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!!

A Lesson On Competitions

Entering into a competition is all about winning, isn’t it? Otherwise, what is the point of competing?

What happens if your child enters a competition and does not win a medal? Did she fail? Was the competition for naught?

The Race With Multiple Medals

C had participated in three events at the National Junior Sprint Canoeing Championship (NJCC) in March this year. She did not have high hopes for winning any medals as she did not even manage to get into the semi-finals last year.

But we worked on psyching her up to have fun and simply do her best. Despite facing stiff competition, she persevered. At each race, we cheered ourselves hoarse. Amazingly, she won medals for ALL three events, including a gold. Understandably, she was elated. The medals were totally unexpected considering her performance the previous year.

As usual, we celebrated her success. More importantly, we debriefed on what she did well and what she could improve on. We concluded that the biggest gain from NJCC was not the medals, but the camaraderie and sportsmanship exhibited by the entire team. Even though they had several team members competing in the same race, they still cheered one another on and congratulated the winners who moved on to semi-finals, and subsequently, finals. They helped one another launch the kayaks before each race, and brought them ashore after each race. Even those who did not proceed to semi-finals and finals were all there to help out. It was such a heartwarming sight to behold.

The three medals C had won were but icing on the cake.

The Race With No Medals

Fast forward a month later. C participated in two events at the National Canoeing Sprint Championship (NCC). This time, she harboured hopes of winning at least a medal. After all, she had won three at the last competition the previous month.

Again, we reminded her to have fun and do her best. At the last light of the first day of the competition, she succeeded in clinching her place in the finals for both her events. She knew she had beaten her personal best (PB) timing twice that day, once during the heat, the other during the semi-final. She went home excited about the prospect of the following day.  The next morning, the race started bright and early. Despite giving all she had, she came in fourth in the singles event, and sixth in the doubles event.

Understandably, she was disappointed. But her recovery from disappointment was swift. Why? Because the top 3 single kayakers in her event were her team mates. She was so happy for them and marveled at their timings. Instead of being a sourpuss for not winning any medals, she displayed great sportsmanship and congratulated her team mates.

What is a Competition Without Medals

There are some for whom medals are all that matter in any competition. For us, medals are an icing on the cake. What mattered more was the relationship within the team. And to me, what mattered more was how C fared against herself.

Even though she did not get a medal this time, her timing from her heat on Day 1 of NCC was faster than her PB from NJCC a month ago. Not only that, she had beaten her PB from the heat the day before with her timing during the semi-final. To top it all, her timing for her finals was her fastest ever.

This was a competition with no tangible medals. But to us, she had won 3 gold medals for beating her own PB 3 times in one competition.

Conclusion

The best races are those we run against ourselves and win. When we help our children understand that, we help them eliminate envy or jealously of others. We can help them overcome disappointment by teaching them to aspire to be better and not beat themselves up. I told my daughter that she could hold her teammates who had won the races as inspirations to aspire towards. But at the end of the day, her true competitor, the one who will never ever leave, is herself. As long as she strives to be better than her previous self, she would have won the “competition”.

This is a competition with no medal. And it is the single most important competition we can take on a daily basis.

A 1% improvement on a daily basis will yield a transformation in no time.

Happy parenting!

– VIvian –

 

 

 

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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What Makes A Champion?

 

Joseph Isaac Schooling, 21, has just won Singapore’s first Olympic Gold. Not only did he win an Olympic gold medal, he made an Olympic Record for the 100m Men’s Butterfly.

How did Joseph achieve this feat? What inspired him? What made him tick?

As a parent, I wanted to know what kind of support his parents gave him. I also wanted to know the “ingredients” needed to raise a champion.

I was curious and this was what I found.

1) Have Strong Parental Support

Whenever I see successful youths, I know they have a strong support system behind them. Typically, that support comes from their parent(s). Parental support comes in various ways. In Joseph’s case, I see 3 kinds of support.

a) Encouraging His Passion
May Schooling, Joseph’s mom, has said that the passion for swimming comes from Joseph. Neither she nor Colin, Joseph’s dad, forced it on him. Instead of suppressing his love for swimming so he could spend more time studying and taking the traditional path to success, they did everything in their power to ensure he can pursue his passion, including sending him to the US when he was 14 so he could receive the best training.

