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Tue, Jun 15, 2010
The New Paper
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Spoilt kids? The real issue is...
by S Murali

ARE kids in Singapore spoilt?

Sure they are. And it’s our fault. We spoil them silly.

Often, we do so in the attempt to protect them from harm, which is not a bad thing. But they are spoilt and soft nonetheless.

Let me explain. Does your child know how to swim? Did you teach him yourself? Perhaps you engaged a coach, or sent him to a swimming school, like I did.

A month ago, I was in Manila, at the lobby of a hotel owned by a friend.

His son was having a birthday party and had invited a whole group of young friends and relatives over to swim in the hotel pool.

The ages of the children ranged from three to 12, and all clearly had different levels of swimming ability. But here’s the amazing thing: The kids were hardly supervised.

Even the three-year-old was left unattended, her parents confident that the older children would keep an eye out for her. She sat on the edge with her feet in the water and was content to watch the older kids splash about in the pool.

Every so often, she would call out to an older friend or cousin and be carried into the pool so that she could “swim” around with the rest of them.

Then, she would be hoisted back to the side and the older kids would continue swimming.

And even among those in the pool, it was clear that some of the younger kids weren’t so sure of themselves.

The deep end

But they would dive into the deep end, struggle a little and then be pulled out by some older kid.

They would gasp, laugh and then try again all the swimming moves that their friends seemed to be doing in the pool.

There was not one proper breaststroker in the group, from what I could see, but they all seemed to be able to tread water, swim freestyle and have a splashing good time, without supervision.

The same scene in Singapore would have involved 30 parents crowded around the pool warning the kids against doing anything dangerous, another 20 in the pool to supervise the little ones and probably a swim coach or two passing around namecards.

I don’t know what their accidental drowning statistics are, but I suspect they can’t be too alarming, as Filipinos are known to be very caring parents.

But, in their culture, swim coaches are probably only for children heading for the SEA Games.

Other kids learn swimming from their parents, siblings, friends or even by just jumping into the neighbourhood river.

“Not many people here have the money to engage a swim coach,” explained my friend. “And why would they, when the kids can so easily learn to swim themselves?” he asked.

I cannot imagine doing the same, without getting serious chest pains.

Leave a three-year-old next to a pool unattended? Allow someone without the Napfa bronze medal to swim in a river?

You must be kidding. What if something goes wrong?

And that’s the real crux of the “spoilt” problem. It’s us parents who have all the issues.

Our poor little spoilt kids don’t stand a chance.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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