"Hurry, hurry, give me my shoes. I want the pink dress!" The 4-year-old girl in my neighbourhood usually shouts as such at her domestic helper whenever she leaves home for school in the morning.
by Bich Huong "Hurry, hurry, give me my shoes. I want the pink dress!" The 4-year-old girl in my neighbourhood usually shouts as such at her domestic helper whenever she leaves home for school in the morning.
Some people laugh at the bossy and older-than-their-age manners of these little girls, while others are concerned about the future of this poor behaviour toward older people learned at an early age.
I wonder about this too whenever busy working parents speak highly of their domestic helpers and tutors which they call their "extended hands" for managing their housework and children's studies.
These roles are critical as many people admit that without a domestic helper for a day or two, they struggle to balance the chaos at work and at home, with 24 hours to their day just not enough.
As someone who appreciates the work of these ‘extended hands", it comes as a surprise that respected professor Van Nhu Cuong, principal of Ha Noi-based Luong The Vinh High school, warns busy parents that "domestic helpers and tutors are two of factors that spoil children."
And they are, of course, to some extent.
As Cuong says, these jobs serve the roles of educators who are expected to nurture the children's physical and psychological development but in many cases, they over indulge their "little bosses" in their services.
For example, although pre-school children are taught to carry a school bag, wash their faces and hands, and arrange their shoes and toys, they usually lose the chance to practice such lessons at home because the domestic helpers do these things for them.
Cuong says that he found some of his students, even as teenagers, did not know how to cook or sweep the floor because, as they said, those were the helpers' jobs.
"While we aim to provide students with comprehensive theory and practical training and education, students and even their families disregard the simple but highly practical things," he says.
Through doing such work, children can learn to manage life partly by themselves and more importantly, understand the value of labour and respect manual labourers like domestic helpers, he says.
"If not, the children are liable to becoming bossy, selfish and even dependant on others," he says.
The dependence is more serious when children misunderstand that their private tutor is a helper for homework only, not housework.
Nguyen Hai Ha, a university student who has worked as an English tutor for three years, says that tutors like her are pressured to help students make progress in short periods of time.
Mother of an eighth-grader, Duong Thi Hue, says that before hiring an English teacher for her son, they used to stay up until midnight struggling with few new words and grammar everyday.
However, Hue says that she still regularly discusses her son's study with the tutor as well as follows him to assess the effectiveness of the tutoring.
Some parents hastily hire tutors as soon as they see a poor performance from their child. However, it should not be the first action to take.
Falling marks are possibly the result of troubles or obstacles children face in school life or home life.
Not to mention, a majority of tutors now are university students who are not trained to teach and lack proper teaching methods. This really makes me wonder about their teaching ability. For a student who fails to absorb the knowledge from trained teachers at school, can he/she learn better with an amateur tutor?
According to professor Cuong, the assistance of domestic helpers and tutors does more harm than good if parents approach the issue incorrectly and attach improper attention.
Many forget to clearly identify what the domestic helper/ tutor is assigned to do and not do for the children.
In addition to being an example for children to follow, parents need to explain why they are still obligated to do certain housework chores, suitable to their age of course, although they have helpers.
"There is an existing contradiction or conflict between school education and home education as students don't practise what they are taught," he says.
Verbal encouragement and sharing among family members can help solve problems much better than we think, educator Cuong says, adding that Vietnamese typically are not used to compassionate language in parenting, and yell instead, especially when children are found making mistakes.
Hue tells me that every parent wants to have time for their children but work takes up too much time, forcing them to ask for help from domestic assistants and tutors. It's understandable. However, in the case of my 4-year-old neighbour, I wonder if anyone has asked her, "Why don't you get shoes by yourself?" I know she can. — VNS