Tag Archives: character

5 Things I Wished I Learnt from the Baby Manual

One can only read that many books, talk to that many people or attend that many classes to prepare for that very special day, where your first child graduates from kicking around in the Mother’s womb out in to the whole new world.

jean and joy

Photo credit: Jason W.

Well perhaps I could do with reading more books and talking to more people, but alas when the time came, there was no looking back. I guess 9 months is a long time to anticipate something, a substantial amount of time for preparation and reflection.

I remember vividly the first cry I heard when my daughter was born and then reality really hit. I remember my wife coaxing me to carry her during the first few moments and in my head I was going, “I’m so going to crush her… her head may flop over wrongly… she looks slippery…argh! Where’s the manual?!”

But of course on the outside I had to put on a brave front, even more so right after witnessing what my wife went through in delivering my baby. So there I was, holding my daughter for the first time, looking at her, and for the first time I really understood what unconditional love meant. I had no idea I can love someone whom I just met so much! It was one of the most amazing moments of my life. Of course that awesome moment was suddenly rudely disrupted when my daughter belted out her version of “Let [Me] Go… let me go, don’t hold me up anymore…” right next to my ear.

Well, that pretty much summed up the start of this journey of parenthood for me. Great moments of love and responsibility and then a cruel dose of irritation and sacrifice, somewhat similar to the emotions of the contestant on those cooking shows where the judges praise you and then tell your best is not good enough and then tells you that fortunately there is someone else in the room who is worse.

I have now survived 9 months of fatherhood and looking back, if there was to be a manual for fathers, these would be the 5 things I personally wished I had read.

1. It is normal to be worried

I remember jumping out of bed just to check to see if my baby had flipped over and suffocated or if the swaddling cloth had covered her face during the first week she came home to us. On checking with other couples, this phenomenon is actually quite usual.

2. Poop is character building

It seems that babies have an innate ability to sense when it would be the perfect time to pee or poop. The times where we become collateral damage during diaper change has happened so often, it cannot be by chance. This character building levels up when your baby starts to flip, climb and crawl. The test is to remain calm and still talk nicely to your child.

3. Every child is different

I was quite confused upon hearing different advice and reading different articles with respect to being a first-time dad. I even tried to reason against reading all these books, especially when the author had a disclaimer in the beginning saying, “every baby is different”. But after all the OJT (on job training), I must say that having the different information helps in some way. At least sometimes it presented some form of hope when the baby acts up or behaves outside the “textbook”. We had options to try out at different situations and in the end choose which suits our baby best… or rather best suits us all.

4. Parenting is not a zero sum game

Growing up in a family with 2 other siblings, it was often a game of “I did the dishes last time round, who’s next?” I had foolishly tried to bring that game into the parenting sphere. The first time I mentioned that it was my wife’s turn to change her diaper because I last did it… and then I was kindly reminded of all the other things I did not do. Well now I just volunteer to change the diapers. It really is a job for 2, and some may say it takes a village but what I have learnt is this: raising a child is a team game and good teamwork will benefit everyone.

5. Appreciate your wife

This is a sobering reflection when I see how my wife suddenly becomes the baby whisperer. She can differentiate the cries of the baby while I sit there still wondering what went wrong. Before leaving the house, she would have made a list of what needs to be done. For example, while she’s putting on her make-up and I’m just sitting there wondering when she will be done, she tells me that the diaper bag needs a top up of diapers and rash cream. The baby needs lunch and possibly dinner so you need two sets of bibs and cereal. Her water was from yesterday and needs changing. Her toys are still dirty and needs a wash.

And there I was, clueless about what to prepare before leaving the house.

These 9 months have taught me how to think beyond myself – even when it’s something as simple as leaving the house for a meal. I have a newfound respect and appreciation for my wife and I would do well never to forget this.

So there, the 5 things I wished I had learnt if a manual came along with my daughter. I’m sure others would have many more to add and this list is not all there is to it, but I guess that is what makes this parenting journey such an adventure.

