SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

May 2014

Teaching Values to the Modern Child

Child developmentalist Ruth Liew, 49, works on understanding typical and atypical developments in children and supporting and fostering age-appropriate and stage-appropriate learning experiences to empower parents to achieve developmental milestones in children. Here, she shares the importance of teaching children values.

We live in a fast-paced world and technology is taking a hold of our children’s lives. The modern day family is living with more electronic gadgets than any generation before them. Young toddlers can use their fingers to turn pages on the tablet while pre-schoolers speed-dial without ever knowing their parents’ phone numbers, even after they enter secondary school. Parents find out about their children’s friends from their Twitter accounts and would never have met them face-to-face.


Parenting Challenges Today

Today’s parents are faced with a very different set of challenges when it comes to raising children.

Their children have many luxuries to gratify them instantly. Everything they need or want can be acquired in a matter of minutes. They hardly have to wait for anything. If they wait 15 minutes for a meal, it is unacceptable.

However, the youngsters of today have very little time to learn values in life (their parents have very little time to teach them as well). You would think that by having so much to enjoy in life, children would be able to love more.

The truth is, children are more demanding and rowdy when they don’t get their way. They tend to be more dependent than the children of a generation ago. Many children do not have self-help skills until they are in primary school. Being independent can raise a child’s self-esteem while the lack of it tends to make them feel helpless and inferior.

As our lives become dependent on technology, it is more challenging to upkeep the core values of humanity such as love, compassion, empathy, accountability and respect. In an average two-income family today, we find less talking and sharing because everyone is holding either a tablet or mobile phone.

Children growing up with this kind of ‘disconnectedness’ tend to be less patient and less willing to help. They are more intolerant of mistakes and unable to accept failures. As a result of this, they give up easily and take the easy road.

Teachers in today’s classrooms find themselves unable to motivate their students to learn, not because the lack of capabilities. Rather, children tend to give up when things get tough and they are impatient with the time it takes to master a skill.

Values that Children Need to Have

Honesty, kindness, empathy, accountability and respect are among the top values that children now should have. I believe values are learned rather than taught. They have to exist with their parents and their teachers first before they can learn them for themselves. Parents and teachers are the role-models who will show children how these values impact their lives.

Young children should also have opportunities to practise these values with people, rather than just be spectators. Empathy is one which many children lack these days. They are unable to ‘walk in the shoes’ of others when they are so obsessed with their own wants.


Parents who want their children to grow up with these values must let them be participants. They should allow independence in their children as early as possible. Young children are always eager to learn to do things for themselves. For instance, if they are allowed to feed themselves instead of waiting helplessly to be fed, they tend to behave better and are positively sociable.

Parents should also allow their children be carers of others, through pets or volunteering in the homes of the less fortunate. In most families, the adults tend to neglect their children’s growing ability to be nurturing and helpful. They tell them “Oh, you can help later when you are older.” Find tasks that they can do at their age. This way they learn that they too can contribute to the well-being of the family.

Teaching Values From Young

Babies and toddlers can learn to be kind and caring if they are exposed and have experienced acts of kindness and respect around them every day. No child is too young to be a respectful person, and they can understand that others do have needs and feelings.

1. Saying “thank you” is sufficient to help your child learn gratitude. She/He needs to experience the positive feeling rather than just be told that they should be grateful.

2. Whenever your child helps out in the home, reflect on how their help has made a difference like, “You wiped the table. Look at the clean surface on the table.” Appreciate everyone’s contribution in maintaining the home.

3. Limit possessions in the house. One to two pairs of shoes should be enough for any child. Too many is considered over-indulging. Children who live with ‘just enough’ of everything tend to appreciate and be grateful for them. Those who have too many do not appreciate the value of having shoes, or anything else.

4. Instead of throwing lavish parties, find ways to have more family sharing sessions. Families who cook together tend to feel the love in their food rather than those who eat out all the time.

5. Count your blessings as a family. Say a prayer of thanks for the wonderful happenings in the family together. Children who hear their parents being thankful for their blessings will also adopt the same attitude.

6. Whenever someone gives a gift or does something nice for another person in the family, there should be an acknowledgement. A small gesture like making a red ribbon pin or writing a thank-you note for what has been done can do wonders for young children.

Ruth Liew has worked closely with Tupperware Brands to develop self-feeding utensils for children. Ruth helped to develop the ergonomically-designed Twinkle Tupz Set that enhances a child’s hand-eye coordination and develops motor skills. She also worked on the Twinkle Kidz set, which encourages a child aged 18 months and above to learn self-feeding. Ruth has also conducted Tupperware Brands workshops on the benefits of self-feeding from an early age, developing self-help skills, improving better motor skills and achieving positive self-esteem in children.

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Teaching Values to the Modern Child