02 January 2000


You could have done better, Dad

S'porean parents don't understand their kids: Survey

TODAY - Wednesday • June 29, 2005

Loh Chee Kong

THE tables have been turned.

Parents, who fix their child with a disapproving gaze when the teenager brings an indifferent report card home, suddenly find themselves being graded — by their children.

In a Reader's Digest survey, 3,212 teenagers aged between 14 and 18 from eight Asian lands, including Singapore, were asked to rate their parents.

Singapore came in sixth — beating only Hong Kong and Taiwan — in this ranking exercise. Parents from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia came out tops.

When it came to listening to their teens and understanding them, Singaporean parents were at the very bottom of the heap.

Also, according to the 402 teens surveyed here, less than half their parents are able to talk things through without losing their temper.

They also have a tendency to preach and lecture. And, when it comes to talking about sex, they are third from the bottom.

Reflecting a trend common through Asia, mothers were perceived to be doing a better job than fathers.

The survey also showed that if teenagers had their way, most would send their parents for makeovers. Singaporean parents got Cs for their fashion sense.

Mothers, at least, have "a clue about fashion" according to the teenagers. They are also better at explaining sex and also more likely to know what their children's best friends' names are.

Said Mr Jim Plouffe, editor-in-chief for Reader's Digest (Asia edition): "Kids just want to spend more time with their parents, to sit down and have meaningful talks over a meal and maybe cook with them."

As for the fathers' perceived aloofness, Dr Ng Guat Tin, a National University of Singapore professor who specialises in family well-being, said: "Gender literature generally points to fathers' lack of skills in interacting with children. Ideally, the bond should be developed from infancy as adolescence is a trying time."

Mdm Jean Lum, 50, said her 15-year-old son turns to her, rather than her husband, for a listening ear as they are very close.

She has spoken to him about sexual issues and makes it a point to talk to her son for half-an-hour every day, while her husband provides the "financial support".

Still, three-quarters of the Singapore teenagers interviewed said they liked their parents, but hoped that they would push less and spend more time with their children, Mr Plouffe said.

So why did parents from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore fare so badly?

According to Mr Plouffe, "it comes down to the fact that these are predominantly Chinese societies. I believe it's because the Chinese parents are parenting in the same way as their parents were when the Chinese kids are getting different messages through the media".

Parents' Popularity Polls


Top of the class in:

• Being a hard worker

• Giving unconditional love

• Teaching what's right and wrong

Areas for improvement:

• Explaining sex

• Fashion

• Memorising children's friends' names


• Were rated A or B by 67.7% of children on average, with Thai children giving them the highest marks (85%)


Top of the class in:

• Being a hard worker

• Teaching what's right and wrong

• Likeability

Areas for improvement:

• Explaining sex

• Helping with homework

• Giving advice without lecturing


• Were rated A or B by 72.6% of children on average, with Thai children giving them the highest marks (93%)

How parents ranked

1. Thailand 89%

2. Indonesia 85%

3. Malaysia 83%

4. S Korea 81%

5. Philippines 80%

6. Singapore 73%

7. Hong Kong 58%

8. Taiwan 53%

How mums ranked

1. Thailand 93%

2. Indonesia 91%

3. Malaysia 90.6%

4. Philippines 89.1%

5. S Korea 88.5%

6. Singapore 84.3%

7. Hong Kong 68.5%

8. Taiwan 60.2%

How dads ranked

1. Thailand 85%

2. Indonesia 78.3%

3. Malaysia 76.2%

4. S Korea 75.3%

5. Philippines 71.4%

6. Singapore 62.9%

7. Hong Kong 47.1%

8. Taiwan 45.5%

Children surveyed in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

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