This guest post comes courtesy of Jason, a happily married father of one. His baby, Little J, was born in March, and life has never been the same since then.

Recognizing and Celebrating Each Child

October saw different ones sharing ways to love your children; to round up the series, I’ve been asked to share the principle Cheryl and I live by when it comes to loving our daughters and parenting in general:

Recognizing and celebrating each child’s uniqueness.

We believe that children are a gift from God, and recognize that each child is different. Therefore we purpose to appreciate, enjoy, and celebrate each child’s differences… and I would encourage you to do the same too.

How to recognize your child’s uniqueness (or differences) 
As you spend time with your children, communicating and observing them – you’ll be able to see the differences between them. Once we recognize that each child is unique, it’ll lead to us wanting to treat each child differently.

As a case in point, both my eldest and youngest daughter share the same primary love language (Words of Affirmation). Yet when it comes to displaying the language, what we say differs; I look for different traits and characteristics to praise.

My eldest daughter is hard worker, and has achieved many things, so Cheryl and I affirm her for her effort, and for living to her fullest potential. As for my youngest daughter, she is enthusiastic, and loves helping people, so we encourage and affirm her positive attitude. We celebrate her love and compassionate heart for others, and appreciate her for helping those around her.

We tell our daughters that their uniqueness is a gift, and we make it a point to celebrate their uniqueness and individuality.

Why celebrate each child’s uniqueness?
Some of my friends feel that if you have two children, where one is book smart and the other not so, you try to make the one who is not as book-smart less discouraged by not celebrating the result. In my view, it’s better to recognize each of their strong points rather than downplaying it.

This goes back to the first point where each child is different. Perhaps your child who is not as book-smart may be gifted in sports. Or perhaps your child enjoys baking, or writing new music. I am certain that there will certainly be an area for you to celebrate and take delight in, regardless of what it is.

For example, my younger daughter enjoys sports, and when she does well, we bring the whole family out to celebrate. One is better at arts, another is better in studying … I tell each of my daughters that it’s okay to excel in different areas, and we celebrate them all.

In essence, it’s about celebrating each child, not toning down celebrations for one. As you affirm and appreciate their differences, you’ll see them blossom and grow in confidence and stature.

A family that celebrates together stays together
When we celebrate one of my daughters, we do so as a family. Recently when one of my daughters came in 19th at a national sports meet, we had a nice dinner at home and commemorated the occasion with a cake. To us, it’s not about having a lavish celebration, but rather, a simple and meaningful affair.

That said, celebrations need not be confined to achievements; it should also be about the person and character. For example, if your child spends time volunteering at orphanage to read stories to the children you can celebrate and praise his/her compassionate nature.

In due course we noticed that it helped to tamper down the need for comparison and actually strengthened the sisterly bond between them. They are able to rejoice together with their sisters wholeheartedly and are proud of them.

As for Cheryl and I, we are proud of the young ladies our daughters are becoming, and would not have wanted it any other way.

Editor’s note: This post concludes our Loving our Children series. You can view the other posts in the series here. For inspiration on effective ways to love your children, visit our website and/or download a free activity pack!

Today’s post comes courtesy of Andy Sim, an IT professional by training. He is happily married and has 4 daughters.

Perfection vs Keeping it Real

Full cascading hair, narrow face structure, almond-shaped eyes, and Angelina Jolie’s famous full lips – these are the ideal features of a beautiful woman. Or are they?

A recent survey found that one in three Singaporean youths feel it is perfectly acceptable to go for cosmetic procedures at their age. According to Dr Frederick Lukash, a New York plastic surgeon interviewed by The New York Times, many youths “do it to fit in.”

Images of ‘perfect’ men and women on advertisements and social media subtly influence us into thinking we need a specific product in order to look appealing. What youths are not consciously aware of is that many of these images today are edited computer composites.

