A Story About A Boy Who Was Gone Too Soon – An Open Plea to All Parents in Singapore

Photo from http://www.lifetimeofclicksphotography.com

One beautiful day, a baby was born. He was the pride and joy of everyone in his family: his parents, his siblings, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles. Everyone doted on him, took care of him, made sure his food was clean and baby-proofed the house. They kept him warm in the cold and kept him cool in the heat. They held his hand while he learnt to walk. They gave him encouragement when he fell. Most importantly, they allowed him to fall without making him feel guilty of not being able to do so. Many parents understand that babies grow at their own pace and so they let their babies grow at their own pace. 

Gradually the baby grew into a toddler. More was expected of the baby. He was to follow certain social etiquettes and behave in “appropriate” ways like greeting adults when they meet, saying thank you when receiving a gift or learning that hitting other people is not allowed etc. On top of the character development, the little toddler was also sent to enrichment classes like baby gyms or playgroups in the hope to have him stimulated and “not lose out” to his peers of the same age.

It was now time to be a preschooler. N1 to K2. This is the period when this little boy had more things added into his daily schedule. Apart from the full day childcare, he was also being sent to enrichment classes for Math and Mother Tongue because his parents felt that it was necessary in order for him to “survive” Primary School when he finally enters Primary 1. However, he also had fun visiting the zoo and bird park. It as a good time to be alive. His parents sent him to places like Kidzania and Fidgets. The boy enjoyed his childhood. He felt loved. 

Then came primary school. Everything seemed a little harder for him. He now had less play and more work. Things were no longer fun. There were lots of paper for him to deal with. Homework never seemed to end. Even the school holidays were lined up with enrichment classes. There was no time for a break. There was no time to be a child. He felt exhausted. 

Exam results seemed to him like it was the most important thing in his life, especially so when he was in Primary 6, the year he had to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). He felt like his parents really wanted him to do well. He felt like that was all they cared about. He felt alone. But he persevered on anyway.

In his dreams, at night, in his own room, the boy often hear his parents talk about music, the only thing that he was interested in. In his dream, his parents were fully supportive, they sat down and listened to him sing his heart out. The smiles on their faces and the encouragement they gave him, telling him how good he is capable of being if he does what he loved.

But when he woke, reality sank in. His parents never liked him to waste time singing. They said he wouldn’t be able to make a living. He didn’t understand. If someone could not make a living out of singing, how can there be music and songs in the world for people to enjoy now? He didn’t understand his parents. 

On he went to Secondary School. The first two years were a good break, especially after having studied so hard for PSLE. When Secondary 3 came, he began to feel the stress and pressure once more. This time, it was ten-fold the pressure he felt in Primary 6.

Everyone was talking about Junior College, University and overseas studies. His parents threatened him that he had to do well enough to get into a JC, if not he will end up with low-paying jobs. The boy was scared. What ever happened to the belief that every child grows at his own pace? He was scared to disappoint his parents. He was scared to face the future if he performed poorly for his ‘O’ Levels. It was as if his ‘O’ Level results will determine the rest of his life. It was a big burden for a 15 year old to carry on his own shoulder. It was so heavy.

Slowly the boy withdrew from his friends. He talked less to his family. He was in his own world, trying his best to do well. He studied day and night, sometimes without breaks. He was determined to “make it”. 

He did his best during the ‘O’ Level exams. Yet, he couldn’t help but feel nervous. It was going to be a long few weeks to wait for the piece of paper that he studied so hard for. He felt himself almost having a nervous breakdown. But no, he couldn’t let his friends or family see through. He had to “act” normal. He had to hide the fear and anxiety deep down. Only he could know that he was scared to death. 

He couldn’t keep still. He was almost shivering. The only way to calm himself down was to keep rubbing his palms together, shaking his legs as he sat there in the hall waiting for his name to be called and receive that fateful piece of paper: the ‘O’ Level Result Slip.

