What Kind Of Life Do You Want For Your Children?

10, 000 hours.  That’s how long it takes to build mastery.  On average, when we spend 10,000 hours learning and practicing something, we become a master of it.

We do not need to have the qualifications.  We do not need to have the certificate.  If we want it, sure, by all means get it. But what is more needed is the constant learning and doing of something to be a master.  More importantly, what we need is passion because when there is passion, we will still continue to learn and improve even after we have achieved master status. How awesome is that?  Isn’t that what we all aspire our children to do? To be life-long learners?

Let me give you an example. I know a fabulous photographer who can capture the moment.  He knows when to click the shutter.  He knows which is the best angle to capture a shot.  He can anticipate what the subject of his shoot is going to do and he snaps the photo at the exact moment.  The photos he takes of athletes in motion are not blurry.  Instead they always turn out showing the athletes in the best light even if they are in mid-stride: the look of determination, the purposefulness of the stride, the strain on the muscles, the glint of perspiration.  

How does he do that?  He has learnt it all through trial and error, through years and years of reading about photography, taking photographs, and analyzing what he did that captured beautiful photos and what he had overlooked when the photos did not turn out well. After more than 15 years learning AS A HOBBY, he started his own photography business and it took off.  He has more than enough photo shoot engagements to make a more than decent living and he can command an even higher premium, if he wants to, to bring his income to an even higher level.  Yet he hasn’t stopped learning.  He is still working on improving his skills.  He is still analyzing his own work to see what he can do better. WHY?

The reason is simple.  He finds joy in capturing memories for people.  To him, he can “cheat” time by capturing precious moments so that we, the beneficiaries of his photographic skills, can relive those moments again.  Photography is his PASSION.  It is not his job.  He LOVES what he is doing.  

How is this relevant to parenting?

In our society, many people are chasing qualifications.  We are brought up to NEED a piece a paper to tell us we are good at whatever it is the paper says.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that education is not important.  In some instances, a paper qualification is necessary. In fact, if we love what we are doing and learning while getting that qualification, fantastic! What I am saying is passion is even more important.  We can spend hours and hours working towards a degree or certification.  But for many people, once we get that degree, we forget 90% of what we have learnt to earn that piece of paper.  And if we ask around, many graduates do not even use a fraction of the things they have learned to get the degree.

Yes, that degree may land us with a job. But what if we do not enjoy what we do? I know of an ex-neurosurgeon. He was “successful” by our definition. For one, he was a neurosurgeon. Two, he earned very good money and therefore lived a rather luxurious life. Unfortunately, he was a terribly unhappy man. He did not enjoy what he did. In fact, he did not even like medicine. He went into medical school because his dad made him, and since he got good grades, his dad made him specialise in neurosurgery. After so many years in medical school, and building his specialty, he felt trapped. He had to continue with what he did because he had financial commitments. He hated his life, and he resented his father for putting him on that path. When he was in his 50s, his father passed away. Almost immediately, this man left his practice. His family was shocked to say the least. Thankfully, they were able to understand that he needed to be able to live his life, and not the life his father had wanted him to live.

At least this ex-neurosurgeon got the courage to say, “Enough is enough!” Sadly, I know of many people who hate their jobs and their lives. But they are bound by that piece of paper (say engineering degree).  They have this fear, “If I don’t become an engineer, I would have wasted all those years pursuing the degree. If I don’t become an engineer, what else can I be? How am I going to find a job? What am I going to do?” So they are resigned to what they have to do every day. Quite a few of them suffer from mid-life crisis where life seems meaningless for them, and understandably so. Some go into severe depression and stay depressed for years. In fact, depression amongst those in their 40s and 50s is on the rise. But what can these people do? Walk out of their jobs like the neurosurgeon did? Most do not have the courage to rock the boat, not when they still have children and parents who depend on them, or housing or car loans to maintain. So they feel extremely trapped and slide further deeper into helplessness.

Let us do the Math: How many hours did it take to get an engineering degree? 