Youths are at the phase in their lives where they are discovering their identities and are susceptible to conforming to society’s pervasive ideal values and beauty standards. Hence, it is hardly surprising that many of them believe it is not wrong to undergo plastic surgery as a ‘corrective measure’ in order to gain recognition from others or just to look ‘normal’.

It is unfortunate that many youths feel great dissatisfaction over their looks.

In our role as parents, guardians, relatives, mentors, teachers or friends, our role is not merely to shelter our next generation from negative influences that affect their sense of self-worth, but also to help them develop strong, positive values that can strengthen their self-esteem. We can do this by:

  • Connecting genuinely: Ensure that they are comfortable approaching you with any frustrations they may have about their looks. Be slow to judge or dictate how they should feel, and make the effort to truly understand their point of view.
  • Encouraging character development: Looks matter, but they are temporal. Remind them that what’s inside is most important. We are wholesome only when we balance presentation with positive character and values.
  • Providing meaningful affirmation: This is especially important when they are being teased because of their looks. During this sensitive period when a youth’s self-esteem is fragile, your reminders about their uniqueness and value will go a long way. Remind them that their worth is not based on attaining society’s seemingly ‘perfect’ images.
  • Setting a good example for a balanced, healthy lifestyle: Youths pick up habits, attitudes, and mindsets (good or bad) from you. Model a healthy self-image for them and implement family practices like eating healthily and exercising regularly together.
  • Role-modelling self-love and confidence: If you constantly express dissatisfaction with your weight or facial features (from the small grouses like “My tummy is so big!” to the “I wish my ears were smaller”) yet tell them that they are fine as they are, it sends across mixed signals – and your actions will eradicate the impact of your words. Being confident and loving yourself as you are will give the youths you are interacting with an example to follow.

To quote Zoe Kravitz, an American actress and model: “Beauty is when you can appreciate yourself. When you love yourself, that’s when you’re most beautiful.”  Let’s be there to sincerely say to our youths, “You are beautiful even when you think you aren’t, and I love you for who you are.”

Editor’s note: Are you curious to know what youths think about plastic surgery? We asked an undergraduate to pen her thoughts, and her unique yet heartwarming perspective is definitely worth reading. Keep a look out for it this Saturday!

3 Phrases Your Children Should Learn From You

Children learn more from what you are than what you teach

Parents, our children watch and learn from how we act – and this includes what we do and say. They will reflect our behavior subconsciously (i.e. not deliberately) so we need to model the behavior we want to see in our kids.

To create a positive home environment and be a role model for your kids, here are 3 phrases that you should use:

+ I’m Sorry
Although our children believe we are perfect and/or superheroes, the truth is that we are only human – and will make mistakes. Your hunger can cause you to be worse than Oscar the Grouch, you may blurt out something wrong by accident, or you could forget your child’s all-important performance in school … many things can happen, and it can’t be helped.

So instead of trying to run from it, deal with the mistakes instead by learning to say sorry. And when your children see you stepping up to apologize, they learn that (a) it’s okay to make a mistake and (b) saying sorry isn’t as difficult or intimidating as they think it to be.

Tip: If saying sorry is difficult, think about this: what matters more, being right or making amends?

+ I Love You
The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman are widely known: quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and words of affirmation.

Even if your family’s love language is not words of affirmation, it is still important to say “I love you”. Most people still need to hear “I love you” in order to feel that they are loved, and by verbalizing your love for your family members, especially your children, it reassures them and reinforces the fact that you love them,

Tip: If you can’t bring yourself to say “I love you”, why not send a message or leave a note for them somewhere obvious (like in the toilet)?

+ Thank You
Showing your appreciation is a powerful way to affirm your family members, and also shows that you recognize the efforts that they have put in. When you say “thank you”, you send a message to your children that showing gratitude for those around them is important, and they will learn to do the same as well 🙂

Tip: When you start saying “thank you”, go beyond the things that people do for you, but start thanking them for who they are!

Which School?

