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 –

 

8 Ways to Strengthen Love at Home

Mother Teresa has been in the news lately. Even though I am not a Catholic, I rejoice that she will be canonised in September this year.  To me, Mother Teresa was the epitome of love. She had spent her life pouring out her love to “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” You don’t have to be a Catholic or Christian to feel or receive her love. Her love was universal.

While Mother Teresa was known for administering to the poorest of the poor of different faiths, she had a lot to say about love at home. This article is inspired by her words of wisdom on this subject matter.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.

Mother Teresa, Nobel Lecture, 11 Dec 1979

This sentence has stayed with me since the first time I read it eons ago. Love. It all begins at home. I can’t do what she did on the streets of Calcutta . But I can pour love into the actions that I do at home.

All the quotes below were extracted from Mother Teresa’s book, “Thirsting for God”. Though the book was a collection of her meditations, the quotes I’ve used are not “religious”.  They are words of wisdom for everyone.  For each of her quote, I have also raised some questions for us to ponder. The questions are meant to increase our awareness so that henceforth we can choose how much love we want to put in the action that we do at home.

1: “Love begins at home—–everything depends on how we love one another at home.”

Home is where the heart is. It is the place where our hearts are most vulnerable. It is the place where our hearts yearn love. When we are loved, we can conquer the world. When we do not feel loved, everything falls apart. How we love one another at home sets the foundation for our interaction with the world. As parents, spouse and children, we wield immense power in shaping the world through what we do at home.

Questions to ponder:

  • How do we love one another at home?
  • Is it unconditional or conditional love?
  • Do we wage a cold war on our spouse, children or parents if they do something we don’t agree with?
  • When our children misbehave or throw a tantrum, do we seek to understand why, or do we demand that they stop this instant?
  • Do we put ourselves in their shoes with their thoughts, beliefs AND maturity, not ours?
  • Do we empathise with how they are hurting?

2: “Much of the hurt in our homes comes from uncontrolled use of words, said anywhere, in front of other people. Let us open our eyes to the harm we do.”

Words have power. The saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” cannot be further than the truth. Most times, our physical injuries from “sticks and stones” will heal, but the caustic words said to us will continue to hurt and haunt us years after they were uttered. Words can either be fertilisers that encourage growth, or they can be poisons that kill or stunt growth.

Questions to ponder:

  • What words do we use on our children? Spouse? Family members?
  • How would we feel if those words were used on us?
  • What kinds of impact do those words have on the emotional and psychological health of our loved ones?
  • What can we say to our loved ones instead?

3: “Criticism is nothing less than dressed up pride… Refrain from prejudice, which means to set your mind against somebody. It is very sad when it becomes a part of our lives.”

We are all guilty of being judgers. We judge our children and our spouse. We judge our parents, our in-laws, our siblings. We even judge ourselves!! Self criticism is a topic in and of itself and I will not touch on here. But criticism of others is a reflection of our self righteousness. When we criticise, it is nothing more than saying “I am right and you are wrong. My beliefs and values are right, yours are wrong. The way I do things is right and the way you do things is wrong.” Criticism is our ego talk. Instead of criticising, attempt to understand. Or even better, do something to help. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Questions to ponder:

  • What do we criticize about others?
  • Why did they do what they did?
  • Do we understand what they are REALLY going through, not what we think they are going through?
  • If we were struggling with the same issues we are critical of, be it punctuality, lack of attention, or worse infidelity, how would we like to be helped?
  • How can we help those whom we are now criticising?

4: “Find at least one good point in the other person and build from there. In the family, you should thank each other, mentioning the good you have seen others do.”

In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or “frequency illusion”. When we are made aware of something, subconsciously, we keep looking out for that something. Likewise, when we focus on the good of others, we will keep seeing the good. Not only will we keep seeing the good that others do now because we have become unconsciously attuned to acts of goodness, the people doing the acts keep doing them because they are encouraged to continue doing so.

Questions to ponder:

  • What labels do we give to our children?
  • What is one good thing about each of our loved ones?
  • How does that one good thing affect the way he/she behaves and treats others?
  • What other positive traits does this person have?

5: “Today, we see that all the suffering in the world has started from the home. Today, we have not time even to look at each other, to talk to each other, to enjoy each other, and still less to be what our children expect from us, what the husband expects from the wife, what the wife expects from the husband. And so more and more we are homeless at home because less and less are in touch with each other.”

Many have accused the pervasiveness of technology for the collapse of family communication because people start turning to their mobile devices at every available (and unavailable) moment. Family members spend more time staring at their mobile devices than they do looking at one another. They spend more time texting with their friends, or keeping in touch with virtual friends on social media than they spend with their families. But the same technology also allows the family to be in touch when someone is physically away. The fault is not in the technology. It lies with how we use the technology.

It all begins with love. For there to be love, there needs to be connection. For there to be connection, there needs to be interaction. For there to be interaction, there needs to be time spent together. For there to be time spent together, there needs to be a commitment to want to bond. For there to be a commitment to want to bond, there needs to be love.  It all begins with love.

Questions to ponder:

  • How do we stay connected with our loved ones?
  • How often do we tell our loved ones we love them?
  • How often do we SHOW our loved ones we love them?
  • Do we even know how our loved ones want to be loved?
  • What is one thing we can do to be available for our loved ones?

6: “You must open your eyes wide so that you can see the opportunities to give wholehearted free service right where you are, in your family. If you don’t give such service in your family, you will not be able to give it to those outside your home.”

As cliché as this may sound, ask not what our family can do for us; ask what we can do for our family. And it refers to every single member of our family. By “service”, I take it to mean several things. It could be a word of encouragement or love. It could be spending some time together. It could be giving a gift, or a massage. Or it could be as simple as running an errand for that person. These services show our love in different forms to our loved ones. We need to open our eyes wide to know what kinds of services are needed and yearned. The service required of us may not be a service we feel comfortable doing. For example I dread giving gifts. I see it as an encouragement of materialism. But my daughter lights up whenever she receives something, even if it doesn’t cost anything. So I put in an effort to either make her something or buy her something once in a while. That is because that is the “service” she craves from me to know I love her and I cannot deny her that just because it is not a service I like to provide.

Questions to ponder:

  • Do we really know what kinds of “service” our family need from us?
  • How do we find out the kinds of service they need?
  • What can we do to provide those services?

7: “We must reach the heart. To reach the heart, we must do—–love is proven in deeds. People are attracted more by what they see than by what they hear.

If I want my children to be kind, first I need to be kind, not just tell them to be kind. I need to model what kindness is in deeds and in words. If I want my children to be polite, first I need to be polite. I need to model courtesy not only to my peers or those more senior than I, but also courtesy to the children themselves, and especially to the “invisibles” of our society, the cleaners, domestic workers, construction workers etc. The values I want my children to learn must be applied to all stations of life, not only the higher echelons. Children are very sharp and they will pick up inconsistencies in our actions and words. When we tell our children we love them, we need to show it to them ALL THE TIME. Even when we need to discipline them, it needs to be done with love, not in anger.  It is through our actions that we teach and show values.  It is through our actions they feel our love.

Questions to ponder:

  • What do we need to do to show our love?
  • What kind of values do we want to inculcate in our children?
  • How do we walk the talk in inculcating love and values in our children?

8: “Let us make our homes real places of love so that we can overcome any hatred. “

That, my friends, wraps up this blog post. The way to overcome hatred is with love. The path to peace is through love. And it begins at home. May we all parent with love.

Please leave us your comments. We’d love to hear from you!

– Vivian –