You have to be cruel to love

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A CLOSE friend, a single parent to two teenage children, recently complained his children “had gotten out of hand”.

He said his two boys, aged 13 and 15, had been caught smoking and skipping schools several times. One of them, he said, was also caught several times lying about his incomplete school work while the other was once caught stealing his money to buy cigarettes.

Like any concerned parent, the 43-year-old marketing director of a restaurant chain said he had tried talking to his children to put a stop to their “antics” for good. However, it was not good enough as it did not give him the desired results.

“I have spoken to them, advised them, but it seems that it has fallen on deaf ears. I really don’t know what else I should do. I love them to bits, but it seems they are getting out of hand. I am now scared to discover what else they do behind my back.”

For him to confide his predicament at the end of our lunch recently was enough to show he was beyond worried. He was devastated and hurt.

Putting aside my advice to him that day on how to handle his boys, what I relearned from my discourse with him is bringing up children is not only about loving them, giving them what they want, communicating with them and educating them with good values. It is also about disciplining them, too.

Parents have their own ways of disciplining their children, but what my friend had been doing thus far has obviously not been working for him and his children.

A lot of parents share his problem. Nowadays, teenagers behaving rudely in public is a common sight. Sometimes, I wonder what their parents taught them.

Like most teenagers, I had my rebellious streaks, too. Among those that I dare to reveal in this column: I was caught smoking when I was 15 years old by my teacher.

I was also caught driving my parents’ Mazda 323, when I was 16, during nights when they were outstation for work or leisure, by caring neighbours.

Yes, I got an earful from my disciplinarian father, a school teacher and later a principal, for embarrassing the family, but that was not enough. I was also dealt with and punished severely for me to “eternally” be reminded I shouldn’t repeat my wrongdoings.

I learned my lesson. Interestingly, it also taught to me to become smarter for my next little “adventures” to ensure I wouldn’t get caught red-handed!

Teenagers and their rebellious streaks are natural to me. But if parents do not or refuse to punish their own children for their wrongdoings, that is not right, especially when we have done our part in scolding, warning and talking to them.

I am all for the recent calls by some quarters that caning should be reintroduced in schools. Although some quarters described the punishment as socially and morally unacceptable, I beg to differ.

In Islam, it is permissible to spank or cane children if they misbehave. Parents, for example, are allowed to spank their children if they refuse to pray when they reach the age of 10.

It was also the practise of the Malay parents in the olden days to hand over their children to a tok guru or religious teacher, to learn the religion and read Quran, with a cane.

Having said this, one must know if they resort to caning, it should be the last resort and it should not be carried out in a reckless manner. Islamic scholars also view caning should be restricted to only three strokes and applied to safer part of the body, such as the feet.

Parents should also be involved where their permissions should be obtained first and everyone must understand it is not to inflict pain, but to curb recurrence of a deviant behaviour.

Nowadays, it is impossible for working parents to spend more time with their children. They leave it to schools and teachers to educate and discipline their child.

This is wrong. Discipline begins at home. Cane their own children at home to discipline them if they don’t want the school and teacher to take action.

We are governed by good values, rules and regulations. We are also guided by civil, criminal and religious laws. Children, too, must know they have limitations and there are punishments waiting for them if they go overboard, if warnings to them go unheeded.

They must know they have boundaries within which they can operate and authority, who include their elders, to whom they can go with confidence to get the direction to succeed in life.

Obedient and well-mannered children do not come out of nowhere. They are products of good upbringing and breeding.

When children become rebellious, they are testing the authority — be it parents or teachers — to see how far they can go.

We don’t want our children to be ‘kurang ajar’ (uncouth). Sometimes, you have to be cruel to love. Melentur buluh dari rebungnya (start young to mould a person), so goes a Malay proverb.

If you don’t discipline your children, they will grow up to think they can do anything and get away with it. It’s true. By: Muzli Mohd Zin/MalayMail