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 –

5 Ways Young Teens Are Like Toddlers (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about why our teens behave like toddlers, throwing temper tantrums and exerting their need for independence even though they cannot manage or handle that independence. I also shared some strategies on how parents can manage these issues. If you missed that post, you can find it here. In this post, we will look at more ways our young teens are like toddlers and what we can do to help them.

3) The Need For Transition Time

How many of you feel frustrated that when you give a command to your teen to do his homework, take a shower or go to bed NOW, you are met with either indifference or a temper tantrum? Well, you are not alone.

Like toddlers, our young teens are very absorbed in whatever it is they are currently doing. Like toddlers, our young teens cannot transition from one activity to another at the drop the hat, even though a year or two ago, or even a month ago, they could do it. Like toddlers, our young teens need transition time.

What is going on?

Like toddlers, our young teens want to be in control. Making them move from one activity to another without warning makes them feel out of control. And of course, that triggers resistance in them.  And when they feel resistance, they will put up a fight.

What could parents do?

Even as adults, we DO NOT LIKE to be interrupted and told to drop whatever it is we are doing to go on to the next thing. Yet we CAN do it. We may not like it, but we can definitely do it. That is because logically, we understand why we need to move on. Emotionally, we are able to control our displeasure. So we do what needs to be done even if we are not happy about it. But it is very different in the case of our teens. Logically, they may understand why they need to move on. Emotionally, however, they are unable to control their displeasure. And I would like to stress the lack of control is not their fault. So they WILL flare up.

The way to manage transitions then is to give sufficient warning so it does not come as a shock to our teens. I typically give three warnings to my teen. The first warning (usually 20-30 mins prior) lets him know that he has limited time left on what he is doing and he needs to start wrapping up. The second warning (usually 5-10 mins prior) lets him know the transition is inevitable and eminent and he HAS TO wrap things up SOON. By the time he hears the third warning (which is “Ok, time’s up, let’s move on”), he knows he has been given the opportunity to wrap things up. Whether he did it or not was his choice. What he gets is he was given a choice to wrap up whatever it was he was doing. And if he did not, he has less reasons to get mad. He was in control of how he wanted to leave the activity he was doing. I have found using the 3-warning system to be very effective in getting his cooperation on moving on to the next thing with minimal temper flare ups.

4) The Need For Routine

As our children grow up, we become more lax and allow them leeway in doing what they need to do. We think they are old enough to get their school work done. We believe they are sensible enough to know they need to brush their teeth twice a day and get a daily shower, with shampoo and soap. We are certain they know what time to go to bed and will go to bed when the time comes. Then we realize when they hit the early teen years, that most, if not all, of these things do not get done automatically, even though these were things that they have been doing on their own since they were 5 or 6 years old.

What is going on?

When our children hit the early teen years, they become highly distractable. They lose track of time and have an over-inflated confidence of what they can achieve. Combine all these traits and we get young teens who procrastinate on school work until it is too late to get it all done. We also get young teens who forget to brush their teeth or take a shower, not because they are lazy or dirty, but because they honestly thought they had already done it. No kidding!

What could parents do?

All of us thrive better with routine, even as adults. It is less stressful when we know what is coming up next. We know it helps our toddlers. For our young teens, it is even more critical. With the distractions they encounter all the time, routines help them anchor passage in time. As much as they may resist the structure, we need to put routines back in their lives, and remind them constantly to stick to those routines. The important thing is for us to design the routine with our teens’ inputs. And then it is up to US to help them stick to their chosen routine.

5) The Struggle With Sleep

Sleep. A hot topic amongst parents with little ones and parents of teens. Remember the time when our little ones gave up naps, were cranky all the time and yet refused to go to bed? Then our children hit early teens, and it feels like déjà vu, except this time, the bedtime battles seem bigger and more difficult to manage. Our teens refuse to go to bed at bedtime. Then they cannot wake up in the morning because they have gone to bed too late the night before. We may force, cajole, coax, bribe, threaten them to get them to bed but it is useless.

What is going on?

Blame it on the hormones and the shift in the circadian rhythm of our young teens. Generally, the teens stay awake 2 hours longer than when they were younger. That, together with the workload they have and the stress they face, their ability to fall asleep at the desired time decreases.

What could parents do?

Lovingly establish a routine, with your teen, and stick to it. It helps our teens to know what to expect. Sometimes they are so distracted and disoriented they do not know what to do, so they continue doing what they have been doing and “forget” to sleep. It definitely helps to establish the routine with our teens inputs. Have THEM work backwards what time they need to sleep based on what time THEY think they need to wake up and how many hours THEY think they need to sleep.

