Why Cannot Cut Your Son's Hair?

Teacher’s impromptu haircut on schoolboy sparks debate

If this goes on, parents will soon storm into that army camp, telling that army barber how to cut his son's hair. If any of my ex-teachers were to read this, written by that rebellious student, they will be so surprised. Yes, but yes, this is coming from me.

Long time ago, I was a schoolboy like any Singaporean son out there. I was definitely far from the model student though I wasn't quite the aspiring school drop-out either. The Haircut Game wasn't a new game. Back then, with the exception from goody good boys, from the hardcore pai kia to the average rebellious teenage boy, we eagerly participated in the Haircut Game. It was almost like the typical Chinese New Year black jack games in the grand parents' place in the olden days, the discipline master was the banker, the naughty boys were the gamblers.

As imaginative teens, we would like to believe we were specialists in the game. Like a computer game, the noob had saliva, the richer ones had hair gel or spray. These days, I expect the young punks to have state of the art technology to play the game. They shouldn't disappoint. We tested different hypotheses. We tried complex theories of physics to remain in the blind spots of the Game Master marching from the assembly area to our classrooms. We dabbled with mind reading. We had a few go at forecasting weather. We put probability concepts to test. We mastered the art of dodging by improving our dexterity.

It was great fun. But everyone knew the rules - very well. Everyone knew when it was going to be a warning, when we were going to have a real really bad time. Basically like any other games or sports, you could always push it and be a hero but if you screwed up, be prepared to face the music, or even humiliated. It was the name of the game. If you want to play the game, don't play the blame. It should be confined in the school. Parents should never be involved. More so the police. What the hell is happening to our kids and parents?

I strongly disagree with that parent in the article who suggested, "We are not living in the past anymore," or something crappy along the line. Getting a free haircut but untrained hair stylist was nothing new. It was classic and should always remain so. Removing that away from the game is akin taking away the "Go to Jail" square in Monopoly and replacing it with "Smell the flowers, take $200".  Or removing the "Snakes" in Snakes & Ladders and put "Maids" in their place to help soldiers players move twice as fast. New age parents are real wimps. I wondered which generation did they grow up in.  Maybe almost the same generation as me.


So what happened to "we were once young"? Are the current batch of parents cloned from the DNA of sheep right into their adulthood from start? Any wonder the current youth were branded mollycoddled by Ah Gong? For Raistlin's sake, stop proving him right. What was the parent thinking when she suggested, 

“Students are very stressed out during the exams period, why not take the disciplinary actions after that?”

If parents sincerely want their children to be educated, they have to rethink hard about working with, or against the teachers.  When I say education, I don't mean learn to write and add, ace exams and moving on. A rebellious student should know the rules and weigh between the benefits and consequences should they choose to be a recalcitrant. Moral values are always part of education. What message are we sending to our kids if we are prepared to do ridiculous acts for them, such as making a police report for an unauthorised hair cut? What will the teen be thinking of when he beats the red light driving his first car in the future?

If it is our wish to cultivate a powerful new generation who could vanquish any foreigner excuse the government could muster, parents have to work with the teachers again as our previous generations of parents did. Stand on the teachers' side, re-empower them the old school style. Tell the teachers loudly, "Teacher, if my son misbehave, punish him!" In front of his classmates for better effect. His friends' parents should do the same. All of them. The holy trinity of parents-principal-teacher should never be broken. They should work as a team for the sake of a better generation. There are wisdom passed down from hundred years of civilisation, regardless of culture. Who are the parents to dismiss wisdom in the name of modernity?

Spare the rod and spoil the child

Parents, you know the rules. You know the name of the game. If you want to play the game, don't play the blame.


  1. I brought home three rotan canes from Singapore... Alas... They did not survive Perth's dry climate. One snapped into half when I used it on my kid... So "Luck Sei"! Anyway, for parents in Australia, if you wanna use capital punishment, better do it before the kids turn 4.

    1. Capital punishment is a bit final. Perhaps corporal punishment?

    2. LOL.. capital punishment... murder charges, what!

  2. Hey there! This is Deb Pak.. long time reader and loving this blog.

    I dont usually write what I think but in this case I feel pretty strongly about this incident, so here goes.

    I think its not so much the hair cut, but that the power of choice was taken away from the parent, thats what the parent felt.

    In this case, I agree with the parent. If Jayden (my son) came home from school and the teacher - someone in charge no less had cut his hair, threatening at the same time to cut marks off his test if he disagreed, I would have been livid. I would have stormed the school too.

    Spare the rod and spoil the child is a good bible verse, I fully agree - I lay the smackdown on Jayden all the time and am strict with him (he is 22 months old) but the disciplining should come from the parent.

