Of Wolves and Dragons

What kind of a person will our child grow up to be?

We saw a live Ninjago performance at our recent visit to Legoland Malaysia. The story was about the ninjas rescuing a dragon from the forces of darkness so it will be a dragon of light and do good instead of a dragon of darkness and wreck havoc.

The thing is, it’s the same dragon with the same power. But what it would use its power for will depend on what it has been trained to do. 

Was it reared with love, kindness and encouragement? Or was it reared with darkness, hatred and resentment?

Obviously the environment will shape the type of dragon it would become.

It reminds me of the Cherokee story of the fight between the 2 wolves inside us, except in this version, the fight between light and darkness is internal.

You see, inside each and every one of us resides an “evil” wolf and a “good” wolf. The wolf that wins the fight is the one we feed. 

If we feed our wolves with anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and/or ego, the evil wolf will win.

But if we feed our wolves with joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith, the good wolf will win.

While our environment plays a role in shaping who we are, it is we who determine what we allow into our system. 

As parents, we not only control the environment which our children grow up in, we also serve as their teachers and guides. Subsequently, when our children grow up, we become the inner voices they hear when they process their thoughts. Are they capable enough? Are they good enough? Are they loving towards others? Are they showing empathy to those who have been mean to them? Are they kind? Are they resilient? What would they do when they encounter difficulties?  Their answers to these questions depend on what we teach them and what we say to them. 

Recently, A had a difficult time with another child and was repeatedly reduced to tears. I could take the easy way out and reduce interaction between that child and A. I could paint A as a victim and the other child a target for negative labels. But I see a higher purpose in their interaction. I helped A see how she could be a teacher to that child, to help that child learn gentleness and generosity. And at the same time, I felt it would help A build her resilience so she wouldn’t be so easily affected by what others say or do. Amazingly, she agreed to be a teacher. In fact she said, “I can stand up for myself because I am resilient. And I still love XYZ and I will be a teacher to help him be nicer.”

That really warmed my heart bcos she sees herself as a learner (in self-defence) and a teacher (in guiding the other child). When she grows up seeing adversities as opportunities to learn and teach, nothing will fazz her. Her blueprint in dealing with adversities and “difficult” people will be a positive one.

We, as parents, help our children build their blueprints: blueprint in dealing with setbacks, blueprint in dealing with difficult people, blueprint in dealing with abundance, etc etc. Our children carry these blueprints with them unconsciously. 

Many people live with negative blueprints without even realising their thoughts were “imprinted” from young. For those of us fortunate enough, we realise the existence of our negative blueprints and do our utmost best to undo them and create a new set of positive blueprints.

Hence it is very important that we remind our children they are capable (even when they make mistakes), that they are good enough based on the knowledge and skills they have at that moment. We show them how to empathise, love and be kind to others. We encourage them to get on their feet when they fall and help them see obstacles and challenges as opportunities for growth and development. 

Which wolf our kids will feed subsequently when they grow up really then depends on what we say to them and what we teach them when they are young.  Whether they will grow up to be dragons of light or dragons of darkness too will depend on the environment we provide for them.

While it may seem a scary thought with overwhelming responsibility, we can choose to see it in another way.

In order to build an environment of light for our children and be the voice that will feed their “good” wolf, we too will end up feeding our good wolf and become dragons of light. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful?

We may not be able to motivate ourselves to become better, but for the sake of our children, we will be able to do it. That’s why our children are our best teachers.

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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When My Child Lied…

I’ve always thought of myself as an open and approachable mom. After all, I’m a mom who does her best to understand why her children would “misbehave” and address the reason for that “misbehavior” rather than attacking the behavior itself. After all, I’m a mom who listens to her children’s wishes, though whether those wishes are granted or not is a different matter. After all, I’m a mom who gives reasons for all her answers, esp if they are “No”s. After all…

Yet, I find my daughter lying to me over a trivial matter. Why would she do that?

Discovery of Deceit

A couple of nights ago, I discovered a bottle of “Sprite” and a packet of “junkie” snack in her backpack by accident. If she hadn’t behaved so suspiciously when I reached into her bag for a water bottle, I wouldn’t have even seen the “undesirables”.

It happened during her dance class. She had walked hurriedly toward me when she saw me unzip her backpack. After I put the water bottle back into her backpack, she quickly zipped it up and placed it further away from me before returning to her class. That got me suspicious. So I reached for her bag again. She saw me and quickly walked back to me.