I’m at that life stage when the no. 1 question asked of me as a parent is, “Where are you sending your son next year?”

Yep, my son is going to Primary One next year. And no, I haven’t decided where I’m sending him; I haven’t done any parent volunteerism in any school (and understand it’s too late to even try that now); I haven’t pulled any strings; I haven’t a clue when exactly primary school registration for next year starts; I don’t fully comprehend the complex system of the different phases of queuing and balloting for a place in a choice school, and so the recent news that the Ministry of Education will now give Singaporeans full priority over Permanent Residents in primary school registration hasn’t made a dent on me.

I can hear your gasp of utter disbelief and shock. Perhaps even disgust, “Such a terrible mother!”

“I’m sure you could use your position at Focus on the Family to get him into a good school.”

“Why don’t you offer to conduct family life talks and workshops for free for X-branded school? I’m sure they’ll let your son in then.”

“You should sign up to be a member of Y organization so you can get bumped up the queue.”

Well-intended words of comfort and advice.

The fact is, I don’t actually mind sending my child to the nearest neighbourhood school, if that is the only school with a vacancy for him. I’ve been trying to convince my husband that there could be hidden benefits in a school that isn’t over-crowded like the rest of Singapore, and where the teacher-student ratio could be smaller and allow my son more individualized attention. The irony is that I have attended “branded schools” all my student life and my husband the very opposite.

Okay, I’m sure you’re wondering why I don’t just enrol my son then in my alumni “branded” primary school. The reason is simple – it’s too far from home.

Let me qualify that I have given some thought to my child’s schooling:

  • Proximity of school to home. I do not wish for my son to spend 2 hours a day travelling to and from school, having either to wake up really early or come home really late. Those hours could be better spent doing fun stuff.
  • Proximity of school to workplace. I’d like to still have the opportunity to send and fetch my son to and from school as much as my flexi-work allows. I find those times invaluable in catching my son at a time when he would typically want to share about his day, before the distractions of life take over.
  • Environment in school. Like it or not, we adopt the culture of the place we’re at. Chances are, my child won’t lack stimulation or challenge. What I need to guard against is probably my child striving to achieve something that is always just beyond his reach or pegged to his self-worth. Environment is also shaped by who my child hangs out with and the parents of the kids he hangs out with, who inevitably impart their values through their child and to mine. Experience in my line of work has taught me that good parents aren’t found only in certain schools.
  • Nurturing teachers. It has long been debated whether good schools have better teachers, and if the teacher determines how well the students perform. My son’s first experience with formal learning was very much aided by his nurturing teachers, who are not of a “branded” kindergarten.
  • Match between the school and my child. I need to know how my child is wired. What pace of learning suits him best? What kind of environment would enable him to excel and fully develop as a holistic person? Which place would best shape his character and hone his natural talents?
  • Direct investment in my child. To be honest, I did consider becoming a parent volunteer. But with time being an already scarce commodity, it occurred to me that I’d rather spend my free time bonding with my son. Research after all indicates a link between a strong parent-child relationship and a child’s academic success!
  • School is about learning and not mere achieving. Learning character and values must take priority. I love Theodore Roosevelt’s quote: To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society. With the current spate of news highlighting brilliant scholars who’ve gone off the track, it seems that branded schools don’t have it all.
  • The bigger picture. I am reassured that primary school education is compulsory in Singapore. By that vein, my son has to be allowed into some school. More important than the school my son attends is the fact that I’m as involved in his life as I can be. And more important than the grades he produces is the person he becomes.

The primary school registration exercise is a great life lesson and test of us as parents. Like any other parent, we want the best for our child. But what defines “the best”? Is it the exposure to better and multiple opportunities that branded schools promise? Are “branded” families one-up on “neighborhood” families?

At the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that I have more control over my child’s schooling than I’d probably care to admit – in providing the kind of home environment that would far outweigh or complement the influence of whichever school he ends up in. That is not just encouraging, but empowering!

