Tag Archives: values

Teaching young children respect for others

My husband and I were driving the kids to school one morning. We were in a middle of a conversation when my 3-year-old son suddenly shouted, “Stop talking!” It turned out that his favourite song had come on and he couldn’t hear it over our voices.

I chuckled, and was tempted to shrug off his cute outburst. But instead, I seized that teachable moment to explain that what he just did was disrespectful. Then I had him repeat after me, “Excuse me, Papa and Mama, I cannot hear the music.”

Children are naturally self-centred, and respect for others is not instinctive. Neither is respect easily defined in words. Here are some ways we teach our young ones respect:

Demonstrate respectful behaviour

Photo Credit: MyTudut via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: MyTudut via Compfight cc

Our children are watching us all the time – we are their first and most important role models. So there’s no better place to teach respect than in the home. Do children see their dad and mum speaking kindly and being considerate to each other? Do they see us working as a team in taking care of the home?

When speaking to my children, I try to be mindful of my tone of voice, not to talk down to them, snap at them or shout. I also try my best to listen attentively when they have something to tell me, no matter how trivial it may seem. It is also important to validate their feelings with words of affirmation and encouragement.

Set ground rules
This will differ between each household. Some of mine include:

  • You don’t get what you whine for
  • “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” (it rhymes and your kids will get a kick out of reciting this phrase, try it!)
  • No interrupting
  • No name-calling
  • Respect physical boundaries

When rules are broken, appropriate consequences should be delivered. The key is to be consistent – you can’t enforce a rule one day and let it slide the next day.

Give children the words for good manners
In our household, we start our requests with “May I”. For example, “Mom, may I please have more juice?” or “May I please play with your toy?” This really helps a young child verbalise his thoughts, rather than whine or cry. I also teach my children to greet elders with the appropriate terms, such as “auntie” and “uncle”, and to look them in the eye when saying hello or goodbye.

Practice showing respect to others
I take my kids to visit their great-grandmother at the nursing home regularly. I encourage them to chat with her and give hugs. She is wheelchair-bound so they take turns to push her out to the garden or the common area to watch TV. This teaches them that everyone deserves respect, regardless of age or capabilities.

So, back to our car ride to school. Shortly after my son’s favourite song was over, my husband and I continued talking again. Lo and behold, we heard a sweet voice…

“Excuse me, Papa and Mama, I cannot hear the music.”

LJ and her husband have been married 7 years and have three delightful children. They keep the romance alive by putting the children to bed early and listening to their favourite playlist of 90’s love songs.


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.

Would I do Plastic Surgery?

Editor’s note: This is a follow-up from Tuesday’s post on how youths these days seek to attain that “perfect look”.

I admit, I am a victim of vanity. I wish I was born with a smaller and sharper nose. Doesn’t this sound familiar?  As it is with all vain people, wishing to change parts of our appearance is common, especially if you weren’t born looking like Emma Watson.  But would I ever undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery to change my features? My answer would be a solid no.

A good majority of us have heard the perennial argument against plastic surgery – our features are unique to us and we must learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are. However, I would like to share another reason which I have discovered upon further reflection and introspection.

During my internship, I was tasked to read through some parenting blogs. As a result, I was suddenly exposed to a brand new perspective on things – the world as parents see it. It was interesting to note that amongst the numerous fresh insights I garnered, I also noticed a common thread of thought that weaved through the blog stories – the joy of discovering themselves in their children.

One very interesting post by Nick Pan was illuminating for me. He asked what is, to me, an interesting question: “Would my baby be cute?” It may seem like a quirky fear to struggle with, but it isn’t necessarily so when you stop to think about it. His fears disappeared the moment he laid eyes on her and I quote,

“Then It dawned upon me. My child is beautiful to me because my child is a product of my wife and I. My child looks familiar as she has the genetics from both my wife and I. My eyes, my wife’s grace, my nose, my wife’s lips. No matter how our baby looks, she is going to look familiar; she is going to look like the product of our love.”

So why would I not agree to undergo plastic surgery if I were given the chance to do it for free? It’s simply because I am a product of my parents’ love. I look familiar to my parents, and what they see in me, is what I see in them. Every part of my face and body has come from the unique and intricate combination of my parents’ genetics.

I imagine the joy that my parents must have felt as I was growing up and their sense of familiarity as they saw themselves in me. I love my parents, and no matter how old I become, I still want to look familiar to them.  In addition, even after they pass on, I want to still be able to see their faces in mine.

Similarly, it is these God-given features of mine that I want to see when I gaze into my children’s faces in the future, and to enjoy the beautiful miracle of each child being a product of the love that my future husband and I will have for each other. So no, I will not resort to plastic surgery, because if I do, I know that I would have missed out on this most beautiful miracle that comes from embracing this face, this body that I’ve been blessed with for all time.

This guest post comes courtesy of Rachel Kan, a former intern with Focus on the Family Singapore and university undergraduate. All views expressed in this post are Rachel’s own.

Make Marriages Stronger, Not Divorce Easier

We strongly believe in the importance of marriage, so when we heard that a panel is trying to find ways to make divorce less adversarial, we decided to speak up – because the focus should be on making marriages stronger.

Here’s a copy of the letter we sent to Straits Times.


We refer to the article Panel Moots Ways to Make Divorce Less Adversarial (The Straits Times, April 17, 2014). It is heartening that one of the key recommendations of the Family Justice Committee is to enhance social support services and integrate them with the family courts system.

