HAVE you ever wondered why today’s young children are a talkative lot? They ask questions endlessly and won’t stop until their curiosity is satisfied. The only time the parents can find peace and quiet is when the children are in bed. Interestingly, this has not always been the case. Yes, children have always been curious, but the way they seek answers varies from generation to generation.
Recall when we were growing up and chances are that our childhood memories are mostly of physical activities — exploring the bushes behind the house, cycling in the kampung, climbing rambutan trees, or jumping head first into the river. By the time we reached home, we would be dead tired and off to bed early. Besides, there were only a few television channels to choose from in those days, assuming the household had a TV set in the first place.
In short, our days were filled with “hand-based” activities. Even the toys were self-made.
HANDS OF LOVE
Our parents, too, used their hands to communicate and show love. Working hard at the farms, plantations or factories was their way of showing how much they cared for the family.
And we appreciate their laborious efforts, evidenced by their faces tanned from toiling under the sun or their rough hands that would gently put us to bed at night. The harder they worked, the more we realised how much they loved us.
When it comes to disciplining, the hands also play a major role. Many would recall being scared to face mum and dad after getting punished at school. If the teacher had slapped us on the right cheek, we could expect dad to complete the punishment on the left cheek. Parents trusted the teacher so much that they would punish first and ask questions later. The hand was an effective disciplining tool then.
ENTER THE INFORMATION AGE
Such behaviour could be attributed to the fact that we were growing up in the Industrial Age, when things were done mostly by hand. Fast-forward today, we’re in the Information Age, when young children are exposed to a wealth of information even before they are born. By age 5, they are probably more comfortable with computers and gadgets than many adults. With more information, they become even more curious, hence the endless questions.
Parenting style has also changed. Children are relatively more emotionally intelligent today than a few decades ago. They can express themselves better with words than with their hands. This also means that they are doing less physical activities. Hand function is mostly limited to the fingers as they can just click for almost anything. Forget about expecting them to appreciate our hard work as they are far too busy with their activities to notice ours.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Parents can play an active role to ensure that their children get the benefits of both the Industrial Age and the Information Age while avoiding the pitfalls. There must be a healthy balance between mental and physical activities.
Get children to help with the housework. Encourage responsible behaviour by assigning them simple tasks. Limit the amount of time they spend online. Instead, encourage them to go outdoors and play every afternoon.
Show them the real world by visiting new places often. Get them to see how other people work and live, especially the less fortunate. Let them see, or, better still, feel their rough hands.
Find activities that require them to be physically active and try new things such as role-playing, baking or crafting. Many establishments offer such activities.
Engage them in fun conversations. Use the right words to encourage desired behaviour. Avoid using the hand to discipline them unless necessary. Even then, discuss and explain clearly why certain actions or punishments are needed. We will be pleasantly surprised at their capability to understand.
So make the effort and be patient. If done well, parents will find handling their young a bit more manageable. The key is to understand that we can get the best of both worlds. Touch their little hearts by using the right words and instil responsible behaviour by encouraging them to work with their hands.