Kiasu 3?

J stopped jiggling and stood very still. A grew silent. E just soaked in what Papa was saying. I internalised his argument. Just a moment ago, J was at the controls, trying to hammer the rodents who popped out of the holes and the rest were high with adrenaline. Excited over the games they were playing. As it was on the TV screen, we all enjoyed the process of taking turns to play. Kids marvel at papa’s superb skills and even cried when they themselves ‘died’ (Game Over) prematurely during their turn at Mario Bros. All went well until it was time to call it a day.


One boy had muttered something about the other losing and there was making of face followed by a burst of tears. It was really a small matter. We could have brushed it off (as we do sometimes) and shoo them to bed. However, papa took the time to address the issues at hand. Through this teachable moment, a few issues resurfaced and became more apparent along the way in our observations.

  1. Kia Su syndrome- The ‘I must win, I cannot lose’ mentality
  2. Kia See syndrome- The ‘I must succeed, I cannot fail’ attitude
  3. Sel-fish syndrome- The ‘ Not my fault/problem, it’s your fault/problem’ and ‘This is mine, not yours’ value

1. Kia Su syndrome- The ‘I must win, I cannot lose’ mentality

Case 1: Their school has this online Maths learning program that has challenges (in terms of problem sums) for the students to work on and gain points for the correct answers. This is not an issue. The problem comes when the whole class sees the points of what other classmates and even other school mates have achieved. The greater the points, the higher the rank and you get to see who you have ‘beaten’ and know where you stand in the league. The other interesting application is a Chinese program which has similar system. It is an e-learning reading program where it encourages self learning and has comprehension questions at the end of each e-book. I must qualify that these programs are highly interactive and engage my boys very well. They are eager beavers begging me to let them ‘learn’ their maths and mandarin. If done with a proper attitude, this learning tool is effective in enriching their minds and language. However, the blade that motivates them to do- the competition and ranking, is also the double edged sword – they do it to win and even ‘boast’ to their friends. Despite our reminders on the real value of using this programme, it falls on deaf ears. I know of even a parent who answers the questions for the child so as to gain more points to help satisfy the child’s quest to win.

Since this is a required homework, we have no choice but to allow them to work on them but only during weekends. Boys check their points and see if his friend has gone up or down the ranks. each time they enter the site. A becomes disconcerted and works hard at his challenges to supersede the friends.

Case 2: The boys will see who has more stickers on their exercise book which indicates how many full marks they get for spelling. When J got his first 100 after 3 attempts (below 100) he was beaming with pride and shared with elder brother. But was mistaken as boasting and thumbed down instead. After comforting him, I explained that J was really happy he finally managed to get full marks for his hard work in learning his spelling well.

case 3: The playing of Old School console games. We understand how it feels when they ‘die’ very prematurely and therefore we console and comfort them when they cry out of distress playing ‘Mario Bros’ or other games. Nonetheless, we also discovered that this method didn’t help them cope with the losing and ‘dying’ in the games. Each time they play, the same thing happens. They were treating the games too seriously and winning is at the top of their minds which led to the breakdowns and tempers. They cannot afford to lose and therefore miss out enjoying the fun play process.

2. Kia See syndrome- The ‘I must succeed, I cannot fail’ attitude

Case 1: The other reason why boys are not handling the games well is their cannot fail attitude. Once the boy fails, he feels lousy which explains why he retaliates when the brother touches on his lost. If one does win, he will boast of his achievement and give a ‘I am better than you’ scoff. I know, all these in appearance and first glance, may seem like childish play. However, because we did not take immediate actions to stop them, it has now become a developing habit which is taking it’s negative vibes in the family.

Case 2: I share about how J was afraid when he realise he is going to fail his spelling and another instance where he failed to learn his piano in Sentimental Mum-me.

3. Sel-fish syndrome- The ‘ Not my fault/problem, it’s your fault/problem’ and

‘this is mine, not yours’ values

Since young, we have trained them to do things independently and be responsible for their own things or duties. In the process, the kids always remind each other to take their own stuffs and pack their own things etc. Now, it’s swung to the extent where they would refuse to help the other sibling since she ‘should be responsible’ for her own things. They become more self- serving and less helpful towards each other. For instance, I ask one of them to help carry a water bottle and would hear,” Carry yourself! It’s YOUR bottle, not mine.’ Another time, they would blame the other for creating messes and refuse to help clean up together since it’s not ‘their problem.’ Of course there are instances of loving kindness, but those are getting fewer. A few times, someone even refuse to help me carry things since it is not their things!

From Papa’s observations, he acknowledged upfront that it’s his fault the kiddos have not learnt how to share. To avoid quarrels and chaos, we separate their food in fair portions for them, get individual gifts or food stuffs for them. Even then, each kid will eye the other bowl if it is ‘exactly’ the same portion and whines if his/hers is perceived as ‘less’. The item that we forced them to share was this old camera. This became THE problem as they mange to squabble and fight over this 1 item every time. The other thing that was shared among them are books and ice-cream. Still, we make them take turns to have a slurp and ensure they wait for their turn to read the coveted book.

Funny how the games incident had surfaced these underlying negative currents and shed new light to our parenting journey. To sum up, we gave them our guidelines.

  1. No one wins all the time and there is no shame in losing if we try our best.
  2. Enjoyment and learning of the processes in anything is more important than the end result of success/failure.
  3.  Value the person more than the products
  4. God blessed us with wholesome bodies not to be a self serving successful person. Instead, our bodies, hands and feet are for the purpose of helping and serving people, adding value to other people’s lives.
  5. Learn to share and care for each other.



Like Mummy Wee’s observation on how habits when unchecked for years may become a mountain, I shudder at what damage such habits of Kiasuism, Kiasee and selfish ways may bring when left uncorrected.

2Cor 9:6-7

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

While we still have the time to sow seeds of love, faith and hope in the hearts of these young ones, let us do so generously with our time, effort and hearts.

Are you sowing seeds of love generously now?

Do you struggle with the above cases? How do you handle them?

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  1. We “suffer” from some of them too, especially the accidental “boasting” part. So agree on nipping the issue on the bud so it doesn’t become a habit.
    We are also working on being kind. Meimei tripped on the stairs just yesterday and dropped the iPad through the stair thread, and jie jie instead of being concerned with her was upset that the iPad was dropped. 🙁 We had another similar instance later in the day and had to remind her that the person is more important than the thing that is spoilt, especially when it was an accident. We’ll keep on practicing all these till they grow and to remember them like second nature. ☺️

  2. We should always seize these teachable moments to teach our kids and thankfully your hubby used their game to bring up these conversations. For me, I’ve been trying to teach my daughter gratitude as she’s always comparing herself with others and asking why she can’t have certain things. And I’ve been reminding her that our possessions do not define us.

    • Indeed, life’s precious lessons to impart! Thanks for sharing, comparison is also part of sibling competition. Yes, gd reminder on possessions do not define us. : )

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