Assuming engineering school requires 10 hours of study each day (including working on assignments and projects) for 5 days a week.  Each school year is about 35 weeks and it takes 4 years to get an engineering degree:

10 hrs x 5 days x 35 weeks x 4 = 7000 hours

If we had gone into engineering school because our parents had wanted us to, or because we were brainwashed to go and get an engineering degree because that’s where the jobs would be, we would have spent 7000 hours doing something we do not enjoy. And guess what?  When we graduate, we would get a job we do not enjoy too.  

Some might say, “Such is life.  Suck it up.” 

I disagree. Life is meant for living.  We live when we are alive, not in the biological sense where we are breathing and moving.  Being alive to me means living a purposeful life where everyday is meaningful, where we look forward to waking up and doing what we love.  

What do we want for our children?  What kind of future do we want them to have? What are we pushing them towards?

Do we want them to have a life where they wake up every moment excited and raring to go? Or do we want them to have a life where they dread waking up and have to drag their feet to a job they cannot get out of because of their financial commitment?  Are we allowing them to live their lives, or are they living the lives we want them to live?

There is a saying, “If you love what you do, you never have to work another day in your life.”

What kind of life do you want for your children (and yourself)?

Happy Parenting!

Addictions and What To Do

Device addiction or internet addiction is rather rampant nowadays. I have lost count of the number of parents who have approached me to help their children overcome this problem.

To overcome any problem, the first thing we need to understand is why it is happening and how it is happening. Then and only then can we effectively solve the problem.

So let us look at addiction itself. What is it? What is its root cause? And more importantly, what can we do to help our children (and ourselves) overcome addictions?

What is Addiction?

There are different types of addiction. There is addiction to substances like drugs, alcohol, nicotine etc. And there is behavioural addiction like gambling, sex, gaming, and internet addiction.

While they differ in type, the end result is the same. Indulging in the addiction triggers pleasure. It helps the addicts forget about their troubles and woes. Even if it kills them, they would rather indulge in the pleasure than face their pain.

Introducing Rat Cages With Drugs

In the early days of research into addiction, researchers placed individual rats into an empty cage with nothing except 2 sources of drinks. One was plain water and the other was water infused with heroin.

Over time, the rats would all get addicted to the heroin infused water and die of overdose. The researchers concluded that the presence of drugs caused addiction.

The research does lend itself to that conclusion. But is that really the case?  There are drugs around.  But not EVERYONE is an addict. Cigarettes and alcohol are easily accessible, yet not everyone is an addict. There are casinos around too, but not everyone gambles or is addicted to it. So what is the missing piece?

Introducing the Rat Park

In the later 1970s and early 1980s, a Canadian researcher, Bruce Alexander, ran a different experiment. He created a “Rat Park”. The Rat Park differed from the original Rat Cage in three ways.

Firstly, it was 200 times bigger than the individual rat cages in previous experiments.

Secondly, the Rat Park had 20 rats of both genders in it, unlike the old rat cages that contained one solitary rat each.

Thirdly, instead of an empty cage except for the two bottles of water, the Rat Park was filled with Hamster wheels and multi-colored balls for the rats to play with. It was also stocked with plenty of tasty food to eat, and spaces for mating and raising litters.

The constant between the old Rat Cage experiments and the Rat Park was they both offered one bottle of drinking water and one bottle of heroin infused water.

Bruce found that the rats in his Rat Park ignored the heroin. They were much more interested in typical communal rat activities such as playing, fighting, eating, and mating. Even rats which had become addicted to the heroin water when they were in the Rat Cage experiment left the tainted water alone once they were introduced to the Rat Park. Essentially, with a little bit of social stimulation and connection, addiction disappeared.

So what can we learn from this famous “Rat Park” experiment?

What IS the Root Cause of Addiction?

When someone has an addiction to something, be it substance addiction, or internet addiction, or behavioural addiction, the problem is not with whatever they are addicted to. The problem lies with the “cage” that these people are in. Is their cage stimulating enough, fun enough, with sufficient opportunities for meaningful relationships and connection?

