Parenthood: Teaching about choices & responsibilities


I am against asking my daughter to do something just because I say so and hence why I have decided to teach her about choices and responsibilities.

But how do you teach about choices and responsibilities?

How I learned about choices & responsibilities

Growing up, my mum used to tell me of the choices I had in life and what are the consequences.

It was done when I first balik kampung alone, done when I filled my UPU, done when I choose what course I could do when I wanted to continue my studies, when I got married and so much more.

To me, how my mum gave me ‘advice’ was very good because when I decided on something, I will know that it was my choice and I had to live with its consequences, be it positive or negative.

I have to say, due to this, I think I turned out pretty well.

Fast forward 30 years later, I now have my own daughter and I would like to impart that same knowledge or skill, and teach her about choices and responsibilities.

Teaching my daughter about choices & responsibilities

To be honest, I’ve always thought that I should give my daughter options in her life and she should be able to make informed decisions.  I have never wanted to stop her from doing something just ‘because I said so’.

I think such method is outdated for parenthood.

I never however expected to teach her about choices and responsibilities that soon, but I guess the time is right since there was an issue which I had to addressed.

You  see, during the Movement Control Order (MCO), my daughter spent a lot of time on mobile devices particularly the smartphone.

Being the only child, she had no one to play with at home especially when both my wife and I are occupied with work.  We brought her cousins over, but that wasn’t possible most of the time. This had caused her to spend more time on her phones, and she started gaming as well.

After a while, I noticed she was a bit too hooked to her smartphone, and so I thought there was a need to limit her smartphone time.

We reduced her smartphone time, and encouraged her to do more outdoor things like cycling. I even signed her up for swimming classes so that she will be occupied on some days and will not watch her phone too often.

It was showing good signs, but this week she decided she didn’t want to go to the swimming classes because she didn’t want to go out.

I was pretty upset of that because swimming class is not only a good form of exercise which takes her away from the screen, but it also allows her to swim, a skill I don’t have.

I couldn’t accept that she didn’t want to go swimming because she wanted to stay indoors, and so I decided to take away several privileges she had which I though were part of the reason she didn’t want to go swimming.

With an app called Family Link, I reduced her phone time to just an hour/day (from three hours/day), and banned her from playing in rivers, pools and beaches.  I told her that it would be dangerous for her to play in water given the fact she is not able to swim. She agreed to it all despite crying.

At the same time, I thought about how I could get her back into swimming and encourage positive behaviour, but punish behaviours I didn’t favour.

Implementing rewards for choices & responsibilities

I knew her most prized possession currently was her smartphone, and knew that her time on the phone is also important to her.  Therefore,  I decided to ‘play’ with that.

I created a table of reward and deduction for every action I favoured and didn’t, and gave reduction or addition of screen time as a reward or punishment.

I printed it out, pasted it on the wall, and explained to her how it works.  The list can be seen below.

I told her that I will enforce what was written and told me she understood.

If you are curious, my daughter knows pretty well that I will stand my ground when I make a decision.

Is it working?

So far, it seems to be working although I’ve not reached my main goal.

My daughter, as usual, found a loop hole as she now turns to her laptop, but at least, she doesn’t watch the smartphone during meals, and drinks more plain water to get extra screen time.

On top of that, when her phone gets locked, she doesn’t come over to plead for more screen time, but instead switches on the TV or just comes by me for a chat.

My main goal here is to get her back to her swimming classes, so I am hopeful, it will happen.

I am however happy to see that my daughter understands that it is her choice if she wants more screen time.

I hope soon, she will be back into agreeing to go to swimming lessons!

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