Finding a better way

Finding a better way

Last week, amid all the news, flooding and political madness that's been sending residents of the Kingdom into a spiralling negative void, an unexpected source of uplift came through: netizens.

Usually known for their trolling and offensive remarks on anything and everything, the Thai internet community united last week to tackle a controversial Facebook page, procuring an apology from its owners and putting a hiatus to its judgmental, outdated and sometimes reckless posts. The page in question is "Dad Mom And Kids" -- a parenting- (and sometimes monetary-) advice page run by family physician Ittirit Chulalaksiriboon and his child psychiatrist wife, Sarinee Chulalaksiriboon.

With more than 100,000 followers since 2015, the page, which describes itself as "a source of the best, trustworthy information curated by two doctors", seems to be a hit among helicopter parents whose idea of raising a child is to smother, stalk and control their child's every move.

The posts, written by Ittirit, are a mixture of his own personal experiences of becoming "successful", his archaic parenting advice and commercial plugs for a parenting book he's written.

The internet backlash came early last week after Ittirit posted his stance on gaming and entertainment: under no circumstances should a child be exposed to or play games at all. It sounds reasonable, but he took it a bit too far. He advised the concerned mother of a three-month old whose father bought a PlayStation 4 to never have any more children with him, protect the child and save up money to file for divorce. He said that gaming benefits, which include impulse-control, brain-development and stress-relief, were all fake excuses to play games.

Once netizens poured in opposing his views with reason and evidence, he deleted, blocked, and threatened them with legal action under the Computer Crime Act.

Digging more into his previous posts, netizens found that Ittirit had other strange and highly outdated parenting advice.

He opposes children having any autonomy, advising a mother of a 16-year-old that her child does not have the right to demand or even ask for anything. She must deny everything he requests, as he lives in the parents' house, where only the parents' rules apply. This is not punishment, he says. This is to help the child in the future.

He advises to delay any romantic interests for as long as possible, telling parents to never leave their children alone with those of the opposite sex, and to send their children to an all-boys or -girls school until graduation from secondary school. From there, keep telling them to not date until they have a university degree or have otherwise become successful. According to him, anyone who's dating before college isn't competitive enough, and "shouldn't even register for admissions exams". He also encourages parents to not teach sex education until the child is much older.

Any career choice other than doctor is also considered a failure, he says. And by following his advice, even "uneducated and stupid" parents can push their children to become academically successful -- and by academically successful, he means completing medical school.

What's alarming is that even though there's been a backlash by citizens who claim that Ittirit is abusing his professional authority, a number of parents have praised his methods and advice.

There is no right or wrong in how to raise a child, and parents may feel it's their job to shield their children from the negative and secure for them a bright future. However, sometimes a line needs to be drawn. Let kids be kids and let them learn and grow from their own mistakes.

Denying children their own opinions, ideas and even dreams shuts down their critical-thinking skills, creativity, personal interests and drive. Limiting contact with the opposite sex to that extreme level can also hinder their social skills. Some former university classmates of mine who attended all-girls institutions ended up not knowing how to relate to men as normal human beings. And restricting sex education leads them to further ignorance of their own bodies and what a healthy relationship should be, as well as increasing the likelihood of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A Unicef study released just a few days ago confirmed that Thai youths aren't prepped well enough to have healthy relationships and sex lives. No wonder we're no.1 in teen pregnancy for Southeast Asia.

Telling a child that the only career option you have is to become a doctor is also unreasonable and stress-inducing. The child might not want to be a doctor. Shouldn't it be a matter of them finding something that they like and doing that well?

Once these children, whose whole lives were suppressed, gain freedom when they're older, they end up living their middle- and high-school lives during their adult years and completely lose sense of reasonable limits on behaviour. I'm not saying this happens to everyone, but again, from firsthand experience, it's pretty likely.

The silver lining in this whole debacle, however, is that people realise that Itirit's extreme methods are abnormal. Parody pages like Dad, Mom And Slaves and Dad, Mom And Pets have popped up. Concerned parents and doctors have condemned his teachings and higher-than-thou attitude. He's even written an apology to those he's upset, blocked, and threatened. It's a small and maybe insignificant incident, but with all the negative news going on in this country, people coming together in defence of children's well-being makes me feel there's still some hope left in Thailand after all.

Apipar Norapoompipat is a feature writer in the Life section of Bangkok Post.

Apipar Norapoompipat

Features writer

Apipar Norapoompipat is a features writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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