It is the dream of every parent to have each of their children succeed at school. Consequently, many Asian parents have adopted strict disciplinary regimes when raising their children, with many beginning from preschool.
Singaporean Patricia Koh, an early childhood expert and founding director of Pat’s Schoolhouse, tells The Point that every child needs discipline, but enforcing strict discipline does not always bring the desired outcomes.
The following are excerpts from our interview.
Q: How much discipline does a preschooler need during the learning process?
A: Let’s illustrate this; many preschoolers [those between the ages of one to six] are just like dough. During this stage, children are easier to mold. However, parents cannot inflict too much of what they want on their children. Instead, parents need to understand what children want. You see, during these ages, children do not have any desire to study. Nor do they like to be pushed into a disciplined frame of study. So, parents need to be careful when adopting strict discipline as too much will likely result in failure rather than success in raising their children. Discipline is necessary, but it should not be a burden on the children. For instance, parents should have a regular schedule on what time a child should go to school, when to have lunch, when to stop playing, etc. And it is the parents’ duty to make their children aware of what they should be doing without inflicting any punishment. In other words, self-discipline is what we are looking for. What parents need to know is that children at preschool ages like playing, and through playing they are learning more.
Q: Can you please elaborate on how learning through playing can be an effective tool in a child’s learning process?
A: When a child’s brain activity is high, this is the best time for them to pick up a learning process. When a child’s mood is to play ball, parents should not prohibit him or her from doing so. A game like ‘throw and catch’ will contribute to better development of a child’s motor skills, and such activity will definitely help him or her later to be more creative. Furthermore, when a child wants to sing a song, parents or teachers can guide them to sing while dancing and counting. Simultaneously, the child will learn art and math as well as having their motor skills developed.
Q: But is having children involved in such activities guaranteed to foster what they will need later on when going to primary school?
A: Remember that the brain activities during the preschool ages are potent and children learn rapidly. The potential for learning can be enhanced by the enrichment parents or teachers provide, such as through games, activities and songs. This is an important tool to encourage your children to love learning. Such various activities will give a significant contribution to the child’s coordination, imagination and pre-academic learning. Inflicting strict, rigid discipline during the learning process may later on divert the direction to an unwanted outcome of the child’s growth.
Patricia Koh is the founding director of Pat’s Schoolhouse in Singapore. She began her career as a primary school teacher in 1969 and went on to head the Preschool Education Department at what was to become the National Institute of Education. She has been writing on education for Singapore’s The Straits Times.
By Aulia Rachmat, published in The Point Daily, March 21, 2007.