Know Vs KNOW

I have been having very interesting conversations with my 14-year-old recently.

Last night, she was commenting about myopia. You see, she has been saying she needs glasses for a while and recently she went to the optometrist. 

C: You know mom, I can’t imagine how people who need glasses function without glasses. My prescription is only 75 and 100 degrees. Yet I have so much difficulty seeing the bus numbers without glasses. I can’t imagine how it is like for someone who has a prescription of more than 400 degrees and does not have glasses.

Me: Well, I have a prescription of more than 400 degrees and I can’t function without my glasses. I thought you knew that. That’s why I always say I need my glasses to find my glasses. I can’t see without my glasses.

C: I knew you need glasses and without them you can’t see. But I never thought about how that felt, or how blurry things would be for you without your glasses. When the optometrist put the glasses on for me and I went out of the shop to look around, suddenly everything looked clear. And when I removed them, I realised how blur things have been. If it has been so blur for me, I can’t imagine how it is for you or anyone who has worse eyesight than me. I didn’t understand how it was like to NOT be able to see. But now, I have a better idea of how it is like for you.

With that comment of hers, a light bulb came on for me.

Lesson for Me

My dear C, you have no idea how important a lesson you have taught me, AGAIN.

How often have I known, yet NOT KNOWN, how difficult things are for my children?  

When they struggle to stay focused, I know it is because their more mature nucleus accumbens (the pleasure-seeking centre of their brain) is driving their thoughts and actions and that their pre-frontal cortex (the logical decision making centre of their brain) is not quite mature yet to hold their goal in view. 

But I don’t REALLY know how hard it is for them to focus because I still get impatient and judgmental when they are distracted.

Likewise, when they lose their temper, I know that, for my teens, it is because of the fluctuations of hormones in their bodies making control difficult, or, for my little one, that it is because she is really tired/hungry etc.  

But I don’t REALLY know how hard it is for them to control their temper because sometimes I still get triggered when they “lose” it.

And there are parents whose children are hyperactive, or depressed, or perfectionists, or have sensory sensitivities, or a zillion other challenges. How WELL do most parents REALLY know the struggles their children go through?

Most times, we may feel “if only the kids would try harder…”, or worse, “they are leading us by our noses, manipulating us,” etc. I know I have been guilty of that.

If we really KNOW how our children feel and how they struggle, we will not have those thoughts at all.

The truth is we don’t REALLY know how hard it is for them to function “normally” unless we have the same condition as they do. That is why we tend to be more critical and impatient, less sympathetic and loving. 

Unfortunately, that does not help our children. Our lack of empathy and lacklustre support makes it even harder for them to function normally.

So while I may “know” my children are having a tough time, and that they are doing their best, I still need to do the following:

  1. remember I don’t REALLY KNOW how awful they feel or how hard they are struggling,
  2. remind myself to take my 2 deep breaths, 
  3. strike down my fear that I have lost control over them, 
  4. tap into my unconditional love for them, and
  5. support them when they falter. 

Once again, I am grateful to C for the insight she has given me. May her insight help you decode your children so you can help them overcome whatever challenges they have as well.

Happy Parenting!

Apologies Heal

(As shared on Decoding Your Child Facebook Post on 14 Feb 2019)

So last night, my 14-yo asked me to help dry her hair as she has hurt her shoulder and can’t raise her arm to hold the hairdryer.

As I dried her hair, nostalgia hit me. When was the last time I dried and brushed her hair? I couldn’t remember.

Then as if reading my mind, C started talking.

C: Mom, it has been so long since you dried my hair. I think the last time was at Falling Water or was it at Waterford? The house w a pond in the backyard.

Me: That’d be Falling Water.

C: You used to dry my hair everyday. Then one day, I told you I didn’t want you to dry my hair anymore because it was taking away my screen time.

Me: Oh, is that right? I don’t remember. I only know I haven’t dried your hair for a very long time.

C: Yes. I think you were very hurt when I said that.

Me: Was I? I can’t remember.

C: I remember thinking about what I had said when I was in bed that night and realised it was not a nice thing to say. I felt “ouch!” But I never apologised to you. I’m sorry.

