Beyond the books…

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What should we be teaching our kids from beyond the books?

I am not referring to the usual classes-for-kids, such as music, sports and such. I think some people may then ask what else is there? If nothing comes to mind in your head, then that is exactly the problem I want to talk about.

As parents, we naturally seek the best for our kids, to best equip them for their life ahead. What “the best” is, however is up for debate and varies wildly from person to person. I think in the current competitive world, we have lost sight of some of the basic things that we should know. Of course, this is only my opinion. For the moment, I can think of two.

All about Food

Food is something many of us take for granted. When you are not starving or trying to lose weight, it is hardly something to be on the mind, much less to teach about.

  1. Do they know about nutrition? Do they know what kind of foods are good for which part of them? In simple terms, perhaps something like “Rice gives you energy to play, meat lets them grow while vegetables and fruits keep you healthy”.
  2. Do they know what a chicken looks like? Or a fish? Or a pig, cow, sheep, goat? Have they seen one in real life? “Seriously? One might ask”. In a metropolitan city, kids growing up will never get a chance to see them unless the parents specifically brings them out to see them. I know people who never knew beyond that meat nugget or fillet they have been eating the past couple decades.
  3. Do they know how food is produced? Or how an animal is raised and killed for meat? Is this that important? I know people who have been so traumatized by witnessing animal slaughter for the first time in their 20s, 30s that they turned vegetarian. Definitely an over-reaction but one can hardly blame them for it.
  4. Do they know the detrimental effects of all the candy and snacks they have been eating? Do their parents even know what they have been feeding them?

All about Manners and Respect

I think the rise of a certain someone in a certain country’s elections recently clearly illustrates the problem of not teaching proper manners and respect for others.

While some may argue that the “brainwashing” we do here in Singapore is a blatant violation of the human right of free speech and thought, it kept the peace for the past 50 years. I mean, does a government really want some bigot to insult other people on the streets and cause a riot?

With extensive globalization, it is now more important than ever to know and understand that the people next to you is different. You might hold completely opposite opinions, worship different religions or simply be of different skin color. Even if one is a complete bigot inside, I think it is a necessary skill to be able to keep those feeling under wraps. So where is the “freedom of speech and thought”? Nowhere. In a social setting, it is key to know when you should keep your mouth shut and when to speak out. Like the good old saying…”If you ain’t got anything good to say, don’t say it”.

At the very least, “if you hate them, just take a deep breath and walk away”. No one gets hurt, outside or inside then.

And so, a big fat no here…it is NOT ok to teach your kids that all people with certain racial, religious and whatsoever qualities are bad. Teaching tolerance and avoidance is the right way to go.

All about choosing a mate

Whoa, hold a second. Why do we need to teach our kids to know how to choose a mate when they are not even at the age of dating?

Personally I think this is something that should be gone through at the same time they receive sex education. Put it this way, no matter how awesome one’s kid is, the moment they made the wrong choice in a mate, they are in a deep cauldron of trouble. A bad spouse choice can be the equivalent of a journey to hell. In this society, doubly so for daughters. From bad debts to single parenthood, are these things really something a parent want their children to go through?

Rather than leaving things entirely to the luck of a draw or “fate”, I think kids should be taught from young, the red flags to look out for in a mate. Start young and there will be less of a chance of a “oh shit” moment when your kid brings home his/her other half. Should we also teach to recognize good qualities?  Possible but I think this is more difficult than finding red flags. And people do change (for better or worse) so anything taught is at best a suggestion.

My mother used to recite to me a list of bad qualities one can find in girls in the morning journey to school, using people she knows as counter-examples. She is not forceful in any way to get her point across. To be honest, I never thought I had paid attention to them, but subconsciously it must have taken root. My own choice of a lifelong mate is largely free of those “bad qualities” she mentioned. Not perfect, but definitely more than satisfactory.

The “choice” of qualities is entirely subjective though I think every parent will have some inkling of an idea what they don’t want to see in their future son/daughter-in-law. Unless this idea is perversely twisted in some way relative to the rest of humankind, it should suffice as a guidance for the kids.

I’ll keep my own list a secret for now.

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