What if they say they need 5 hours of sleep? Agree to it. We know they need more, but for now, let us agree to it. Then ensure they go to bed at the time THEY decided based on their 5-hour sleep requirement. After a week, review it with them. Did 5 hours of sleep work for them? Did they feel tired and cranky mid-day even if they had fallen asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows and gotten their 5 hours of sleep. If they still felt tired, how many hours do THEY think they should sleep? Revise the time for bed. At the end of each week, review again and see if any changes need to be made.

This is going to take a few weeks. But trust me, when the teens are the ones who make the decisions, they will stick to their decisions better. If we cram our decisions down their throats, they will find all ways and means to circumvent those decisions and they will feel resentful towards us.

The other advantage to this technique is this. By helping our teens come to the right decisions themselves, we are teaching them how to make sound decisions. We are teaching them how to review and modify their decisions so they can achieve their desired outcome. We can use this method to help them make decisions in all aspects of their lives, not just setting the time for bed. In fact, I would caution parents NOT to make decisions for their teens. Do not explain why you made the decision or how you came to the decision. Instead, ask them questions, let them make the decisions, review those decisions after some time to see if they work, and if those did not, let the teens decide what they need to do.

Unlike with toddlers where parents can make most of the decisions, when it comes to teens, we need to step back and help our teens DERIVE the decisions to make.  Other than that, our young teens are like toddlers in many ways. It is a confusing and frustrating time for them.  And they need extra love and attention from us to get through this stage.  Hang in there.  This too shall pass.

–  Vivian –


5 Ways Young Teens Are Like Toddlers (Part 1)

We have all heard of the “Terrible Twos”, though personally, I do not feel the twos are terrible. There is also a phrase for teens. Can you guess what it is? Yes, “terrible teens”. But just as I do not believe in the terrible twos, I do not believe in the terrible teens too.

It is my belief that when we understand why our toddlers and teens behave the way they do, we can provide the understanding and support that they need. And once those core needs are met, the developmental phase will be over sooner than if we were to fight their development. And when we give the necessary support to our teens, they, and we, will emerge stronger and more complete.

So, do you feel like your young teen is behaving like a toddler? If you do, congratulations! Your teen is normal and you are not alone. Research has shown that our young teens, despite their physical size, do regress into toddlerhood. So how are they like toddlers?

1) Emotional Outbursts and Temper Tantrums

Most of us know our children have hit adolescence when we experience their explosive tempers. Like toddlers, they flare up when they do not get their way. Like toddlers, they throw a fit when they cannot get something done. Like toddlers, they are prickly and get bothered easily by other people. Little things seem to trigger them and they storm around like little tornadoes. Many times, our young teens feel angry and do not know why. Rest assured this is normal behavior.

What is going on?

Yes, hormones play a big part in the mood swings our young teens experience. But there is actually more going on.

Unlike our toddlers, our young teens are under a lot of stress from school, friends, parents and more. Typically, they are deemed to be young adults, capable of being responsible for their own schedule. However, research studies on the brain have shown that the prefrontal cortex of our young teens are not developed enough to do what we expect of them. They are easily distracted and unable to make or keep to schedule. What results then is a mismatch of our expectations against their capability. Unable to deliver results repeatedly, they feel stressed and demoralised. When we couple that with the hormones surging in their bodies, they cannot control the emotions that flare up as a result.

What could parents do?

It helps for us to understand the physiological and psychological development that our teens are going through. When we understand, we will naturally be more empathetic to our children. We will also then be able to provide appropriate support our children need. This is a time when we need to shower more love on our teens. Actually our children need us to shower love on them ALL THE TIME. But our young teens need even more of our love because they feel bewildered by their own emotional outbursts.

What to do with all those temper tantrums? It is our natural inclination to want to shut down these negative exhibitions of emotions, to insist our children “stop this nonsense” or “get a grip”. However, our teens need to feel safe to express themselves (as long as they do not go overboard with their tantrums). Luckily, most parents understand this has to do with the hormonal development in their young teens and do cut their children more slack.

However, we need to do even more. The answer to helping our teens get over their “tantrum” stage is actually rather counter-intuitive. The more they tantrum, the more love we need to shower upon them. It helps to tell our teens, “I understand you are upset. I’ll leave you alone while you work this through. But I am always available when you need to talk.” First, it signals our sensitivity towards how she is feeling. It also tells her we accept her for who she is. Finally, it lets her know she is not alone, that we are available for her. Then when the storm blows over, we can talk things over and resolve issues together. But at the point of our teen throwing a tantrum, our shutting them down does nothing to help. They may not exhibit their tantrums in the future, but their relationship with us would be severely strained.

