Hor Heng Sereyroth, co-founder of Khemara English Debate Society, gave an impressive talk as she took the audience on a stroll back in time to her childhood. She recalled a moment when she was arguing with her parents. She was unable to stop crying as her mother ordered her to stop.
“Is gentle parenting spoiling your kids?” she asked from the stage of Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center, as the question her topic aimed to delve deeper into.
The youngest speaker at TEDxRUPP 2022, Sereyroth, 19, showed no remorse with her debate skills to convince the audience, especially parents and parents-to-be, to change their decades-old mindset by starting to talk openly about this old way of parenting in modern times.
Sereyroth spoke to the 500-strong audience about her childhood experiences. The fluent speaker took the audience to one of her most unforgettable childhood memories. She provided visuals of motion in an imagined situation when she was a 10-year-old girl regularly playing with her siblings, but one of them abruptly snatched the child's toy, resulting in an argument.
Her mother came to stop the arguing and told the children that it is alright to use a soft voice, be understanding, and come up with solutions; regrettably, many parents are in this scenario. Not many parents would have reacted in such a gentle way.
Tiger parenting vs. gentle parenting
Sereyroth asked her audience, "Is it gentle parents who spoil their children?” She explained why tiger parents have a negative influence on children in the long-term, and why gentle parenting is not spoiling children.
As a debater who has participated in both national and international debate competitions, she noticed that culture has a significant impact on how children are raised in society.
When children do not listen to their parents, the norm gives authority to parents who trained them that ways to compel them to obey, such as beatings, restriction, yelling, and screaming, are typical as long as they wish to raise them to become good, obedient children. Whereas, parents have no choice but to treat their children in this manner.
Sereyroth also pointed out that her closest friend's father, who continued observing her friend for everything he did and did not do, compared him to other successful kids his age, and did not listen to his reason for everything. He limited who he could be friends with because his family felt that if he was friends with rich kids, he would become wealthy and successful in the future.
She told the attentive audience that many of us can relate to this kind of parenting. To most parents, perhaps, this is how to raise children for success in life, train then to obey, and not get spoiled.
However, Sereyroth emphasized that kids know their parents simply want them to have a good life.
“To parents, maybe this is how you raise us so that we obey you and not become spoiled or maybe this is how you ensure that we will walk the right path. Because at the end of the day, we know for sure that you just want us to have a good life. But to us as children, it's different, you're hurting us physically and emotionally, destroying our self-esteem, and making us doubt ourselves even over the little decisions we made,” the articulate speaker said.
She reasoned that it makes kids unwilling to speak out and stand up for themselves. It has rendered them unable to express their feelings for any mistakes with parenting. It has led kids to be afraid of doing something wrong and maybe being punished in the future.
“It has caused kids to lie to their parents because kids want different kinds of enjoyment and are unable to communicate their feelings not only to you as parents, but also to everyone else around them because kids have not ever done it before. The experience left them with no emotional strength to confront the real world,” she said.
“Parents would think that a rigid style is heavily involved in the success of children. On the other hand, parenting refers to a person's way of parenting that relies on their children's willingness and choices rather than the parent's demands.”
Parenting should all be priorities, understanding children, empathizing, respecting, connecting, communicating, and racism should never be used to establish parental control, functioning, or societal norms. Parenting must be maintained, managed and consistent with mood, patience, and creating limits with parents are all important aspects of parenting.
Freshwoman Sereyroth claimed that children observe everything parents do, talk, act, respond to, handle issues, and manage and communicate parents' emotions with them.
“This world will follow you (parents) throughout your life. Because parents show children how to see the world through the eyes of their young.”
Tiger parents may also confine other parents, limiting their children’s social pals and not trusting them to make decisions with little ones or privacy. This allows parents to look at their children’s phone messages or social media accounts to see what is going on in their life.
As a result, children are unable to express their emotions because they are afraid of being ignored or punished. They need to seek approval for all parents because children are prepared to satisfy the high expectations to get their parent's attention. This leads them to make poor decisions in the past and continue this type of parenting because it is seen as the best practical way.