Addiction is triggered by the craving for pleasure. Indulging in it helps the addicts forget about their troubles and woes. Understanding that is the first step to helping addicts overcome their addiction.

Many people think that when the addict recovers, he becomes sober. But being sober does not help him forget about his troubles and woes. If anything, it makes him more keenly aware of the challenges he faces. He will very quickly suffer a relapse and go back to the addiction.

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is CONNECTION. Why connection?

Well, the answer is simple. If we look at the residents of Rat Park, they have fun. They have activities to do. They have a social life. Life is exciting and interesting. They are connected to being alive. They are connected to living.

But the residents of Rat Cage? They are isolated with nothing to do. Life is boring, a drudgery.  Hence, they need something, anything, to spruce up their lives.

Hence, addiction is the LACK OF CONNECTION.

What Can We Do As Parents?

Instead of simply confiscating the source of addiction which essentially does nothing to fill the void of the addicts, it will be more productive and effective if we spruce up their “cages”, the lives that they live.

I mean if we look at our children nowadays, how are their lives like? How big are their cages? How much freedom do they have? Do they have time for socialisation, for play?

Is It As Simple As That?

Yes and no.

Why yes? Sprucing up the cages is but the first step. When our children feel they have some control of their lives, that there is meaning in their lives, their likelihood of being addicted to anything will reduce drastically.

BUT it is MORE than just that. We will need to understand the development of children, especially our teens, as well as understand how to establish connection and trust with them so we are better able to guide them.  Let us face it.  How many of our children “really” listen to us? To get them to hear us out and do as we say, we really need to strengthen our connection with them.

Want to Know More?

I hope you have found this article useful.

If cyber/device addiction is something your children are struggling with, or if you are concerned about keeping your children safe from cyber dangers, you will want to check out this 2-hour Decoding Your Child for Cyber Safety Seminar. I will sharing more about addiction and how to keep our children safe on the internet.

TOPIC:          Decoding Your Child for Cyber Safety
SPEAKER :    Vivian Kwek
VENUE :       2 Venture Drive VISION EXCHANGE #21-01 S608526
DATE :         Saturday Nov 3, 2018
TIME :         11AM-1PM 

After the 2-hour workshop, you will

  • Understand why children are addicted to the internet/their devices;
  • Know what you can do to address that addiction;
  • Learn how to keep children safe from dangers online, eg: bullying, grooming, objectionable content etc;
  • Learn how to encourage children to share what happens in their cyberworld with you so that they can have a safer cyber experience;
  • Have your questions on keeping your children safe on the internet addressed; and
  • Create a Cyber Safety Plan for your family.

 

Here’s what other parents have said about Decoding Your Child for Cyber Safety Seminar:

“I have attended several seminars and workshops on cyber safety previously. But this is the first one that explains why my child behaves the way she does. Now that I understand why she is addicted to her device and the challenges she faces, I know how to help her overcome it. Thank you so much for the insight.”

“This is a really beneficial session and should be shared with more parents.”

“Decoding Your Child for Cyber Safety opened up a lot of questions on our previous assumptions.”

 

To register, click on this link: Decoding Your Child for Cyber Safety

See you on 3 Nov 2018!

 

Happy Parenting!

 

 

To Be Or Not To Be?

My 5-year-old left her gym class with tears in her eyes.  “I cried two times today,” she said.  When I asked her why, she said it was because her friends decided they did not want to be her friends anymore. One of them started calling her names and singing mean songs about her.  Even though she told the person the song wasn’t nice and asked her to stop, that person kept singing it.

“At first I tried to ignore her.  But she kept singing it over and over until I couldn’t take it anymore.  I got so angry.  So I cried,” my little one elaborated.

I did my best to comfort her. Little ones changing their minds about who they want to be friends with is common. One day you are BFFs, the next, they turn their backs on you.  And a few days later, you are BFFs again.  And the cycle repeats itself ever so often.

Sometimes it happens more often with certain people who use their friendship as emotional blackmail.  It happens to adults too.  I reminded her to not do that to any of her friends because they would be hurt, as she was hurt now.

