3 Things Singaporean Parents Should Stop Telling Their Kids Now

By Joanne Poh

Kiasu Singaporean parents, you’ve just gotta love ‘em. If you were born to Singaporean parents and grew up here, you’ve probably heard a few of their classic sayings, such the admonition to beware of the karang guni man or the warning that you’d be kidnapped and sold as beggars in Thailand if you spoke to strangers.

It’s more likely than not that many of us have picked up subliminal messages from the advice, tongue in cheek or not, that our parents gave us when we were kids. Here are some you might have heard before, and why you shouldn’t repeat them to your own kids.

If you don’t study hard you will become a road sweeper

Hands up how many of you remember this one? Back in those days, roadsweepers weren’t even as lowly paid relative to the cost of living as they are now, yet parents liked to scare kids into hitting the books and not rebelling against their tutors with this threat.

The problem with saying things like this is that it perpetuates the attitude amongst many Singaporeans that menial or blue collar jobs are to be shunned, and that only high paying jobs that confer status are worth doing.

This kind of mindset causes workers to go where the money is, even if they have no interest in or aptitude for a particular job. And this has arguably contributed to the famously unhappy state of Singapore’s employees, as well as the low productivity levels of the Singapore workforce.

Instead of trying to scare your kids into submission, modern parents should probably capitalise on the fact that kids these days are much savvier thanks to the internet and all, and start explaining their options at an early age, perhaps giving them a realistic view of salary ranges in Singapore. That way they can make an informed choice about what they want to do in life—instead of freaking out about their options thanks to years of scaremongering.

You can only be happy in Singapore if you are rich

There is this lady I know who takes her kids on first class flights and to stay at five star resorts during the school holidays. Then she tells them that if they don’t become as rich and successful as her when they grow up, they’ll be stuck flying economy and staying in budget hotels together with all the riffraff.

She probably does this with the intention of motivating her kids to study hard and become doctors/lawyers/investment bankers. But to me this sounds like a surefire way to raise insecure little sheep who think driving an expensive car will buy them respect.

While it’s one thing to let your occasionally kids enjoy the finer things in life, it’s another to make them feel that they need lots of money to lead a fulfilling life. Of course, everyone wants to see their kids grow up to be financially secure adults. But making them feel like their lives are not worth living unless they make piles of cash is going to give them so much performance anxiety you’ll be lucky if they get through their school years in one piece.

It’s important to teach your kids the value of money–and that includes letting them know what money can and cannot buy.

If your teacher dares to do anything to you, I’ll deal with her

If you were born after 1995, this is something that might be more familiar to you than it is to your older counterparts. Gone are the days when teachers would wield rulers like a weapon to keep their misbehaving charges in check. These days, kids “know their rights”, and will not hesitate to exercise them if a teacher pisses them off. And this is usually caused by the attitudes of parents.

Obviously, a kid should indeed exercise his rights if he is legitimately abused. But that applies to treatment from any person, not just teachers. Telling your child that you will deal with his teacher if he or she dares to act against him is going to create a sense of entitlement and the feeling that he can and should get away with murder.

While this might not set your kid up for a life of crime, it will cause problems when he comes face to face with the real world and discovers that he doesn’t rule the roost, and mum and dad aren’t going to bail him out of every scrape he gets into. The transition from school to working life is tough, and you’re not doing your kid any favours by shielding him from every little bump he encounters along the way.

Could the infamous “strawberry generation” who wants instant recognition at work without first learning the ropes have been created in part by parents who coddle their offspring?

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 2 March 2015. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Joanne Poh)

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.


“If you don’t study hard you will be cutting grass like this man here!!”

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