Me: it’s ok. I didn’t take it to heart.

And after that, she gave me a big hug.

Lesson for Me

We parents usually don’t remember the hurts caused by our kids. Otherwise we would have been too wounded to function. 

Maybe I was hurt at that time. But because I had buried it or chose to forget it, it didn’t bother me. 

But MAYBE I still carried the hurt unconsciously because I realised her apology had lifted me. It showed me she was aware, and it showed she cared because it had bothered her that I was hurt. And I actually felt lighter.

Maybe I WAS hurt but her apology has healed it.

And it’s obvious that careless comment she made all those years ago (8 years?) still bothered her. But because she got the opportunity to apologise, her guilt got lifted and she got healed.

So, this Valentine’s Day, I strive to think about the hurts I may have caused my loved ones, the words I had said or things I had done that I had felt would have hurt them yet had never apologised for. 

Maybe they won’t remember those trespasses of mine. But it doesn’t matter. Based on C and my interaction last night, I believe my overdue apologies will not only relieve me of my guilt, but also heal the unconscious wounds my loved ones have buried/ignored because of their love for me.

And I thank C for the precious gift of letting me see the value of apologies even if it seems like the other party doesn’t “mind”.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!! 💖💖💖

And Happy Parenting!!! 😘

It’s Not Personal

(As shared on Decoding Your Child Facebook Post on 2 Feb 2019)

It’s personal only if we decide to make it personal.

It has been a rather crazy week this week. I had had a super full load of work to get done, plus a talk to prepare for. Unfortunately, my little 6-year-old came down with the flu on Sunday. She had been a real trooper, resting, sleeping and leaving me practically very much alone for a few days to do my work because she knew I was busy.

But by Wednesday, her love tank was empty. She wouldn’t let me go. She was only content when she was in my arms. When I attempted to reach for my phone or laptop to do some work while craddling her, she would grab hold of my wandering hand and place it firmly against her face.

And so I savoured the moments and focused my 100% attention on her until she fell in a deep sleep and I was able to snap this photo.

Soon after, she stirred and pulled my hand back to her and we stayed in that position for a few hours. 

By Friday, she was well enough to go to school. She had been looking forward to seeing her classmates and teachers and it was a happy occasion as we headed towards school.

My husband had started the “tradition” of bringing iced water for her when picking her up from school because it’s hot in the afternoons. But on Friday, I did not bring any iced water when I went to pick her up as she was still having a cough. 

When she realised there was no cold water, she stomped the whole way back. And when she reached home, she threw herself on the sofa and cried as if the world had let her down. She practically had a meltdown.

I had 3 options. 

One was to be angry and upset that she was ungrateful, that I too had walked in the hot sun to go pick her up AND bring her home. (Guess how I knew of this option?)

Two was to ignore her and leave her alone (give her a time out).

Three was to show her love and compassion.

Truth be told, I felt anger bubbling. I felt she was ungrateful. I feared she was becoming self-entitled. And boy was I tempted to leave her and go get a glass of cold water for myself! 

But in the end, I took my 2 deep breaths and I chose love and compassion.

I bent over her and asked if she wanted me to cuddle her. She put her arms around my neck, all the while still crying. I took that as a “yes” and I craddled her. 

After a while, she started kicking and writhing in frustration. So I asked if she would like me to put her down. She hugged me tighter and I took that as a “no”. So I just held her while she kicked and writhed and cried. After 25 minutes, she finally calmed down. I told her a joke, she laughed and that was the end of it. 

She had let all her “angries” and stress out. I didn’t take any of it personally. We both emerged fr the “ordeal” happy and deeply connected.

After we had lunch, I explained why I couldn’t give her cold water and I got a hug in return. I asked her if she knew why I didn’t bring iced water when I went to pick her up and she said she knew.

You see, I knew she had understood. But I also knew she did not have the ability or muscle to not feel or act disappointed. Plus she had just recovered from flu and must have been exhausted being in school after a long MC. She had no reserves left for any self-control. Had I chosen to get angry at her, it would have been akin to getting angry at an 8-month-old baby for not walking.

