May 28, 2015

    No one is laughing at HK's overpampered kids

    ALL decent parents want only what is best for their children. However, being too supportive can ironically work against a child's proper development.

    The other day, I observed a startling scene in which a secondary-school boy met the family maid at the school gates at dismissal time. The maid was much smaller than the boy.

    However, she shouldered his hefty backpack and even held an umbrella over his head as they walked.

    When I was in school in England long ago, any such undue pampering would have incurred the vocal derision of my classmates. But here, no laughter was heard at the absurdity of the scene. It was but one aspect of the overprotective environment in which some children are raised.

    I saw an even more blatant act of spoiling a child recently. In this case, two of the family maids waited at the school gates for a little princess to exit at the end of the school day. For good measure, the family dog was brought along as well.

    Believe it or not, within moments of exiting the school grounds, the child was refreshed by having a wet towel rubbed over her neck; her school bag was immediately taken by a handmaiden (or modern-day slave?); a cold drink was held by one of the maids while the precious one drank through a long straw; a phone call (presumably from the doting mother) was then facilitated by a maid holding a mobile phone to the child's ear; and, as with the lad described earlier, an umbrella was held over her head.

    The girl did deign to take the dog leash, but this daily scene is surely going to cause that child, and many like her, to develop a grossly exaggerated sense of her own importance in the world. I pity the school teachers who must interact daily with many such spoilt children.

    In these enlightened times, even royal families try to provide as normal an upbringing for real princesses as circumstances permit - by letting them mingle with the hoi polloi to imbue them with a down-to-earth attitude.

    How much more absurd (and counterproductive) it is for ordinary citizens to be doting excessively on their children, depriving them of the opportunities of learning to cope with the ups and downs of the real world. Do we really want to bring up such emotionally and intellectually fragile beings, setting them up for an early surrender in life?

    Turning to public transport in Hong Kong, you often see a disturbing sight: On a crowded bus or MTR train, the doting parents have their young children occupying seats when many adults are standing.

    Even grandmothers often stand while their grandchild takes a seat. A more appropriate place for the child to sit would be on the parent's knees, thus freeing up seats for older passengers - who would have paid the full adult fare for the journey.

    By not overpampering the child, a parent can help the kid develop the resilience to adversity that will be needed throughout his life.


    The writer has worked at many universities in Hong Kong and around the world.