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Parents learn to say 'no' to their children

Update: May, 05/2008 - 00:00

Parents learn to say ‘no’ to their children


by Thu Giang

Young mums attend a parenting meeting in Ha Noi. The 10-week programme is sponsored by the Swedish Save the Children Society and the Centre for Community Empowerment and is designed to help young mothers and fathers be better parents. — VNS File Photo

HA NOI — "Mum! I want a Superman!" demanded a five-year-old boy when accompanying his long-suffering mother on a shopping trip.

"No! You have one at home," said the mother. "I have a red Superman, I want a blue one!" the boy persisted. The mother relented when the boy burst into tears.

She’d gone to the supermarket to buy much-needed rice and yoghurt for the family, but instead ended up buying the blue Superman for the boy and a fishing rod set. She had no money left for food.

The above scenario was played out before around 20 young mothers and fathers at a parenting club meeting.

Learning to say "no" to their children was one of several topics discussed during the ten-week training course – the first of its kind in the capital. The programme is sponsored by the Swedish Save the Children society and the Centre for Community Empowerment.

As the sketch ended, young mothers and fathers were divided into two groups and they were asked to comment on the mother’s reaction to her young son’s demands.

The parents unanimously agreed that the mother had given in too easily. They said the boy should have been taught that he can’t have everything he wants, and that he should have behaved more respectfully to his mother in public. By giving in to her son’s persistent demands she was in effect teaching him that tears and tantrums would always get him what he wanted, they said.

Some parents suggested that the mother should have taken the boy outside and calmly explained that she only had enough money to buy food, and that eating was more important than having a new toy. If he continued to throw a tantrum, some suggested that the mother should have taken him home and banished him to his room.

Pham Thi Khanh Linh, the mother of a 21-month-old boy, said the mother should have been far firmer with her son. "Although the theory is always easier than the practice, we need to know the proper time to say ‘no’ to our children," she said.

Tran Thu Phuong, one of the course instructors, said that when her four-year-old daughter asked for a doll when she was out shopping, she said that she would think about it and took her to a food stall instead. "As a result she forgot all about the doll," said Phuong.

Some parents said it was better to anticipate their children’s demands before they went shopping. They said it should be explained beforehand that toys were not going to be on the shopping list.

During the course, parents also discussed ways to teach their children not to eat sweets before going to bed and of the importance of going to school. Unanimously, the parents agreed that they should not shout or beat their children.

Theory into practice

Cao Phuong Dung, the mother of a 21-month-old boy, confessed that she easily lost her temper and smacked her baby when he did not eat his food or refused to sleep.

However, she said the course had helped her control herself.

"Once my child refused to take his medicine for vomiting. I was about to fly off the handle and smack him but then I managed to control myself using techniques learnt on the course," she said. "Instead of getting angry, I asked him to go outside and to forget about the medicine. A moment later, he drank the medicine without complaining. I felt so happy," said Dung.

Now that she could control her temper she said their child was much happier – as were the rest of the family.

Le Khanh, a psychologist from HCM City’s Tan Dinh Clinic, said parents should try hard to better understand their children’s behaviour.

One way of getting to know their children was by playing games with them. Khanh added that there was nothing wrong with computer games. He said parents worried needlessly that computer games made children lazy or damaged their eyesight.

"I am very busy but I still sometimes play internet games with my children. It has helped my children learn the difference between good and bad," said Khanh.

Aside from the parenting club, Khanh said there were online forums where young mums and dads could exchange experiences with other parents, such as, and

Chu Anh Tra, another instructor on the course, said she had attended workshops organised by the Centre for Community Empowerment (Cecem) and the Committee for Population, Family and Children.

"I used to think that parents said and children obeyed. This is very much part of the Vietnamese culture. But I learnt that a child is a self-contained individual and that it is our responsibility as parents to listen to them," said Tra.

"People always invest a lot of time in gaining qualifications, but they should realise that children are the most important thing in life. That’s why we need to spend time learning parenting skills."

Ngo Thi Thu Hien, the club’s head, said almost every parent encountered difficulties feeding and caring for their children. Many did not know how to make their children do as they’re told, she said.

Hien added that the club, which started life as the web forum, offered free weekend courses to young parents, and that it would equip them with all the skills they needed to raise their children properly.

"The club [in Ha Noi] only recently opened. We hope to receive more financial support to open more clubs in other provinces," said Hien. — VNS




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