It appears that's the way the Singaporean family has turned out. Save for some families in which teenagers work to support themselves or their families, the majority of Singaporean families have this thinking that it is the parents' duty to take care of their children since they had made the decision to let them be born into the world in the first place. And the parents should provide everything the teenagers need till eternity. 

It is a far cry from the 70s and earlier periods in which teenagers, especially the eldest child in the family, took their duty in stride and bowed out of school to help their parents support the family. These youngsters sacrificed their education, and their future, so that their younger siblings could continue having an education while they helped their family make ends meet.

But, that's the 70s, you may say. It's over and gone, you may think. Times are so much better today, you may argue. But, let's not kid ourselves. Already, many young people, especially those in their 20s, continue having the mindset that they work to support themselves - not their parents or siblings. These young chaps also go about their work at the office lackadaisically.

That's the danger Singaporean families are heading into. Over-indulged children growing into self-centred adults is the fault of over-protective parents. The irony is that these parents went this route simply because they didn't want their children to suffer the way they did when they were young - in the 70s and earlier. 

A likely scenario will be that parents of today will need depend on their retirement nest-egg to support themselves, for their children may not support them in their twilight years. A likely danger may be that these parents may even have to use their retirement nest-egg to continue indulging their already-adult children.

Children of today, I say to you this - let's hope it doesn't turn out thus. Make a change in yourselves, for the sake of your children and their children.

Have a good week!

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11 October 2004