    Yes, in school the teacher is in charge but if they were to capital punish my child without my consent or knowledge I would certainly have something to say about it. Who then has to deal with the psychological ramifications of this. It is my responsibility to bring him up and protect him.

    Not to say that if he breaks the law, runs a red light I can do. If he breaks the law that is out of my hands, he will be 18 and an adult, they are his decisions from then, while I can support him emotionally, I cant control his actions.

    I think this teacher relationship is a grey area which parents should tread with caution. Yes, we should support our teachers, but there is a distinct difference between working together with them, and them taking on board to make all the disciplinary decisions. What the teacher should have done is to ring the parents, okayed it with them, and then let the boy know his options, and let him choose what he wanted to do - thats teaching the boy how to make decisions too.


    1. Parents are to be blamed24 August 2012 at 08:27

      It is good to know that a student receives warning, probably multiple warnings before such actions will be taken. If we are to be objective here, standing from a parents' point of view, 2 questions to be asked.

      1) Why didn't the parent heed the warnings of the school and discipline the child. It is too obvious the parent is aware of the style and length of the her son's hair as she specially took him there and spent $60 on it. What kind of working with the teachers are we talking about here?

      2) If the teachers ring the parent as you suggested and the parent is not okay with the idea, what next? Do you ask the boy to choose to go back and get a haircut before entering the exam hall or let him off? The decision making process was laid in front of him, probably a few times before someone else had to make the decision for him.

      Either you are with the teachers or you are not. There is no grey area in this. It is very clear cut actually.

      Why is there a double standards when it comes to breaking the law and it is out of your hands? In a school, the rules are the law! If a parent does not even take it seriously and even stand on the side of their children to bend laws, what values are they instilling in the child?

      Why is there a double standard where parents could entrust care of their children to maids but when it comes to trusting teachers, there are hesitation?

      If there are any possible psychological ramifications of cutting a student's hair (it's not cutting his toes, come on), they are probably positive ones to help him stop being an asshole when he grows up, excuse my language.

      Please, children need to toughen up. Parents too.

    2. Thanks for the reply.

      To answer /comment on your questions:

      1) I dont know why the parent didnt do that. I certainly would not have done so and probably avoided this whole situation in the first place.

      2) I as the parent would have appreciated the phonecall. And I would NOT have given my permission. I would have firstly asked if taking PSLE requires students to have short hair (the answer is No by the way). Appearance is subjective, and I still do not agree with the strict mentality that each student in singapore must adhere to, even though I can see the benefits in neat and tidy appearance but anyway back to topic.. According to the Strait Times, I dont know why this particular lady chose to spend $60 on a kid's haircut, I certainly would not have. Very poor judgement on the teachers part, to do a spot check an hour before an important exam. And no, the decision process was not laid out for him. IF his mother said his hair looked okay, why should he question it?

      3) There is a very clear difference between the school rules and the law. The law is laid down by the government, and if you break the law you go to jail, you dont do that if you break school rules.

      4) Yes I agree with you about the maids part. Here in Australia we dont have maids and I wouldnt trust just anyone with my children either.

      5) Lastly, how do you know that cutting a child's hair and subjecting him to ridicule and shame will have positive effects on the child? And then you shrug/laugh it off and then say people need to 'toughen up'. You know what until it happens to you or your children I really dont think we are in any position to comment on what "toughening up" really means. Education and school is not the be all and end all. Sure I want my kids to have a good education and do well, who doesnt? But its the journey to me that counts - I want them to develop mentally and physically well adjusted individuals too.

      No worries about your language. Who are you by the way?

      Parents need to discern on what will be the best for their children and act on their behalf and not just tell them to 'toughen up'.


    3. Parents are to be blamed24 August 2012 at 10:59

      To Deb

      1) It is good we agreed that parents should have done their due responsibility. In this case, the parent did not. We can't dispute this.

      2) Every school in Singapore has a rule handbook. We are all aware what is the standards required. It is not uncommon for students to be warned not being allowed to enter the exam hall if they do not abide by the dress code. It has been around for years. Where have you been? A check 1 hour before the exam is also common. If the mother told the kid he looks okay and that means the kid is not guilty of breaking school rules, something is wrong here.

      You disagree with the strict dress code in Singapore schools. I disagree too. But if we choose to enroll our children in Singapore schools, we have to abide. Simple as. What happens next if another student turns up for exams in slippers? Call his/her parent again?

      3) There is a clear difference between school rules and law. I am not refuting that. But it is a terrible mentality of a parent (I don't mean you) to think school rules can be broken because you don't have to go to jail for it. We are talking about instilling the right values here. Honesty, respect and good character. Don't mind me saying but would you be thinking it is okay to litter if you are 100% sure no one is looking?