She throwing a tantrum was not an attack on me. She just couldn’t control her emotions. I do not need to take it personally, and I’m glad I stopped myself, re-wired my brain and refused to go any further down the rabbit hole of anger.

I’m not a saint who doesn’t get angry. I’m just a regular human with normal instinctive emotions. I get angry a whole lot bcos of my imprint as a child that scoring 97 or 99 out of 100 is a punishable offence. I have tremendous fear of being not-good-enough. I fear being a lousy parent. And so, yes, I correspondingly have a lot of anger.

I mean, if I were a good parent, my kids should all be behaving well, doing well, listening well, controlling themselves well. So if they act out, it must mean I have failed. My first instinct is, “oh dear, I have failed. How can I help other parents if my children are still giving me problems?” 

And if you have read Part 2 of my Dealing with Anger series, you know that it will very quickly be translated by the mind into, “How dare you not do what I have taught you so many times?” which if left alone will become an explosion of anger.

But as mentioned in Part 3, I have learned to take my precious 2 breaths. And those 2 breaths have on many, many occasions given me space and time to re-wire my brain to move away from anger, face my fear and tell it to go away because I AM AN AWESOME PARENT. It’s a conscious decision every day, to re-wire my brain. Sometimes I fail, but over the years, I have had more successes than failures. My brain synapse to anger is weakening.

May you also find courage to face your tiger, face your fear and tell it to go home.

Happy Parenting!

PS: If you have missed the Dealing with Anger series earlier, you can read it here:
Part 1: What is Anger
Part 2: Why We Choose Anger
Part 3: How to Overcome Anger

The Thing About Yelling…

Yelling. A very common parenting tool.

“LET’S GO!”

“PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!”

“GO TO BED!”

“GO SHOWER!”

And the list goes on.

Unfortunately, yelling is not an effective parenting tool. Because if it were effective, we wouldn’t find ourselves yelling about the same thing over and over again.

Why is it not effective? Because it puts us on “fight” mode. Our children then see us as a threat which leads to them flipping on THEIR “fight” switch (they start rebelling more) or they flip on their “flight” mode (they start feeling depressed)

It is sooooo tempting to yell. I know. Cos I used to be a yeller. BIG TIME yeller.

Look, I didn’t yell for no reason. I knew constant yelling was useless because it only made the kids tune out, which meant I would have to get louder and louder to get their attention. No. I had reserved my yelling for when I needed their immediate corrective action.

I became a yeller when I first became a parent. And I yelled even more when I had my second child, C. I yelled because the kids weren’t listening when I talked to them nicely. They weren’t doing what they were told. I got tired of saying the same thing over and over again. I got mad. I felt my role as a parent being threatened. So I yelled, to get their attention, to show them I’m the boss, to tell them that’s it, no more warnings. And when I yelled, I typically startled myself. Yes, I was LOUD!

And one day, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. I saw something that should never be expressed in the eyes of young children. I saw immense fear in C’s eyes. She was just a tiny preschooler then. It was as if she had seen a monster. And I realised I was that monster.

Then I remembered. Yes, remembered because it is something I have always known but tend to forget when I am upset. I remembered my little ones were just children. They were still learning. Their brains were not mature enough to control their impulses. It was natural that they slipped up repeatedly.

I knew If I yelled every time they slipped up, they would start tuning me up. They might even start ganging up against me. So I ONLY yelled occasionally. But if I yelled when I felt it was the last straw, I became the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, unpredictable in my children’s eyes. I became my daughter’s biggest monster.

That was when I consciously veered away from yelling and researching for other more effective tools.

That was almost a decade ago. Did I still yell after that? Yes. With diminishing frequency, but yes, I still yelled. It took great discipline and self control on my part to not yell but teach and guide calmly.

In the last 5 years or so, I am glad I did not “explode” more than a couple of times. My breakthrough came earlier this year when I managed to control myself from yelling when I discovered my daughter (yes, the same one mentioned above) disregarded my rule for online safety and as a result became a victim of online grooming. 

My daughter, my C, taught me to stop yelling. She was, and still is, my teacher. In fact, all my children are my greatest teachers. Because of them, I have become a much better human being.

For that, I am grateful.

