Tag Archives: kids

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.

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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!

The Resilient Love of a Mother

“As the sky glowered black and Stephanie Decker felt the monster tornado begin to suck her house into its vortex, she knew it would not hold and she had no choice but to shield her two young kids with her own body. She lost her legs in the process.” This is a real story of a mother of two young children in the recent tornado outbreak in North America.

Most mothers are heroes! To be precise, they are UNSUNG heroes! And we don’t need tragic stories like this to believe that they are. All we have to do is to pay a bit more attention to the moms around us, especially to our OWN mother.

Of course there are exceptions. One would read with horror and disgust of a recent report in Malaysia where a mother filmed her underage daughter being raped by her lover. But most mothers love their child(ren) sacrificially and unconditionally. Their love is often shown in what is to us the humdrum of life – from ensuring that our physical needs of food and daily necessities are met to seeing to the well-being of our emotional, intellectual and moral/spiritual needs.

Mothers do the most “unglam” work that often goes unnoticed, unappreciated and even unwelcomed. They are easily one of the most over-worked and under-paid (or UN-paid) people in the world.

I had a close relationship with my late mother but I must confess that I never fully appreciated the depth of her love for her children until I became a mom myself. Now having to raise two children, I find myself doing what my mom did i.e. nagging at my children to take proper meals (especially vegetables!), worrying about whether they are getting enough mental stimulation, ensuring that they are morally upright. The list goes on…

Mothers certainly deserve a lot more credit than we give them or they give themselves. We should appreciate them for their acts of love in big and small ways. DON’T wait till it’s too late to tell/show them how grateful we are.

Bravo to all moms! To my mom (whom I believe is in heaven) and my mother-in-law: THANK YOU!

10 Great Years & More…

Today is my husband’s birthday (Happy Birthday Hubs!) and tomorrow is my 10th wedding anniversary! We are so completely different yet I’m so amazed at how God has put us together, in such a complimentary way. He has been my mentor, my friend, my blind spot detector, my advisor and iron. Yes, iron because as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

But what’s the big deal about 10 years? Because there is a special name for it – a decade! Years 1 to 9 are called just that. But a DECADE! Seriously, a decade has gone by so fast and I dare say that our relationship has grown stronger through our time spent, conversations, disagreements, birth of and raising of our kids, etc. It’s been nothing less than an adventure.

I’ve been pretty excited about planning and spending a day with him since it’s a milestone year in marriage. It has also been a while since we went on a date, especially after I stopped having a domestic helper. I’ve been cracking my brains on how I can surprise him with a romantic gesture, but it’s been tough since this is something I’m not very good at. We thought we’d take a day off from work to spend quality time together. So with our work leave applied and approved and care arrangement for our kids settled, I was looking forward to our special day. Then last week, he said that there was urgent work to clear and he could only take the afternoon off. I was disappointed at first because that meant a change in plans and less time for our date. Then I remembered to apply one of the many lessons I’ve learnt in my 10-year marriage – Be adaptable!
In fact, marriage teaches one many things and it raises one up to be a better person if both parties work at it. So, I’ve decided to make a top 10 list of things I’ve learnt in the last decade of my marriage. Here goes:

1. Don’t nag. It really doesn’t work.
2. Speak words of affirmation to him, in front of him, and behind his back.
3. Learn to relax. Don’t be a ‘kanjiong spider’.
4. Focus on his strengths and all the good things he has done. And give thanks for that.
5. Aim to be a better person for him.
6. Don’t nag. Yes, it’s worthy of mention again.
7. Let him lead. Don’t do everything yourself and think you have to do everything yourself.
8. Listen, listen listen.
9. Make time to communicate.
10. Pray for him.

By the end of this blog, I’ve got a brain wave for my surprise gift. And I’m still looking forward to a great date with him and more to come.

Courage Redefined

Four fathers and nine kids made Project Fathers Unite.  That was what my husband and three other fathers called their day out with their children. The four men were on leave from work and decided to come together to spend a whole day of quality time with their kids. Scored points with the wives? You bet. The program for the day was outdoor play and rollerblading at Pasir Ris Park, dinner at the airport, followed by more running and bouncing around the airport.

We all met up a few days later at another function and talked about it. The mothers agreed that this was definitely something the fathers should do more often. One of the mums asked, “Did they wash their hands before dinner?” A silent pause from the dads ensued, followed by an assurance that the kids washed their hands after play at the park. Not a direct or expected answer, but the task was done nonetheless. And that’s the difference between father-love from mother-love. Fathers play and parent differently from mothers; and kids can tell the difference; as observed by my son, “Papa plays with us, Mummy takes care of us.”

A lot of research has gone into why and how fathers matter in parenting. A father is more than just a second adult in the house (although sometimes they don’t act like adults, especially when they’ve got their latest electronic gadgets). Fathers challenge “go faster!” Mothers advise “be careful!” Mothers cuddle, fathers roughhouse. Fathers bring a set of unique parenting skills to the family, something that mothers can’t replace.

Some may feel that a father’s main role is to provide for the family, maybe spend some time with the kids on their homework and that’s good enough. After all, our fathers and their fathers didn’t really spend that much time with us, and we turned out fine.