      4) Thanks

      5) I have been there done that. I even had public caning before. It teaches me more than it harms me. Not that I am a very straight and lawful person now but I know what I should do to protect myself and avoid trouble from a young age. A child needs to tough up, whether you like it or not. If he break the rules - and get caught - he must be prepared to face the consequences. It is just life. The earlier they understand this, the better. It is part of being a responsible boy.

      A mother is not going to help her son wear a condom to ensure him not getting another girl into trouble in his teens isn't she? There is a line between over-protectiveness and care. Many cross it without even knowing.

    4. Hi Debby! Long time no see.

      Thanks for finally commenting again here.

      A few nuggets that I didn't include in the article. The student was given a warning letter 2 days before the exams. Not that the teachers chose to be anal about it an hour before exams.

      Ironically, the oral exam topic is about School Rules. If we were to talk about allowing the child to learn (in your first post), the boy has missed a very very big opportunity to ace his oral exam by turning his misfortune into gold.

      Instead of mopping over his bad hair cut and being 'psychologically affected' (sorry I disagree this will be likely), he could have use himself as an example and point his hair to his oral examiner and relate how important School Rules are and he is the living example of the consequences of not following. He'll ace it for sure. That's street smartness for you.

      Imo, the parent and student fail to learn important lessons from the incident. It is a pity.

    5. Hi there! Yes Nix, its been awhile. Hope everything is well with you Jen and Albany!

      Yes. Thanks for your responses! I was actually thinking about this yesterday during a walk, and have come up with my conclusions.. and have done some further reading into it.

      I find it interesting that there are two very strong differing view points, either supporting the parent and the teacher respectively. I have concluded that this streams from the government and the fabric of society and culture..

      When I say this problem falls from society and culture. In Singapore, we have kids. And then mothers return to work very soon after, for various reasons, I think mainly out of financial necessity. The kid is then 'entrusted' to the grandparents, or a maid, or they go to school, giving teachers and guardians more say in their growing up. And it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Thus when the kid misbehaves and acts out problems like these arise, and the question of who should do the disciplining arises.

      Compare this with Australia. It is not even a given that others or grandparents will look after your children. We do not have maids. True there is childcare, but the government makes it more possible to look after them. Due to the baby bonus, parenting payments, it reduces the necessity for mothers to go back to work, hence they are able to rear their children and spend more time with them in their childhood.

      "Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

      In Australia it is clear cut - parents do the disciplining.

      You say "Spare the Rod and Spoil the child". Yes dont get me wrong, I fully agree with this one. Yes I smack my children when needed.
      But WHO is doing the disciplining? Who's responsibility is it? Certainly not the teacher's one.

      To Anonymous, sorry you are right when you comment on where have I been. I do not live in Singapore and have not for the past decade. Yes brought up there so I did go to primary/ secondary school but I do not recall this policy in place.

      ha these are random thoughts, please feel free to comment. Thanks Nix!!

  3. I think touching someone without permission or consent amounts to assault.

    I feel the right approach would be for the teacher to contact the parents should there be disciplinary problmes, and if the reaction is not satisfactory, suspension, or even expulsion can be explored.

  4. Oh sorry when I say "You" i dont mean you, I mean the general public!


  5. It seems that this topic is quite controversial. I agree that children need to be caned to teach some basic manners! Spare the rod and you spoil the child is true.

  6. If I spare my child the rod when he is young, it will be harder to correct him when he grows older.
    I as a parent will rather give my child the rod when he is younger than he is being given the rod in Changi prison when he is older.
    My neighbourhood sec school in commonwealth area used to have "rod presentation" in mid 1980s during school assembly, yet no parents complained or made a police report. Times are really different now...
    If Aust has the "rod treatment" in its prison, perhaps its crime rate will be very much lower.

  7. yes, absolutely, I grow up I want to be like my teacher. All my employee, my maid must "打" otherwise 不成才. Afterall they take my money to work for me, while go school take exam, I still must pay. Also don't know how come can pick up scissors (and with effort) to cut my hair but cannot pick up a pen (with a few stroke) to fail my oral exam ... maybe "physical" is more shiok. So next time, someone cut into my lane or beat traffic light or anyhow park, more better to go physical with the idiot, can also prevent recalcitrantion.

  8. dont think its ok to cut the kids hair a few hours before his psle exams.its alright to cut his hair as a discoplinary measure before the exams as his hair didnt grow that long overnight.

