Moth­ers’ views

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY -

WHILE most moth­ers do not ban their preschool­ers from watch­ing TV, they are clear that tele­vi­sion is no sub­sti­tute for fun, creative and healthy ac­tiv­i­ties, and proper learn­ing of val­ues and knowl­edge.

They also like the idea of tak­ing their chil­dren to the the­atre where com­monly, ageap­pro­pri­ate pro­grammes make their lit­tle au­di­ence laugh and learn.

Three moth­ers we spoke to do not re­ject TV out­right but are com­pelled to set bound­aries for their young chil­dren and are care­ful about the pro­grammes the kids tune in to.

Elaine Tan, 35, lim­its the time that her twoand-a-half-year-old son watches TV.

“I let Ethan watch dur­ing se­lected slots – when I need to grab lunch or as a re­ward af­ter he’s fin­ished his lunch and be­fore nap time,” says the writer from Petaling Jaya, Se­lan­gor.

“But TV shouldn’t be con­sid­ered a teach­ing tool. It cer­tainly is a tool of con­ve­nience but ed­u­ca­tion needs to be more holis­tic. If kids watch TV, then their time should be bal­anced out with non-tv ac­tiv­i­ties.”

How­ever, Tan doesn’t dic­tate terms at the babysit­ter’s. “My pri­or­ity is him be­ing well taken care of, so if the TV is on, so be it.”

Patronella Chieng, 36, a Malaysian mu­sic teacher who lives in Lon­don, al­lows daugh­ter Maya, four, to catch TV two or three times a week, with up to one hour per day.

“I do keep an eye on what she’s watch­ing, mak­ing sure we steer clear from shows with un­savoury char­ac­ters and vi­o­lence. Shows here (in Bri­tain) are of a much higher qual­ity than what I used to get as a child. Cbee­bies (the BBC TV chan­nel tar­get­ing chil­dren six years and be­low) has shows that teach pos­i­tive moral val­ues and oth­ers that im­part valu­able knowl­edge, such as healthy liv­ing, cre­ativ­ity and life skills like cook­ing. Of course, there are also those purely on en­ter­tain­ment, singing and danc­ing,” she says.

One thing this mother is not keen on is to let Maya go through the Dis­ney princess phase, like most lit­tle girls do. “I’m not sure I’d like to in­stil in her the idea of love at first sight and be­ing res­cued by Prince Charm­ing!”

Though tax man­ager Yin­leng Yen and mother-of-two – Ryan, two-and-a-half, and Lauren, eight months – is aware of the so­called “evils of TV”, she reck­ons there are some very good ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes for chil­dren.

“We should cut TV some slack. Chil­dren can learn a lot from TV, pro­vided an adult is there to talk them through it. Just don’t let them sit there zom­bie-fied by the colours and move­ment,” says the 31-year-old based in Petaling Jaya.

What are the kinds of pro­grammes ap­proved by these moth­ers? Tan names those on Baby tv and Dis­ney Ju­nior (both avail­able on Astro) as well as chil­dren’s DVDS as be­ing suit­able ma­te­rial for Ethan.

Chieng favours arts and crafts pro­grammes. “I also love gar­den­ing and sci­ence-based pro­grammes, which are bril­liant to feed Maya’s hun­gry brain. As a fam­ily we also en­joy na­ture pro­grammes.”

Yen, mean­while, re­gards se­ries like Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, Bar­ney, The Wig­gles and Leapfrog: Let­ter Fac­tory and Baby tv pro­grammes as “less bad than good”. Shows like Ul­tra­man and Ben 10 and gen­er­ally those where the char­ac­ters move re­ally fast and fight all the time, are out.

“I think most shows on TV these days may be more suited for older chil­dren (other than Baby tv). A lot of shows don’t nec­es­sar­ily teach moral val­ues, but surely par­ents can­not ex­pect TV to be do­ing that any­way. Some shows do teach the im­por­tance of hon­esty, re­spect, friend­ship, etc. But these are ac­tu­ally deep con­cepts which you can­not ex­pect your child to learn from a TV show alone. Even if a show is good enough to in­cor­po­rate such val­ues/teach­ings in the half-hour pro­gramme, it re­ally re­quires an adult to talk to and help the child to re­late it to their own lives,” she opines.

Yen, on the other hand, finds the­atre shows, mu­si­cals, pup­pet shows and the like to “spark imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity”.

For Chieng, given the vi­brant per­form­ing arts scene where she lives, she started tak­ing Maya to the the­atre when the girl was two.

“Over here, there’re quite a few shows tar­geted at chil­dren. So far, she’s been to two and we’ll be go­ing to catch a pup­pet show next. The two shows that she’d been to were pro­duc­tions of chil­dren’s sto­ries that she al­ready read at home. The shows en­gaged her mind, lis­ten­ing skill and con­cen­tra­tion. I thought she’d be rest­less but she was com­pletely glued to the stage.”

All three women are, how­ever, united on the need to spend time do­ing stuff with their kids out­side and in­side the home (and we don’t mean in front of the telly!).

“When Ethan is at home with me in the morn­ings, he doesn’t get any TV. If the weather is good, we go out to the gar­den to play. In­doors, we usu­ally do jig­saw puz­zles, draw­ing, paint­ing or make-be­lieve play,” says Tan.

Chieng would do pi­ano prac­tice, lots of draw­ings and colour­ing with Maya. They also love read­ing, role-play­ing (Maya’s ob­ses­sion), paint­ing, cook­ing, wa­ter­ing the plants and go­ing to the park.

In Yen’s home, the kids have plenty of toys to keep them­selves en­ter­tained. “We prac­ti­cally have a mini Toys R Us! We also try to let Ryan out of the house when­ever pos­si­ble – walks, swim­ming, ‘bad­minton’ (for now, it’s swing­ing the racket about), catch­ing but­ter­flies. Ba­si­cally, there’s plenty for him to do out­doors.”

Su­per­vi­sion and moder­a­tion: Most moth­ers know it’s wise to keep an eye on the type of pro­gram­ming that ben­e­fits their kids and to con­trol the amount of view­ing.

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