Much to think about Lin-sanity

Lin-sanity… yea, you know what I am talking about. Just a few weeks ago, our Facebook Newsfeed was dominated by news and videos of the latest NBA star, Jeremy Lin. “Does this guy get anymore awesome??!” This was my friend’s Facebook status after reading The Faith and Fate of Jeremy Lin on http://www.patheos.com. I can understand my friend’s exclamation. I mean a Harvard student, the underdog, near perfect stats yet humble, unassuming and persevering.

Once in a while, we need people like him to inspire us. It was revealed that Jeremy Lin’s parents played a pivotal role in shaping his character through the game of basketball. They were always more interested in his behavior on court than in his stats. If he played a good game (i.e. scored well) but lost his temper in the course of it, the topic of discussion his parents wanted to talk to him about after the game would be his behavior. No wonder Jeremy Lin is dazzling the crowd, not just with his skills but his humble attitude towards success and fame.

My son is 6 months old and I won’t lie, I simply adore him and I am guilty of spoiling him, almost. So it’s good that in view of the current of Lin-sanity, I remind myself of what truly matters in my child’s life.

1. Character
Does my son know the good, feel the good and do the good? We teach this at ‘No Apologies’, our character-based sexuality education for youth. It’s not enough for my child to know the right thing to do and feel in his heart that he ought to do something, he needs to translate it into action.

2. Confidence
Is my son secure in his identity? Jeremy Lin looks different from the rest on the court but yet he seems comfortable and confident. The security I’m talking about is not learned through any Toastmasters or Networking 101 courses, but established at a child’s tender age when he is loved unreservedly by his parents.

3. Compassion
What breaks my son’s heart? And I’m not talking about that first crush or rejection he is going to get from that girl. I’m talking about a passion, an injustice he sees in the society which stirs and moves him to action.

4. Calling
Finally, what is my son’s life going to count for? Once he grasps that, everyday for him will be joyous and purposeful. Isn’t that life at its best?

I know, my son is still a baby and I need to chill a little. But this is more for me than him. There is a wise saying, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” My husband and I have the responsibility to train and nurture this precious life given to us. And hopefully someday, he may just be that inspiration for others.

This week’s blog is written by Vicky Ho, Senior Communications Manager, at Focus on the Family Singapore.

My Shoe Story

I’ve always been a believer that good, comfortable shoes are essential; with the exception of high-heeled shoes, of course. But shoes took on a different meaning for me recently. It’s actually my son’s pair of shoes – it evokes a sense of gladness and gratefulness within me.

Here’s the story – it all started in his 3-day/2-night school camp that he attended. Every student had to bring two pairs of shoes; a black pair of waterproof shoes and another pair for the usual rugged camp use.

This pair for general camp use is also the same pair of shoes that he wears to school daily. At one of the hiking activities during the camp, his left shoe got caught in some thick mud that the front part started gaping.

When my son returned home after camp, he recounted what had happened to his shoes.  In the same breath, he asked for superglue to seal the gap so that he could continue wearing them to school.

It struck me that this is not necessarily a typical request of a 15-year-old with shoes in this condition. In our highly “disposal” age and living in Singapore, it’s more likely for a teenager to ask for a new pair of shoes.  Would I even wear a pair of shoes in this state myself?

It also dawned on me that I may well be reaping what my husband and I have sown in our children very early on in their lives. Amongst the many “seeds” sown over the years, perhaps this one is bearing fruit in this instance – your sense of worth is not dictated by stuff,  as in what you may have or wear; regardless of the common messages communicated.

The camp was in January and three months later, my son is still wearing this pair of shoes (with a gaping front) to school.  Superglue never quite came to the rescue. My son knows that he will readily have a new pair of shoes when he decides that he can’t walk in this pair anymore.

I have personally found my (son’s) shoe story heartening. I am humbled. I am blessed as a parent.  I have stories about my son’s twin sister too. That’ll be another time.