TL;DR – she was trying to teach her son a very important lesson.
You probably have read about that mother who told her son that he can forget about getting a Nintendo DS because he didn’t do as well in his PSLE as he expected. As we have written, we don’t know why this made it to the news. But it certainly got many people riled up. The fact that the mother, Mdm Soon, in this incident is the person who set up kiasuparents.com probably added fuel to the fire.
Do we know the full picture?
We don’t. Do we know what else Mdm Soon told her son other than telling him he won’t get the Nintendo DS? Do we know whether she went on to explain to him why? Do we know if she hugged her son after saying those words? Do we know whether she offered words of encouragement after that? We don’t.
And yet, we are so quick to judge her. There was one person going as far as calling Mdm Soon an “ungrateful and cruel person” and that she will slap Mdm Soon if they were to meet in person. Isn’t that overreacting much? What sort of message is THAT sending the boy? Do we really want to become a society that just reacts emotionally to any sensational news we read without trying to get better idea of what really happened, without thinking critically?
If we had tried to get a better picture of what happened, perhaps we won’t be so quick to judge her the way many people have. Perhaps we would then better understand what Mdm Soon was trying to do.
Rewarding the boy now is sending all the wrong signals
Most comments think that Mdm Soon is wrong for denying her son a Nintendo DS. Some say that the mother should still buy the boy the Nintendo DS because he has already put in effort already. Those who say that obviously haven’t read the article fully. Because the last paragraph of the article is:
“She had agreed to buy him the toy if he scored 250. She hopes that this disappointment would be a lesson for him given how he did not study as hard as he knew he should.”
So it seems that the boy did not study as hard as he knew he should. Let’s say this once more.
The boy did not study as hard as he knew he should.
It wasn’t as if the boy studied as hard as he possibly could and still didn’t score above 250. He knew he should have studied harder. But he didn’t.
What message would the mother be sending the boy if she still went ahead to buy the Nintendo DS? That it’s OK to skive? That he’ll still be rewarded even if he doesn’t put in the effort he knew he should? If the mother did that, what sort of person would that boy grow up to be? Would he go on to expect to get what he wants without having to work his guts out for it? If he did, then when he does grow up and enters the workforce, he’ll truly suffer.
And if other parents rewarded their children even if they hadn’t worked as hard as they could, imagine what would happen to society. That’s right. You get the rise of a durian generation – a generation of people who have been spoilt rotten by over-indulgent parents. And that would be to the great detriment of Singapore.
It would seem that Mdm Soon is trying to let her son learn a lesson more valuable than anything he could possibly learn from textbooks – that if he wants to achieve anything in life, he needs to work hard. Really hard.
Why are we not applauding her for doing that?
Sure, she could have done it better
There was a person who did mention that Mdm Soon’s choice of words is very negative. The same person also suggested how Mdm Soon could have conveyed the same message in a better way. There is some truth in that. Mdm Soon could indeed have said something like this:
“Ah boy, you didn’t hit the target of 250. You know why you didn’t hit the target, right? You know you didn’t work as hard as you should have. I hope you have learnt your lesson. This isn’t the only exam in your life. This exam doesn’t define you. I hope that for other exams and actually for everything else you do in your life, do your best. Only if you do that, will you be able to get the rewards you want. And remember, no matter what, mommy loves you. Now let’s go have a good meal.”
But it’s easy for me to sit here and “say” all this. I’m not a parent. That boy isn’t my son. I’m not feeling the anxiety (if he doesn’t do well, will his future be affected?), of hope (maybe he’ll do well and he will have an easier path in the future…), and disappointment (oh dear… he didn’t do well…).
I’m not sure how I will react if I was feeling that flurry of emotions. Will I be as cool headed? I don’t know.
But I strongly believe that Mdm Soon loves her son deeply. Why? Because the way she reacted sounds like how my mother reacted whenever I didn’t do well in school. And I’m absolutely certain that my mother loves me. So if we really want to react to this incident, let’s not attack (or worse, condemn) Mdm Soon. Let’s instead focus on how she can teach her son the same lesson in a better way.
Hopefully, we can all learn from this incident.