Why I Love Jo Frost

Today marked the beginning of the second week of school for Malaysian kids. Everywhere I went in the past one month I saw 'back to school' sales and promotions.

Colourful school bags, unbelievably white school shoes, smart new uniforms. 

They brought back memories.

Memories of my first day at school. 

It was 1994 and I was 7 years old. My Mum and our house maid helped me get dressed for my first day at school. I wore a navy blue pinafore and a pair of white shoes to go with my white collared shirt. Mum brushed my long black hair attentively and applied some jasmine oil on it. She used to say that it would make my hair nice and healthy and then she would braid it neatly. I always enjoyed this mother-daughter time we had together every morning. My Mum was a working mother and I always missed her when she went to work. She was a very dedicated fashion lecturer and my father was a senior officer and researcher at a semi-government institution. During the day my parents would be at work and my siblings would be in school or college and I was usually left at home with the house maid. Our home was my sanctuary. It was the only place I felt truly safe and everyday I anticipated my parents return from work with much glee.

My first day of school made me nervous and I wasn't excited at all. I was a shy child and it would take me a bit of time to warm up to strangers. I remember hiding behind my Abah's legs whenever his friends wanted to say hello to me. 

"Mummy, can you please come with me to school?", I pleaded that morning. I had attended kindergarten before and it wasn't very pleasant. The teachers were scary because they were always shouting at the children. I must have changed kindergartens at least twice before my parents found one I liked. 

"Shahirah, I can send you to school but I can't stay with you. I have to go to work.  Kakak (a Malay term for older sister) will come with you okay?" my Mum replied. My sister knew I would be scared on my first day and she agreed to stay with me the whole day. Yes, the entire school day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The primary school wasn't far from our house. It was only a short five minute drive away. I saw many children lining up in front of their classes. My first day of school was actually the second day of school for Malaysia and I can't remember why I started a day late. A teacher told my Mum and sister which class I was designated to and they walked me there. I went inside and sat with my classmates but I always looked behind to check if my sister was still outside as she promised. I made her promise me that she wouldn't leave.

During recess I ran out to be with my sister. She prepared my recess meal for me in the canteen as I observed all the new faces around me. I didn't really want to be with the other kids because I didn't know them. I wanted to be in my comfort zone. When recess was over I reluctantly went back to class. One of the classes for that day was an Islamic class and the ustazah (female religious teacher) asked everyone in class if they had done the homework that was given the day before. Obviously I hadn't. It was the second day of school but I started a day late, remember?

She went around the class with a long wooden ruler in her hand and checked everyone's exercise books. Mine was empty. Nothing was written. She asked, "Why didn't you do your homework?"

"I didn't know we had homework," I explained to her. I also wondered how come she didn't realise that she hadn't seen me in that class before. 

"Give me your hand," she said as she showed me how to do it. Palm facing up. She held my hand, brought the wooden ruler into my view and it wasn't long before I figured out what was about to happen. 

"But I didn't know we had homework!" I insisted with the hope that she would change her mind. I remember wanting to get up and run but I couldn't as she held my hand so tightly. Then it happened...

SMACK! On my right hand. 

I cried, of course. I wasn't just hurt physically but I was hurt emotionally too. 

Why didn't she believe me?, I thought as tears ran down my face. 

The rest of the day was a blur to me. Although my sister did tell me that I went up to her at the end of the day to tell her about what happened. She confronted the ustazah and asked why she had hit me even though I had explained to her why I hadn't done it. My sister said that the just ustazah kept quiet, curiously and not to mention inappropriately checked out my sister's outfit and just smiled.

As you might have guessed, I didn't want to go to school the next day. I was so traumatised. I don't think I had been hit by anyone before that. Nevertheless, I was forced to go to school anyway and the ustazah spoke to me about what happened the previous day. She apologised but I didn't want to hear it. Can you blame a seven year old kid for being sore about getting smacked during her first day of school? I mean, isn't school scary enough without the mean teachers?! Anyway, I refused to go back to that school and my parents had a hard time looking for a good school for me. In the end they sent me to a private school, Sri Cempaka, because one of my Mum's former students was a part-time art teacher there. (By the way, that student was none other than Sharifah Kirana, a well known designer in Malaysia now. She is the designer behind the wedding dresses of Heed Sidek and Linda Jasmine.)

