Restraint, not reaction when children fight

Restraint, not reaction when children fight

How should you respond if you saw a child hit or bite your child?

Last Sunday, a father became so furious that he allegedly slapped a three-year-old boy for hitting his two-year-old son.

The man also scolded the boy loudly, saying that he had not been brought up well by his family, said witnesses.

Both children, who did not know each other, were playing near a market in Toa Payoh Lorong 7.

The slap was so hard that the boy had to be taken to hospital as his right cheek had swollen up.

When this columnist walked through the heartland this week, it was clear that the story had hit a nerve. Everyone had an opinion or experience to share.

"As parents, we shouldn't interfere if possible, much less punish someone else's child," says housewife Judy Lee, 34, who read the report.

"At most, we should just speak to the child's parent or teacher."

She declares that she is in a good position to comment since "this has happened to my boys", aged three, four and five, "many times".

Says Mrs Lee: "Once, my second child came home from nursery school with bite marks on both hands.

"I was so upset that I had to control my urge to march to his school and scream at the kid who did that."

APOLOGY

Instead, she decided to raise the issue with her child's form teacher and subsequently got a letter of apology from the girl's parents.

Heartlanders say that parents should never retaliate with similar "violence", however tough it is to contain your anger.

Mr Jay Singh, 40, an events co-ordinator, says: "I understand how the father felt, but the minute we raise our hands, we are telling our children that violence is okay.

"That is not the message I want to send to my five-year-old boy."

My colleague, journalist Chai Hung Yin, shares how her three-year-old daughter was bitten several times by a classmate when she was barely two years old.

"The teachers said that kids that age (toddlers) cannot express themselves well verbally. So they resort to the next best thing to show their unhappiness - they either bite, scream, cry, throw tantrums or something similar," she recounts.

She also went "from receiving phone calls from the teachers about her (child) being bitten" to "receiving calls about her biting another classmate".

She says: "I think it is just a phase in a child's growth. As parents, we need to learn how not to overreact."

Indeed.

As parents, our protective instincts kick in the minute we witness our children being "bullied". It is natural.

But how we react to that is important as it reflects the message we want to send our children.

Stories of over-protective parents can easily fill every page of this newspaper.

The question is: To what extent will we go just to protect our children?

And do we really want to fight their battles on their behalf?

Of course, it is not easy to take a step back and remain cool when you are caught in such a situation.

I know that feeling. I found that out one night after I saw my son crying in bed.

He had difficulty going to sleep. After much coaxing, we learnt that our then Primary 2 child had skipped recess for about a week.

A Primary 1 boy had, for some reason, singled out my son. The bigger-sized boy would approach Aloysius and punch him in the stomach and chest.

My child was in such fear that he decided to hide every time he spotted the boy during recess.

I was naturally furious. How dare anyone bully my son?

I could have stomped my way to school the following morning and punched the kid right back in his stomach and chest.

I did not.

Instead, I wrote an e-mail to both children's form teachers to alert them and left it in their good hands.

And to Aloysius, I made it clear that he had to share what happened with the teachers truthfully, with no exaggeration.

The boy eventually apologised and my son learnt how to forgive and move on.

And for the rest of their years in primary school, they remained friends.


This article was first published on Nov 23, 2014.
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