I asked if she had done anything that might have hurt her friends, like laughed at them when they made a mistake, or speak rudely to them.

“No, mom. Today is lesson three and they just suddenly say they don’t want to be my friends.  But in lesson one and lesson two, they were my friends. I don’t know why,” she replied.

To divert her attention, I asked her what she had done at gym class that day and she said she got to lead in the warm up exercise.  Lead?  She was only recently promoted to the higher level class.  Yet her instructor had asked her to lead the entire class at the start of her third session when there were others who had been there for at least three months or more?

Hmmm… A different reason for her friends turning on her began to surface.

Jealousy At Play?

I might have over-read the situation. Maybe it’s just childishness, but I felt the urge to say something about it to my girl.

So I explained that there was a possibility that her friends who turned their backs on her might have been jealous that she was selected to lead the class.  That sometimes, people do not like to be friends with people who are better than them because it makes them feel inferior.

“But why?” asked my little one.  She continued, “We can learn from 3 different kinds of people.  We can learn from our teachers. We can learn from our parents. And we can learn from our friends. If I am good, and they are my friends, they will become good too,” she reasoned.

“Indeed we can,” I assured her.  “I love hanging out with people smarter and more capable than I am,” I told her.

“Me too!” she replied.

To Be Or Not To Be?

I brought her back to the predicament that she was in.  I told her I was not sure if jealousy was why her friends decided not to be her friends anymore.  But what would she do if indeed her friends rejected her because they were jealous of her being more capable? Would she purposely make more mistakes so she appeared less capable?  Would she become weaker so they would be her friends again?

“Would you stop being your awesome self to keep your friends?” I asked. She looked confused.

So I asked her instead, “Do you want to be loved for who you are?”  She nodded.

“Great! Then continue being your awesome self.  And you will find friends who like the awesome you, who love you for who you are, and who will feel proud to see you do well.  As for people who stop being your friends because you are stronger than them, it is their loss that they decide to stop being friends with you.”

My little one’s eyes lit up.  “That makes a lot of sense, mom. Thanks!” And she gave me a hug.

Why Did I Do This?

Some people may say I over-interpreted the situation with her gym mates.  Maybe I did.  Maybe it’s just childish frivolity and there’s no jealousy whatsoever.

Regardless, I saw this gym event as a good teaching opportunity for my little one (and her older siblings when I shared the conversation with them).

I feel our children need to have the inner fortitude to learn they do not need to “dumb down” to earn the love of anyone.  I want my children to know that they are awesome and feel confident about themselves.  I want them to find friends who love them for who they are.

No, I am not asking my little one to be careless about keeping friends. Of course if now she had lost friends because she was mean or hurtful, the lesson would have been totally different.  It would have been about her being kinder, gentler and more loving because we can always be better versions of ourselves even though our family may continue loving us with our warts and all.

But if she is being rejected for her strengths, I would ask her to be bold in shining and continue being who she is.  I want her to learn that if she is shunned for her strengths, it is not her loss but the loss of those who shunned her. I want her to know she will find people who will love her strengths and flock to her. Because, indeed, birds of a feather flock together. I would much prefer she “flocks” with those who are open to learning,

Why? Because this is not simply about her being authentic and true to herself.  The more important lesson here lies in the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you.  AND do not do unto others as you would not want others to do unto you.”

In other words, I want her to also learn not to feel jealous or bitter about those who are stronger and better than she, but to be inspired, to want to learn, and to befriend such people.

For that, to me, is a growth mindset. And that is the key to success.

 

Happy Parenting!

 

The Most Important Thing Parents Can Do For Their Children

As the wise saying goes, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. ”

I would go one step further and say that the most important thing parents can do for their children is to love their children’s other parent. In other words, moms need to love their children’s dad too.

Today, I celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary with my husband. As I reflect back on our years together as a couple, and subsequently as parents, I am extremely grateful for the bliss, joy and love this relationship has brought us. More importantly, I am grateful my children have witnessed and experienced a loving and respectful relationship between my husband and me.