He saw it. It was what he had expected. He didn’t do well enough. With those grades he wouldn’t be able to get into a JC. He felt sore. He felt giddy. He felt like a failure. Most importantly, he couldn’t swallow his guilt that he had failed his parents. His heart started beating uncontrollably fast. He didn’t know what was happening. His mind was a whirlwind. He couldn’t hear anything else in the hall. It was as if he had floated away from his surroundings.

It was 4 hours before he had to face his parents. There were 15 missed calls from his father and mother and a dozen more text messages. They were curious to know how he had done for his exam. But no, he will not respond to any of them. He was not ready to face the music. Now he had to consider his options. What was he to do? How could he escape his plight?

Alas, he had come to a decision.

One that there was no turning back.

One that left a deep hole in his family’s hearts.

One that he regretted as he was falling….

***********

Parents. How would you feel if this was a story about your child?

Parents. Do know that your child will do well when he can.

Parents. Life is more than the letters on the result slip.

Parents. You are the only support your child has.

Please do not be the source of their fear.

Let us help one another build a society that values relationship more than results.

Let us help one another raise children to be resilient yet know that there’s always another road.

Let us help our kids understand that effort is not always correlated to outcomes. Things happen.

Let us show to our children that there are many people in the world who lead a good life regardless of their academic results.

Can we all do this together as a nation, parents? It is my plea to you.

One life lost is too much a loss.

According to the suicide prevention agency SOS, suicides of Singapore teens, aged between 13 to 19, reached the highest in 15 years in 2016. There were 13 reported teenager suicides in 2014, the figure doubled to 27 in 2015.

We do not want this to happen ever again. Not to your child. Not to my child. Not to ANY child.

Let’s work together as a nation to achieve a ZERO suicide rate for students.

We can do it.

***********

If you are feeling suicidal, there are many people waiting to listen to you. Your privacy will be safeguarded. Below are the numbers you can call to seek help.

Samaritans of Singapore (24-hour hotline): 1800-221-4444

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Care Corner Counselling Centre (in Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222

Aware Helpline: 1800-774-5935

Author: 

Lili is a wife and a mum to 3 boys. An aspiring writer. Adores creativity, art and beautiful creations. Dog lover. Gentle-parenting follower. Follow her on Facebook where she shares articles about family happiness and how to stay connected to our spouse and kids.

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15 Must-Ask Questions For Your Kid’s First Day Of School

Well well, that time of the year is coming. First day of school! For many of us, it’s a return to normal schedule (like me!). For some of us though, it’s a new schedule as they have a child starting his or her first day of school ever!

Whether your child is going to P1 or moving from P3 to P4, first days of school still gives that jittery excitement to their little hearts and sweaty palms. Some kids will look forward to school, some will dread going back and some will just be anxious about the whole schooling thing, after all, nothing could beat being comfortable at home during the school holidays with no schedule to follow whatsoever.

How many of us are guilty of asking “How was your first day of school?” and then we run out of questions to show our kids that we’re indeed interested to hear more about their day but we just don’t know how to ask! Lucky for you I’ve come up with a list of 15 questions you could ask your kids on their first day of school and make them feel that their school life matters to you, especially that first day back to school!

For all kids:

  1. Who are you sitting next to this year? What do you like about him/her?
  2. Was there a first-day assembly? What did they talk about?
  3. What was the most fun part of today?
  4. Who are your new teachers? What are they like?
  5. Tell me something funny that happened today.

For RETURNING students:

  1. Who grew tall the most over the holiday break?
  2. Did anyone have a different haircut?
  3. What was the first recess food you bought for the year? Did you miss it so much during the holidays?
  4. Who did you play with during recess? What games did you play?
  5. Give me one reason why you’re so glad school has resumed!

For Primary 1 Newbies:

  1. How many students are there in your class?
  2. Did you buy any food during recess? Was it nice? Are you going to buy it again next time? Great job for buying your own food, you’re a big girl/boy now!
  3. Who did you play with during recess? Good job for making new friends!
  4. What food are you going to buy during recess tomorrow?
  5. What kind of bags do your classmates have? Did anyone have a similar bag to yours?

