Saturday, May 27, 2006

Of helicopter parents and trophy children

Call me slow, since it is only a fortnight ago that I finally came across the terms "helicopter parents" and "trophy children". And their descriptions resonated so strongly with me. I wonder what the Singlish (or 'local') equivalents are. (I do not think it is kiasuism.)

I don't know about your families, but in mine, the parental units (with their siblings aka aunts and uncles) had a very strong influence total control over what/how we are to learn/lead our lives. From swimming to martial arts to music classes to speech and drama to private tuition to driving lessons, my cousins and I all had our timetables planned out; these "ECAs" were to complement our normal school schedules. Our academic grades/performance were always carefully vetted when the report books/exam scripts were brought home - areas which needed "improvements" were immediately zoomed in and corrective/preventive measures put in place. This can range anywhere from more private tuition to calling up the teacher(s) to demand why lousy grades were given to doing the actual artwork/drawings in order to beat the rest of your classmates. For the cases where the exam papers were not returned, you could almost always expect the matriarch to make a personal call to school to speak to the teacher.

Of course things didn't stop after JC (or high school) - decisions like the choice of degree course, which university to go to, scholarships to apply for, choice of your other half and even companies to send your resume to (after graduation) all had a heavy parental hand behind it (for approval). It is like, well, our lives had become theirs to lead.

So you know why I actually felt happy when I left Singapore's shores, and weird when I returned for the annual vacations. No one wants to grow up, but everyone needs space to grow. Now? I still get the ring from home if I had not called during the regular time slots. Always the usual: How come you didn't call? Forgot? So what have you been up to for the past x days? Thankfully they don't fly over to give me a earful. Same case for a cousin. His mum demands that he call home everyday, even if there is nothing to update them about.

While modern technology like the internet and cheap international calls has made the world smaller, it also ties us down. I hope it does not kill us. Let me soar and reach for my own skies!

Related: Overzealous parenting, Mama's boy, Old wounds


eileen said...

The root of the problem is still society because the society's expectations of success governs the behaviour of all parents. A child is always aware of the numerous ways to dissappoint the family. The closeness of chinese families makes it trickier to be your own person because that frequently involves disappointing the parents. The only way, it seems to me, is to separate from the family unit - either by a marriage or a move.

Unknown said...

I've been thinking about a post for a few weeks now...

Basically I was thinking about my sister, who started her schooling in a chinese school back in Malaysia. I felt sorry for her in a way, 'cause...

a) the teachers were unreasonable
b) the teachers and others do not like giving people chances
c) the competition is the whole point of school instead of learning
d) because of all that, i remember my sister being bullied in the bus...when she told us. bullied by a bunch of boys. i think they learned it from their dad, who's all about men first, so bully everyone else.

it's very competitive over there.

while here in the states, and while it's also "competitive," the competition's different. there's a time for competition, such as sports in school versus other school...

also, the "competition" is more like, "if you can achieve this goal, you get a prize. i don't mind if you want to try out."

whereas in malaysia, i tend to notice teachers going, "you can't make it. don't try out"

sad isn't it?

smazh said...

Woah... heavy-duty parenting. Maybe you might like this link :

Although, it's not 100% relevant.

L'oiseau rebelle said...

>>I wonder what the Singlish (or 'local') equivalents are.

Probably there aren't any. This is accepted and even encouraged behavior. So they're called.... parents?

I know a lot of helicopter types (surprise surprise). Generally, the more the parents are like Black Hawks, the worse the kids turn out - either socially inept and totally immature and/or mama's boys as I've described, or rebels without a cause.

Heh, my parents eventually realized (I think) that not butting their noses into my business is a win-win situation. Sometime during my undergrad career.

On the other hand they've turned their attention to my siblings, who don't seem to mind it too much. ;-)

-ben said...

IThe worst case I've ever seen?
As a favor, I was asked to show this new overseas student around the San Francisco Bay Area. His mom came along with him to help him settle down. While looking for a place, they stayed at Motel 6. One day, as I arrived to pick them up, he exited the bathroom as I entered the unit. His mom went to the bathroom thereafter, leaving the door open. I heard a flush. After coming out, she said the following in Chinese to her son, "You need to eat more vegetables!"

The Last Emperor, anyone?