Of course, there will be times when their temper tantrums go overboard and they start hitting people or smashing objects. What do we do then? That is the time when we have to draw the line and let them know that is not an acceptable behaviour. We need to be firm when setting this boundary. However, we need to understand that our teens need to physically expel the energy that wells up within them and we can help them redirect their energy into sports. I usually tell my son to go for a run or do some pushups to work off the energy.

2) The Need For Independence

Remember the time when our toddlers want to do everything themselves from putting on their own clothes to tying their own shoes laces? Remember how they disintegrate into tears and tantrums when they cannot do it and yet still refuse any help? Well, our teens go through that too. They want to be independent. They think they know what they need to do. They think they can do it. They want us to stop directing them or controlling them. But what happens? Things do not get done. They get distracted. They forget. They fail to manage their time well enough to do what needs to be done. Then the whole world comes down upon them. Teachers punish them for not getting their school work done. Parents punish them for getting into trouble with school, for not being disciplined enough. And our children fly into a rage. Sounds familiar?

What is going on?

It is a natural and healthy phenomenon for our teens to exert their independence. After all, we cannot baby them all their lives, can we? However, many parents make the mistake of thinking their teens have grown up and hand independence totally to their teens only to realize that their teens keep messing up again and again.

In some ways our teens may appear mature. They can reason. They can think. They know right from wrong. Whether they exhibit that maturity all the time or not is another question. Despite their seemingly mature behavior, the brain power of our young teens is not mature enough to hold on to the prize at the end of their toil. They may know they have a project due at the end of the week, but they are easily distracted. And the reason that happens is because their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for making decisions, is still under-developed. Even in their distraction, they are not worried about the looming deadline because they strongly believe they have things under control, that they can deliver results. Then before they realize it, the deadline hits them in their faces and it dawns upon them that they cannot do it. Then panic, shame, guilt, and fear grip them. Roll these emotions up with their hormones and their lack of self control, we get an emotional eruption.

What could parents do?

Again, understanding what our teens are going through and understanding why they are doing what they are doing help a great deal. It does not make the teens right in behaving or reacting the way they do. It just helps us manage our own expectations and realize our teens actually need more help than they, or even we, think.

Many parents believe that once our children hit the teen years, they should be mature enough to manage themselves and their school work. That cannot be further away from the truth. Our 11 and 12 year-olds are more capable of self discipline and time management than when they reach 13 and 14 years old. And yes, I am talking about the same child. That is why parents are typically taken aback by the “slacking” they observe in their young teens. However, research has shown that this regression is normal. Unfortunately, it is highly counter-intuitive to parents that when their children hit the teen years, they need more supervision and guidance than they did a year or two ago. Many parents resist and resent having to give that extra supervision. “You are old enough to….” is a common adage we hear from parents when they talk to their teens. That is why  understanding how the teens’ brains develop and understanding how they think will help us a great deal in helping and supporting our teens.

So how do we support our teens in their quest for independence? On the one hand, we need to acknowledge that we must grant them independence. The more we suppress their independence, the more they will fight for and struggle for it. On the other hand, we know they cannot manage total independence. It is a fine balance between giving our teens the independence they need and ensuring we hold the reins tight enough for them to get things done.

So what should we do?

Threats and punishments for non-compliance have little or no effect in changing our teens’ behavior, which is why parents tend to get really exasperated. What our teens need from us at this stage is our guidance even if they hate to ask for or to get it from us. One solution is to give them freedom to decide what to do when it is their free time (as long as it is not illegal or morally wrong). However, when it comes to important stuff, like their school work or their safety, we need to micromanage a little more. Our children have reached the age where, unfortunately, we need to provide constant vigilance. We cannot leave them alone and trust they can get things done. Our constant vigilance will include giving them reminders, asking them to show us what has been done on a daily basis, or even sitting down with them while they get their work done.

When we understand why we need to reinvest the time and energy on our teens to keep them on track, we will be less resentful and more empathetic. Our teens will sense our acceptance of them and be grateful to us for being there when they need us. Of course, they will not realize this till they are in their twenties, but we are parenting for the long term, aren’t we?

In my next post, I will cast light on more ways our teens are like toddlers. Stay tuned to understand why our young teens behave the way they do and what we can do to support them.

Till the next time, dig deep into your reserve for patience and empathy. Do share with us whether the two strategies above help you understand and manage your young teen a little better.

