Participants learn to draw a fine line between being a friend and a parent to their teenagers at a forum held as part of the NTU Alumni Homecoming.
Research scientist Dr Liu Lie (MAE/Class of 2003) was concerned about the growing rift between him and his 12-year-old son, whom he termed the "Facebook generation". He was among the 100 or so alumni who had signed up for the forum.
They heard from four alumni speakers, who shared their views based on the theme, "Parenting challenges of today – be a friend or parent to your teenagers?".
A disciplinarian vs a "hovering" parent
First speaker Mr Heng Guan Teck (EEE/Class of 1985) shared that he sees himself constantly undergoing "on-the-job" training vis-à-vis parenthood.
After all, the role of the parent is evolving; from a controller to a coach and guide before becoming a friend as the children grow up.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Academic) at the Institute of Technical Education has children aged 12, 18 and 20.
Mr Heng suggested that it is important to instil discipline in children from a young age. Ground rules such as curfews and the allocation of computer usage time should be laid out.
He tempers his brand of discipline with empathy; teens are often self-conscious and sensitive.
Second speaker Mr Lim Peng Hun (EEE/Class of 1985) spoke from the perspectives of his 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.
The qualities they liked for a parent to have are a high level of involvement, respect and open-mindedness besides being supportive, humourous and a disciplinarian.
Mr Lim also drew the analogy of the "hovering parent" watching over their children who are "butterflies". He advised parents not to be too hasty to help the "pupa" leave the cocoon and let them struggle at their own pace.
Of fundamentals and kite-flying
Espousing her own style of parenting for raising her 19-year-old son in an international milieu, fellow speaker Ms Jill Lee (NBS/Class of 1998) offered three takeaways.
The Senior Vice President stressed the importance of discipline and structure in the first 12 years of the child’s development – it sets fundamentals for behaviour and conduct in an individual.
She also suggested involving the teenagers in interaction with the parents’ friends and colleagues, as she believes parents have to teach by being role models.
Playing the role of the supportive parent was recommended, too, in addition to inculcating love and trust between parents and their teenage children.
The last forum speaker has experience with troubled teens in her line of work. Dr Vivien Huan, Associate Professor of Psychological Studies Academic Group at National Institute of Education (NIE), is a godparent and an aunt.
Effective communication is essential in any parent-teen relationship, she suggested, recommending that parents adopt the disarming technique by occasionally lowering their power (authority) and asking the teens to help them understand.
Dr Huan also shared that the average teenager is influenced by school, peers and family, with peers exerting the largest influence.
She surmised that dealing with teens requires reining them in and letting them go – depending on situations – much like kite-flying.
Placing parenting in the Asian context, forum Chairperson Professor Neihart Maureen Frances, Head of Psychological Studies, NIE, suggested that parents practise affirming their teens, for affirmation boosts morale.
The forum was held at the School of Biological Sciences on Saturday 23 October.
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