As the mom of a young child, my initial experiences with the more Singaporean approach to parenting have all been with younger children.
Children here are rarely put down–I noted before that I almost never see a baby in a bucket car seat. With very few exceptions, they are always in arms or in a sling/baby bjorn-type carrier. Tummy time? Cry it out? Letting them play alone? Fostering independence isn’t really part of the dominant parenting style here. Reading mom magazines, I haven’t even seen a lot of emphasis on the notion of putting a baby on their back to sleep (and B said she hadn’t heard of that before…and has taken care of young babies here), which is a mantra in American magazines whenever sleep is mentioned. Granted, you could argue that Asian parenting (or Singaporean parenting or whatever you want to call it) shares a great deal with the American philosophy referred to as “attachment parenting” but it’s difficult for me to quantify how much beyond the more public aspects (I don’t know about things like co-sleeping, etc…and breastfeeding doesn’t seem to be as popular here).
One of my more common experiences in Singapore is to be told by a stranger how shocked they are at Elanor’s independence. Part of that is absolutely just her personality. But I have to say that I think the way she’s been raised also influences that independence–she had tummy time (and I didn’t always lay down next to her…sometimes she got the mirror and the tummy time mat and I took 10 minutes to eat some food with BOTH HANDS), she was put down in the swing and the bouncy seat on a regular basis (the first was great for longer naps, and the second allowed me such luxuries as showering and laundry), she was in the car seat and snap n go stroller more often than the moby wrap when we went shopping, and from about 2 months, she also had short bursts of play time on her baby gym. Don”t get me wrong…E was huge on being held as a baby, and spent a lot of time in my arms and in the sling. We’re big on interacting with her.
The lack of a maid or 24/6 help was an influencing factor. There were points in the day where I had to put the baby down if I wanted to take a shower, or fold laundry, or eat using both hands. Ravi was great with her when he was home, but that was a finite amount of time each day. My family/friends/in-laws were a great help…but no one was constantly around.
In Singapore, either the mom or the helper CAN be constantly holding the baby, which is a practical consideration apart from whatever cultural influences may be at play. But at the end of the day, the babies here are parented differently, which leads to different outcomes. Not a bad vs good outcome or a better/worse outcome…a different one from that of a more American (non Attachment Parenting) approach.
If younger children are held more closely to the parents/helpers….older children seem to have a remarkable amount of freedom here by comparison.
The US has a culture of fear when it comes to letting a child out of the parent’s sight alone. Lenore Skenazy let her 9 year old ride a subway home alone (after growing up in NYC his whole life and regularly riding the subway) and was given the title of “America’s Worst Mom” by the media in response. There are HUGE debates about at what age a child can stay home alone for a few hours. The young babysitter (the 12/13/14 year old) has fallen out of popularity. Parents walk their 5th graders to the classroom (true story–I taught 5th grade in a safe, wealthy suburb and had parents routinely walk their children all the way to the classroom door for ‘safety”). We fear that rapists and kidnappers and pedophiles and BAD PEOPLE are out to get us and our children…in large part because the media fed this hysteria until it took on a life of its own…and now continues to feed it. All of this deliberately ignores the fact that crime is at a lower rate than it was in the 70/80’s when we were kids…and had significantly MORE freedom than we give our kids.
Lenore has started the “Free Range Parenting” movement in response, urging parents to let their kids have a little freedom, and do the things we used to do at their age. Even so, in the US, it is rare to see a kid walking down a street/ riding a subway/ riding a bus/ walking through a mall on their own without a parent hovering.
In Singapore, I routinely see kids (and I’m talking as young as 8 or 10) get dropped off at a mall for their tuition/lesson (the giant backpacks/instrument cases are a good tip-off) and the parent drives off. Or they get out of a cab on their own. Middle and High Schoolers congregate in places like Starbucks and Mcdonalds and do their homework/hang out after school with no parents in sight.
You can argue that it’s easier to let kids have a little more freedom. After all, it’s Singapore–Disney with the death penalty. I mean, they don’t even allow chewing gum…so there can’t be pedophiles! Sure, we do have a low crime rate. But as I said…crime stats in the US don’t support the hysteria, so I just don’t buy that low crime stats are at the bottom of this.
Local readers/readers who have lived in Singapore—What do you make of this? Am I missing something? Is this a new thing (cellphone popularity–more freedom?) or was it like this when you were a kid, too? At what point did you make the transition from child kept close to independent child trusted to go their music lesson/tuition/get a litre of milk without supervision?