Of course you can choose to ask these questions on different occasions. Bombarding the kids with 10-15 questions all at once will feel more like an interrogation rather than feeling your interest!

Remember, the objective of communicating with your kids about school is to

  • show them that you are interested in their day
  • encourage them to look forward to another day at school (especially for P1 kids or the anxious ones) by asking questions about what they’re going to do “tomorrow” etc

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Best Date Idea With Your Kids!

My 7-year-old said to his 5-year-old (soon to be 6) brother: “It’s really really fun Oliver! This Geocaching thing is really fun!”

And as any parent would expect, my 5-year-old didn’t wait for his actual date day, he wanted to go the next day! So we did. He too enjoyed his first experience Geocaching.

So what is Geocaching? I’ll talk about that in a minute. But first, let’s talk about dating.

In our family, we have had this tradition of individual parent-to-child dating for almost 2 years now. What we do is that:

  • each month each child gets to go on a date with one parent on the date of his birthday. For example the child born on the 7th of June will have a date on the 7th of every month of the year with either parent.

 

  • Mom and dad go on dates with the kiddos on alternate months. If Mom goes on individual dates with 3 boys on 3 separate days in January, dad has his turn in February. And then it will be mom’s turn again in March and dad’s in April and so on. This way, each kid gets his undivided attention at least once a month. And mom and dad only has to commit once in two months!

Our dates started off simply with an evening out with the kids to have a McDonald’s ice-cream, a walk around the many toy shops in the malls nearby, sometimes we take a ride on our scooters or bikes to explore parts of the neighbourhood that we don’t usually go to.

A ride around the neighbourhood with stops at playgrounds
Ice-cream!

The objective of the dates is to allow time for parent and child to talk and be involved in an activity together.

So clearly, things like watching movies are not in our agenda. But going to the museum can be.

But as the kids grow, stuff that we have been doing are now becoming rather “boring” for them, except for our littlest one, he’s still enjoying simple dates =) So planning for dates is becoming more and more challenging but we’re not going to stop the tradition. It’s something we would want to continue doing for as long as they feel comfortable doing it with us.

Tips for Bigger Smiles on Your Child’s Face when going on Dates with them:

  • Try your best to make it an “experience” date rather a “shopping” date. Experience last longer in the memory than material things do. Spending on 3 kids (or any number at all) every month for 12 months a year is not financially sound and it might give them the wrong signal about how they should be spending when they grow up.

 

  • Do something THEY enjoy. I enjoy going to the museum but that doesn’t mean my son would. So when I go on a date with each of my children, first I let them decide where they want to go or what they want to do. Only if they run out of ideas then I give suggestions. I never force them to go somewhere or do something they don’t want to. The purpose of the date is for them to feel special and loved. 

 

  • Be More Affectionate than Usual. I love seeing the smiles when they notice that I hug them more and kiss them more, hold their hand when we go on dates. I am happy I can make them feel special. Being one out of three children is not easy for the kids. They have to share one mother and one father, often times they don’t get the attention they deserve because life and responsibilities get in the way. Bigger kids get even lesser touch from the parents because we have to spend more time on the smaller kids. So this is especially an important component of our dates. Hug, kiss, pat on the head and hold hands often.

 

  • Keep Your Phone in Your Bag. C’mon it’s a once-a-month chance for your child to have undivided attention from you, not having to share you with their sisters or brothers! Don’t let your phone take that attention away. Please. When you have a meeting with your boss, you would most probably ignore your phone. Give your child-on-a-date that same respect. Tug the phone away in the bag and use it only in case of emergency or when you need to, but definitely not for fun or just scrolling through Facebook or instagram.

 

  • Have more than one mini-activity. To make the date more special for the kiddos, let them have their “special moments” two or three times throughout the date. Something that we do is incorporating ice-cream into the date (that’s one), sometimes we go in for a “race” in the Arcade – that’s two – (which kid doesn’t love to race a parent?!) and have a heart-to-heart talk – that’s three – ask them anything, kids just love to talk and share with us as long as we are interested.

