The Straits Times says

Parents must loosen apron strings

"Helicopter parenting" is a term used for those who hover unnecessarily over their children at the expense of nurturing their independence. It is an endearing trait to the extent that it shows parents' deep involvement in the day-to-day lives of their children. After all, that is what parents are there for. Hardly anyone would prefer the opposite scenario: parents who care so little for their young that they do not bother to see how they are faring. That is an attitude representative of the sorry dynamics of dysfunctional families. Weak family ties create islands of despondency in societies, with children paying the price for adult unconcern. The children of Singapore, which has not enough of them, deserve better.

Yet, parents must understand that one of the goals of schooling is to wean children off their personal dependence on the family, and make them start behaving responsibly within larger groups. Parents who go against this process exhibit certain traits, like turning up in school to deliver items that their children have forgotten to take along, such as homework, reference books or money. While their intentions are good, the consequences might not be. Children begin to assume that their parents will be there to compensate for mistakes that the young ones should not have made. The need to take personal responsibility for actions then becomes overshadowed by the compensating acts of parents.

More schools are making a point against parental over-protectiveness. They are drawing a clear line between where parents should stand - at the school gates when their children arrive or leave - and the role of educational institutions. Pupils must function productively, as part of a learning group. While such schools do make an exception for the delivery of essential items such as medicines and spectacles, their message is clear: Parents must not treat schools as an extension of home. Were they to do so, it would constitute a waste of the social time that the nation invests in nurturing the young to grow up into responsible citizens.

Singaporean parents need to treat the new environment in schools with the respect it deserves. The main objective is not to reduce the workload on already taxed teachers and administrators, who need to interrupt proceedings in class to deliver items to pupils. The deeper purpose is to encourage children to own up to their mistakes, thereby inculcating in them that habitual integrity which will serve their development into individuals who can take care of themselves in later life. While this character-building goal is valuable in itself, independent thinking and action are crucial for today's young to prepare them for the vagaries of an economic future marked by repeated disruption and continual learning. Parents need to ensure their actions help their kids to grow up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'Parents must loosen apron strings'. Print Edition | Subscribe