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Co-founder of KiasuParents voices out on Today article in open letter

Mdm Soon Lee Yong writes in an open letter to voice her side of the story on the report by local newspaper, Today which wrote upon her reaction towards the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) results of her son, stating that the article had intruded into her son’s privacy and affected him more than his results or her reaction did.

A report by Today on 24 November, shared how the former software developer came a full circle from setting up the popular parenting forum KiasuParents.com as part of her hunt for a primary school for her firstborn to going through the experience of collecting her son’s PSLE results.

The report had initially noted that 43-year-old, Mdm Soon had expected her son to get a total score of 250 and she had agreed to buy him a Nintendo DS if he scored 250.

Mdm Soon was quoted by the article of saying, “(You) can forget about getting your Nintendo DS.” after her son SMS her to ask if she was angry.

The report wrote that she hopes that this disappointment would be a lesson for him given how he did not study as hard as he knew he should. (The report was later amended to state that Mdm Soon expected the score to be 230.)

Soon after the report went viral with people condemning the parent’s response to her child’s results, with some saying that parents should not be obsessed with results to some who said they will buy the son the Nintendo DS that he was deprived of.

A facebook user, Khairudin Aljunied posted a status update asking people to share their PSLE results and what are they doing now to motivate those who did not do so well in their exams. This post was shared well over three thousand times and had over one thousand comments.

In Mdm Soon’s open letter that was posted on Kiasuparents forum, She admitted that she did said, “You can forget about your Nintendo DS” as reported in the story bt it was not in response to the text message that was sent by her son. It was part of a private conversation with her son while the reporter was beside her. She wrote that she did not expect her private conversation to be the focus of a newspaper article.

She wrote that her son has already got a Nintendo DS of his own but had it confiscated by her so as to motivate him to work harder and better his score for PSLE.

She assured those who were concerned about her son’s well-being that her message to her son was, “What is done, is done. The hard part is over.” and that they are looking forward to a family trip, which was planned before the exams and would have taken place regardless of how the results turned out.

“It’s not a reward for my son because I don’t believe in tying such experiences to grades—we travel for enjoyment and exposure.” wrote Mdm Soon.

In response to accusations of unrealistic expectations, she had predicted that her son’s score would be around 230, which was earlier wrongly reported as 250, based on previous performance and her knowledge of his weak spots.

Mdm Soon noted that she did request that she not reveal personal information such as her son’s score, but that request was not honoured. She wrote, “I have wondered if there was more I could have done to protect my son’s privacy. I never thought we would be thrust in the spotlight and I admit I feel betrayed. I’m a private person by nature too.”

She advised people not to be troubled on comments made upon her as she would not be brought down by comments by others and hope to show others by example.

She also noted that through this event, people should learn not to believe everything you see or read online. “And because you’ve gone through this, you will understand why you should never jump to conclusions based on a snapshot of information, and why you can’t believe everything you see or read online. I’m sorry that you have received all this unwanted exposure, but we will get through this together.”

Local freelance journalist and activist, Kirsten Han wrote on her Facebook: “It’s not just about whether it was on or off the record. It’s also about the context; it sounds as if the mother isn’t saying that they made stuff up, but that the context had been twisted. This is something that TODAY needs to address, because if its true, then that’s really poor journalistic practice”

Below is the letter in full:

I am the mother in the Today article that has generated much sympathy for my son and excoriation for me, and this is my side of the story.

To be fair to Today, I did say “You can forget about your Nintendo DS,” as was reported in the story. But it was not in response to my son’s text message sent to me, to check if I was angry. It was part of a longer private face-to-face conversation with my son, which I was trying to have while a reporter stood next to me. I didn’t expect our private conversation to be fodder for a newspaper article.

The reporter had contacted me through KiasuParents, and I was under the impression that she wanted my views on the PSLE experience, in my capacity as a co-founder of KiasuParents. When she expressed interest in being present for the release of the results, I agreed that she could follow me around, but it led to an article that invaded my son’s privacy and affected him—more than his results or my reaction did.

For those who have offered to purchase a Nintendo DS for my son, my family appreciates your generosity, but my son already owns a set. I had confiscated it because he couldn’t control his screen time according to our agreement—30 minutes per session. I then used the return of the Nintendo DS as an incentive, hoping to motivate him to work harder and better his score for the PSLE.

For those who deplore my son’s joyless existence, rest assured that we are intent on celebrating life. We had a post-PSLE treat right after the exams, where we went out for a good meal and my message to my son was: “What is done, is done. The hard part is over.” We’re looking forward to a family trip, which was planned before the exams and would have taken place regardless of how the results turned out. It’s not a reward for my son because I don’t believe in tying such experiences to grades—we travel for enjoyment and exposure.

For those who accuse us of unrealistic expectations, I had predicted that my son’s score would be around 230 (wrongly reported as 250), based on previous performance and my knowledge of his weak spots. His actual score fell short of my prediction by one mark, as was reported in the story.

For those who question why I wasn’t more media savvy and cautious in my dealings with the reporter, I did request that she not reveal personal information such as my son’s score, but that request was not honoured. I have wondered if there was more I could have done to protect my son’s privacy. I never thought we would be thrust in the spotlight and I admit I feel betrayed. I’m a private person by nature too.

For the most important person in all of this, my son, I want to tell you that your results are satisfactory. I have not explicitly said “Mummy will love you no matter how your results turn out,” but I hope you know this for a fact. Results are never the end goal; they only provide a form of feedback as to whether your efforts are working, and they are not always accurate. What you must strive for is a good attitude and a willingness to reflect and consider your next course of action. Never wallow. This will ensure that you’re ready to handle anything that life throws at you, even when I am no longer around.

Don’t be troubled by what people are saying about me, because I’m not affected. I won’t be brought down by others’ comments as I know who I am and why I do what I do. I hope to show you by example that other people’s comments about us don’t matter, especially if they don’t know us. And because you’ve gone through this, you will understand why you should never jump to conclusions based on a snapshot of information, and why you can’t believe everything you see or read online. I’m sorry that you have received all this unwanted exposure, but we will get through this together.