 

Ok, so back to Geocaching. Last week I was due to have my December date with my eldest. One day before the date we still had no clue how we wanted to spend the date! So that night I searched online and found a very interesting date idea. A TREASURE HUNT! And one that someone else has already left the “treasures” so you just need to go and find it!

 

The moment I suggested it to my eldest, he was super excited.

Courtesy of Geocaching.com

So what is it and how did we go about Geocaching? 

Step 1: Download the Geocaching app. You can sign in with your Facebook account or set up a new account 

Step 2: Search for your preferred location to treasure-hunt. Click “Start” and the app will guide you to the exact location the treasure is hidden, in this case they call it the “cache”. 

About the game: 

  • For each cache, there will be a description of where it is hiding and hints given. Also, they will describe the surroundings if there’s something special around the area.

 

  • When you find the cache, you are supposed to put it back exactly where you found it so that other Geocachers can look for it too.

 

  • On the app, inform the community that you have “found it” or “did not find” and give a little comment!

 

  • You can also hide your own cache but it has to be waterproof

Why Geocaching Might be the Best Dating Idea With Your Child

  • Chance to Practice Map-Reading Skills: By “map” I meant GPS. Nowadays we use Google Map a lot to navigate cities that we are not familiar with. It’s a good chance for us to let the kids learn how to read GPS maps and follow directions.

 

  • Chance to Lead: I let my sons lead the way. I make them feel in charge and feel that this is their game. It gives them the chance to make decisions based on what they know and where they need to go.

 

  • Knowing the Importance of Perseverance: On our date, we decided to look for Geocache at 3 different locations. With my 5-year-old, we found the first one but we gave up on the second one after spending around 20 minutes to no avail. We also found the third cache just as we were about to give up. So it was a good chance for me to teach him that if we give up, we won’t find anything (as in the 2nd case) but if we kept on believing that we could find, we will find it.

 

  • The Excitement Factor: Each Geocache is different from the next. It’s fun to look forward to finding something you don’t even know what it looks like. It’s a total blind search (with hints of course). It’s also fun to want to be able to actually find it.

 

  • Kids Love Technology: I let my kids hold the phone whenever we need to refer to the GPS map to see how close we are or which direction we need to go. Kids and gadgets, they’ll never say no =) and they love to be given the authority to hold our phone!

 

  • Kids Love Going Somewhere New With a Parent Alone: The most special thing about Geocaching is probably that they get to go somewhere new, find something together with a parent and doing things like go into bushes, crawl under the staircase on overhead bridges and climbing up to somewhere high together. They will remember it for a looooong time.

 

  • It will Not Get Old. You can go Geocaching every other date and the kids wouldn’t mind as long as you choose a different location, or go back to the cache that you did not manage to find the last time. They love challenges!

Tips for Geocaching with a Child

  • Do not go when it’s dark. My mistake was to go out after dinner with my eldest. The sun has already set but luckily we chose locations that were near the train station, in a shopping mall and near our house. But it was difficult to find the Geocaches when you can’t see much of anything.

 

  • Follow their speed. Don’t rush them and also don’t stay too long if they do not want to look for the geocache anymore. Remember, it is supposed to be a pleasant experience, not a survival training opportunity!

 

  • Let them hold the phone. Bonus points go to parent who let the kids hold the phone and navigate the search for Geocaches. They just love to do it by themselves!

 

  • Be vigilant. As with any other activities, safety comes first. If you feel that the location you are at might not be safe, you can gently explain to your child why you need to change the Geocache you’re looking for and head to the next nearest one.

Well! That was a long post! But I really do hope you try this out with your kids. They’ll love it! And you will too!

For readers who are living in Singapore, there are 647 geocaches to be found on this tiny island! So get out and going!

The 5 Most Important Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids

What our kids think about money:

When I said we didn’t have enough money to buy a toy that he wanted, my 3-year-old suggested I go to the bank and withdraw more money.

