I am Totally Appalled by the Singapore Tiger Mum

I have been hearing so much about the Tiger mum and when I picked up the latest issue of 8 Days I was thoroughly disturbed by the cover that seems to condone children being caned.

photo by bookjunkie

I think you will only see this abuse in Singapore or East Asian countries.  Yes, to me it’s abuse.  A child is smaller than you.  It’s just a case of picking on someone smaller, because you can and because it’s the easy way to rule through fear.  It’s also the way our government rules us unfortunately.

I think caning is a lazy way of disciplining a child.  In the article Singapore’s top actress Zoe Tay was interviewed when asked about her parenting style she revealed the following which is very telling:

“My sister-in-law has three daughters, and she has never beaten them before, and it works! I don’t know how! I tried that with my son, but sometimes you just have no patience.  Brayden feels paiseh (embarrassed) when he gets cane marks. He’ll say, “You cane me, you naughty mother!” (Laughs)

It is heartbreaking for me to hear of the young child’s loss of dignity.  Yes children are entitled to their dignity as well and I don’t know why this is forgotten by the Asian parent who beats their child into submission and compliance.  It definitely boils down to lack of patience and just pure laziness.  I think if you don’t have patience you should not have kids or as many as 3 kids in the first place.  You are doing them a disservice.  I notice that abused kids usually then grow up to do the same to their own kids. It’s like they don’t know any better, because they figure that they turned out all right.

I am sorry if I have offended anyone, but I just have very strong views on this subject. When I was in school we had a young second language teacher who would cane the whole class every time she came into the class and when a pin drop silence failed to greet her.  She made every child stick out their hands and she would bring the cane down with such force, especially on the boys, that blood was drawn on some of the kids.  Some classmates showed me the skin peeling off their palms and it made me very upset.  This was in the 70’s, before new regulations came into play, where teachers are not allowed to hit kids anymore.  We all grew to hate our second language. It had the opposite effect on us.  We were just 7 years old then.  Since then I vowed than when I became an adult with power I would never ever hit or take it out on a child.  It made me mistrust adults and they seemed sadistic. Now looking back I can’t see how this was not child abuse.

I also had a classmate in primary two, who once cried so badly he threw up. When I asked why, I found out they he scored just 92 marks for his Math paper and not a full 100 and was afraid to go home as he would be caned. If that was not abuse, I don’t know what is.

I am more in agreement with Tracie Pang, the wife of Singapore actor Adrian Pang.  She says,

“I love my kids, why would I want to hurt them?  Punishment is a lot worse when they have something taken away from them.  I’ve kept my son’s PSP for a full month – that was very painful for him”

I also like that she does not forced piano exams upon her son, although he goes for piano lessons.  She says

“I didn’t have children to fulfill my goals – I want my children to have their own goals”

I think that quote hits the nail on the head and can be contrasted with Zoe Tay’s desire for her sons to learn the piano because she wished that her parents had made her learn it.  Her son wanted to learn the guitar instead but she said

“Mummy likes to listen to piano music, so you learn piano ok?”

I am sorry that I focused on Zoe Tay, but there were other Tiger mum actresses who were interviewed as well who used similar methods.  Vivian Lai who also canes her daughters, had this to say,

“I know ang mohs use the soft method – at the most they’ll send their kids to a ‘naughty corner’, but they’d never lay a hand on them.  I’ve tried this method, but I don’t get results.The Asian method of caning definitely has more effect.”

It’s telling that her husband does not partake in this,

“My husband doesn’t cane the girls at all…We quarrelled the first time I used the cane.”

These are what Singapore professional had to say about the matter of caning on the Diva Asia website.

Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at the Gleneagles Medical Centre, said

“Constant hammering and telling them they are not good enough can worsen anxiety and make them even more insecure…Strict parenting and having high standards for your child need to be balanced with love and nurturing”

Mr Nicholas Gabriel Lim, executive director of psychological-services provider iGrow expressed,

“There is a lot of hurt, resentment and anger within these children, and which they may or may not understand or express appropriately.”

Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at Singapore Children’s Society had this to say:

But children taught to follow authority blindly will not be able to develop their own personality, ideas, and individual wishes and needs.

“Most children want to please their parents and not upset them. So it’s sad when parents abuse their position of power to bully their child into obedience.”

