Kids in Singapore seem to have every advantage — but is that always a good thing? A comment about airport lounges prompts one mama to ponder how to keep from having entitled kids
I’m no doubt showing my age here, but I have become my parents.
I realise that, more often than not, most of my responses to my son’s whims start with “When I was your age….” Case in point? My 9.5 (going on 15) year-old-twins are in Grade 4 at an international school. Fantastic when you think of the varied social exposure they’re getting on a daily basis. Not so great when you think of all the gadgets and ‘cool stuff’ they are savvy to.
So a regular conversation at home usually goes like this “Mom, when can we get our own phones?” Please note, phones plural – not one to share between them. Obvious retort from me: “Why do you need a phone? You’re 9 and you go to and from school on the school bus. And the rest of the time, you’re either with me or I’m your taxi driver.” To which they both answer that “Everyone in our class has a phone, even some kids in younger classes have it, and so it’s only fair that we should have one too.”
Great. Forget about trying to make it into the next grade and learning a thing or two for the expensive school fees, now we’re more worried about social standing before even hitting 10. To this, I answer, “When I was your age, I had to get a job and earn enough money to get my own phone, and I proudly was able to buy one when I was 21, without having to ask your grandparents to chip in.” Alas, instead of the doe-eyed impressed looks that I was hoping for, I was instead met with disdain and a look that I interpreted as What a loser, what was she doing with her life till 21?!
And therein lies my point. Kids these days are literally born with a silver spoon in their mouth, handed everything to on a platter, and they still complain that life is tough! Imagine if they had to grow up in a world where the only entertainment in the car was the boring radio, or when TV shows couldn’t be recorded – if you weren’t there to watch it, you missed the show. Forever. And yet we turned out alright (for the most part anyway).
But today, if you do try to reel in reality as a parent and make outdoor playing just about kicking a ball outdoors rather than catch the next Pikachu, it’s an uphill battle. And one that I seem to be losing constantly. Yes, today’s young millennial generation is certainly leaps and bounds ahead of us when it comes to technology, but being a child still means being a child. Enjoying the simple pleasures of life naturally without needing the latest device on the planet.
And what about the airport experience? Every time we head off for a holiday, I’m grateful for being able to take another exotic break in the year. Kids these days – particularly in Singapore – consider it a birth right almost, and wonder why it’s been so long since their last getaway. It seems they never got the memo about ‘one annual summer holiday only’!
We are lucky to get access to club lounges in most airports because of my husband’s heavy travelling schedule, but again, the boys think it’s a standard benefit with every plane ticket that has their name on it. So it was amusing to see them dumbfounded at having to wait at the terminal itself this year when we went to the small city of Lhasa, Tibet – ‘What, no lounge?’ Err, no. Let’s just ignore the fact that they’re nine and have been privileged enough to visit China, walk on The Great Wall, see the Terracotta Warriors and step foot in Potala Palace this summer. Yes, I got to do the same things as it was my first trip to China, too…but I’m nowhere near the age of nine!
Don’t get me wrong – I of course love my children. To pieces. But knowing what I know now about life, I would take any opportunity for a nap, to bury myself in a book or just have free time to play outside because I had nothing better to do. Unfortunately when my kids come to me saying “We’re bored,” that’s code for “We need to play on the X-Box or the iPad please.”
I understand that every parent wants the best for their child, and to give them everything that they perhaps didn’t have as kids themselves. However, the problem comes when children start taking all those things for granted, and start feeling entitled to a pampered life, without having to do the work to earn those privileges. Like respect, entitlement should be earned and not taken for granted. By showering kids with everything they want, aren’t we actually doing them a disservice and setting them up for failure later in life when they grow up lacking some life’s basic survival skills?
Says Counsellor Vinti Mittal, Director of SACAC Counselling, “It’s easy for children to feel entitled in these times, demanding that parents fulfil all their needs. Parents find it tempting to give in to children for everything they say they need. Some take great pride in what they provide and insist that their child has the best. The problem starts when the child starts to expect with nothing in return. Eventually things start losing value as the child can get a lot without putting in any effort.
“Parents forget that the best gift they can give to their children is to instill the values of hard work and money. Let your child get a part-time job and share responsibility around the house. Have your children pay for some of their expenses, as this helps raise their self-esteem and confidence, and they learn life skills which will be helpful when they leave home for college. I know of a mother who had a son that wanted fancy new shoes. Rather than just buying them, she struck a deal where she paid for one shoe while the child paid for the other. By doing this, she instilled the value of money in her son.”
I think that mom has the right idea. For my two cents’ worth, I aspire to teach my kids to appreciate the people and relationships in their lives, not just the things that garnish their existence. Yes, material things make the journey smoother, but learning respect and gratitude, treating people right, and earning an honest living are what make the journey worth it.
It’s not about having the coolest birthday party in class or the latest pair of football cleats. It should be about being able to enjoy life as a carefree child – without the crutch of money or technology. Roll in the mud, play in the sun, make long-lasting friendships, but more importantly, take the time to be patient and find things out slowly, because life has a way of doing things at its own pace – don’t rush it.