However, more should and can be done to preserve marriages and help families thrive.

While we agree that children need to be protected from their parents’  acrimonious legal tussle in a divorce, we have to admit that the act of divorce itself already has negative effects on the innocent children involved. Literature and research show that not only are the repercussions of divorce on children broad and strong, marital problems tend to perpetuate down the family line, with longitudinal data revealing that grandchildren of divorced couples end up with less education, more turbulent marriages and more distant relationships with their parents. In protecting children from the impact of divorce, we need to place the emphasis on prevention and intervention of troubled marriages rather than on improving the efficiency of the divorce process.

Majority of the counseling cases we see at Focus on the Family are for marital issues. Thankfully, we have had the joy of helping some acrimonious marriages turn around. There is always hope, especially where there is a willingness to change and a commitment to work things through.

In a number of countries, less than 10% of marital breakdown occurs in high-conflict marriages, where one or both spouses are at risk due to some form of abuse (eg, alcohol, drug, sexual, physical, emotional, mental). This poses the question if the majority of divorces in Singapore are occurring in low-conflict marriages, where counseling and assistance could bring about positive change. If so, we should focus our efforts on offering solutions to help couples heal and reconcile, perhaps  even  making marriage counseling mandatory prior to starting divorce proceedings.

Time and again, we’ve witnessed the age-old truth that the best gift a parent can give their child is to love their spouse. Let’s continue to emphasize making marriage stronger, and not divorce easier!

Gifts that Last a Lifetime

My daughter is currently in a state of expectancy and excitement. She says she can’t wait for May to come. We all know why – because it’s her birthday. At 5 years old turning 6, she’s someone who knows what she wants. She wants a birthday party, she knows who she wants to invite, and what she wants for presents – hamsters from mum and dad. Every few days, she’ll ask us if it’s the month of May already. We’re currently cracking our heads on what to do for her birthday party but the goal is that it should be fun for her and inexpensive for us.

Like many Singaporean parents, my husband and I also want to give the best to our children. When my children were born, I thought about what I could pass down to them as a “family heirloom.” Maybe my wedding dress, I thought; but then again it could be out of fashion by my daughter’s time.

I currently have three things that I want to pass down to my daughter. The first is a little lamb soft toy. This was given to me by my husband when we were dating. The Latin form of my name means ‘lamb’ and the Greek meaning is ‘pure’. I put the toy in her cot when she was a baby, and a few years ago, gave it to her and explained that she is like my little lamb. The second is a music box that my parents gave to me when I was in my late teens. It’s a wooden music box they bought when they were in Switzerland. I kept my favorite trinkets in there. I hope that it is something she can use in the future that will also remind her of her grandparents. The third thing I plan to give to my daughter and son is a collection of my blog. Ever since they were born, I have been keeping a blog to chronicle the different stages of their growing up, successes they have, falls they make and hopefully learn from, conversations we have. They may not remember the early years of their life when they grow up and so I hope my blog will give them something to remember.

But more than material gifts, how many of us actually think about and consciously pass down gifts that last a lifetime? Have we considered the values, beliefs and faith we want to pass down to our children?

When I was growing up, my parents where strict disciplinarians – especially dad. We were constantly in conflict, particularly the rough teenage years; where like my daughter; I too knew what I wanted and wanted it my way. Little did I know that,

  • When I got reprimanded for being last minute or late, dad was teaching me the value of time and punctuality;
  • When I got a 10pm curfew put in place because I came home very late one night without telling my parents my whereabouts, they were teaching me about consequences and responsibility;
  • When I had to learn how to cook and spend Saturdays doing household chores, they were teaching me how to take care of my family.

We need to intentionally remind ourselves and be purposeful in passing down and giving our children “treasures” that will not decay, be destroyed or be stolen. But rather, “treasures” that will last a lifetime and for generations to come, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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!

What Happened to Normal?

 The three judges of the new TV reality series, Glee Project, were debating about which of the three least impressive performers they should not call back as a contender for the new cast member on the successful TV show, Glee. One of the candidates up for elimination was a guy the judges described as the person who most “got it together”. He had issues in the competition because of his obvious awkwardness in the more sexual scenes he was required to do.

 In an earlier episode, Cameron was captured on camera in tears as he shared with his mum over the phone how he felt he’d cheated on his girlfriend back home. The “crime”: a fellow competitor had decided to turn on the heat and score points by initiating a kiss with him during a music video take.

“You’ve to put your own beliefs aside and act the part of your character.” [Implying: You can separate your convictions from yourself because it’s just acting.]

 “Sexuality is like putting on lots of different clothes and dresses.” [Implying: It doesn’t change who you are; it’s just like playing dress-up.]

 The judges were advising Cameron on how to cope better in the competition. I thought about how we often rationalize the behaviour that we intrinsically know is wrong but do anyway.

 The conclusion? The judges found Cameron to make an interesting potential character on the show. However, for better or worse, Cameron decided his time was up and the opportunity better given to one who would give anything to do the things he personally struggled with. He walked out of the competition and gave his place up to a guy who later went on to win the competition. (familiar scenario?)

 “Ouch” – or “Wow”? What do you think of Cameron? Was he brave to have made a stand, or did he chicken out and leave the competition prematurely because he could no longer take the heat?

 Whatever it is, it sure reveals how values have changed. What was once considered the norm no longer is. Cameron represented what should be normal behaviour which thankfully appeared attractive to the judges because it had – sadly – become a rarity.