We’re not going to the zoo

If there was an award given to The Meanest Parent on Planet Earth, I would probably get it.

Last week, Vera was due to visit the zoo with her friends at school. However, she had been disobedient the day before, kicking up a fuss when my godmother picked her up from school. She refused to leave the school and insisted that my mother go and pick her up instead. And it didn’t stop at that. After lunch, she refused to nap at her usual time and was still awake 2 hours later. She only went down after a few spanks on the bum. Come dinner-time, she refused to eat when asked. She had her dinner late as a result, and it was only when daddy came home and asked her to eat!

She was downright uncooperative and difficult the entire day.

Because it wasn’t an isolated case, and she had given my godmother a headache a few times throughout the past two weeks, we decided that this warranted a serious punishment.

And so we took the zoo trip away from her.

That morning, when we told her and explained that because of her defiant behaviour, she would not be allowed to go to the zoo, she wailed like someone had stolen her favourite biscuits AND chocolate cake. Her face was all red and scrunched and I could feel a teeny bit of my resolve starting to shake.

Were we being too harsh?

Was her behaviour caused by something else that we are not aware of?

We reassured her of our love and were generous with our hugs. I told her plainly that it was her disobedience that led to us taking away her zoo trip. She understood, but she was inconsolable. She kept repeating “I want to go”, punctuated only by breathless sobs.

I thought daddy was going to buckle too but he stood firm.

I’m sorry, Vera. You’re not going to the zoo today.

You will learn and hopefully remember the concept of consequences.

Every bad behaviour begets a negative consequence, and since caning is no longer deemed the most ideal nor the first point of call (mainly because of your temperament and also because mummy is trying a different approach), you will learn through the hard way – by having something you desire taken away from you.

We love you. That’s the honest-to-goodness truth. It’s precisely because of this love that you have to bear with the consequence now. (Not in spite of.)

At some point, I wanted to back down and show you grace instead. But I realise that if you don’t learn this today, this scene will likely repeat in the near future, so I will only be prolonging the pain.

For all of us.


It’s funny. Even though we felt convicted that we did the best thing, I still feel a tad guilty from time to time. Even now.

Well, that day passed without much further drama. She was well-behaved over the rest of the week. It’s too early to tell if this would have a lasting effect, and I’m still thinking through what could be the possible factors leading to her misbehaviour. (I will have to save that for another post.)

How to use ‘Finding Nemo’ to teach your child important values

Finding Nemo is a great family movie. It brings us through the entire range of human emotion – it makes us laugh, cry, scared, excited, hopeful; and it gives us a real sense of adventure.

On top of this, there are several positive and important values in Finding Nemo that make great learning points for our children.

The first (and most obvious) is the value of obedience.

For many of us, it’s a consistent struggle to get our kids to obey rules. For Marlin and Nemo, it wasn’t any different. Marlin told his son repeatedly not to swim beyond a certain boundary in the ocean, warning him of the dangers. But in a show of “I can do it. I’m a big boy now,” Nemo swam toward a boat, ignoring his dad completely.

We all know what happens next. A diver caught Nemo and the next thing he knew, he was trapped in a fish tank. Marlin, devastated first by the loss of his wife at the start of the show along with most of his offspring, and now by the physical loss of his son, sets off to find him back.

You may choose to stop the movie at this point to ask your child a few questions, or do it after the show (at dinnertime, bedtime, or on the way to school). Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What happened to Nemo? How did he get into trouble?
  • Why did Nemo disobey his dad?
  • Do you think Nemo is sorry for disobeying?

Lesson: When we set rules and boundaries for our children, they get upset because they can’t have their way. But many of these rules and boundaries are necessary to keep our children safe.

Communicate to your child that some rules exist to keep them safe, and we set rules because we love them. Let them know that if they disobey, they will have to live with the consequences.

The second lesson is friendship. Dory, a blue tang, comes alongside Marlin in his search for Nemo. Along the way, they get into some sticky situations such as being chased by a shark, getting stung by jellyfish, and swallowed by a whale. They also meet Crush, a sea turtle who helps them get to Sydney, where Nemo is held captive.

Some questions:

  • Who helped Marlin find Nemo?
  • Do you think he would have found Nemo if they didn’t help him?
  • If you were Marlin’s friend, would you help him?

Lesson: Good friends don’t come by easily, so we should cherish our friends. Friends who help when you are in need are friends worth keeping.

Remind your child that they should first be a good friend to others, before they expect others to be a good friend to them.  

Finally, we can identify in the character of Marlin, courage and a sacrificial love. This once-timid clownfish overcame his own fears of the ocean and went through thick and thin to rescue his son.

Lesson: Love is brave and courageous, even in the face of danger.

Let your child know that you will be there for them when they face difficult circumstances. Explain to them the concept of sacrifice –  giving up something that is important to us. (This is probably a good time to express your love for your child.) 😉

From a parent’s perspective, I also learnt that it’s important to know when to let go, and not be over-protective of our little ones. We should allow them more room to learn to protect themselves and take responsibility for their actions, so that they can “grow up”.

Other activity ideas:

  • Role play – get your child to act as Nemo, and you as Marlin. Pretend there is a shark nearby. What should Nemo do? How can Marlin protect him?
  • Print out colouring sheets of coral reef fishes and have fun colouring and learning at the same time.

* Caution: If you’re planning to watch this with young children below the age of 4, you might want to keep the remote control nearby and skip past the scary bits (the sharks scene and the angler fish scene). Vera did not like watching those parts at all, so you may want to play safe and skip those parts for your young children.

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