    Psychologically it will impact the kid and will make him feel stressed in a already harsh sporean environment.the teacher should have done her job before the 12 yr old kid took his exams and not on the day of his exams to have his hair cut off.

    thats a 12 yr old kid and not a 18 yr old kid.cutting hair if its too long is still found in britains school discpline but they do not cut the hair off right b4 the exams.

    but i think that the principal of the school knew that the teacher's ways was incorrect and reprimanded her for handling it poorly.like all teachers there are humans and humans make mistakes.why die and get affected for mistakes of others who impose a flawed way of life on others young and old?

    the teacher was wrong and unwise.the school also should have seen that no such activities should be made on day of exams.
    the kid should have gotten a normal haircut too.

    once again we are referring to a 12 or 11 year old kid and not a teenager.and he was sitting for his exams on that day too.

  9. I am going to invite Singaporeans to be a little more open-minded and explore some ideas beyond their own little island.

    Is there really any good reason why any student should not be allowed to have long hair? Or for that matter, short hair? Or hair combed from left to right; or right to left; or parted in the middle?

    Should schools, teachers and principals really waste their time and energy enforcing such rules? Would such time and energy not be better spent, say, on actually teaching children about maths or science or helping them to prepare for PSLE Oral?

    Quite frankly, the entire notion of school uniforms is already stupid. Problem is that many Singaporeans are so used to the idea that they cannot even imagine that it could be possible for students to go to school wearing not a uniform, but ordinary clothes.

    I remember some years ago - there was an article about some poor Singaporean families, I think it had something to do with the ST! Charity Breakfast effort. Basically the parents did not even give their kids breakfast because they had to save their money to buy them school uniforms.

    How stupid. All this nonsense could be avoided if students were allowed to just wear an ordinary T-shirt and a pair of shorts, and to just go to school like that.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I have strong views on this. If I can muster my rusty brain to write up something on this, I'll share. Hope you'll share your views on that

    2. I see the point Gilbert is making, but I feel that why we need uniforms for school (up to a certain age), is basically to enforce a basic homogeneity. A standard is set and everyone is expected to conform.

      No young child would feel out of place because his shoes/shorts/shirt are of the wrong brand, or is wearing the same stuff week after week. Sure there are other ways kids are competing (e.g. mobile phones and cool gadgets), but taking away the most basic items such as clothing would help eliminate such unnecessary stress for young kids.

      Of course there is a tendency for the system to take it to extremes and expect "white cotton panties" students across the board. Teachers need to loosen up, and students (teachers too) need to learn where the line is.

    3. When I was in Secondary School, the Principal went around with a pair of scissors to cut students (boys) hair that were not in compliance with school rules. (Includes Sec 1 students, 12yrs old)

      And no, none of them were so traumatised that they turned into serial killers.

      I think the parent and the boy should all just grow up. It's just hair and after being cut, it will grow back. Saying the child is scared and so traumatised and now can't do this and that. And we are expecting this child to serve NS and protect the country when he grows up?!

  10. These kids are still in primary school, not tertiary institution. I support the school's stance that the kids should project a neat and decent image to the examiner in such an important exam, especially an oral exam where the examiner eyes you while you are speaking.
    Why do adults groom themselves before an interview/all important dinner/dates? First impression do count!
    My son, is also taking his PSLE this year, was kept back during recess for two days by his form teacher during that PSLE oral exam week. His hair was short, mind you, not touching the eyebrow and ears, as it was cut just two weeks ago. Nevertheless I brought him for another haircut (just $12 student rate at a neighbourhood salon) and made sure they trim it really, really short.
    I am thankful to the school for the stark reminder that appearance does count, and I understood their good intentions.

  11. the teacher in charge was paid as part of her job to monitor each and every kid in his/her care from long fingernails,long hair,dirty uniform etc etc.

    however the long hair itself did not grow long overnight.the teacher should have made an inspection 3 weeks or 2 weeks before the exams and not last minute haircut when examiner was about to have an exam with the kid in question.as kids,they probably know nothing as they are kids.as an adult teacher who is paid to do her job,i expect them to do their job properly without fail and with the last minute haircut to impress the examiners meant that the teacher was probably asleep all the weeks in class or sufing the internet alm ost everyday neglecting the state and condition of the students appearance.im not surprised that she probably order pizza ,surf the internet and teach at the same time.

    the student because of his age didnt know the seriousness.its only in secondary school perhaps he might grasp the reality of discpline and kowtow to it.that brings the parents into the picture.if the teacher couldnt care a hoot about the students then the parents should have made some effort.

    in all views, the school has failed.....the teacher has failed....the parents too have failed.....what do they get as an end result?i dare noit imagine.its up to the kid to figure it out on hisown and hopefully he will think and make some sense as to what is right or wrong.he is after all a kid and need good guidance which neither his pathetic school nor his ignorant parents can give.

  12. Some schools basically have ridiculous rules. For instance, hair at the side cannot touch the ears. I looked at all the boys in this first world foreign country around me here, all of them cannot meet their expectations. Instead, school should stress on how to behave towards each other rather than this kind of lame rules.

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