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Commentary: Has modern-day parenting created children who are incapable of looking after themselves?

SINGAPORE: The strawberry generation – a term that older generations of hardworking people call the youths of today. It is a term that strikes a nerve among indignant young parents like myself, who are quick to rebut that we are trying our best to raise emotionally mature children without generational trauma.

We carefully curate our children’s environment to ensure that they are happy and safe. We absolve them from much of the sibling-minding and cleaning duties that we had to do as kids. In doing so, will our children grow up to be incapable of looking after themselves?

Amid a prevalence of dual-income parents and a rapidly ageing population, a substantial number of Singaporean households depend on migrant domestic workers to help with the chores and care for their children or elderly parents.

In slightly over a decade, the number of live-in domestic help here has spiked about 38 per cent – from about 201,000 in 2010 to 276,600 as of June this year.

Roughly one in every five Singapore households has a helper. Our helper, or “Aunty” as my children affectionately call her, ensures that my children have clean clothing to wear and a sanitary home to live in.

Everyone’s parenting style is different, and every family’s needs are unique. Both my daughters, who are 7 and 3, were born with severe eczema and allergies.

Instead of getting them to help with chores that involve detergents and chemicals that could trigger their eczema and lead to bloody scratches and sleepless nights, we have encouraged them since they were toddlers to take personal responsibility around the house – not leaving a mess for others to clear up, keeping their rooms tidy and folding and putting away the laundry.

They have also been actively involved in food preparation and personal health from a very young age. With their severe eczema and allergies, I consider their involvement in cooking and skincare as a form of empowerment. More on that later.


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Cornelius Grove, an anthropologist of education, in his book released earlier this year compared the parenting styles of indigenous cultures versus that of modern American families.

In the traditional societies he studied, parents were mostly “uninvolved” in looking after and guiding their children, relying on older siblings and other kids in their community to do so while the adults tended to their work of hunting, gathering or farming. The children were expected to contribute to family chores as early as possible without expectations of rewards.

This is in stark contrast to the intense 24/7/365 commitment of parenting by modern American families, where parents find it hard to get children to help around the house.

The focus on nurturing children’s emotional and cognitive development has created a cultural shift where parents may prioritise quality time and educational activities over mundane chores.

The prevalence of electronic devices and entertainment has also made it even more challenging to motivate children to do chores.

The situation is not unique to the US; across the world, there are countless anecdotes from parents who complain about getting their children to do a basic chore.

It brings about the question of whether less time, effort and anxiety in parenting would benefit families in this modern age?


Because of my children’s severe food allergies, daily cooking is a necessity in our house. We prepare almost all their meals, including lunches and snacks that they bring to school. This means that at any point in time, at least one cooking appliance is turned on in our kitchen, working to churn out the next meal or snack.

Our kitchen sink is hardly ever empty. But because we have Aunty to help with the endless dishes, my children and I can then focus on making healthy, safe meals. They get to decide on the ingredients that go into their meals. They help with the washing, peeling and cutting of raw produce and then decide what condiments to add to the pot.

This involvement in cooking is my way of empowering them to take charge of their own allergies and health. By outsourcing the work of washing and cleaning up, I hope to create positive associations to the limited foods that they can enjoy.


An 80-year longitudinal Harvard Grant Study of Adult Development, which studied hundreds of men from their teenage years into their old age, found a connection between their participation in household chores and their success as adults.

The children who were raised doing chores went on to become employees who knew how to collaborate with co-workers and eventually reported being happier in life.

In the context of modern-day families, these “household chores” can be the involvement in shared family well-being.

Children can help in planning for holidays, creating activities that can be enjoyed with siblings and even asking about each other’s day to show concern for other family members.


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As family units became smaller over the years, responsibilities of sibling-minding and household chores have shifted away from children, especially that of boys.

Across the world, studies have shown that regardless of parents’ education levels, girls spend more time on household chores than boys.

According to an analysis done by BusyKid, an allowance app that parents can use to pay children for housework, boys typically earned twice as much as girls for doing chores.

Boys were also more likely to be paid for personal hygiene like brushing teeth while girls were more likely to be paid for cleaning.

Is it any wonder women today are still taking a lion’s share of childcare and household chores, regardless of their financial status?

Children are themselves wising up to the gender inequality. In a viral post last month, a young Chinese girl was filmed helping her mother with the chores when she said that she did not want a marriage like her mother’s and was determined to find a husband who would not expect her to do housework.

“I’m not stupid,” she was reported as saying. “I will be lazy in the family with my future husband.”


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Will my children’s lack of experience in washing dishes and mopping floors make them grow up to be entitled individuals?

Instead of assigning them a list of chores, I’m hoping that my efforts in teaching them personal responsibility and showing them how we work together to keep them healthy and safe will be a reminder that their lives are not served on a silver platter. And even though we are fortunate enough to have Aunty in our house, we still require constant collaborative efforts among all members to function.

Yong Qiao Qing is a mother-of-two and founder of Little Warriors, an online business that specialises in clothes for children with sensitive skin.

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