There is no better way for our children to learn how to behave in a healthy loving relationship than have their parents role model it. Of course, in abusive relationships, we need to show our children how we stand up for ourselves, seek help for the abusive parent, and if necessary, leave the relationship. But for now, we are looking at normal, healthy spousal relationships.

What Is Love?

What do our children learn from observing how we behave with our spouse? Simple. They learn how love looks like. They learn it’s not all fluff or floating on cloud nine all the time. They learn that “living happily ever after” takes effort and is a conscious decision EVERY SINGLE DAY. In other words, they learn the realities of a loving relationship.

But what are those things that make a relationship work? What are the efforts we need to put in?

1) Trust
Trust is the foundation of a strong relationship. Without trust, nothing works.

Some say trust needs to be earned. Some say trust needs to be given. For me, trust is something we give based on previous experiences with the person. Most of the time, when we say “I do” at the altar (or wherever we say our marital vows at), we trust the person with whom we are marrying. And it is CRITICAL that the trust is not breached or abused.

When we trust our spouse, we do not question their actions, words or intentions.

What do our children learn?

They learn that trust, like integrity, is extremely important. They learn that trust, once lost, is hard to regain. They learn never to abuse the trust of someone they love. They learn what it means to be trustworthy. Most importantly, they learn they can trust us.

2) Open Communication
If trust is the foundation of a strong relationship, then open communication is the glue that gels it together.

Open communication with our spouse requires us to be vulnerable with each other, to share our fears, anxieties, hopes and aspirations. It also allows us to share our frustrations and anger without fear that our spouse will take those negatively or personally. That is why trust is critical in a relationship. With trust, open communication comes more easily.

It is with open and honest communication that we can understand our spouse better and vice versa. With understanding, we can appreciate why they do what they do, why they say what they say and vice versa. There will be fewer opportunities for misunderstanding because we know what is going on. But of course differences will still exist. That is why a strong communication link is the bridge that will help us mitigate differences. Trust and open communication allow us to talk calmly and listen attentively to each other ALL THE TIME.

As far as possible, my husband and I have open conversations in the presence of our children. They hear us air our joys and unhappiness. They hear us talk about the future and our concerns. They hear how we resolve scheduling conflicts or make compromises. They hear our thought processes on why things are the way they are and why we do the things we do.

What do our children learn?

They learn the importance of communication. They experience how it helps them manage their expectations. They see how we reason things out calmly and how we listen to each other without interrupting. More importantly, they learn they can trust us with their secrets and their fears and they no longer feel alone with their struggles.

3) Respect
If trust is the foundation of a strong relationship and open communication is the glue that gels it together, then respect is the result we will get.

What does respect look like? No, we don’t have to address our spouse as Sir/M’am or Mr/Mrs so-and-so. But it does mean we use the word “please” a lot.

Respect is about being mindful of our spouse’s wishes, their likes and dislikes and how they feel. It’s about reaching important decisions together. It’s also about not making demands but making requests with “please”s.  More importantly, it is about being respectful even behind our spouse’s back. In other words, we do not badmouth our spouse EVER. We may disagree with what they do or say, but we never attack them without them being present to defend themselves.

Nothing destroys a relationship faster than being disrespectful to someone or undermining that person’s authority. This is because disrespect by one person essentially translates to “I don’t care about you or what your think” and/or “You don’t matter at all.” It makes the other person lose trust in the relationship. It’s no wonder a relationship will fail in that sort of toxic environment.

Does it mean we must always agree with our spouse no matter what? Obviously not! We must iron out differences and disagreements but we can do that respectfully.

