In case you missed the radio interview I did with bfm89.9, listen to it here:
Find the full transcript of the interview below.
bfm89.9: We all know that parenting can be a daunting experience but do you think it can be taught, the same way a subject is taught in schools?
Jamilah: The way I see it, the purpose of parenting is to inspire children and youths to become the best they can be, gifts to humanity, able to contribute /benefit their own parents, families, communities.
The answer to the first question: Can parenting be taught? Most definitely, yes.
The next question is how? Having a classroom setting is one. Online classes is another. You could also have coaching circles, where smaller groups of parents will discuss their parenting issues with a facilitator.
However, a common issue is that, many parents do not see the need for parenting lessons, until it’s too late. In parenting, what you do not know can and will hurt you. Not just you, but your child as well, your sense of self-worth as a person, and your child’s sense of self-worth as a person.
I’ve seen many cases where parents face serious problems in raising their children. They could have made a U-Turn if they had known better, much earlier.
There’re such things as effective parenting strategies, proven strategies, timeless strategies that work well in many situations.
Examples: The power of encouragement, the simple yet critical ways connecting with children thru words, touch and positive gestures, how to have conversations with little children, ages and stages, effective ways of dealing with sibling rivalry, differences between development of girls and boys.
bfm89.9: Do you think parenting classes is something we need in Malaysia?
Depending on how serious the situation is, it is possible that even a 2-hour class can make a difference, provided the parent truly understands what’s being taught, and how to implement what they learn.
In more recent classes, I’ve used the Mentimeter where learners could immediately give feedback pre and post. You could see how the confidence levels jump for both mums and dads. Suddenly they see light at the end of the tunnel! A light bulb has been switched on! Some parents come confused, overwhelmed and they leave feeling more empowered. They see more options to respond to situations.
Once you understand the bigger picture, you’ll be able to apply them immediately. You’re able to see your child in a new light. How you see your children, your relationship with them, how you interact with them, your expectations, your confidence level will increase, you’re able to relax more.
That doesn’t mean that in parenting there’s one size fits all solutions. It doesn’t work like that because each parenting issue is as unique as the parents facing them. But with the right understanding, you’re far far more likely to succeed.
It’s like the toolbox. How do you build a house if all you have is a hammer and a nail? You need the entire toolbox to make things work.
bfm89.9: Seeking help for your own well-being doesn’t come naturally among Malaysians (only now is there a push to encourage discussions on mental health). Do you think Malaysians will warm up to the idea of a parenting class?
Jamilah: To be honest, parenting lessons are not a priority for many parents. In many cases, they’re not even aware that their parenting issues can be resolved!
Having said that, mothers in general are more likely to warm up to the idea. The fathers are a different story. In almost every program that I went to or facilitated, majority of learners are mothers. There are too few men out there who see themselves as part of the solution. But it can be hard for the mothers to change things when the fathers are out of the picture. What we need is more father involvement across all races, better synergy between moms and dads.
bfm89.9: How do we break away from the go-to assumption that parenting lessons are for those who come from troubled families?
Jamilah: I was a troubled parent myself once upon a time, until I realized, unless things change, unless I change, things aren’t going to get better.
Point here is that, it’s not that my family was troubled. It’s me who was having trouble raising my child.
In fact, my first book Cool Mum Super Dad has the story of how a teenage son of mine ran away from home. That was many many years ago … that was what pushed me into an advocate for parenting lessons. I realized that I could’ve done a much better job if I had the correct strategies, skills, knowledge of raising children.
Parenting lessons are not only for those who have issues raising their offspring. They might come from troubled families; but not necessarily so.
There are also parents who take parenting lessons simply because they want to do a better job in parenting.
bfm89.9: In the UK, there is a strong community bond for this to work. And that is probably one criticism that would be levied if this idea were to take off here. Do you think that’s a fair comment?
Jamilah:I think if we want it bad enough, there are always ways and means to do it. We could be creative about it. An issue is time, how do young parents make the time to be there? Can we make it compulsory for young parents, both mothers and fathers to attend parenting class in hospitals, for instance? Or have parenting lessons at work. I believe it’s a worthy investment for both private and public sectors.
At the clinic, I see many expectant parents waiting to be called in by their doctors. I had to wait 1-2 hours to see the gynecologist when I was pregnant. We could use this time better. Perhaps parenting lessons could be presented while expectant parents wait?
Or have online parenting classes with quizzes, case studies based on real scenarios.
Or set up booths in pasar malams (night market), so people feel safe to speak to an expert. Make it more accessible.
We could do a pilot and see how it works.