The Rat Race of the Asian Toddler

If you were left alone in this world to raise a child without external influences, have you ever thought what type of child you would raise? Ask yourself deep down. What are the values you want inculcated in your child? When does your child really need to know his alphabet and multiplication tables? Would you rather have your child dare to walk to the counter independently while you watch him pay for an item or one who still wants to be fed at 3?

Many mothers today are paranoid about the developmental rate of their children and naturally so when people are always comparing notes.

Does Tony know his shapes and colours yet?;

When are you sending Yvette to pre-school?;

Is Li Lian potty trained?;

Has Maria started putting sentences together?;

Isn’t it bad to offer a kid a marshmallow?;

Ian put on his own shoes for the 1st time yesterday!

Owen called MAMA early. He was six months…”

Sound familiar?

The list is endless. Whether it is someone asking if your child has achieved a developmental phase or informing you that their child has already reached a developmental phase, it undoubtedly leaves many mothers wondering if their own child is slow. Maybe I am not doing enough, the mother wonders. Why does my child not know his name when I’ve taught him so many times? It is sadly a small fraction of the mother population in
Malaysia that is confident in her own child-rearing skills and do not feel intimidated by this pressure in the toddler community.

The fact is ALL children develop at different rates. Ray may have started walking early at 8 months whilst Nik at 16 months but Nik started reading at 3 whilst Ray still couldn’t at 5. Mei Wan was singing her own nursery rhymes at 20 months, walking the gymnast balance bar at 2 and talking grammatically correct English at 3. Her cousin at the same age did neither of those but she is now a respectable Doctor in her community and is extremely well liked.

Seriously though, how many of you remember your parents drilling the alphabet into your wee little head? Believe it or not, parents ARE actually doing that now, not to their 5 year olds but even to their 2 year olds. Some toddlers know their alphabet before they hit 24 months, before the real definition of the word ‘toddler’ begins! If a parent repeatedly teaches a toddler his alphabet, the toddler will know his alphabet. But it doesn’t mean he becomes a smarter toddler. In some cases, a toddler learns his alphabet at a very early age but then by the time he is 5 years old, has forgotten it all if not practised. Is this early learning really necessary then? Don’t we all know our alphabet at the end of the day even though we started picking it up at different ages?

It will be interesting to discover why this ‘kiasu’ phenomenon is creeping up on our nation. Some mothers have such a desperate obsession in moulding super kids so much so that their quest starts as early as sperm selection. Marry a brainy husband and have a better chance of a brainy child. In looking for a sperm donor, always seek the
Cambridge graduate or at least Ivy League ones. To think that this Asian occurrence is almost synonymous with driving a flashy Beamer or wearing Prada heels is appalling at the very least. But such is the reality…..

Mothers, wake up!

Children deserve a childhood. And that means being allowed to play freely and develop at their chosen pace. Whilst there is nothing wrong with exposing your child to as many things as possible, you are certainly being unfair to him if you repeatedly remind him of the colours of the rainbow day-in day-out or stress his One-Two-Threes over and over, much more than the smells of our daily lives, the actions we can perform with our bodies, the sights we can see in daylight and night, the sounds of the myriad world, the tastes of many flavours and the play of countless imaginative pretend.

Watch your child closely. When he is ready, he will learn naturally, if not he will ask. Follow his interests whichever way it goes.

Child psychologists have recommended that when you first purchase a new toy for you baby, not to teach him how too play it but to let him discover it for himself. That’s why the best toys are usually the simplest, like a set of blocks or cheaper still, cardboard boxes of various sizes. Toddlers are capable of using their imagination to make bridges, tunnels, houses, buses, washing machines, you name it….if given the chance.

It is common to find parents who immediately show their toddler what to do with a given toy but in doing that, you are not encouraging him to think. Let him take the lead first for the first few minutes, then assist later if he isn’t getting anywhere.

What about the parent who wishes to expose the child to as many things as possible and take the child out every single day for a new adventure or fill every day with activity? Surely this must be a good thing?

It depends.

As much as children need to play, they need as much rest. It is in sleep that they grow and develop. And without that, all the activity performed becomes futile. Have some activity during the week but allow some days home too. Children need a balanced routine and learning that life is not constantly about packing and rushing to go out is one of them. By all means, send your toddler for music classes if you see that she really enjoys it, or enrol her for gym class if she asks for it. But don’t make every day be a contribution to commercial kids businesses. Going to the neighbourhood playground is more than sufficient.

Clever children’s businesses are profiting from this exact weakness of parents to mould their children to be their talk of the town. There are still worldly scholars and presidents who never benefited from any of the latest branded toys in the market nor attended every extra-curriculum activity in town. So relax and resist temptation to succumb to the marketing strategies of the ‘catered to children’ corporations.

At the end of the day, when your initial intention was to produce a smarter kid, you in turn end up with one who doesn’t know how to think as he is always fed his alphabet and his numbers on a regular basis. This applies too to television, a proven brain cell killer. Sure, your toddler may learn what stars look like from Baby Einstein but he will learn a lot more if you made his learning interactive with you, the mummy, than ‘it’, the TV. Do not give in to your toddler’s brain laziness by yourself being lazy. He only has his first 6 years for real brain development so your best chance is now.

Talk to your child all the time with and about everything around you. Read to him. Toddlers are very absorbent sponges so even when you think they haven’t a clue what you’re going on about, they will surprise you one day. Don’t focus on the academics of what they will teach at school like the alphabet and the numbers. There are many websites on the internet that offer creative things to do with your toddler. Spend some time researching what you think your toddler will really enjoy rather than the easy ‘sign them up for class’ method. A smart toddler is an all-rounded, happily adjusted child who is sensitive to people and his environment.

Just remember, you’re doing a perfect job as long as your toddler is having fun!

And if he has fun watching Barney? :o) Then so be it!!!

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One Comment

  1. That was a great post! I’ve always gone out of my way not to ask other moms those types of, is so and so doing that yet, questions. I hate it when I’m asked them. Its not a freaking race people!

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