There is an ongoing joke in our family. When my husband and I first started dating 26 years ago, I had read in magazines that a couple must have a big quarrel before they can get married otherwise, their marriage might not survive their first quarrel. I had told my then-boyfriend that we needed to find something to quarrel about.” And he had jokingly said, “You want to quarrel? Let’s quarrel about needing to quarrel.” Recently, I brought this up again, and again his reply was, “Let’s quarrel about needing to quarrel.” 😀

My husband and I have been in a relationship for 26 years now, and till today, knock on wood, we have yet to muster up a reason to quarrel. Do we have disagreements? Of course! But we have never found the need to scream at each other or tear down each other in the attempt to push our views across. We have been able to air our views respectfully mainly because we have been able to sit down and listen to each other calmly. There were times when we agreed to disagree, but to be honest, I can’t remember what those were. 😛

How are we able to achieve that? Simple. It all boils down to our mindsets. We believe the other person is just as intelligent as ourselves, if not more. We believe that both of us have the best interest of the family. We believe that we could be looking at things from a different perspective and that it is important to see things from the other person’s perspective. We believe that if we work together and put our heads together, we could come up with a better idea or solution than bulldozing our way through. We believe that acknowledging we were mistaken will not diminish our standing with each other or with ourselves.

Basically, we believe we have made the right choice when we said “I do” all those years ago.

What do our children learn?

They learn how to be respectful, not just to their parents, but to their siblings, to their friends, and everyone around them. They learn to mind their “P”s. They learn how to disagree respectfully. They learn it is not embarrassing to back down on their views when someone presents a stronger case. They learn that working together with a common goal is more empowering and effective than working to undermine someone else’s authority. They learn that issues can be resolved without raised voices, fights or violence. And that will help them resolve conflicts amicably when they grow up.

4) Appreciation
So for there to be a strong relationship, we need to have trust, open communication and respect. And when we have respect for someone, we will very naturally show our appreciation to that person.

A healthy relationship REQUIRES, yes, requires, a show of appreciation. Why? Because it means we have not taken that person for granted. It shows we respect the person and what he/she has done for us. A simple “thank you” means a lot to keeping the relationship strong. It shows we acknowledge our spouse’s effort for doing something for us, even if it is as simple as getting us a drink, or even calming an upset child.

Some may object and say, well, the child is our spouse’s too so why should we thank them for watching or calming the child. The answer is simple. Would it make us feel better if our spouse acknowledge and show appreciation to us when we care for our children? Would a “Thank you for waking up in the middle of the night to soothe baby”, or, “I know it’s been hard on you looking after our girl when she was sick” bring warmth to our hearts? “ If the answer is yes (even if we think it is not necessary), then it means the “thank you” adds to our emotional bank account with our spouse. Likewise, when we thank our spouse, it adds to their emotional bank account with us.

In our family, thank you’s are expected and usually automatically given. If someone forgets, my little preschooler will remind them to say their thank yous. We mind our “Q”s because we respect everyone and do not take anyone for granted.

What do our children learn?

They learn to show appreciation for everything. They learn not to take anything for granted. Most importantly, they learn not to take us, their parents, for granted. They learn to say thank you. They learn to appreciate everything and everyone. And that will help them build strong relationships in all areas when they grow up: with their friends, their co-workers, their spouse, their in-laws, their children, everyone.

5) Acceptance
We have looked at the importance of trust, open communication, respect and appreciation. The next ingredient to a strong healthy relationship is acceptance. Yes, it means not attempting to change the other person.  I mean, if we attempt to change someone, we are not being respectful of that person, are we?

It’s hard to live with someone who is always doing their utmost best to change us or our behaviour. There will always be tension if we want our spouse to do things the way we want them to or vice versa. When we said our “I do”, we were ok with the person we were marrying. After marriage, it is important for us to continue being ok living with the person as they are for the rest of our lives.

No one is perfect. We most definitely aren’t and so we cannot expect our spouse to be. We will end up creating a lot of undue tension for our spouse by attempting to change them, and we will be creating unnecessary disappointment for ourselves when our spouse refuses to change. Instead, let us just learn to accept. Breathe… Let. It. Go.

Jim Rohn once said that for things to change, first we must change. We have to change the way we look at things, the way we look at our spouse. Then and only then we can accept our spouse for who they are, flaws and all.