On the other hand, connecting is a foundation of gentle parenting that makes children feel safe, comfortable, and unconsciously loved by their parents. In general, children do not need to work hard to earn their parents' attention and have a secure place to express themselves no matter what occurs. This also allows them to burn the violence of feelings as children as well as communicate those feelings to people around them, which in the long-term creates a generation of emotionally intelligent individuals.
“Gentle parenting also allows us to trust our parents with our problems and have the feeling that our parents are not judged for who we are or what we've done. It will allow our parents to communicate and connect with us on a very personal level, ask us about our day or give us a very good attachment.”
Instead of hiding it from parents for fear that they will know, get angry or force us to break up, children should be able to tell their parents about that person and seek advice from them regarding relationships or the future.
Talking to her parents in the audience, she openly said, “We want this relationship between us to be one of understanding and not of control. So, parents learn to control feelings and emotions. Learn to let go of your pain, the pain that your parents have left you in terms of their strict parenting way.”
The young Cambodian TEDx speaker wrapped up her 20-minute talk with, “Talk to your children and find out their needs and desires that have grown together in a simple way. Love them for who they are and embrace their uniqueness. It is time for you to strengthen the bond between parents and children and naturally care more for your old children.”
Speaking to Kiripost
In a separate interview with Kiripost’s Seng Mengheng, she said, “I am, apparently, the youngest person on stage this year. I grew up watching TED and TEDx videos on YouTube, learning about new concepts and different ideas about politics, societal problems, and other people's stories. Therefore, I grew up thinking that TEDx speakers are very powerful and could make an impact in other people’s lives, as well as the whole of society with their stories.
“I want to be one of those powerful speakers. I want to be a representation of people my age. Some of us think that TEDx talks are for professionals, entrepreneurs, scientists, researchers or CEOs, but I believe that everyone should have a voice and their voices should be heard.”
When asked about why she chose this topic, she explained, “I chose this topic not because I am a victim of tiger parenting and not because I am a parent myself. I am just 19, but through participating in many debate competitions back in high school, I learned how to empathize with people and learn to notice more about everything that is happening around me.”
She added, “In Cambodian society especially, I have seen and heard many times about parents controlling their children, setting very high standards for their children, and punishing their own children in a very harsh way. This has allowed me to always go against tiger parenting and its values. I never believed in punishing children to make them learn about their mistakes or using harsh scolding on them to make them fear you as parents. I have always believed in children being raised with love and care in order to grow up into individuals who represent and advocate for these values.”
In the interview conducted after TEDxRUPP talk, she elaborated more on gentle parenting. “Gentle parenting is better than tiger parenting for one main reason: gentle parenting allows for parents and children to establish a really close connection with one another. As human beings, we never want to make mistakes, get scolded at, or be hit by anyone; we never want to feel any pain.
“I never understand why parents think that in order to raise their children right, their children have to be raised with pain and fear. As parents, being gentle with your own children is a very important concept.”
She added that parents keep on saying that they love their children, but they never care if their children are being loved right. Gentle parenting allows parents and children to work together to create a perfect environment for them at home. It establishes an environment where parents and children could connect with understanding, respect, boundaries, love, and kindness.
On tiger parenting, she said, “It is true that tiger parents now are influenced by their parents who are also tiger parents. This is a common fact and there is no denying it. This behavior can only be changed when the parents' own interest change. Parents need to understand that as the world changes, their parenting ways have to change too, or else they will be raising their children to be ready for society in the 1900s and not the 2000s.”
As her talk may have sparked a new conversation about parenting in Cambodia, the young fellow university student admitted, “I am very aware that some parents might find what I'm advocating irrelevant. They might think that I am just this very rebellious young adult who only cares about the children's feelings. I care about children's feelings not because I was never a parent. I care about children's feelings because children do not deserve to be born in an environment where they are treated like puppets, following all the orders of their parents.”
She concluded, “Children should be seen and heard, even if they are young. If we want to raise our children into emotionally strong and capable individuals in the future, we have to train them to do so from when they are young. My message is not only for the tiger parents now, but it is mostly for future parents. Even if you are a victim of tiger parenting, please do not continue this with your children. If you really love your children, don't make them suffer like you did. Children deserve love.”