Raise a child to only study and you get a brat

Hellen Chen, best-selling author of books about marriage and relationships, has come across an 18-year-old college student in the United States who was so sheltered, he could not navigate a mall on his own.

All his parents had wanted was for him to study hard, go to college and get a good job.

So dad, who managed a factory producing novelty gifts, and mum, a housewife, did everything for him - including mail his letters and do the laundry.

Chen, 55, tells SundayLife!: "When he went to college at 18, he got lost at a mall. Socially, he had few friends because his parents had spoilt him and he expected his friends to serve him as well."

Extreme as the case is, the Taipei-born and Los Angeles-based Chen, who was in Singapore to deliver her Love Seminar on Feb 15, says it is one of many she came across in her 10 years as a consultant to families.

Married to a 60-year-old business consultant and has no children, she says that her parenting tips are honed over two decades as a business consultant and 10 years as a marriage expert, with personal interaction with scores of families giving her insights into parenting pitfalls.

"The biggest mistake well-meaning parents make is to adopt an 'all you need to do is to study' concept because they raise irresponsible kids," says Chen, whose best-known book is Love Seminar: The Missing Love Manual That Makes Your Relationship Last (2013).

Such thinking has been "prominent" among post-war Asian parents for some 30 years now, she says, because these parents want their children to ace their studies and land plum jobs, and rise above their own poor conditions.

But this attitude sets the stage for their children to "fail miserably in life". "So a child graduates from a good college. But he or she has no skills to have friends or carry a lasting relationship or start a family. Or be responsible at a job," says Chen.

The "first" mistake is to not train children to do everyday tasks such as clean the dishes by age 10, after which they may resist attempts to train them to be responsible for themselves.

The second: Parents do not persist training their children. She adds: "The problem is that parents give up insisting their chidren do these things till they are responsible for them."

At the other end of the parenting spectrum from the "well-meaning" if indulgent parents are the manipulative ones, says Chen. For example, such parents would insist their child switch from computer studies to medical school.

She says that whereas well-meaning parents may raise irresponsible kids, over-controlling ones curb their spirit.

She says: "These parents try to suggest or 'guide' their children but in a way that undermines the kids' independence. After some time, kids give up. They have no willingness to fight for their future or to go through struggles."

She cites the example of a girl, whose mum sat next to her for two hours daily for years, ensuring she practised the piano. Turned off, the girl, now 16, "doesn't touch the piano anymore".

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