Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Observation: Parenting in Malaysia.

I was in the immigration line just the other day, coming back from a sun kissed holiday when a rambunctious little kid was throwing a tantrum. The parents (both Malaysians) were trying to pacify and calm him down. So they exhausted their ways by:

1) Ignoring him
2) Control him physically by grabbing his hand and pulling him closer to them (so that he won’t ‘disturb’ other people in the line and/or create more havoc than he needs to)
3) Soothing him by assuring him that he doesn’t need to wait thaaat long (there were at least a dozen people in front of them)
4) Carrying him because at this point, the kid was almost uncontrollable
5) Diverting his thoughts to the candies that mom promises to buy once they ‘get out’
6) Threatening to leave him at the airport if he continues behaving as such

And when all of the above failed, the mom spanked him.

It’s interesting to note the underlying cultural tones to may have caused the above situation. During the days when his parents were kids, they probably got it a lot harder from their parents because in a typical Malaysian Chinese family, tantrums will just earn you two tight slaps. So perhaps, they grew up with that kind of notion ingrained in them. Trying not to mirror their parents, they must have tried mellowing their disciplinary methods by ignoring the tantrum before cajoling the child with rewards (candies). If that doesn’t work, then they threaten him (not taking you home). And if that doesn’t work too, the spanking begins. Notice how the renounce of rewards changes into threats that get harsher when each method fails before ultimately sentencing the ‘punishment’.

It’s even more interesting to note that during the whole process of ignoring, cajoling, threatening and spanking – the sentencing of the punishment, never once the parents decide to find out what was wrong with the child. What was bothering him so much that he has decided to vie for his parents’ attention in such behavior? Why didn’t they consider looking for the root of the problem which may have saved their steps from 1 to 6 before sentencing the child to a physical punishment (that could have been easily avoided)? How do child disciplinary methods in the East differ from the West? How true or effective is the concept of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’? Hmm.


  1. damn awesome post! good observation, sue-anne!

  2. Thanks jennesis. I try and you are too kind :)