You & Your Family

Disciplining the child is parents’ duty

Sep 2009    

“WAIT, UNCLE BENNY (WILL) GET ANGRY,” the father warned his son as he looked sheepishly in my direction. For the last 15 minutes, “Denis” was amusing himself with his toy cars and had used his seat as a race track. I tried my best to ignore him and focus on the service. Occasionally his dad would make a weak attempt to get his son to be quiet but his play persisted.

I survived the service without losing my patience, but this incident reminded me of so many similar ones when I have noticed parents seemingly being helpless in imposing some discipline on their children. Parents use all manner of techniques from trying to reason with their children to cajoling them, using bribes and threats. When all else fails, they sometimes raise the spectre of the bogeyman. is may take the form of their dreaded school teacher, a feared relative, the policeman and in days of old, it was the “orang minyak” (Oily man). The desperation of these efforts seems to reveal how powerless these parents feel.

How have we come to this? Have today’s children become more unmanageable? Or are parents less able to manage their children?

As a parent and a family therapist, let me offer some thoughts on this issue. Firstly, I believe some parents are unsure how to discipline their children. They may have experienced being disciplined by the rod when they were growing up and question its merits. These doubts are bolstered by horror stories of children being subject to harsh and abusive discipline that has left them scarred for life.

Secondly, some parents have been persuaded by the arguments that a more liberal form of parenting will strengthen family bonds, and encourage greater creativity and spontaneity. It is interesting that some of the proponents of this position in the 60s have since moderated their position.

The third reason I want to offer is a more pragmatic one. After a hard day’s work, few parents want to go home and face the children’s wrath and tantrums.

They resort to quick responses which can take the form of being overly authoritarian or permissive.

The proverb “Spare the rod and spoil the child” reminds us of some Biblical principles in parenting that are still relevant for today. One principle is that parents are to be responsible for disciplining their children. This is a responsibility that cannot be outsourced to teachers or upset “uncles”.

Another kernel of truth is that a child raised without discipline will find it hard in later life to accept limits to his behaviour. He would have grown up being attuned to only his needs, wants and perspectives.

A final word should be added here on the topic of discipline. Discipline may involve but is certainly not limited to the use of harsh punishment, such as corporal punishment. It should encompass instruction, setting limits, expressions of disapproval and when required, the use of various punishments ranging from the withdrawal of privileges to sterner means. When physical punishment is used it is important that it is administered to convey your disapproval and disappointment. It is not a means to give vent to your anger and certainly not aimed to inflict pain.

I am happy to add that I have not noticed “Denis” and his distracting toy cars of late.

Denver is Aldersgate MC’s newest ‘member’


THIS IS DENVER, the new, cheerful van that belongs to Aldersgate Methodist Church (AMC).

The van fills a transportation need for church ministry, particularly for the elderly. AMC is one of the few Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) churches to own a van for such a purpose.

The yellow turbo-charged Nissan Urvan has rainbow artwork designed by members of the young adults group, leading them to nickname the van “ The Magic School Bus” (after the series of books published by Scholastics featuring Ms Frizzle and her class and their amazing bus).

However, the official name of the van is Denver, after AMC’s first pastor, the Rev William Denver Stone. In AMC’s early years, the Rev Denver Stone shepherded the church from location to location looking for a permanent worship place.

On July 19, 2009, Denver was dedicated and “christened” at the church grounds. It was “christened” by Mrs Khor Poh Khim and Dr Adeline Seow, the wives of the Local Church Executive Committee Chairman and Lay Leader respectively. In keeping with Methodist tradition, no champagne bottles were used.

Instead the ladies flung bags of grape juice.

We hope Denver will serve the church faithfully for many years.


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