Should helpers be allowed to discipline children while their parents are at work? It’s a question put forward in a recent news story from Channel News Asia. The story covers a few different Singapore families, highlighting their views on child discipline at the hands of helpers.

A Challenging Four-Year-Old

For instance, there is the case of four-year-old Victoria and her six-year-old brother, Jethro. While their parents are working during the day, a young Myanmar helper comes to care for the children. The helper, 26-year-old Za Za, is not allowed to discipline the children, no matter how they behave while in her care. Instead, she is supposed to report any misbehaviour to their mother so that the parents can correct their children.

“She’s only allowed to tell the kids what they can and cannot do,” says the mother, Elisha. “I or Silas will take the approach to educate the kids ourselves. The helper might not be capable enough to understand what kind of punishment is required.”

When they are home, the parents make little Victoria pick up after herself, and they have boundaries and rules in place for both children. Methods of punishment vary, but sometimes include grounding or even caning.

Since they do all the discipline themselves, the parents are not as worried about the potential for physical abuse. Their helper is mild-mannered, and the children love her. Victoria, the four-year-old, is very affectionate towards Za Za, unless she is throwing a tantrum. “I remember she bit Za Za once,” says Elisha. “I scolded her quite badly.”

A Boy Without Boundaries

Another family with a four-year-old boy rejects the idea of discipline at the hands of the helper. “We don’t allow her to scold or hit him. We have only one son, how can we let someone who is not blood-related discipline him?” says mother Marie Ngoh.

However, this viewpoint means that little Matthias is being left without any verbal correction or other discipline for the greater part of the day while his parents work long hours. The helper assists with housework and general childcare, but she is not considered to be responsible for bringing up Matthias.

Prompt Correction for Children

One father, Stanley Ang, argues that the helper in his home should be empowered to correct his child, within reasonable limits. “When my son is naughty, for example, and hits my maid or pulls her hair, I will sternly tell him not to do that and explain the reason why. I will also tell my maid to do the same when we are not around,” he said. Another mother agrees with this approach. “Looking after a child without the right to correct the kid (when they’re in the wrong) in a timely manner is probably not the most effective,” she says.

Counselling for Parenting Challenges

The modern Singapore family faces many dilemmas such as these. What is right for one family may not be right for another; yet it is true that children need firm boundaries, loving correction, and guidance if they are to develop into mentally healthy, well-adjusted adults. If you need counselling about anger or discipline issues in your home, or if your child’s behaviour is out of your control, the trained psychologists and psychiatrists at Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic can help. Visit our comfortable offices for counselling and help as you navigate the complexities of modern-day parenthood.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Channel NewsAsia 5 August 2017