Present Issue 
Past Issues 

Present Issue 
Past Issues 

SMA Editorial Board 

Letters to the Editor 



This site is supported by Health ONE







As doctors we come across parents who ask for tips in parenting their children. And we become parents too. Miss Linda Koh writing in "Families Today", a quarterly newsletter of the Ministry of Community Development talks about five everlasting gift packs that parents can give to their children _ gifts that equip them for the life ahead without us; gifts that will not break but will remain in their minds and hearts forever. Reflect on these gifts and share this page with your patients who want some tips on parenting.


Gift Pack 1: Teaching Reality-based encouragement

Scoldings and sanctions are the least children need if they have failed in their studies (or other ventures, including falling in love _ in my view).

What they really need is the encouragement that they can get up and try again. For those who have done well, words of praise are in order, but avoid overdosing them with lavish praises and flattery. What parents need to strive for is reality based encouragement based on the following four guidelines:

1. Don’t praise the kids for taking care of everyday necessities of life. The first time a kid makes a bed, he or she deserves praise. But does a ten-year-old need daily praise simply for making his bed?

2. Don’t praise the kids in extravagant terms for average achievements. When we lavish praise for good, but not extraordinary performance, we are teaching children that putting forth very little effort should reap enormous returns.

3. Don’t console the kids when what they really need is challenge. Parents need not fear the struggles their children go through as they grow and learn. When they fall and need consolation, let us give it, but let us also encourage them to get up and try again.

4. Don’t take responsibility for things that aren’t a parent’s responsibility. As children grow, turn over the specific responsibilities that they need to be in charge of, one by one, encouraging them all the way even when they falter.


Gift Pack 2: Teaching right values to work and money

The right values to work and money will make a difference between surviving and sinking in life. Three guidelines to follow are:

1. Kids need to be given opportunities to work. Wise parents help to prepare their children early in life by requiring them to help with household chores. Children need to do some work simply to learn responsibility and the life skills that will make them happy, productive adults.

2. Kids need to learn to manage money. Try different ways of teaching your kids about various financial concepts or monetary procedures, and encourage them to keep written records of their weekly allowances.

3. Most of all, kids need to learn about the truth about what money can and cannot do. Money cannot buy love, satisfaction or integrity. Parents should help their children see the danger of greed, and demonstrate that the best way to fight greed is to give away one’s money generously and sacrificially.


Gift Pack 3: Teaching about making good choices

There are ways that parents can help their children develop the necessary will power and wisdom to make good choices. Three guidelines are:

1. We need to let our kids practise choosing when we can. Present children with lots of opportunities to choose and decide in their daily lives. Children do need some guidance in choosing their clothes, food, hairstyles, or television programmes, but if it is not a moral issue, allow them to practice gathering information and then making a decision.

2. Children need to see that their choices have consequences. If a child chooses to take a pencil from a store without paying, we need to take him back to the store to return it and apologise to the manager. If he returns the wallet he found on the road to its rightful owner, he deserves praise.

3. After kids make their choices, parents need to help them stick to them.


Gift Pack 4: Teaching humour and laughter

Teaching our children the value of humor and laughter is a wonderful gift. "Today’s children need happy mothers as desperately as they need loving mothers" (Erich Fromm). Three guidelines to note:

1. Laughter keeps us sane when faced with life’s difficulties;

2. Laughter takes the hard edge off parental sternness.

3. However, there is no place for jokes that ridicule or put down children. But there is plenty of room for humour that replaces sarcasm, or diffuses genuine fury.

These four gift packs are unbreakable. They are everlasting. Your children will thank you for helping them to understand that these gifts are far more valuable than any material gifts.

Source: Linda Koh’s Column: Give your kids gifts they can’t break. In: Families Today Issue 1/97:3-5 (adapted). K