I know I am not perfect, and neither is my spouse. There are things about him that drive me up the wall and I am 100% sure he pulls his hair out at some aspects of me. However, I have learned to remind myself of all the things I love about him each time I get upset with him. And suddenly, I will no longer feel irked. Over the years, I get better and better at shrugging things off and loving him even more. Sure, there are still times I find myself up on the wall. But my recovery time has shortened. 😛

I am sure my dear husband has his own ways of dealing with all my flaws and imperfections for he has not moved to “improve” me. I know there are times he gets really frustrated with me, but he has been able to achieve equilibrium rather quickly too.

We have changed the way we looked at the flaws in each other and because of that, our relationship has thrived.

Speaking of change, we all know that change is the only constant. People change.  The spouse we have today is not the same person we married. Our spouse has changed, as have we. Our interests could have changed. Our habits could have changed. Our outlook in life could have changed. And with each change, the only way we can continue accepting each other is if we have open communication. Otherwise, one day we would wake up and realize to our horror that the person next to us in bed is a total stranger.

What do our children learn?

Our children learn that love is unconditional. They learn that we will accept them as they are and love them for who they are, not what we want them to be. They will feel safe. They learn they can be authentic in a relationship, that they do not have to wear a mask. More importantly, they learn to accept others as they are. They also learn that acceptance requires open communication based on trust and respect.

Conclusion

A strong relationship takes work. It takes investment in time and effort. It is based on the foundation of trust, from which open communication thrives. With that, respect grows which in turn gives rise to appreciation and acceptance.

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The best part of cultivating a strong relationship is with our spouse is that our children are watching, learning, and modeling after us. Not only will they feel safe growing up in a loving environment, they will learn how to nurture a loving relationship when they grow up.

Happy parenting!

– Vivian Kwek –

3 Surest Ways to Bring Out The Best In Our Children

As parents, we do our utmost best to provide the most wonderful opportunities for our children. We want our children to succeed. We want our children to soar.

However, if we really pause and think about it, bringing out the best in our children does not necessarily mean sinking in big money after tuition or enrichment classes for our children. It does not mean frantically sending them from class to class, from tuition centre to enrichment centre to dance studio and so on. Sure, those might help a little but to really bring out the best in our children, we just need to be the parents our children deserve. How do we become the parents our children deserve? How do we bring out the best in our children? There are many ways to do that. But here are the 3 SUREST ways:

1) Develop Strong Parenting Skills

If we want to be parents who know what we are doing, we need to learn the skills and strategies needed to parent well. The fact you are reading this blog shows you are a parent who is looking to constantly up your parenting skills. Congratulations!! Unfortunately, some parents are unable or unwilling to invest time to read up on parenting or attend a parenting workshop or talk. Every stage of our children’s development requires new skills and understanding. Parenting is a job that requires constant on-the-job training if we want to do it well. If you want to learn more, check out my series of Decoding Your Child™ programs.

2) Understand Physiological Development of Our Children

When we understand our children’s physiological development, we know what they can or cannot do. When it comes to babies and toddlers, we KNOW their physical limitations. We obviously can’t give hard solid food to babies whose teeth have not come in so we don’t push them to eat solids before they are ready. We know our babies need to be watched over constantly so they don’t get hurt. We know it takes them many falls before they finally learn to walk so we do not insist they walk before they can crawl. We set our expectations and we encourage them based on what they are physically capable of doing.

Likewise, when our children become teenagers, we know they reach puberty and are maturing sexually so we might talk to them about the birds and the bees (actually, that talk needs to be done BEFORE the onset of puberty). Generally, parents also understand teenagers are temperamental because of hormonal influx so we cut them more slack. But why are teenagers so absent-minded? Why do they persist on bad behaviors despite knowing the dire consequences of their actions? Shouldn’t they know better?

The reason for these non-sensible, they-should-know-better behavior is because the prefrontal cortex (decision making faculty) of a teen’s brain is the last part of the brain to be developed. Their ability to weigh outcomes, make judgments and control emotions is still immature. Couple that with the advanced development of the nucleus accumbens (fun seeking faculty) and we end up with teenagers who do as they please regardless of consequences. When we understand the physiological development in the brains of our teens during this period of time, we would be a lot more understanding and gentler in our interactions with them.

