Touch, You & Your Family

Battle not lost till you throw in towel

THE SON WAS ACCOMPANIED by his mother for their first counselling session. “He is defiant,” she complained “and he never listens to me. We cannot get him to stop playing with the computer all day.” The 13-year-old sat there avoiding any eye contact with either of us and would only offer monotone responses. He was clearly unhappy about being there and only came when mother asked him to follow her to the doctor.

In speaking with the boy, it became clear to me that he knew that his mother had lied to him about going to see a counsellor. He also did not see himself as a problem that needed to be fixed. Yet in spite of this he came, a fact that I was at pains to highlight to his mother. A few more minutes of conversation showed that this was not an isolated incident of compliance to the wishes of his parents. Far from being completely defiant, the boy and his parents’ relationship were characterised by a number of running battles over control, with each side getting their way occasionally.

Granted that such contests were increasingly tiring and frustrating, this should never give cause for any parent to consider hoisting the white flag of surrender. Unfortunately, I am seeing more parents doing just this. They haul their children to counsellors, school discipline masters and in some cases, to the police and plead for help to control their children. In the more extreme cases, parents have sought to declare that their children are beyond parental control and that the state should take over their care.

How did this situation become so common with parents and their children today? Have some of our children indeed become more unmanageable? Or have we as parents become less competent in managing them? Are parents lulled into believing that there are only some correct ways of parenting and this special knowledge is not privy to them and therefore they should rely on these experts? Or have parents become so out-of-touch with their children that they feel estranged from them? Or has parenting become another victim of the throw-away mentality of today that we stick with relationships when it suits our convenience and when it starts getting too difficult, we look for a way out?

Today’s rising number of couples seeking to separate or divorce is another expression of this throw-away mentality. It is as if that popular saying; “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” has been changed to “if it breaks too often, get rid of it”. I should be fair to this mother and the many other exasperated individuals who have considered or are considering giving up on handling their children or dissolving their marriages. They have tried to address their problems. Some have tried more tenaciously than others. However, at the heart of the problem of this throw-away mentality are two issues. Firstly, our understanding of the commitment that comes with being a parent or a spouse. Secondly, our expectation of what comes with being a parent and a spouse; that somehow, it should be pleasing and satisfying to us. And when it does not prove pleasing and satisfying, some think that they are entitled to reconsider shouldering this responsibility and obligation. I have used two words that are less popular in today’s context: responsibility and obligation. But did not the vows say, for better or for worse? And maybe for parents, there should be vows that say to soldier on, whether their children listen to them or not?

Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.



Calling all DISCIPLE graduates

Agency celebrating 20th Anniversary in Singapore

DISCIPLE Agency is gathering all its graduates for a time of celebration at Toa Payoh Methodist Church on July 14 at 7.30 pm. The occasion: the 20th Anniversary of DISCIPLE in Singapore.

The agency has witnessed how God has used the DISCIPLE programme to bless the churches in Singapore and beyond these past 20 years.

Not only graduates from Singapore are expected to attend, but there will also be fellow DISCIPLES from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.

They will meet a special guest – Mrs Wini Grizzle, who was the Director, Training Seminars with Cokesbury. She has been involved with DISCIPLE since its conception and was responsible for the design and presentation of materials, as well as the training of trainers and leaders.

Graduates are familiar with the phrase, “DISCIPLE AIMS AT TRANSFORMATION AND NOT JUST INFORMATION”. This is what DISCIPLE is all about.

“So, whether you have gone through all the phases of DISCIPLE or just one of them – “Becoming Disciples Through Bible Study (BDTBS)”, “Into the Word Into the World (IWIW)”, “Remember Who You Are (RWYA)” or “Under the Tree of Life (UTOL)” – the 20th Anniversary event will be a great time of fellowshipping to celebrate what God has done in our lives as we grow in His Word,” said the Rev Dr Goh Nai Lat, Chairman of DISCIPLE Agency.

For past or current DISCIPLE groups, please sign up as a group with Ms Cho Yien Hua or Mrs Julia Chng via email: for a time of reunion as well as to join in the 20th Anniversary celebration.