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 –

 

Keep Them Safe (Part 2)

As a young parent many years ago, I had worried about child abduction, car accidents and even earthquakes (we were in living Vancouver then). Slowly, I learnt that some worst-case scenarios were beyond my control. It was no use worrying about them. We can be mentally prepared and teach our children what to do in the event of those situations, but worrying does not help one bit.

We Have Some Control Over Their Safety

There is something, however, that we as parents have some level of control over. And that is car safety. In our recent post, I wrote about making wearing helmets a habit whenever our children ride bicycles or scooters or go roller blading. Today, I will touch on seat belts and car seats.

Like helmets, car seats and seat belts may be uncomfortable. In fact, they seem utterly useless most of the time UNTIL the one time they are needed. And if they were not put into use at that ONE moment they were needed, we may find ourselves uttering the dreaded, “If only…”

We Grew Up Without Them, Didn’t We?

Seat belts were never deemed to be a matter of LIFE or DEATH when we were growing up. My family grew up never buckling up while in a car, until it was made mandatory by law for those riding in the front passenger seat to buckle up. I never ever saw or heard of a car seat growing up, much less sat in one, as car seats were non-existent in those days (yes, I belong to that era). No one I knew, adult or child, ever died in a car accident. The odds of surviving without a car seat or seat belt seemed really good. Why should we suffer the inconvenience and discomfort of these safety devices?

Horror Stories

Fast forward to when I was working in an Orthopaedics Department 15 years ago. One of my friends from Vancouver General Hospital is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon. He shared with my wife and me a clinical case. He had been treating a teenage girl for years for injuries she sustained from a car accident she was in when she was a toddler. That girl needed braces to help her walk and because she was still growing, her braces needed to be changed frequently. He then said something that I would never forget. He said, “She could have walked away from that accident without a scratch. The reason why I’m still treating her 10 years after her accident is because she wasn’t in a car seat.” He added, “If parents could see the kinds of injuries sustained by babies and little children from car accidents, injuries and deaths which are totally preventable with a car seat, they will NEVER EVER let their children ride in a car without strapping them in.”

Make Strapping In A Habit

Thanks to his advice, on top of working in an Orthopaedics Department, we had put each and every single one of our children in a car seat for as many years as possible. Each of them went through a phase where they would squirm, kick and scream whenever they were strapped in. But we never relented or gave up. We always told them that buckling up in the car was non-negotiable because we wanted them to be safe.

Our #1 cried non-stop from the moment he was strapped in till we arrived at our destination and carried him out of his car seat. #2 cried till she threw up and continued crying till we arrived. #3 bucked like a wild horse, and yes, cried the whole journey.

Yet without fail, after a few weeks of crying EVERY SINGLE TIME they were strapped to their car seat, somehow, they would all get used to it. Then miraculously, they would “graduate” to wanting to buckle themselves up as soon as we got into the car. And once they grew out of their car seats, and subsequently their booster seats, they would automatically put on their seat belts. Yes, automatically, by themselves.

To further instill in our children the need to be buckled up, my wife and I would always verbally announce that we ourselves were buckled up before we started our engine. Now that my children are older and can buckle themselves in, sometimes we would start the engine without checking (especially if we are in a hurry). But my children would protest and insist we shut off the engine and wait till they are all buckled up. And we do oblige. Continuing to instill the habit of safety, of strapping themselves in, especially since we still have a preschooler in the car, remains important to my wife and me.

All It Takes Is ONE Accident

Fortunately for us, touch wood, we have never been in an accident where we can prove that the car seat or seat belts have saved us and our children. A friend of ours, however, can attest to how the car seat and seat belts had saved his family. Years ago, their car had hit a patch of black ice and overturned on the way home from a winter trip. Luckily, all the adults had their seat belts on and his little boy was strapped in his car seat. No one sustained any injuries. Today his son is formidable ice hockey goalie. His story could have been very different if the little boy hadn’t been strapped in. His story could have been very different if my friend and his wife had not had their seatbelts on.