The worse part is I feel the Tiger mums say they want the best for their children, but I can’t help feel that there is an element of kiasu-ness behind it. That if their child does well, it’s a good reflection on themselves. It’s as much about them as it’s about the child.

I cannot be swayed on this issue, but would love to hear your views.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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12 Responses to I am Totally Appalled by the Singapore Tiger Mum

  1. Pingback: The Amy Chua Tiger Mum Interview | Tiny Island

  2. Maria says:

    I’m amazed at the Zoe Tay cover — if someone bragged about beating her children (with a weapon, no less) in a national magazine in Canada or the US, I’m pretty sure the police would come a-calling. What are the child abuse laws like in Singapore, and what has the reaction been to this story?

    • bookjunkie says:

      I am curious about the reaction as well. I am afraid that since there is no law against this, and caning as discipline is so prevalent in homes I don’t think I am going to get much of a reaction. My heart goes out to the poor children who learn through fear rather than reasoning.

  3. kirsten says:

    Sometimes when my mother hit me as a kid I knew I had it coming, so I don’t hold it against her. But I admit that the fear generated was not productive. It made me afraid to put any little step out of line or take any initiative in case it got me punished.

    I don’t think I would ever hit my kids, if I have any. (At least not beyond a smack for when they are clearly doing something dangerous like reaching towards hot fires.) It isn’t understanding, it’s just fear.

    What I object to most about this is how the magazine seems to portray caning your kids as something to be proud of. Like “look how cool and stylish Zoe Tay is… and she canes her kids! What a Tiger Mum!” as if a tiger mum is something sexy to aspire to. Why are we trumpeting this as something so good that it needs to be in a magazine? This is NOT an aspect of Asian parenting that we should actually be proud of, much less ADVERTISING.

    • bookjunkie says:

      yes you put it so well Kirsten. That was exactly what repelled me. They way it was portrayed as something sexy stylish and cool. It quite sickened me. The children looked so tiny and defenseless on the cover. Thank goodness it was revealed that those are not her real kids. Otherwise I think that would be in even worse taste.

  4. living in singapore says:

    my neighbour, who is american, is constantly beating up his sons. we live in singapore, is there a number or an organization i can call ?

  5. sos says:

    Quite a late reply but I am totally against caning children and this magazine cover was so stupid and despicable. Why are we glorifying violence against children?

    I do not like this aspect of Asian culture apart from the the fact that some Asian mom in the name of improving their kids lives and making them want to achieve something, call them pigs, ugly etc.

    Battle hymn of the tiger mom made me very angry. WTH is there to be proud of and brag about in that book? Is a degree from Yale and money everything in life?

    • bookjunkie says:

      I feel totally the same way…repulsed by articles like this. A child is small and defenseless and you’re teaching them violence is ok.

  6. Joanne says:

    Sometimes it is not to teach their child but a way for them to vent their frustrations and anger.
    I grew up with the cane , I feel that it is not only traumatising and painful but like the article said it affects to your personality . I feel that it makes you think that it is alright to get beat by the others as it became a norm for you. Therefore becoming more susceptible and conforming in the outside world.

  7. M says:

    I think many parents cane their children for every single misbehavior because they are genuinely ignorant of other ways of disciplining them. Caning is a short cut that is effective much like how punishment and rewards are effective in training animals.

    My mom caned when I was growing up, but it simply made me “smarter” in learning how to manipulate situations to my advantage rather than actually learn values. Teaching a kid to behave a certain way is easy. But teaching a kid the deeper reasons behind why they should do certain things requires much more than the lazy method of caning.

    Parents who cane often will also find that as their children become teenagers, there is a kind of trust that is not established between them because this trust is built upon years of mutual respect for a person’s dignity. The lack of a healthy trust/respect relationship between parent and child will present a problem when open discussion is needed to address issues like porn for boys, or self-esteem for girls. Kids used to corporal punishment will generally prefer to talk about such important issues with their peers (who appear open and unbiased) than their parents (who appear authoritarian and close-minded). At this point, parents used to caning will find that their lazy methods of discipline will have served little purpose toward establishing a healthy future.

    Having the bigger picture in mind can help to guide a parent’s method of discipline. Are you only seeking (a superficial) conformity in behavior, or a genuine awareness of socially healthy behavior such as being considerate, kind, compassionate and humble? If so, how can caning bring you to closer to the goal?

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