When my 5-year-old took loose change from the table-top to buy a can of soft drink, he said the money was his because he “found it”.

My 7-year-old asked why the government won’t simply print more money. Well, isn’t it a bit early for a lesson in Economics, son?

Why Kids Need To Know Real Lessons About Money:

  • Set expectations. When they know where money comes from, they stop expecting you to buy everything at their request.
  • Clear understanding leads to better cooperation. At least the kids will be on the same page as you when it comes to money, how it’s earned and how it should be managed.
  • The earlier they start, the earlier their finances are safe. When they know how to earn, manage and multiply their money, it gets easier with time.
  • Habit starts now. We instil the habit of brushing teeth in our kids because we know dental health is important for them. The same goes for money. How they view and spend money now will most likely influence how they view and spend money when they’re grown ups.

What Kids Need to Know About Money

1. Goods and Services Cost Money

When my eldest son was 6 years old, he asked me why we needed money to “buy” things. It was questionable to him that we can’t just take whatever we want without having to pay for it. So that’s when our lessons about money started. Below is how I answered my son’s question:

Why we pay using money

At the very beginning, people exchanged goods e.g. a farmer with an orange plantation can exchange 5 oranges for 5 apples with a farmer with an apple orchard. But what if the apple farmer doesn’t want oranges but bananas instead? It was going to be too cumbersome for the orange farmer to exchange his orange for bananas then exchange those bananas for the apples he want. That is why people came up with something they agreed could be used to exchange for any good they want. That’s how money was created.

Some things are affordable, while some are not.

In our house, our children learn, from a very young age of 3 years old, that we need to pay for the things that we want to own and activities that we want do. My current 3-year-old always ask “Mummy, what’s the price of this [item]?” and when I tell him the price, it will always be followed by this question “Is it expensive or cheap?”. Oh my dear Louis. You’ve learnt before turning 4 that we need to consider the cost of the things we want to buy. We’re so proud of you baby!

2. Money is Earned

The number one thing our kids thank their father for is “for going to work to earn money so we can buy food and the things we need”. It appears in their birthday cards for their daddy, father’s day cards and even a random thank you card. I suppose we have done a pretty good job in teaching them that money needs to be earned, in exchange for time and skill, that money does not simply come unlimited. This is so important because they need to know that they will have to earn their own money when they grow up, instead of expecting to have it handed to them.

3. They Need to Make Choices (Opportunity Costs)

My husband is good at this one. He often compares the price of a toy to that of one McDonald’s $1 ice-cream cone. When we bought a pair of shoes that cost $50 for one of the boys, my husband told them that the same amount of money could have been used to buy 50 ice-cream cones! This type of comparison comes up often in our day-to-day life so the kids understand that in every choice that we make, we forego something else that we could have otherwise gotten.

Other times we present a problem for them e.g. With $X they can either buy 1 of item A or 3 of item B, which one would they prefer? This is a good way for the kids to process in their thoughts what exactly they value more. Is it having one of item A or more of item B?

When they’re given the chance to actively make choices about their purchase, they become conscious about the concept of money.

4. Money Needs to be Managed

There are 3 things that we need to do with the money that we have: Spend, Save and Invest. The earlier we make this concept known to children, the better they get at managing their money as they grow up.

So our eldest has been wanting an Xbox for over a year. It’s only now that we told him he will have to save $1 each day from his pocket money and buy the Xbox at the end of the year. We also asked our 5-year-old (turning 6 soon) to save $1 a day to pay for his new bicycle. The point is to teach them how to save & wait. Because that’s what must be done when they turn into adults. Can’t run away from that fact, might as well get them used to the harsh reality early!

Investing is something you can introduce to children older than 10 years old. It involves research, comparison, decision-making and waiting. Skills that need long term commitment and practice.