[Edit (12 Aug) After I published this post, I read an interview given by Colin in Today. In that interview, Colin mentioned that he and his wife had collected an extensive swim library comprising of handwritten notes of Joseph’s swims, including details like split times and cadence. They also learned as much as they could about competitive swimming through attending technical courses and swim clinics. Although swimming was Joseph’s passion, his parents did all they could to learn about it so they could provide more indepth motivation and advice to him. It is easy to see then how much support his parents have given him to pursue his passion and how they have helped motivate him for success.]

b) Helping Him Clear Obstacles
When Joseph was 15, May sought and received deferment from National Service (NS) so that he could spend his time training for his competitions. Yet, Joseph’s parents have no intention of letting him skip his obligations to his country. They still expect him to return to fulfill his NS duties. Even as they support his passion, they are mindful to instill in him the value of loyalty towards his country.

c) Unshakeable Faith In Him
Not only did Joseph’s parents provide support and help him clear obstacles, they had an unshakeable belief in his ability. In a 2013 interview, May confidently said that Joseph will be a finalist in 2016.  That faith, I believe, would have boosted Joseph’s confidence, leading to his can-do attitude.

[Edit (12 Aug) In the same  interview mentioned in my edit above, Colin Schooling hit the nail on the head.

“For parents, whatever your children do, just have confidence in them, and just love them.” – Colin Schooling]

Lesson for me:
Respect and honour my children’s passions. Do everything in my power to help them fan and develop those passions. Even if it is the path less trodden, have faith that my children will achieve success because it is self-driven. And especially if it is the less trodden path, my children will need even more support and encouragement from my husband and me. Move mountains for them if necessary, but keep them grounded. And more importantly, have faith in them and let them know and feel it too.

2) Find A Role Model

When Joseph was 6, he learned that his granduncle Lloyd Valberg was Singapore’s first-ever Olympian at the 1948 Olympics. From that point on, Joseph aspired to not only be an Olympian, but to also win an Olympic medal.

When he was 13 years old, he took a photo of himself with Michael Phleps, his idol. 8 years later, he competed against his idol and won.

Lesson for me:
Everyone needs a role model to look up to and aspire towards. Likewise, my children need role models in what they do. Their role models will inspire them in ways I cannot. Yet, at the same time, my husband and I are their role models in the values and mindsets we want them to have. Hence, we need to be mindful of what we say and do.

3) Bounce Back From Failures

While attempting to qualify for 200m Butterfly for Olympics 2012, Joseph had to scramble minutes before his heats to find a replacement swim cap and goggles. That distraction caused him to register a poor swim and he did not qualify for the finals at the Olympics. While understandably disappointed, Joseph had said it was a learning experience.  He took heart that he was still very young and had a long way to go.  In 2016, he came back fighting harder, ending with a gold medal in Rio.

Joseph has exhibited the mindset of a champion. He looks at things positively. He is engaged in the positive thinking cycle.

Lesson for me:
Failures do not define us.  Instead we can choose to learn from them (again that is engaging in the positive thinking cycle).  In helping my children overcome their perceived “failures”, I will be mindful not to harp on what they have done wrong previously but will consciously remind them what they can do right.

4) Create a Goal

During an interview with Straits Times in Aug 2015, Joseph had said that his strategy for Olympics 2016 was to focus on 100m Butterfly and 200m Butterfly because he sees himself as a world-class swimmer trying to win. He was intent on winning the 100m Butterfly.

Joseph had a very clear goal. He was going to compete in Rio 2016 and that he was going to win a medal. In fact, while in Rio, he withdrew from the 200m Butterfly and missed out on the 100m Freestyle.  I presume he did so to conserve all his energy for the 100m Butterfly.

Lesson for me:
Goals tell us where to go and what to focus on.  If we do not know where we want to go, our chances of getting there is very low. Hence, I need to help my children create their OWN goals, goals that they feel passionate about, goals that will inspire them.

5) Persevere

Joseph had said that swimming was all about the little things. To achieve his ultimate goal of winning an Olympic medal, he would have to take all those little steps. Even if the trainings were painful, he had to persevere.

He took those little steps towards his goal. And he reached his goal today.

Lesson for me:
No action is too small as long as it propels us towards our goal. Taking a tiny little step forward is better than not taking any at all. That is something I have always believed in and it is reassuring to know Joseph subscribes to that as well. I will continue to remind my children of the tiny steps they can take each day towards their success.