This time, I saw the drink and junk snack.

“Did you buy these?” I asked.

“No,” she replied instantaneously.

I raised my eyebrows.

“Sorry, mom. I did buy them,” she muttered.

“hmm,” I replied. Then I shooed her back to join her dance mates.

Had I Contributed To My Child’s Need to Lie?

My mind was spinning. Normally, if she lied, I would give her the usual integrity-is-everything and lying-corrodes-trust kinds of talk.  But that evening, I had just received news of an 11-year-old boy who had apparently jumped off his 17-storey home because of an argument with his dad.

What could have pushed the boy over the edge?  I could only imagine the guilt the dad felt seeing his boy dead at the bottom of the building. I was thinking about what we could do when disciplining our children so that our parent-child relationships are not so shredded that our children lose all hope. But mainly, I was thinking of how sometimes we could be the ones who contribute to problems that our children get into.

So having my daughter lie to me made me pensive. I reflected upon myself. Why would she feel the need to lie?  What was it about me that would lead her to lie? Do I tend to over-react when she does something wrong? What can I do to ensure she wouldn’t feel she needs to lie to me again?

Throughout the dance lesson, I could tell she was very anxious. She kept stealing glances at me. Once, I stepped out of the class to make a call to my husband to see if he was coming to pick us up. When I went back in, she came over and asked, “What is it? Who were you talking to?” I told her I was talking to daddy and shooed her back to her class.

While changing out of her dance shoes after her class ended, she kept asking me, “What is it?” every time I looked at her. I told her, “Nothing, dear. I just love looking at you.” Inside, I was hurting. I was still trying to figure out how to address this. It was obvious she was, dare I say it, fearful. What have I done that made her so afraid of me?

Finally, when we left the dance studio, she asked meekly, “Are you angry with me?”

I stopped and faced her. “Do I look angry?” I asked.

She shook her head. I told her I wasn’t angry, but disappointed she didn’t feel safe enough to tell me the truth. And I asked her why she felt she had to lie to me.

Her Expectation Of How I Would React

“I was afraid you will be upset,” she replied.

“Upset about what?” I asked

“Upset that I bought these things.” She said

“Why would I be upset?”

“Because they are bad for me,” she answered.

I told her I was not upset she had bought those stuff. I understood why she did it. It’s true it was not what I would have wanted her to do. She could have made better choices with her purchases, but was the act of buying those snacks wrong? I didn’t think so. What upset and disappointed me was that she chose to lie. If she had owned up, this whole incident would have been a non-issue. I might have talked about making better food choices, but that would have been it.

I asked her if she understood what I meant and she nodded her head.

“Did you tell daddy?” she asked.

“No, I didn’t,” I said and she heaved a sigh of relief.

“But I will,” I continued and she tensed up.

“Not because I want him to know you lied, but because I think it is important he understands you need more security to feel you can be honest. Both daddy and I need to work together to help you feel that way. Do you understand?” She nodded.

“I’m sorry, mom,” she said.

“I’m sorry too,” I replied.

Lesson for Me

Indeed, I am sorry. I’m sorry I hadn’t let her feel safe enough to be truthful. That is something I need to work harder towards so she knows she is safe telling me anything.

If she feels the need to hide from me the truth about where she got her junkie snacks from, I can’t imagine what bigger stuff she would hide from me in the future simply because she is afraid I would get upset or angry.

I need to let her feel safe and assured of my love regardless of what she does. I need to let her feel that I will be by her side, that I will be there to help her through all problems big and small, when she messes up. That my daughter “fears” me, or rather fears upsetting me was a big wake up call for me.

Lesson for My Child

For my daughter, she realized the anxiety she faced doing something she knew I disapproved of, and worse when she lied about it. She was worried about how I would feel. She was anxious that her dad would find out. An innocent act of me getting a water bottle from her backpack had sent her running to me. A glance from me had put her on the edge. Seeing me on the phone with her dad had made her tense.

She learnt about the power of her conscience. It didn’t matter if anyone knew what she did or not. Her conscience knew, and it had kept her on the edge, constantly worried that others would find out.

She learnt a Chinese saying, “If you don’t want people to know about it, then don’t do it.”

She also learnt a far more important lesson.  That her lying had cost her her credibility.

I had asked her how many times she had bought stuff like that and she said this was the only time. When I raised my eyebrows in doubt, she looked me in the eye and said again, “I am not lying.  This IS the first time.”