5. Money Can Be Given Without Getting Anything in Return

Lastly, we can show our kids that money can be donated for a good cause. It is not necessary to keep all the money we have to ourselves. If we have extra, it’s oddly satisfying to give to charity or a cause we believe in.

3 Key First Steps to Effectively Respond To The Explosive Child

The timer rings.

Mother: “It’s time to stop using the iPad now Simon, your timer’s up”

Child: “After this, it’s almost done”

Another 5 minutes had passed.

Mother: “When are you going to stop using the iPad? Your timer’s done!”

Child: “Wait! I already told you after this!”

Mother: “After what???! Stop using it RIGHT NOW”

Child: “No.”

And mother goes on to snatch the iPad out of Simon’s hand.

KABOOM. Simon was livid. His face turned red, his eyebrows furrow, hatred coming out of his eyes like he hates you so much. He grabs the nearest object next to him and throws it 5 metres across the room.

The sight of the Hotwheels car almost hitting her youngest son in the head made HER livid.

Oh no, but that’s not all, he stands up and pushes all the dining chairs down onto the floor. He uses all his strength to shift the dining table. He goes on to push the sofa out of place.

Mother: Simon! You better stop right now! This is ridiculous! I’m not going to let you use the iPad ever again! You agreed on 30 minutes and every time you can’t stick to the timer. You better stop messing up the house now if you don’t want to do a lot of clearing up. You know you’re going to have to clear up the mess you’ve just created right? I’m going to make sure you clean up the house!

Simon goes on to exert even more strength in pushing furniture around.

Mother ended up hitting Simon. She didn’t know how else to make him stop. She needed him to stop being so explosive (ironically by using violence on him).

Simon was even more upset. He continued on his messing-up-the-house mission. Mother hits some more. Simon cries.

Mother: Why do I have to end up hitting and screaming at you EVERY TIME? Why? Why don’t you listen to me when I talk to you NICELY?

Simon continues crying and screaming and thrashing. He also uses his nails to sink into her skin as he grabs her arms.

He was SO ANGRY.

By this time mother was already feeling guilty for having hit Simon, for letting the situation unfold like it had. Mother was feeling shitty.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Olga Pozdina

That was the situation in my house last year EVERY SINGLE DAY. It was enough to drive me mad, guilty, feeling helpless and suicidal.

It was not only about the iPad. Everything could turn into an episode of tears, shouting, hitting and furniture-shifting. It was exhausting to say the least. It was more painful to have this kind of relationship with my son. I wanted it to stop but I didn’t know how. It just got worse and worse day after day. I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to be a mother anymore. I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t feel that I was suitable to be his mother. I have failed. 

Fast forward to almost one year later, after a few sessions of play therapy, occupational therapy and parents consultation with the therapists, I now have a loving relationship with my son. He hasn’t been explosive for almost half a year now. It’s refreshing. It’s welcomed. I love this new relationship I have with him, and so does he. We’re a happy family once again. Although major episodes do still happen occasionally, I no longer want to run away. I no longer feel like a failure.

If you have an explosive child, trust that it can be reversed. It’s not the end. You might or might not need to send your child to a therapist, but after many sessions, here are the 3 key first steps I’d like to share with you in handling your explosive child:

Something Is Not Right

After 8 sessions with a play therapist, we discovered that my son was severely insecure and had very low self-esteem. No doubt, considering how we had been responding to his “explosions”.

After 6 sessions with an occupational therapist, we discovered that he has some issues with his sensory integration and sensory processing namely: proprioception and movement & gravity. Nothing major but enough to explain his behaviours. And that he’s most likely a highly anxious child.

According to the hypothesized sequences of human development related to sensory integration and sensory processing above, it will affect other things on top in the hierarchy e.g. gravitational security, body awareness and motor planning ability. All this has the possibility of affecting emotional maturation, motor skills and creativity, work skills, concentration, ability to form meaningful relationships.

My point is, when your child is difficult it is not because he is being naughty, purposely defiant or downright sent from hell. It is because there is an underlying reason.

