Parenting by Proxy

The life of a modern-day parent is very challenging, especially when both parents are working. Parents have little choice but to leave their child in the care of a third party i.e. grandparents, a babysitter, or day care.


Dr Raja Juanita Raja Lope, Consultant Developmental and General Paediatrician, acknowledges that grandparents play a special role in every family. They dote on their grandkids and sometimes let them get away with more than they should. However, problems may appear when grandparenting interferes with parenting.

Tips to bridge the gap:

  • Communicate clearly: Clarify your expectations and let grandparents know how they can help. This allows them to feel important and included. Include them when discussing activities you want your child to take up, as grandparents may be the ones fetching him to and fro.
  • Handle disagreements firmly but politely: Be mindful of your tone of voice and highlight that while their advice is valued, you would appreciate them deferring to your decision.
  • Include them: Grandparents may understand or agree with modern parenting styles and medical advice. Sway them to your side by involving them with parenting classes, seminars, and visits to your child’s paediatrician. These expose them to new information and get answers to their questions.
  • Stay positive: Avoid assuming the worst each time you feel that the grandparents are stepping on your toes. They probably mean well, so take their comments or feedback positively.

“Just like any other relationship, you will have to work at it. However, if all fails, be prepared to find an alternative caregiver who will follow your parenting style should the grandparents continue to refuse to accept your way of doing things.”

Choose the Right Day-care

Dr Rajini Sarvananthan, Consultant Developmental Paediatrician, highlighted three essential things if you intend to send your child to a child- or day-care centre:

  1. Presence of a caregiver who can provide both care and guidance.
  2. The centre should be a safe environment for your child.
  3. There should be suitable activities available to help with your child’s mental, physical, social and emotional growth.

Take the time to personally check on the centre that their cleanliness, practices, and child management style/policy are in line with your expectations.

“Find out how many children are at the centre and how many staff are on hand. This will give you a good indication of whether your child will receive sufficient individual attention,” advises Dr Rajini.

Other factors to check:

  • Is it licensed or registered with the Department of Social Welfare (JKM)?
  • Can you drop by to see your child at any time?
  • Do they screen visitors by checking their ID and with the parents?
  • What happens if you need to pick up your child late?
  • What are the qualifications (training and experience) of the staff and have they attended the Kursus Asas Asuhan Kanak-kanak (mandatory for JKM approval)?
  • In case of emergencies, what action will they take?
  • Is the staff trained in first aid?
  • Is the centre child-proofed?
  • Is the outdoor play area safe?
  • What happens when a child is ill?
  • What sort of foods do they serve and how many meals are served (e.g. only breakfast, mid-morning snack & lunch)?
  • For school-going kids, will the centre provide meals?
  • Are they able to cater to allergies, religious/cultural restrictions, and special diets?

“If you have other questions, write them down and take notes; this will help you decide between different centres. Bear in mind daycare centres do not absolve you of your responsibility – you should always keep tabs on what is happening to ensure his safety.”

Full-time Help

Ms Loh Sit Fong, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, brought up the option of employing a full-time caregiver (e.g. kakak, bibik, nanny, or full-time babysitter). However, she cautioned that there are drawbacks such as:

  • Your child may become closer to the hired help than to you.
  • Abuse may occur (e.g. physical abuse such as hitting a baby that cries a lot).

To minimise these problems, Ms Loh suggests:

  • Check the credentials or experience of your kakak or bibik before hiring her.
  • Spend quantity and quality time with your child. Do not rely exclusively on the kakak or bibik.
  • Treat the kakak or bibik as an extended family member with respect. This will help her maintain good mental health and serves as a good example for your child to learn how to respect others.
  • Brief the kakak or bibik beforehand so she knows what to do if baby cries or fusses excessively. Prepare a checklist of what to do and a list of emergency contact numbers. If you suspect that she is abusing your baby, consider placing surveillance cameras in the house.

There are numerous pros and cons associated with each of these choices. However, do not take things for granted. The responsibility of raising your child lies with you and parental involvement will always be required.

An educational contribution by Malaysian Paediatric Association and Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology.

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