STRANGER THINGS

Why do par­ents prac­tise dou­ble stan­dards when it comes to teach­ing kids about stranger dan­ger, SHAN WEE asks.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents - Shan Wee is a ra­dio DJ at One FM 91.3 and the au­thor of 99 Rules For New Dads.

Why do par­ents prac­tise dou­ble stan­dards when it comes to teach­ing kids about stranger dan­ger, this dad asks.

On a morn­ing drive to school re­cently, I was talk­ing to my five-year-old son (pic­tured, far right) about how one can find the an­swers to ques­tions by us­ing Google on the In­ter­net.

“No, dad, Google is dan­ger­ous.”

“What do you mean?” “One day, you might be do­ing Google and then you meet a sheep and you make a plan to meet that sheep out­side. When you meet him out­side, he’s not a sheep. ee’s a wolf.”

I was fascinated by his re­ply and equally ap­pre­cia­tive for what was ob­vi­ously his school teacher’s wellinten­tioned at­tempt at an on­line-safety les­son.

The lan­guage was eas­ily un­der­stood, thanks in part to the mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions he and I have re-en­acted the Big Bad Wolf’s gusty de­struc­tion of the iit­tle Pig’s blan­ket fort in our liv­ing room.

Dou­ble stan­dards

When I re­counted this drive-time con­ver­sa­tion to my col­league, about how one might un­for­tu­nately make ar­range­ments to meet a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing, she promptly piped up with: “ea, yeah. Just like me and my love life on Tin­der.”

It then oc­curred to me that adults do in­vite the wolf to their door, or at least, to a first date at aempsey eill.

They prac­tise a tremen­dous amount of dou­ble stan­dards in what they preach and what they do, and many par­ents are ex­tremely con­flict­ing and con­tra­dic­tory in their life lessons to their chil­dren.

Par­ents ea­gerly preach to their kids that strangers can be a dan­ger and that they should trust only in­di­vid­u­als whom they have met be­fore.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, par­ents are rev­el­ling in the glo­ri­ous con­ve­nience of rber, Airbnb and ae­liv­eroo. They get into cars with strangers.

They spend the night in a stranger’s home. They eat food made by a stranger. This is ev­ery­thing they tell their kids not to do.

And it is not just in the world of tech apps that their con­tra­dic­tory lessons thrive. Par­ents through the ages have al­ways had this weird con­flict of fear and open­ness.

I talk to my kids about stranger dan­ger, yet at the same time, I al­ways en­cour­age them to say “hello” and chat to adults they en­counter in their daily lives.

I get an­noyed if the up­stairs neigh­bour says “good morn­ing” in the lift and my son doesn’t re­ply. I love it when they chit-chat with the cashier at the su­per­mar­ket.

Con­cern­ing Sin­ga­pore’s cul­ture of hav­ing a do­mes­tic helper as an in­te­gral mem­ber of many fam­i­lies, I have known many ac­counts of new em­ploy­ers anx­iously hid­ing their best jew­ellery when a new helper joins the house­hold, but later, leav­ing the same helper in to­tal charge of how the kids travel to and from school, what they eat for din­ner and how they go to bed.

Novel ap­proach

ao we trea­sure our gem­stones more than our off­spring? Even the way we por­tray so­ci­ety’s au­thor­ity fig­ures smacks of il­log­i­cal con­fu­sion.

We would like our kids to know that if they ever feel scared in pub­lic, they can ap­proach the near­est po­lice of­fi­cer be­cause he is the most trust­wor­thy source of help and se­cu­rity.

But when my son is be­ing a brat in the back­seat of our car, what do I threaten him with?

“Ah boy, you bet­ter be­have, oth­er­wise a po­lice­man is gonna catch you.”

ae­spite our ter­ri­ble swirl of con­tra­dic­tory ad­vice and ex­am­ples, ob­vi­ously ev­ery par­ent wants the best for his child and while thank­fully sto­ries of child ab­duc­tion in Sin­ga­pore are al­most nonex­is­tent, it is a se­ri­ous sub­ject that ev­ery child de­serves to be ed­u­cated on.

So, what can be done? I re­cently read an ar­ti­cle shared on a par­ent­ing cace­book page and thought it was a fairly clever and use­ful ap­proach to the is­sue of stranger dan­ger.

Par­ents should teach their chil­dren that “adults don’t need help from kids”. It is nor­mal for a child to need help from adults: “Can you tie my shoelace? Can you open my packet of snacks?”

eow­ever, it is not nor­mal for an adult to need help from a child. “ei, lit­tle boy, do you like an­i­mals? Can you come with me and help? I’ve lost my cat and I think she might be over here, close to my van.”

Ev­ery fam­ily will have dif­fer­ent ways of guard­ing against the ills of so­ci­ety, but this sounds to me like a rea­son­able les­son to start with.

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