6) Visualise Success

When interviewed by Channel News Asia right after winning his Gold medal, Joseph had said he did not know what to believe, whether he actually did it, or if he was still preparing his race.

That goes to show that like all successful people, Joseph engages in visualisation. He had most likely visualised himself winning the race many times prior to the event. His visualisations were so clear and real that even after the race, he could not tell the difference between his visualisations and reality.

Lesson for me:
Visualisations work. The clearer and more real we can visualise our successes, the easier it will be for us to achieve them. This is a tool I will be using to help my children visualise their success.

7) Being Humble

Why are all of us going wild about Joseph Schooling? For me, it is not just because he has won our first Olympic Gold. Neither is it because he has made an Olympic Record. Instead, it is because I am thoroughly impressed by his humility. And it is the humility in this champion that has made me his fan.

Despite winning against giants like Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh, he did not brag. Instead he had said he was “honoured and privileged” to be able to race in an Olympic final alongside great names like Michael, Chad and Laszlo. Wow!

Lesson for me:
While success can be a magnet for fans, humility in the face of success is even more magnetic. That is something I will need to bear in mind as I guide my children to pursue their own success.

Conclusion

Joseph Schooling has been an inspiration not only to athletes in Singapore but to me as well. He is now my role model on how I would like my children to behave in pursuit of their dreams, and more importantly, how I would like them to behave when they have achieved success.

Congratulations, Joseph. I look forward to seeing more of you in the future. Thank you for being such an inspiration for the budding athletes in Singapore. And thank you, for being an inspiration for this mom here. I wish you every success and may you continue to inspire all of us.

– Vivian Kwek-

 

 

A Valuable Lesson On The Importance Of Attitudes And Beliefs

 

It’s all in our attitudes and beliefs: Do we fight to the end even if we had messed up big time in the beginning or do we give up and say, “There’s no way I can catch up”?

The opportunity to teach this lesson arose over the weekend. It was a priceless lesson on resilience.

Oops! Big Mistake At The Onset

We were playing a game at an event and R made a careless mistake right at the onset of the game. He punched in the wrong answer in his excitement.

I saw it before he realized it. But I bit my tongue and refrained from saying anything disparaging, like “that was such a careless mistake!” or “why didn’t you see more clearly?” Instead I just pat him on his back.

Don’t Give Up!

When he realized his mistake, he did not beat himself up. Nor did he whine about it. Instead he dug his heels in and continued to battle.

I could see he wanted his name to appear on the screen where the top 5 scorers were listed. It seemed like an impossible task now that he had answered one of the 8 questions wrongly.

R knew the math: 62 players and he had just given himself a 12.5% handicap. Statistically, he knew the odds were stacked against him. Yet he didn’t give up. He continued paying close attention to every single question to prevent making the same careless mistake. His fingers were poised over the controls, ready to press the correct the answer at the fastest possible moment (the sooner you key in the answer, the higher the score).

As the rounds proceeded, he continued striving even though his name did not appear on screen. If anything, he seemed more intent in being faster and more attentive.

Finally, after round 8, the last round, the results appeared. There it was, his name in the 5th position. He had made it to top 5!

“I did it!” he exclaimed in triumph.

Teachable Moment

Seizing this teachable moment, I did a debrief with my children after the game.

It was a positive demonstration of resilience. I wanted R to lock in how he felt when he was battling to come back from behind and I wanted C to remember how the “never-say-die” spirit looked like.

The lesson for my children that day:

It is all in our attitudes and beliefs. If we don’t give up, if we believe in ourselves, we will continue striving harder and faster to catch up. Even if the results are not evident in the beginning, we will still succeed. It may take us longer, but we will get there. AS LONG AS WE DON’T GIVE UP.

If R had decided there was no way he could get onto the top 5 list because of his initial careless mistake, he wouldn’t have worked as hard for the remaining 7 questions. Then he would DEFINITELY NOT have made it to top 5, confirming his belief that he had been severely handicapped by his initial error. But because he fought on, believing he could do it, he made it. And that reinforced his belief in himself.

The Right Cycle

Beliefs Behaviour Outcome Cycle

Our beliefs and attitudes shape our behavior which in turn shapes our outcomes, and that in turn, confirm our beliefs and attitudes. It is an endless self fulfilling cycle. We need to ensure we are circling in the RIGHT cycle, the cycle that empowers us to strive for success.

– Vivian –