To which I replied softly, “And why would I believe that?”

She lowered her eyes and said, “No, there is no reason why you should believe that. Not after I lied to you just now.”

I asked her if she saw how destructive lying could be.

“Yes, mom. Integrity is everything. Now you will doubt everything I say.”

“So what can we do about that?”

“Never lie again,” she said.

I assured her I can take anything she tells me, I might be upset, but I will still be on her side as long as she is truthful. I stressed the importance of her being honest, so I can continue to trust her, so she doesn’t have to dig herself into deeper trouble with more lies. I promised her I would not go ballistic with any truth she tells me.

Sure, she was wrong to lie. But I believe it takes two for lying to occur. And I will do my best to create an environment that encourages truthfulness, an environment of trust in both directions.

What about you?  What do you do when you find your child lying to you?

– Vivian –

3 Reasons Why Our Children Are Worth The Investment…

 

… of resources taken to upgrade our parenting knowledge and skills.

1) Our Children Are Our Future

I believe we can all agree that our children are more than the grades that they get. We invest everything we have in their education and development not just so they can get excellent grades. We invest in our children because we love them and we want them to be the best that they can be. We invest in them so they can become the ones who lead, shape and create our future.

When our children grow up, they are going to be the movers and shakers of our society. The children we have at home are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, the creators of our future. They will be the ones who will shape humanity in one way or another. They are our future. Not just the future of our families. They are the future of humanity.

And because we are responsible for bringing them up to fulfill their roles in society, we need to sharpen our saws and upgrade our parenting knowledge and skills. It doesn’t matter whether it’s through reading books/websites/blogs on parenting, or listening to podcasts, or attending parenting programs, our children are worth the investment in time and money. But why should we improve yourselves, you may ask.

2) Our Children Deserve The Parents That We Can Be

Given that they are the future of humanity, we want to do our very best to help them develop. We pour in so much resources ensuring they do well in school, that they are exposed to music, sports, and all other enrichment programs so they are mentally, socially, emotionally and physically developed. We do everything we can to help them be the best that they can be. And that is great! What if I tell you, we can do even better?

It’s not just the children’s job to be the best they can be. We can’t outsource everything. There are things we need to do as parents. How do we parent them? How do we communicate with them? How do we express our love to them? How do we encourage them? How do we discipline them? There is a whole ton of studies and research out there on how these seemingly innocuous interactions have a HUGE impact on the development on our children. We can’t send our children to enrichment classes for that. After all, these are “parenting skills”, meant for parents. To help our children be the best they can be, we need to invest in our own parenting education.

We want the best for our children. They rely on us to give them the best exposures, the best learning opportunities, the best environment to grow and develop, based on our abilities of course. They also rely on us to know how to parent them well. They deserve the parents that we can be for them, and to be able to do that, we can learn and upgrade our parenting knowledge and skills.

3) When We Work Together, We Achieve More

Parenting cannot be outsourced. If our children “misbehave”, we can’t just send them for a program or camp and hope they can change their attitude and behavior. That might work for a while. But imagine if we ourselves learned enough to understand why they behave the way they do. Imagine if we arm ourselves with the skills and know-how on how to deal with those “challenges”. How would it be like if we, with proper understanding and know-how, work TOGETHER with our children? How much more growth and development can our children achieve? How much closer our relationship will be with our children?

It is my deepest desire that parents take the leap, make that investment in themselves and upgrade their parenting knowledge and skills so they can be more attuned to their children. When parents are attuned to their children, they will develop strong connections with them. With strong connections, they will know how to communicate and motivate their children. It is when connections are strong and communication links are opened that the children will be willing to listen to their parents. It is through learning more about parenting that parents can achieve all that and help their children be the best they can be. More importantly, they can still remain in loving relationship with their children.

When more and more parents do that, we can bring up a strong generation of leaders, movers and shakers. We can co-create a future that will bring mankind to another golden age.

Are you willing to invest in yourself so you can bring out the best in your children? If you are, one of the options available to you is to check out our Decoding Your Teen Seminar. I look forward to seeing you!

– Vivian –

 

8 Ways To Help Siblings Get Along

 

One of the most common problems parents face is the difficulty in having their children get along harmoniously. Conflicts exist in ALL relationships because disagreements are inevitable. Hence it is unrealistic to expect our children to ALWAYS get along. However, we can help our children reduce the frequency and intensity of their conflicts by helping them build a more harmonious relationship with one another.

Here are 8 ways we can achieve that.