Permissiveness Vs Understanding and Empathy
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should just let our children behave the way they do because that’s how they are wired. Being permissive and letting the children run wild without guidance is NOT what good parenting is about. Instead, we are aiming for understanding and empathy. When we know why they behave the way they do, we can guide and help them better.

For example, when we give a toddler a spoon to feed herself, we know she is going to make a mess because she neither has the muscle coordination nor concentration to feed herself properly. So instead of scolding her when she does make a mess, we guide and help her hold the spoon properly and we do it repeatedly until she gets it. We might even invite her to help us clean up the mess she made, not because we want to punish her, but because we want her to feel empowered to help. Very often, it’s not the act, in this case, cleaning up, that conveys meaning. It is the way we want the act done. The tone and intention we set when inviting her to clean up sends the message of whether it is a punishment or an invitation for her to help.

When it comes to teens, we tend to think of them as mini-adults, capable of thinking, feeling and reasoning the way we do. But most teens are NOT mini-adults. They might be as tall as an adult, at least my teenager is taller than I am, but their brains are not as developed as adult brains. Our teens are doing what they are doing with what they have, and believe it or not, they are trying their best. They just lack the ability to make wise decisions because their prefrontal context is not fully developed. Hence, as their parents, we “help” them make wise decisions by putting in place systems, structures and maybe even constant guidance under our eyes to keep them on task. It is imperative that we do so with love and gentleness, just as we would be gentle in helping our toddler feed herself and in inviting her to clean up her own mess.

With our understanding of the physiological development of our children at different stages of their lives, we know what they are physically able to do. It prevents us from having unreasonably high expectations. At the same time, it prevents the children from feeling they disappointed us because they cannot meet our expectations. And because now our expectations are reasonable and achievable, we are better able to help them meet those expectations, thereby helping them be the best they can be based on their abilities.

3) Understand Psychological Development of Our Children

While it is easier to see the physiological development in children, when it comes to psychological development, parents are typically in the dark. Do we realize that from birth till the age of 3, our children’s sense of security and confidence come from how promptly and lovingly their cries are attended to? And because of how vulnerable our children are during that period of time, they form very deep connections with their primary caregivers, especially if the caregivers are loving and nurturing? Do parents realize that when we fail to connect deeply with our babies when they are young, there will always be some sort of invisible unexplainable emotional distance between us and our children as they grow up? When we are aware of the psychological development of our babies and the impact our actions have on them, would we parent a little differently when our children are young?

It is still possible for us, working parents, to establish strong ties with our little ones. In Singapore’s society where domestic helpers are common in households, some parents rely on their helpers to do everything that is childcare related. However, I would urge all parents to make it a point to be the ones who respond to our babies cries when we are home. We can set aside time to play with them, have meals with them and put them to bed. We can be the ones who carry them when we go out. If possible, be the person who bathes or showers them, be the person who brush their teeth. These are intimate caregiving activities that bond a child to his caregiver. The more effort we put in to giving care to our babies, the deeper our connection with them will be. And a strong parent-child connection is crucial when our children are growing up and we want to influence and guide their behaviour.

What about our teens? They too undergo psychological development. Their self consciousness is at its peak. They think that everyone is looking at their every single move. They fret about having said something wrong because they are certain everyone had heard them and would remember it for life. If we embarrass our teens in public, they will never forget it. They might also never forgive us because in their minds, whoever had witnessed them being embarrassed would always remember it. The teens will even believe that those people are talking about the incident behind their backs ALL THE TIME. Knowing that, would we be mindful of our interactions with our teens, especially in public?Would we be more understanding of their social awkwardness? This is but one example of psychological development in teens.

When we understand the psychology of our children, and where they are at at different stages of their lives, we will become more mindful on the impact of our actions and decisions on them. And when we become mindful of our impact on our children, we will do our best to impact them in the most positive way possible. And when we do that, we are  bringing out the best in them

 

Do share with us how you bring out the best in our children.

– Vivian –