Monday, December 31, 2007

Disciplining Children - the Foochow Way

I have been observing and thinking about Foochow child rearing methods for years. Some children were lucky they became extremely successful, some were not so lucky. Was it entirely due to luck?

Perhaps I cannot actually propose a theory yet on child rearing.

Below are some of my observations.

Mr and Mrs. Ting ( Ah Chuo) were the one of the first Foochow noodles or mee sua makers of Sibu. Mrs. Ting was a woman with a loud voice, who often spoke loudly and rapidly until she lost her voice. So sometimes she would speak with crackling voice which we called "pang ak siang" in Foochow or half voice. She used two ways to keep her children in tow : scolding and cursing them loudly using phrases like "you die half way","son of a coffin","drop jaw",etc.

She also caned her children, very badly and one day we saw her dragging one of sons out from below the stairs by the hair and with one hand holding the hair, she used the other hand to cane the poor boy.

It was at this time my siblings and I learned the word "ambidextrous". So we would always associate our dear Mrs. Ting with the word. I wrote a sentence for her: "Mrs. Ting was ambidextrous when she beat up her son." I was scolded by my China-born teacher, Mr. Liong, for writing that sentence. He asked me to correct my statement. So I wrote,"Mrs. Ting,my neighbour is a good example of an ambidextrous person."

My classmate, the late Rashid, wrote a brilliant sentence,"Many husbands and wives are ambidextrous when they box each other." The whole class burst into laughter, in our innocence then. Mr. Liong kept a very stern poker face after that.

But as the years went by, Mrs. Ting became one of our best mothers in town. Her children grew up and one obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Economics from Malaya University,another took a degree from Christchurch, New Zealand. One of the Ting girls became terribly wealthy in her own right. And the rest are very good people - professionals. But what is important to the family is the fact that all the children are "GOOD PEOPLE'. And I take my hat off to them.

The Tings lived frugally and ethically. I will always remember their neighbourliness,respect, love and loyalty towards my mother for all those long years we were in Sibu. Their friendship lasted until Mrs.Ting passed away. And now her children and I are in our fifties and still good friends.

Another way of Foochow discipline is by punishment by the father who was regarded as the master trainer of the family. After the punishment, the mother figure would comfort the child to "soften the blow".

I observed this Mr. Wong (name changed) who was often depressed because of his financial difficulties. He had a unusual way of keeping his children quiet and less demanding. When a child misbehaved, he would punish him by humiliating him in public -forcing him to kneel in the shop front for an good half hour or longer,making the child to carry a red cross on the face for a long time, or just punching him in public at any odd him his temper let him . His neighbours were all very understanding and sympathetic. The adults did not consider these as domestic abuse at all. In later years,his children were indeed considered well brought up and folks give the father the thumbs up all the time. More than forty years later, today, his children have good professional careers . In a very Foochow way, the children remember and continue to respect him, even though he had passed away a long time ago.

The aunty staying not far away from us was a nagger. I have no idea why she was so. But whenever her children misbehaved she would repeatedly reprimand them, often for a few days. She would tell everyone their mistakes. Some times she would shout very loudly, releasing her frustrations, asking the heavens to punish her children. I reckoned at that time, it was the correct thing to do:to tell the neighbours that she was doing her duty to keep them in line. By scolding them publicly and very loudly, she was saving her own face too.

All the neighours considered her a good woman and mother. Uncle was a very quiet man, who was cheerful and keeping a low profile all the time.

And to the delight of every one in our neighourhood, aunty and uncle groomed their children to become very useful and God fearing people - accountants, entreprenuers and generally successful business people.

Thus in those early days, parents did not study psychology and sociology to be the perfect parents. No child psychiatrists helped them. They applied the only crude methods they knew and brought up a good generation of Foochows....along my lane in particular...

I would call my lane and my neighbourhood - the Bai Yu Lan Lane - symbolic of purity, fragrance and greenery. I truly believe that my parents , my siblings and I were really blessed by these wonderful people. Later when redevelopment took place, this piece of social history was taken away. Good folks move on and often move away from a place because of economic development but the human connections remain because we choose to keep and treasure them.

We are the sum total of all the micro bits around us.

9 memories:

my said...

Where is the post? I only see the title?

sarawakiana said...

Hi, thank you for stopping by. Yesterday I was a bit busy. I did a little bit of correction (just in case)so the page was deleted. This morning I rewrote the posting...

You have a good blog...

Keep the social history of Sibu accurate and alive!! Keep it up.

Greg Wee said...

Hi Sarawakiana,

You never fail to amaze us. Nee & I have just come back from Sibu & reading your blog makes us feel like we never left at all.

We think that you should compile all this writing, in it's original daily/diary based format, and publish it!

We, as the younger generation, are just craving for stories like these. We don't get these in history books. Novels are just too fictitious.

sarawakiana said...

thanks again. I am waiting for your new photos in your blog.

I am sure you had a great time. foochow dinners are just soooooo goooooood.

thanks. May be this year my dream of getting a book published will come true.

Keep you with your good work too.....

FrancisN said...

I agree with Greg, put all your experiences and stories in a book and I will be one of the first to get one.

sarawakiana said...

hi, welcome again.
Wish I can roll out the welcome mat on my blog. Greg...know how to do one? I always find that Welcome Mat in foochow homes so fascinating.

thanks for your support....May I wish you happy new year...may our dreams all come true.

And cheers to more Foochow stories...

AlisonBuda said...

Ya, i agree that this should be published. Perhaps Sarawakian belongs to an old generation of Sibuites who are fluent in English. Such people are rare among the older generation. So a book will be timely.

sarawakiana said...

thank you for your encouragement.

The hermit might just consider coming down from the mountains and ask around about publication.

cupid113 said...


I was so surprised to see you mentioned the names of my 2 older sisters who taught at Methodist Secondary School, sibu - Ida and Saroha Mamora. You wounldn't by any chance a classmate of one of my brothers??

I would love to see your blog publish into a book- all those photos brings back happy memories of my childhood growing up in Sibu.

Foochow welcome mat .... ha, ha, .. we used to have those too made by my mum. keep up the good blog.


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