When the prime minister’s wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, shared with this newspaper that she was once caned by her father after she took something without paying for it, some friends had “throwback” moments of being punished by their own parents.
And most of them said it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing as they did not dare repeat any misdemeanour for fear of being punished with the cane again.
Back then, corporal punishment at home and in school was a norm. Parents caned their children as a form of discipline or tough love.
We had a “rotan” at home but it was never used on us. It was placed on the cupboard, with the tip of the cane in full view of everyone. It served as a reminder that if we misbehaved at home or elsewhere, it would be used as an instrument to mete out the punishment.
These days, this form of corporal punishment could amount to child abuse. In fact, there are three laws that cover child abuse: Penal Code, Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 and Child Act 2001, which covers some of the common punishments and practices we grew up with. In fact, 50-odd countries have banned corporal punishment of children.
And parenting today seemed a little bit harder, especially since both parents are at work. As such, there is little parenting or no parenting at all at home compared with before when one parent is at work while the other tends to the family.
Clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Blumberg Baumrind said there are four types of parenting — authoritarian or disciplinarian, permissive or indulgent, uninvolved and authoritative.
Baumrind, noted for her research on parenting styles in the 1960s, said each parenting style varies in at least four areas: discipline style, communication, nurturance and expectations.
Authoritarian parents are often thought of as disciplinarians. “They use a strict discipline style with little negotiation possible. Punishment is common. Communication is mostly one way: from parent to child. Rules usually are not explained. Parents with this style are typically less nurturing. Expectations are high with limited flexibility,” the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children said in its newsletter of Baumrind’s research.
As for permissive or indulgent parenting, parents mostly let their children do what they want, and offer limited guidance or direction. They are more like friends than parents.
“Their discipline style is the opposite of strict. They have limited or no rules and mostly let children figure problems out on their own. Communication is open but these parents let children decide for themselves rather than giving direction. Parents in this category tend to be warm and nurturing. Expectations are typically minimal or not set by these parents,” it said.
Meanwhile, uninvolved parents give children a lot of freedom and generally stay out of their way. Some parents may make a conscious decision to parent in this way, while others are less interested in parenting or unsure of what to do.
“No particular discipline style is utilised. An uninvolved parent lets a child mostly do what he wants, probably out of a lack of information or caring. Communication is limited. This group of parents offer little nurturing. There are few or no expectations of children.”
It said that authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set high, clear expectations. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. This style is thought to be most beneficial to children.
“Disciplinary rules are clear and the reasons behind them are explained. Communication is frequent and appropriate to the child’s level of understanding. Authoritative parents are nurturing. Expectations and goals are high but stated clearly. Children may have input into goals.”
While a few of us fit neatly into one single parenting style, there are those who raise their children using a combination of styles.
“Think of the four styles as a continuum instead of four distinct ways to parent. Ideally, we think about our children and what they need from us at specific points in time. For example, while a parent might not typically adopt an authoritarian parenting style, there might be times in a child’s life when that style is needed. Or you might know an authoritarian parent who is nurturing, contrary to the description above,” Bright Horizons said.
While it is easier for the family when both parents practice the same style of parenting, some research shows that if at least one parent is authoritative, that is better for the child than having two parents with the same, less effective style.
And, new names for parenting styles have also been introduced such as “helicopter parenting”, which is similar to the authoritative style, but with a little more involvement or some might say over-involvement, in a child’s life.
There is also “free range parenting”, which resembles the uninvolved style, but with a conscious decision to allow more independent thinking that is in the best interest of the child.
But we all know that when it comes to parenting styles, one size doesn’t fit all. Dr Siti Hasmah herself acknowledged that there must be an alternative approach to disciplining children if caning is no longer a way of doing so.
The writer is NST Executive Editor, Editorial Business & Lifestyle
Published in: New Straits Times, 16 May 2019
Calls have been made as far back as 10 years ago for the Federal Constitution to be taught in schools.
Every citizen, young and old, should know what the Federal Constitution contains as it sets out the legal framework and rights of all Malaysians.
Some parties have decided to renew the call again, following the public dispute on the provisions of the Federal Constitution following the government’s move of signing, and later rescinding from being a party to the Rome Statute and also the resignation of Datuk Osman Sapian as Johor menteri besar which sparked an intense discussion on the provisions in the Johor State Constitution on the appointment of his replacement.
Earlier, there was a heated debate as to whether the government would contravene the Federal Constitution if it ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
We find that some of those participating in the debates do so without having enough information and knowledge or without thinking about it.
As such, it is the duty of every citizen to know the Constitution and their respective state constitutions. In fact, every household should keep a copy of the Federal Constitution and their respective state constitution.
While one can download the Federal Constitution from the website of the Attorney General’s Chambers, it is a little difficult to source the state constitutions.
Percetakan Nasional Malaysia should make these available for purchase at its premises or at major bookstores nationwide.
It should be incorporated in the school curriculum to expose students — both at schools and universities as students today are leaders tomorrow — to the history behind the Federal Constitution and state constitutions, the forefathers who drafted them and their salient points. This would enable them to appreciate the wisdom behind the crafting of the documents and understand the various articles in the constitutions.
Each and every one of us has to be educated on the Constitution. This will make us informed citizens. It will also make us think clearly and rationally about what to say or what to believe.
Universiti Malaya law professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, in one of his articles published by the media, said a constitution is not just a legal document. It is linked with philosophy and politics. It has as its backdrop the panorama of history, geography, economics and culture.
“The Constitution is not a magic wand. It is not the alchemy that will set everything right. The challenge for Malaysian citizens is to get to know their Constitution, appreciate its moderating influence and bridge the gap between theory and reality,” he said.
In the United States, for example, it is a requirement by law that the US Constitution is taught in schools.
In 2004, a bill was signed that made it a law to teach the US Constitution in federally-funded schools. It is the legal obligation of those schools to provide students with programmes that open their eyes to the importance of the Constitution in their everyday lives.
Taught properly, students can understand the true meaning of their rights and the vital constitutional amendments that protect those rights.
It is also a law for the head of each US Federal agency or department to, among others, provide each new employee with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution as part of the orientation module provided to new employees.
There is also a Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day) in the US. It recognises the adoption of the US Constitution and those who have become US citizens.
It is normally observed on Sept 17, to commemorate the day in 1787, when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.
And a quick check on the Internet showed that over 60 countries celebrate Constitution Day. While it is not a public holiday, Constitution Day is often celebrated on the anniversary of the signing, promulgation or adoption of the constitution, or in some cases, to commemorate the change to constitutional monarchy.
In India, for example, Nov 26 is observed as Constitution Day and on that day, schoolchildren would be taught about the Constitution.
The Constitution of India is the longest written of any country in the world, containing 444 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules and 118 amendments, with 146,385 words in its English-language version.
In an article on its website “The Malaysian Bar”, the Bar Council said people would realise that the Constitution plays a pivotal role in their daily lives if they are aware of its provisions.
“It is vital for everyone to understand the rights and privileges granted by the Constitution. It is important for us to understand the demarcation between the responsibilities of the federal government and the state governments,” it said.
The Bar Council also said that the role of the rakyat vis-à-vis the Federal Constitution is a simple one. It is to respect the Constitution and ensure that it is defended and upheld at all times.
When all is said and done, the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
The writer is NST Executive Editor, Editorial Business & Lifestyle
Published in: The New Straits Times, 18 April 2019