I was happy at Sri Cempaka. I got along with my classmates, enjoyed my lessons and the teachers were nice. I suppose that's the advantage of attending a private school. Teachers tend to treat you with a little bit more kindness when they know your parents are paying customers. Oh and we had air conditioning in every classroom and the canteen food was actually edible. 

Anyway, I digress.

My first day at school taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. It wasn't a lesson in Math or Science. It was actually a lesson in parenthood. I don't believe smacking is the best option when it comes to disciplining children. I know I'm not a parent and you're probably thinking, "Pshhh, girl, don't talk about parenting until you have three little children screamin' around the house, breakin' stuff and scribblin' on your bedroom walls one day". I know, I know. But I don't think I will ever have the heart to see my child hurt the way I was. Emotional scars can stay with a person forever. Hence I watch a lot of Super Nanny because I've never seen an episode where Jo Frost endorsed the smacking of children in effort to discipline them and I like that. She's amazing! If you're wondering why I like to watch shows about parenthood well it's because I'm curious about it and I think it's imperative to learn about the ways of handling children when they're not behaving like little angels. 

It's very surreal for me to look back and think about my childhood. I still feel like that awkward and shy 7 year old sometimes. Next it will be my turn to get married, have children and then experience the drama of my children's first day at school. Something tells me I'm going to be a super protective mother. If anybody ever hits my kid... *rolls up sleeves*

By the way, do you remember your first day at school? Or your children's?

And tell me, what are your thoughts on smacking children? How do you deal with your children or younger family members when they've misbehaved? 

Feel free to comment anonymously if you're more comfortable with that. 


Nina said…
I feel so bad for you!
My first day of school wasn't that great, but at least they didn't allow hitting students during my time.
I got into an argument with another girl because she wouldn't let me become friends with her friend. I was quite the hot-tempered girl. Lol. Also, everyone made fun of me because my clothes were different than everyone else's.
But what I remember the most is when I screamed at some guy when he picked up my paper even though I wasn't done coloring.
Yeah, I was such a well behaved kid. :S
RS said…
Oh God.

Elaiza, don't get me started. I got smacked on my hand before TWICE. Because I LEFT my book at home. It was an accident!

But I wasn't traumatised, I was just angry. Thought it was stupid.

As for me, I did receive smackings as a kid from the 'rents but it did instill fear towards my parents. And looking at how uncontrollable kids are these days, being very immoral n rebellious, a little fear is OK. but there has to be ethics behind it.
syahirah anuar said…
oh my that wasn't a good start for a 7 yrs old kiddo.poor u.

my first day at school was awesome because i was among the 5 malay students at the school during that time, and the students there were more like to know about us,where we come from etc etc. so we were like 'super star' for the whole first term.LOL! that was indeed fun! hahaha
Hanafedora said…
Your mum a fashion lecturer?? That's so cool...hehe :)
To me I guess it depends... If my kids did not perform their solah, then I might consider smacking them...hehehe other than that I believe in alternative...
Esra said…
Although I was a little shy, I loved my first day at school and could never understand the children crying around me haha...I was too eager to go and play!

Although I'm very against hitting children, I don't think parents who do are bad parents: I know of parents who might lightly hit their childs hand for being bad, and it's just to make a statement: the children are still very happy and loved (after they've gotten over their strop)

Ideally though, Jo Frosts approach is the way to go!
{f a r a h} said…
I've a 1yo son yg at this age,he's very adventurous, the more u say no, the more he won't listen...

As a child before, I love to smack my sis aka shea rasol of she didn't do what I told her to do...I'm very fierce.

But when I had my son,everything changes in a split second...I'm no more a fierce person...I hate scolding my son and I think too, that's not the best way to brought up kids...especially your own.

I just tell him don't do this and that and the consequences...masa mula2, of course memang dia tak layan..after a few talk,dia dgr jugak.

That's the beauty of talk ;)
Anonymous said…
I personally think spanking is never the answer. There are healthier and more successful ways of discipling children. Cos with spanking, what are we actually trying to instill in them? that it is ok to hit? So I prefer to use cause/consequences as discipline.