– Vivian –

PS: Continue here for 5 Ways Teens Are Like Toddlers (Part 2)


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 –


Decoding Your Child

Thank you for following our blog Decoding Your Child. “Why name the blog Decoding Your Child?” you may ask. The reason is two-fold. This blog post will touch on the first reason.

Firstly, the purpose of the blog is to help you decode YOUR child. Decoding someone means truly understanding him/her. When we truly understand our children, we are better able to guide them and help them develop. Decoding someone takes time and effort, and most of all, patience. Patience is a rare virtue in a fast spinning society like ours. We demand efficiency and instant results. If we don’t, someone might surpass us and render us obsolete. At least that is what happens in the economic world. What about in the world of growing children? Can we demand efficiency and instant results?

Farmers Manipulating Crop

Let us for a moment just look at farmers. Can farmers prompt a crop to grow as fast as it can? Of course they can. They load the crops with herbicides, fungicides, unnatural fertilizers etc. They would do anything to get rid of anything that poses as a threat and add anything that will help their crops grow bigger and faster. Heck, they would even genetically modify the plants so their crops can withstand the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on them, or even “better”, they would create plants that kill the pests that eat them. Makes you wonder what happens when we eat those plants, don’t you? But that’s a separate topic for another day.

Farmers Following the Money

Some farmers will also focus on growing crops that make them the most money. When corn was selling well, everyone wanted to grow corn. They cleared their land of other productive but not economically high yield crops to grow corn, thinking the corn will yield them better returns. Then what happened? There was an oversupply of corn. The value of corn plunged and many corn farmers lost the shirts on their backs and went bankrupt. Those who chose not to jump onto the bandwagon of corn growers survived and thrived.

Parents Moulding Their Children

How does farming apply to parenting? Like farming, parenting takes time. It takes cultivation. Like farmers, parents yearn to get rid of as many obstacles as possible, so that their children have the best environment to grow. We do everything in our power to remove anything that distracts our children from doing well in school so they can focus on growing uninterrupted. We do our best to “fertilize” them with enrichment programs. We schedule their days, hours and minutes so every moment is productive. Staring into empty space is unproductive. Go read a book. Doodling is a waste of time. Go do a workbook. What happens then is that our children stop thinking for themselves. They wait for instructions. They are lost and bored when not told what to do. We engineer creativity out of them. And then we wonder, “How can we teach our children to be creative?”

Parents Following the Money

Don’t get me wrong. Parents have the best intentions for their children. I am a parent, I know. We want our children to succeed. We want to help them find the path that leads to success. However, many parents fall into the trap of following the money. Do well in school, get a good job, earn lots of money. What’s a good job? It used to be being a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, and now a programmer. Let’s all gear our children into those areas. Forget about the less well paying careers of being an artist, actor or sportsperson. What happens? Engineers graduate without an engineering job. Programmers find themselves uncompetitive compared to programmers from other countries. What happened? We pushed our children into a dead-end career and killed their actual passion in the process.

Decode Your Child And Develop Him As He Is

What can we do as parents? Decode our children. Learn what their passions are. Help them develop those passions, even if those passion seem pointless. Case in point. The son of one of my friends loved to surf google map. He spent hours looking at the maps, “visiting” different countries and drove his mom up the wall with his apparent waste of time. Several years later, the knowledge that he gained from his “time-wasting” hobby won him third place in a Geography Bee contest in USA. Where his passion for map reading and learning about countries will lead him in the future remains to be seen. But we know his passion will help him thrive in this area further than someone who is pushed into it.

If your child loves painting, let him paint. Don’t tell him it is a waste of time. You never know if he will become the next Monet or Van Gogh. If your child loves to sing, let her sing. She could be the next Adele. And you know what? She will love her life better doing what she loves than if she were forced to be an engineer, programmer or architect, resigned to being a bathroom singer. When we tell our children, “Don’t sing/paint/play computer games because you can’t make money out of it”, we are programming in our children the inability to make money out of their passion. And guess what, they will NEVER make money out of their passion. But if we help them fan their passion, encourage them to fly as high as they can go with their passion, they might surprise us with their success.

Help Our Children Find Their Hidden Paths

So decode your child. Know him as he is, not what you want him to be. And parent from there. If we want efficiency, the fastest and surest way to success is to follow one’s passion because the one who is walking the path is intrinsically motivated to walk it. And most of the time, the path is already created, just hidden. And our job as parents is to help our children find their hidden paths, not hack a path for them to walk on our behalf.

– Vivian –