1) Spend Uninterrupted Time With Each Child Daily

Let each child know he has a special place in our hearts. Children who are loved and feel secure tend to fight less. Spend 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time with each child daily. If we have little ones who nap, we can spend a little of that time to interact individually with the older ones who no longer nap. Or if our kids are older and can be left at home on their own, go to the grocery store with one of them. Or prepare a meal together. Steal little pockets of time throughout the day to spend one-on-one time with each of our children. Ask them what was difficult for them that day. Listen to how their day went. And remember to tell each and every one of them, “I love you” DAILY. Not just a cursory “love ya”, but a look-them-in-the-eye, I-am-serious, “I love you”.

2) Create An Appreciative Environment At Home

Sometimes children get so caught up in the little fights they have with their siblings they forget the goodness in one another. Create opportunities constantly for them to remind themselves how much they appreciate one another. One way to do this is to have everyone takesturns saying something appreciative or positive about everyone else in the family during dinner. Not only will the person expressing appreciation have increased feelings of positivity towards the others, the one at the receiving end feels good and appreciated. Mutual feelings of positivity increase connectedness. When there is connectedness, there is more empathy and less reason to fight.

3) Be Watchful For Positive Interaction

As the saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. As parents, we tend to “ignore” our children when they are getting along. But when they start fighting, we would miraculously materialise to stop their fights. So sometimes children unconsciously fight to get our attention. To avoid that, take time to praise them and catch them when they are interacting and playing well together. Be on the lookout for moments when they are cooperating or helping one another and thank them for doing so. When they know they get positive attention from us when they get along, there are fewer reasons for them to fight and get our negative attention.

4) Never Compare The Child

Comparison sours relationships. The child who gets compared poorly against another child, or worse, her own sibling, will grow to resent that other child. Or the child who gets compared favourably against another child, especially her own sibling, will feel superior and behave in that manner to that other child. Either way, resentment or superiority does not support collaborative or peaceful relationships. Treat each child as the special being that she is. Acknowledge her strengths without putting down another person and develop her weaknesses without showing her up against someone else. When our children do not feel they are better or worse than another child, they will have more harmonious relationships with one another.

5) Help Them See One Another As Their Teachers

When someone irritates us, we can either choose to be frustrated, or think about what we can learn from that someone. If one child is testing the patience of another, help the other child see it as an opportunity for him to learn how to stop the “perpetrator” peacefully. AND teach the child who is irritating the other that he is learning self-control to stop being irritating. The more children learn to see others as their teachers, the more ownership they have in learning their lessons. They will stop seeing themselves as victims of others (eg “he was testing my patience”) or victims of circumstances (eg “it was a wonderful opportunity to tease him”). Helping them see one another as their teachers allow them to reduce the animosity of their fights and turn them into lessons for learning instead.

6) Stop Tattletaling

While it is helpful to have a child who toes the line and obeys all rules, it is detrimental to let that child become the rule-upholder of the family. Tattletaling hurts sibling relationships. As parents, we can thank the tattletaler for knowing the rules well but let her know that turning in her siblings betrays their trust in her. Refrain from disciplining the other children who were told upon. When we discourage tattletaling, our children will learn to trust one another more. With increased trust, their relationship will improve and they will get along better.

7) Role Model Conflict Resolution

Actions speak louder than words. To teach our children how to resolve their conflicts peacefully, we need to role model that for them. What do our children see and hear when someone cuts into our lane when we are driving? Do we curse the inconsiderate driver and blast our horn? What will our children learn instead if we wonder out loud, “That person seems to be in a hurry. We can let him go ahead of us.” Or “I wish I can let that person cut in, but we’re really in a big hurry.” Our children are also watching our day-to-day interaction at home. What do we do when we have a disagreement with our spouse? Do we shout our point of view and slam doors in frustration? Or do we talk calmly over our differences? Children pick up our responses to conflicts very rapidly. When we role model how to get along with others, our children will learn it quickly and naturally.

8) Rethink Punishments, Especially Corporal Punishments

Corporal punishment means inflicting physical pain on someone for something they have done wrong. When we inflict pain on our children for their wrongdoing, we are teaching them to do likewise to those whom they think have done something wrong to them. Let us correct misbehavior peacefully and lovingly so our children can learn how to do likewise. Like role modeling conflict resolution, the way we discipline our children teaches them how to “discipline” others, especially their siblings.

How do you help your children get along?

– Vivian –