But I totally can understand the impulse though, cos even the best children get on the saintliest parents' nerves lol. Besides, there's this old phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child"? There is some truth in that I think :)
Misha said…
Hitting is never the way to teach a child something. I wonder if that teacher now realizes that she literally traumatized you? People never realize their actions.

Luckily you were able to find a better school, that's all that matters :)
Nieya Asni said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nieya Asni said…
From my experince, I believe that smacking kids is very wrong. When adults spank children, they are bullying them. That’s how I felt growing up.

When I was in primary 2, I've been smacked with a wooden ruler on my backbone. My English teacher was so crazy!

I didn't organize the papers in my file, and she's so angry and started to smack me. I cried out loud in pain and most of my classmates stared blankly on me.

My teacher was an old maid. She believed in spanking and smacking her students will make them to be a better person. haha.

Because of her, I hate going to school. I was so timid and had low self esteem. I grew in fear and started to panick easily whenever I saw her.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Aminah: Oh dear. You sound like you were quite a handful lol. Kids will be kids, I guess. I often wonder how children behave a certain way... do they always pick up habits from their parents? Or are they just who they are, naturally?

RS: That's silly! I don't know why teachers do that. It's not the end of the world if someone leaves their book at home. Gosh. LOL, I like how you said a little fear is ok.

syahirah anuar: Yeah, it was horrible. It totally put me off public schools. Glad your experience was better!

Hana: Yeah she was... ironically, I don't know how to sew or anything like that. I just know how to shop. hahaha. I got that from her alright. Yeah, I guess when it comes to something like salah it's important to teach them some discipline. I probably wouldn't smack my child though, maybe just a light smack that doesn't even leave a mark.

Esra: LOL. I never understood kids who were like that! =P But it's cool to not worry about much as a child. I've been a worry wort ever since I was a kid lol. I agree, a gentle smack to make them realise they have done something bad is fine. It's for their own good anyway.

Farah: Thanks for sharing! Yeah, kalau parents marah2 sangat pun tak elok. It's ok to make them aware that what they did is wrong but as you said if you can fix the problem with negotiations, that would be better.

L&S: Aww thank you! I don't know when that's happening though =p

Tsk tsk tsk, so you were one of those naughty kids huh! lol I wasn't naughty... at least I don't think so... and I didn't appreciate when teachers were harsh for no apparent reason. If I did something wrong, I can handle the consequences but sometimes teachers were mean just to assert their authority.

Aimie: I agree and me thinks you should keep me updated about this topic ;)

Misha: Nah it isn't... esp if the child isn't your own. Yeah, she realised that she made a mistake when my Mum told her that I didn't want to attend that school anymore. She apologised to me and I think a little tear came out. Take that, mean teacher! That's for making me cry on my first day at school lol!

Norsiah: Whoa, on your backbone? That sounds... a little extreme. I think she had some serious issues. Sorry to hear you had to put up with that =/
Amnah said…
My husband was raised with physical discipline (I'm not talking serious beating or anything), I was not. He thinks that's the right way, I do not. We have both smacked our oldest daughter on the back of her hand (no ruler involved!!!)after she's done something that we have repeatedly asked her not to do. I've realized that children do not do things in spite of their parents (until they reach their teenage years) and that she is just exploring and testing her limits. She is a very inquisitive child and extremely independent. I hate that I have ever done that, but I think it was more traumatizing for me than her. That's not the way that I wanted to raise my children. Alhamdulilah, I no longer take that route and stick with time outs and removal of favorite items. Being a new mother is all about learning how to take care of your children without any type of manual and forgiving yourself when you've done something wrong. I asked Allah for more patience, and He gave me J.

Just being honest.
I went to Sri KL and no hittings were involved. My parents didn't hit me either, so I never believe in spanking or the likes of it.

I just remember my mom sending me off to school, peeped from the window and left for work. Everything else was sorted by my class teacher. I had way too much fun in school.
BuLaN said…
my father didnt have a car. so he sent me with his old motorbike. i didnt like the rainy days. i had to wear this ugly plastic raincoat. we didnt have electricity at home. i tried to finish my homework right after school time. but still i enjoyed reading my storybooks in the dimmed night with the light from the oil lamp.
"thank you abah for giving me education :)"