What about you? Have you learned something because of your children? Pls share in the comments below.

Happy Parenting!

LAUNCHED! Decoding Your Child Book

The months of writing and editing Decoding Your Child finally came to fruition with a successful book launch on Apr 8, 2018.

So many friends came to support the launch. We even had a young couple who saw the event advertisement online and turned up. They are not even parents yet! How wonderful it is for young couples to learn ahead what parenting entails. I am sure this young couple will be well equipped with parenting skills and know-how when they become parents.

The idea of being prepared for parenting is so critical to the success of our children. When we are prepared, our parenting journey becomes smoother.  Not only that, when our parenting journey is smooth, everything tends to flow more easily. Why? Because when we encounter problems with our children, our lives suffer, our relationship with our spouse suffers, our relationships with our parents and our parents-in-law also suffer. Parenting challenges affect our productivity and effectiveness at work too.

There is a Confucian saying, “Tidy up the family. Rule the country. Conquer the world.” In other words, to do great work, our family unit needs to be first taken care of. When our foundation is stable and strong, we can build “empires”. Hence, parenting is critical to our success.

Why Decode Our Children?

To parent successfully, and for everything in our lives to flow more smoothly, we need to decode our children. Why?

With decoding, there is understanding.
With understanding, there is empathy.
With empathy, there is acceptance.
With acceptance, there is patience.
With patience, there is tenderness.
With tenderness, there is connection.

And when there is connection…
…MAGIC happens.

When there is connection, there is cooperation.
When there is cooperation, there are less disciplinary issues.
When there are less disciplinary issues, parenting becomes a breeze.
When parenting becomes a breeze, life becomes easier
When life becomes easier, everyone is happier.

That’s when everyone is transformed.

And it all starts with DECODING YOUR CHILD.

Deepest Gratitude

I have so many people to thank for this successful launch.

Firstly, I must thank my family, without whom I will not even have a book to write. Juay has been my foundation, offering unwavering support and encouragement, doing everything needed to get the books printed and the venue all set up. My three children have done superbly as well. My teens helped man the various stations during the launch, registering guests and entertaining the children who were present at the launch. And my little one occupied herself and never once interrupted my talk and Q&A session. Thank you, darlings, for being the wind beneath my wings.

Next, I want to thank my sister Wendy Kwek. She is my mentor and sounding board for practically everything. She too worked hard behind the scene to help ensure the books turned out nicely and that the launch was a success. Thank you, jie, for always thinking about how to support my work and for covering my blindspots.

I also want to say big “Thank You” to my extended family who turned up for the book launch. Thank you, Michael and Susan Lau for the beautiful flowers. Thank you, Maureen Tan for your yummilicious cake. Thank you Angela Lau, Andrea Lau, Nicole Tan and Noah Tan for your purchases! It’s so heartwarming to be enveloped in your love and support during this milestone of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

My deepest appreciation to many friends who chipped in to help: Patrick Koh for helping to find lost sheep and ushering them to the venue, Willie Yeo for helping with photography, Uantchern for the use of his cosy venue, and many many more who helped out but I was too distracted sharing with the guests and signing books to thank you individually. Thank you all for being such wonderful angels! 😛

The launch would definitely have not succeeded if not for ALL THE GUESTS who took the time on a Sunday afternoon to be there. So thank you, thank you, thank you, to each and everyone of you who were there! I was not expecting a full house turnout on a precious Sunday afternoon, but you guys came!! Thank you!!

Last but not least, my biggest THANK YOU goes to my mom, Doris Lau. How I wish she could be here to witness the book launch. She was the first person to ever ask me write a book years ago when I was sending her monthly journals of my parenting journey because we were living overseas. Mommy, I know you can see me from the heavens and I can feel your love. I love you and I miss you so much! Thank you for always believing in me.

GET YOUR COPY NOW!

Those of you who missed the Book Launch, fret not. The book is available for sale online. For a limited time, you can get yours at a special Book Launch SALE price.

Use the coupon code: BookLaunch2018. The coupon code expires on 16 Apr 2018 (UTC: +8:00)

Seize the opportunity!  Get your copy here: https://decodingyourchild.com/product/decoding-your-child/

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