Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are you a key?

Let me first ask an obtuse question: As a parent, are you a key?

At first glance, it would seem like a good thing, being a key. After all, a key opens many things. "Key" is often used to describe things of importance - "the key to the problem" or "the key principle", for instance. Many parents would, indeed, consider themselves "keys" in their relationship with their kids in that they are a central part of their kids' lives.

I thought long and hard about an analogy and I used this one because a key appears to be significant in a positive way. But being a key is not always a good thing. The problem is that if we as parents are keys, it means that our children are locks or doors or whatever that need keys to function (ok! ok! my analogy is a little clumsy, but hear me out).

In my observation of parents, I found that some have turned themselves into the Master Key, meaning they control fully the actions of their children. They have made their kids so dependent on them that by themselves, their kids are completely unable to achieve anything, even function as a human being. Haven't you ever met these parents? Their kids are unable to do anything for themselves. In fact, some of them, when they've grown up, are unable to hold down a job and continue to sponge off their parents.

Parents who are keys often appear to be loving parents because they dote on their kids, wait on them hand and foot, and meet their every need (and more). I have seen teenagers who've never taken the bus on their own, who recklessly squander their parents' money, who wouldn't be able to iron a handkerchief if their lives depended on it.

Beneath the veneer of what these parents call love, I believe is a deeper issue - one of insecurity. Whether conscious or sub-conscious, raising dependent children reflects on parents' more insidious fears that they will one day not be needed, so they strive to be indispensable in their kids' lives.

When I was heading a corporate communications department at a local university, I came across this quote which stuck with me:

"The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers." - Ralph Nader

An insecure leader only breeds followers because he is afraid of being overtaken. The true leader who cares about the development of his people and is secure in his own ability grooms more leaders so they can better contribute. In the same way, an insecure parent raises reliant kids so that his own position might not be threatened. A secure parent, on the other hand, raises independent children who will be able to look after themselves and others in the future.

I'm not saying all parents who molly-coddle their kids are just selfish at heart. I know some parents who do everything for their kids because they're overly anxious over their kids' safety and are afraid that something bad will happen to them. Others just think that their kids are incapable of doing things for themselves (in their hearts, their kids will always be their babies, whether they're 5 or 25).

To the first group, I say, if you don't ever let anything happen to your kids, the problem is nothing ever will. Your kid will probably live a safe life but it's hardly a life. To the second group, I say, don't underestimate your kids! They're probably capable of so much more, if only you'll let them try, maybe fall down a few times. It doesn't mean you love them any less. In fact, you're probably showing that you love them more.

I wrote this post because I have too often, come across many parents (across generations) who are keys. And it bugs me to see so many kids who are not growing up to be edifying members of society. I know, I know, you can't blame parents for everything. But hopefully we can do our part to gently steer our kids on the right track.

Sorry this post has turned out to be somewhat of a sermon. So I'll end with the same question: Are you a key? I hope your answer is no.


eunice said...

I see many parents here who are major keys! I met this little girl (&yrs old) and she didn't know how to unzip her own pants cos she had nanny to do it for her! Here, it's very common to have 1 nanny per child, so you can have a household where there are 3 nannies and 2 maids.

I see many parents too who don;t want their child to want for anything and then work themselves to the bone to buy a car, condo etc for the child. I figure, I give him the best thing any parent can do and that is an education where he can then go buy himself all those things.

I really wonder what these children will be when they are adults and mummy and daddy aren't there any more to act as buffers.

Monica, again, you have struck the nail on the head.

Lilian said...

I posted something on my blog.

Anyway, I have a friend who paid for his son's new car in Australia. His son had just started working. Not too long later, he paid a significant amount of money for the downpayment of an apartment in Melbourne, also for the son. I don't get it. This son doesn't give his parents any monthly allowance.

Even when I first graduated, I didn't understand friends who took a loan to go on a Europe tour, with no job waiting for them and already with a tuition fee loan to pay. Haven't people heard of delayed gratification? Earn first, enjoy later lah!

Agree with Eunice, my role is to provide my kids with an education. Something we can afford. I sure as hell won't be selling off my house to fund their education -- I know someone from Malaysia whose mother sold their house so he could go to Australia to study! Trouble is, local universities won't exactly be that affordable anymore at the rate things are going.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Eunice, you said the same thing as my mom did 30 years ago! Wow, am at least that old already ah, if you work the numbers. She once said to me, education was the best. It's riches that couldn't rot nor be robbed away. So I'll tell my kids the same thing now.

Mon, I so definitely wish not to be a key. Nudge me if I'm turning into one anytime, sooner or later.

monlim said...

Lilian: Remember in NUS where there was an undergrad whose parents bought him a sports car, and when he crashed it, they bought him another? I really don't get it. As for those who traveled first, they probably had parents to help pay off their student loans.

It's the same thing now - in the news recently, some young graduates said they're taking their time to find a job they really like and are not worried about the financial crisis. Why? Cos Mummy and Daddy still feeding and housing them what!

Lilian said...

I don't remember that but I remember a couple of guys in our hall who drove sports car. There's a term for these princes right? Is it Ah Sia Kiah?

Folks around our age wouldn't dream of quitting without a job. But I remember younger colleagues, maybe about 8 years younger, who would quit cos don't like the job, or feel stressed, or want to take a break. And they aren't rich, just typical heartlanders.

Both Eddie and I were paying our own rent after graduation, paying off tuition fee loan, giving our families a regular allowance, how to quit just like that?

bACk in GERMANY said...

Sure won't be the master key. Cos no money to buy sports car, condo and not even 100 k to "donate" to a school for a P1 spot.

But what you ladies say us so true. My dh tells me that it's so diff to motivate the Gen X these days. They don't care about money nor job titles nor promotion. They all own a car once they are out working - of course no need to pay rent/mortgage. Not hungry for their job at all. And if they are not happy with their job, they suka suka quit, as if they were the boss!

eunice said...

I was totally appalled when I went back once and read in the papers about new grads expectations. If nothing less than 5 figures per month and not secretary, they won't even consider it!! Wah!! I remember when I graduated and first job I took was with POSB and was paid a princely sum of S$1,200!!

I have mums who justify what they do by saying 'but I love my child so much..' er... and I don't???? Anyway, told Sean, spent so much $ on his school here, he's going back to NUS and after that he's on his own!

monlim said...

Yah, I know adults who keep quitting from their jobs "because it's too hard" and live off their parents, and kids who flit from course to course cos they lose interest and so never graduate from anything or go to work. And parents keep footing the fees! Why why why??

Alcovelet said...

Once again, I didn't press the send button hah? Slap forehead ... @_@

eunice said...

Can't beat the really, really rich Thais here. One girl (there was a full page article in the papers about her) said her dad PAID her to stop work cos he felt it was too hard for her and when she got married, paid her husband as well so that he would be a good husband to her by not being distracted or stressed by work!!!! Can die or not???

monlim said...

Ad: err... nope...

Eunice: these people are like something out of a drama serial!!

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