So imposing punishments, lecturing, or trying to change the behaviour forcibly will only make matters worse. I promise you. We’ve been through it.

Instead, we need to help him sort through his own shortcomings.

The Way You Respond Makes A Whole Lot of Difference

One of my favourite books “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” has a very important message for parents:

ALWAYS ACCEPT AND ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR KID’S FEELINGS

So how could the iPad scenario above have played out if the mother had approached the problem in a more understanding way? 

The timer rings.

Mother: “It’s time to stop using the iPad now Simon, your timer’s up”

Child: “After this, it’s almost done”

Mother: “I see that you need more time. How much more time do you need?”

Child: “When it’s done”

Mother: “Can I check how long more it is?”

Mother takes the iPad.

Mother: “It’s 1 and a half hours long. I don’t think I can allow that. Your eyes will be spoilt staring at the screen that long.

Child: “No! But I want to watch it until the end! I want the iPad back!

Mother: “You want to watch until the end of the video but I’m not letting you do it. You feel it’s totally unfair.

Child: “I want it!” 

Mother: “I can see that you haven’t had enough time on your iPad. That can be so frustrating. You wanted to watch until the end and mummy didn’t let you”

Child: “Yeah, I just started watching the episode”

Mother: “You just started watching the episode and you don’t feel like stopping when it just started”

Child: “yeah” (a bit more calmed down because child feels understood)

Mother: “It’s so difficult to stop doing something you still enjoy so much. At the same time we both know that you need to take a break from looking at the screen.”

Child: “But why?!”

Mother: “Because I care about your eyes. I don’t want it to hurt or become bad. Because I love you”

Child: “But I still want it ….” (but kind of giving in already)

Mother: “You can continue on your next screen time. Now let’s go for a walk and see if any of your friends are at the playground”

Personally I would prefer this exchange than the first one. It ended differently and that’s what matters.

Child feels understood by having the parent repeat exactly what they’ve heard.

Be Proactive

I’ve read and re-read this amazing life-saving book titled “The Explosive Child: A new Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children” (sounded like my son as recently as last year).

There’s something I wish all parents would learn from this book, and not only parents of explosive children. I wish I had known about collaborative problem solving before things got out of control in our house. According to the book, it consists of 3 steps: the Empathy step, the Define the Problem step and the Invitation step.

  • The Empathy step involves gathering information from your child to understand his concern or perspective about a given unsolved problem.
  • The Define the Problem step involves communicating your concern or perspective about the same problem.
  • The Invitation step involves brainstorming with your child to find solutions that are realistic and mutually satisfactory.

This is best used before before any problem arises. If you know that your child always has a problem with certain things, then it’s a good idea to talk to them about it when they’re calm.

For example,

While doing something together, Mother can start a conversation with Simon.

Mother: I’ve noticed that it’s been difficult for you to stop using the iPad once the timer is done. What’s up?

Child: Nothing.

Mother: I’m not mad at you.

Child: I just want to use the iPad for as long as I like.

Mother: You want to use it for as long as you like. Hm… [the Empathy step]

Child: It’s always too short.

Mother: It’s always too short.

Child: And every time I start a new episode you’ll ask me to stop.

Mother: I see. I make you stop every time a new episode just starts.

Mother: The thing is, if you watch the screen for too long, your eyes will be tired and they won’t be able to see clearly when you look far anymore. I don’t want you to end up wearing spectacles. [the Define the problem step]

Mother: I wonder if there’s a way for me not to stop you when the episode just starts? [the Invitation step]

Child: I can let you know when I start a new episode.

Mother: You can let me know when you start a new episode, that’s a good idea! But what if you’ve already used up most of your allowed screen time? Do you think you can watch something that is short enough for you to end just when the timer is done and keep the longer episodes for another screen time?

Child: Well…

Mother: Here’s how we can go about doing this. When your first episode is done, you let mummy know. Then we’ll see how much time you have left on your timer then we can search for short clips for you to watch. That way you won’t need to stop watching when the clip is still going on. How does that sound?