Adam: “I’ve been doing about half of what I should be doing as a dad.”

Shane: “You’re being too hard on yourself. You’ve been a good enough father.”

Adam: “I don’t want to be a good enough father…”

Good enough? These words of Adam and Shane are taken from the movie Courageous. I had the privilege of watching the preview of this powerful movie. It is action-packed, inspirational, thought-provoking, humorous and touching all rolled into 130 minutes. It is a movie by fathers, for fathers, to reconcile with their past, engage with their present and move forward with a bold resolution for the future.

Why the title “Courageous” though? I thought words like “Honor” or “Strength” may seem more related to fathers. What’s courage got to do with fatherhood? I like this quote that I came across  that encapsulates what the movie is about and why it is called Courageous – “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

There is a resolution in the movie that calls fathers to declare and commit to. When I read the words of The Resolution, I then understood that it truly takes a courageous man to make such a bold commitment. Words like “I will bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength. I will train them to honor authority and live responsibly. I will confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy… I will learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God…” This is a call to fathers to a standard above mediocrity, a standard of excellence, and more than just “good enough”.

Courageous is now screening at Cathay cinemas.

Time with My Child

 Children’s Day is just around the corner and I’m thinking about how to spend the time with the kids or what to do together with them. When they were younger, I used to buy a small and cheap gift for each of them on Children’s Day. Now they both say they just want to spend time with me.

In busy Singapore, so many working parents are just hard pressed for time to spend with their kids. But I think we just have to make time. I remember one Saturday afternoon when my younger preschooler was having her nap and Hubs was with her; my son and I went for a walk around our neighborhood and explored nearby playgrounds. He took me around the place. We talked, held hands and walked. We discussed about the trees and plants. We had unhurried time to pause to examine ants and other insects at work. We played at the playground. And all that time he kept saying, “Mum, we’re spending time together.”

I treasure getting such time with each of the kids because it’s such moments that I get to understand their thoughts or discuss an issue with them or address their fears or questions. So different from the frequent scene of them running around the house, fighting over toys, son playing Transformers versus dinosaurs war with sound effects or daughter with marker in hand and “Oh no!” from me.

When I was younger I asked different people why they wanted to have kids, and got varied responses (feel free to contribute your response to add on to this list):

 “It’s just the usual thing to do”

 “Because I want to have a family”

“Never thought of it. Just have them”

“So that I have someone to take care of me when I’m old”

One answer that came from a previous work partner was “so that we learn how to love.” Initially I thought that was such a cliché cheesy answer. My thoughts were “why not get a dog instead?” But now after having my kids, I understand what he meant.

We have so much to learn from kids and grow to be better people, if we stop to really listen and spend time with them. So this Children’s Day, set aside some quantity and quality time with them. And share with us your stories. We’ll be interested to hear from you.

Note: Download this free craft from us in celebration of Children’s day and have fun decorating it with your child! For more parenting articles, please visit our website. www.family.org.sg .

A PARENT’S PROBLEM

I read with interest my colleague’s Valuable without Labels blog post last week. Like him, I wish that the young (and for that matter, even the not-so-young) will realize that they are valuable for who they are, regardless of the assessments used to measure their worth.

But labels seem to influence our perception of things and people profoundly; a lot more than we like to admit. Labels have a way of making something or someone more or less valuable.

As a parent, there have been moments when the unmet expectations of my own children have derailed the perspective I held so dearly; that is, my children are valuable regardless of the binding labels received from  their (academic) assessment results. 

No parent will frown upon the “As” or any other successful labels that their children obtain. It’s always the other labels that we have problems with. I can imagine the myriad of methods we parents use to cope with our disappointment and unmet expectations. We do the instinctive – nag, compare, give pep talks, increase the pressure, go into denial, etc. you name it.

I also asked myself a hard question – “Am I, albeit unintentionally one of the many parents pursuing the quintessential Singapore Dream; defined as getting your children to exceed your lot in life?” This is one dream which slavishly fills parents with anxiety as the achievement benchmarks are constantly being raised.

Upon reflection, it struck me that our children must know that their value or worth isn’t determined by the norm, or world’s standards alone; all the more when a child’s self-esteem is largely shaped by his parents. Should I fall into the trap of defining successful parenting as essentially getting my children to embrace my standards and goals, and achieving them; I think I would have grievously overlooked my key role as a parent.

I’m reminded of a tip which I give as a family life educator myself – that’s to get into the mindset that everything you do as a parent ultimately is part of validating or nurturing your children. Validating is letting your child know he/she is good enough. Nurturing is filling your child up with aliveness!

The world will constantly dole out its various labels in every life stage of our children. Often times, these labels can be premature, deceiving or harsh. As a parent, I shouldn’t add to that problematic list. I need to conversely undo the effects of every unkind label and keep at nurturing and validating my children.

I must do what the world won’t do. No one will love our children as unconditionally as we will. As parents, we have plentiful, unmatched opportunities to do that. This is our lot in life as parents! I shall focus my attention to love them more!