Sometimes it's better to leave children alone
by Nguyen Thu Hien
There's a scientific experiment in which three frogs are thrown into a pot of hot water – then immediately leap out. Then the frogs are put into a pot of cool water, where they relax.
But as the temperature is gradually increased, the amphibians shut their eyes without realising the coming danger. Not until the water is very hot, do they attempt to jump out, but it's too late.
This situation reminded me of Vietnamese children who lack skills in dealing with daily life due to being kept in a "sterile" living environment. Eight-year-old Tang (not his real name) living near my home has never tried doing anything on his own. He asks his parents for everything.
I have got used to his screams: "Mum, I cannot find my books. Find them for me please," or "Dad, this door it shut. Open it for me," and "Mum, I cannot do this. Do it for me."
Tang is not alone. According to a survey made by the Education Research Institute in Ha Noi and HCM City primary schools in May, more than 80 per cent of primary students are incapable of analysing and solving daily life situations.
Doctor Nguyen Kim Dung, deputy head of the Education Research Institute, said many children said they would keep standing and cry out when they get lost in a supermarket. They also would do nothing but wait for their parents to help if they cut their finger. She said that when answering a phone call, many just said "yes" or "no" without asking the callers for their names or whether they had a message.
Psychologist Nguyen Thu Hanh said children's ability to solve issues played an important role in forming the correct attitudes toward life. When they were able to observe, analyse and solve problems, they would be more confident at discovering new knowledge and fitting in with their surroundings.
She said this would push children to live more actively and be more passionate about what they liked. A lack of skills in dealing with daily situations often made them miserable.
In the first three months of this year, 10 students nationwide took their own lives because they were afraid of being scolded by teachers and parents for mistakes. Overloading students with study at an early age and improper teaching methods have been blamed for creating this situation.
Mai Ngoc Lien, Tang's mother, said primary students in Viet Nam had little chance to participate in group activities or social clubs that would help equip them with the skills to solve daily situations.
Le Van Sang, the father of a seven-year-old girl, said primary students could easily absorb knowledge via pictures and active lessons that mobilised their creativity. However, most study programmes failed to do this.
While blaming schools for their children's inability to solve daily issues, most surveyed parents said they preferred to let their children find their own way through the complications of modern life. They assumed they needed protection and should not be left to do things on their own.
Lien and Sang pleaded that their children were too small and immature. As responsible parents, they felt they should help them do as many things as possible, instead of pushing them into difficult situations.
I believe these parents don't realise that their over-protection makes their children passive, puzzled and lazy at dealing with the real world. Psychologist Hanh said children should practice their skills in observing, defining issues and causes – and find solutions so that they stayed calm when facing the unexpected.
She said parents should let their children discover their own world. Parents should also set rules for children to follow, but should spend time observing and listening to their children to discover their joys and their shortcomings. And parents should not help children do things they can do themselves, such as putting on clothes or cleaning their room. And, Hanh added, instead of demanding that children do things in a certain way, they should give them a chance to explain what they wanted to do.
This reminded me of the book French Children Don't Throw Food written by Pamela Druckerman, a mother of three children. Druckerman said that being a good parent does not mean meeting their every demand and helping them in every situation. They should also play role as observers and sometimes let their children do things on their own.
She realised that patience is the key. When a French baby cries in the night, parents go in, pause, and observe for a few minutes. They know that babies' sleep patterns include movements, noises and two-hour sleep cycles, in between which the baby might cry. Left alone it might "self-soothe" and go back to sleep.
Waiting can make a big difference. So, Vietnamese parents, why not wait, observe and guide your children to solve their own things instead of doing for them? — VNS