Child: Okay…

This is hard and it takes time to be comfortable with this new approach. As the author of The Explosive Child said, It’s not something you do two or three times before returning to your old way of doing things. It’s not a technique; it’s a way of life.

There should be a sign of less explosion on your child’s part once you start to understand and practise these 3 steps in your household. Good luck!

(featured image courtesy of Kris Mouser-Brown)

Screen Time: What’s Your Stand? 

We’ve gone from being a screen-free family (for kids) to ==> limited-screen-time ==> uncontrollable screen time ==> no-screen-allowed period! Does this sound familiar? Are you going through the same struggle?

Let me share with you what the challenges we face are

– we WANT to allow kids to use screen. The world is evolving. Their friends talk about the games and apps they play. So if we don’t allow our kids to play, they might feel left out. And you know how sensitive it can get for children to be left out.

– we want to SET A LIMIT to the time spent on the screen. For 2 main reasons: not to focus their eyes for too Long and to let them find other ways to entertain themselves, which is important in moulding their creativity.  BUT we can never be consistent and firm enough. So the kids always drag their screen time way past the time limit. It’s something we have to work on.

– we are concerned with the ADDICTION signs that our kids are showing, especially our eldest. My kids look for the ipad even after they have used up the time quota for the day. They become sneaky, recalcitrant and little liars. All because they want to use more screen.

We have evolved and these past 2 weeks our deal with the kids were as follow:

– 30 Mins of screen twice a day for our 7-year-old

– 15 Mins twice a day for our 5-year-old

– 10 Mins twice a day for our 3-year-old

– the deal is for them not to look while the other is using the screen, if not they’ll all be spending close to 2 hours each staring at the screen each day.

But they couldn’t keep to any of it. So my husband has decided to take away the screen privilege altogether.

What do you think we should do better? We’re at such a loss now.

What is the screen time in your family like? What are the kids’ ages?

Raising Kids Who Care

The Internet has become part of our kids’ life as much as brushing teeth and showering are, if not more. Things that they do now are things that we would never have imagined doing in our daily lives when we were younger e.g. taking selfies, sharing multiple photos with a large audience in real time throughout the day, giving harsh comments to strangers from behind a screen, receiving mean comments from strangers.

In today’s world, words that go around get desensitised. There is no face attached to the comment you have just read. It’s merely a sentence on a screen that you happen to scroll pass.

Our children’s generation are becoming more and more self-centred and less sensitive to the feelings of other people. We cannot blame them, it’s just the type of society and culture they have been born into.

Our job as parents is to keep our kids pretty much alive in the real world, to see and feel things in real life and not only on the screen.

Raise them to value COMPASSION over SUCCESS

In today’s world, parents stress too much on getting good grades, getting into top universities, landing that most coveted job with a big company. They talk about the importance of achieving goals in life as the ultimate aim in life. Too much focus on achievement can diminish children’s sense of self, make them less willing to care for others, and more likely to see others as competitors or threats.

Instead, make achievement one theme in the large composition of a life. Don’t make it the one and only theme of life. Show them that you think highly of people who help others, not only think highly of millionaires and inventors. Show them what kind of impact compassion can have on one more person or millions of people. Show them great role models. Be a role model in the scale that you can handle as a family. Make it compassion part of your lives.

Bring kindness and unkindness, justice and injustice in the world to their attention.

Discuss what you see in the news. Allow your children to express their thoughts, even though you may not agree with them. The most important thing is to allow them to have their own thoughts. Then you can share your thoughts and tell them why you think differently. That is how they learn.

Children need to practice kindness with guidance from adults.

There’s no use hearing about how good kindness is if they don’t get a chance to be kind and feel the effect it has on their little hearts. They need opportunities to do kind things. Being little kids, they can only do so with your guidance and supervision. So next time one of your kids fall down, ask the other kid if they would like to help him get up. It starts as simple as daily acts of kindness within the family to kindness for strangers. Let them practice kindness and they will get addicted to it.

 

(featured image)