So parents, please help your children develop the habit of buckling up whenever they ride in a car. Yes, it’s hard to buckle a screaming, kicking, buckling baby in the car seat. Yes, we are highly competent drivers; we can drive as safely as possible; we can drive slowly. But we cannot control the road conditions. We cannot control how other drivers drive. What if the car hydropaned during a rain storm, or if we hit a patch of oil spill on the road? What if another driver was reckless or inexperienced and hit us? Accidents are called accidents because no one had intended for them to happen.

Correct Use of Car Seat

Like helmets, car seats are useless if they are not used properly. So how do we ensure we are using the car seat correctly?

a) Put Children Under 2 years Old in Rear Facing Car Seats
Children under 2 years old have very weak neck muscles. If they are in forward facing position, they could get seriously injured in the event the car jerks to a sudden stop. Rear facing car seats will prevent unnecessary serious whiplash injuries on these young children.

b) Secure Car Seat Tightly
Unlike the cars we had in US and Canada, the cars in Singapore do not seem to come with the LATCH system. These anchors and tethers help to tightly secure car seats to the seats on which they are placed on. I really wish LTA would insist upon cars having this feature for the safety of our children.

Car seat latch

(Photo credit: www.upworthy.com )

Until it becomes a common feature in our cars, as parents, we can only do our best to secure our children’s car seats with seat belts. If you can wriggle the car seat and it can slide, it is too loose and will not be able to protect the child sitting in it. To tightly secure the car seat for our 3-year-old, we press our knee on the empty car seat, pushing it as far into the seat as possible and then pull the seat belt threaded through the car seat to tighten it as much as we can. When this is done properly, the car seat will not wiggle a millimeter when you try to shake it from its base.

c) Tighten The Harness On the Car Seat
The harness on the car seat needs to be snug against the child, regardless of whether the car seat is rear or forward facing. Of course it should not be so tight as to make it difficult for the child to breathe. However, it should not be loose enough for you to slide you hand through it. If the impact of the car is high enough and the child is not snuggly fitted into his car seat, he can actually slide out of his car seat and be propelled forward, unprotected. To know if the harness is snug enough, try the pinch test. If you can pinch the harness after your child is strapped in, it is too loose.

Car seat pinch

The Pinch Test: Too loose
(Photo credit: www.newkidscenter.com)

d) Proper Threading Of The Harness
Why are there so many slits on the back of the car seat? When your child is seated rear facing in the car seat, the harness should emerge slightly below his shoulders from the back. That will prevent him from sliding upward when the car jerks to a sudden stop. When your child is seated forward facing in the car seat, the harness should emerge slightly above her shoulders from behind so that her shoulders don’t get crushed if the car jerks to a sudden stop. As our child grows, we will need to adjust the harness accordingly.

Car Seats And Seat Belts Save Lives

Car seats save lives. Seat belts save lives. As parents, not only do we want to insist on our children being buckled up, we need to lead by example ourselves and buckle up even if we are in the back seat. All it takes is one, just one, accident to show us that car seat and seat belts are essential. If the time comes and we didn’t have them on, it might be too late to say, “If only….”

 

Read our previous blog post on helmet safety.

– Juay –

Keep Them Safe

To me, the most painful phrase we tend to use when things go wrong is, “If only…” This phrase is highly unproductive and leads us to either lay blame or instill guilt. Yet, when we hear of fatal accidents that could have been avoided, it automatically surfaces.

An Unfortunate Death

A couple of weeks ago, Sam Koh suffered serious head injuries when he fell from his electric scooter and passed away the next day. His younger brother, Benson, had told The New Paper that his brother “just wore a cap, but didn’t wear a helmet. He’s an expert. He has been riding for a long time.”

My heart aches for his family and friends. Such a promising young man’s life cut short just like that. His life has been so needlessly lost at a young age of 23. If only…

Let Sam Not Die In Vain

It is with sadness and togetherness with the family and friends of Sam that I wrote this article. It is my desire to not let him die in vain, to use this incident as an opportunity for others to learn so that more people will be saved. One life lost in this manner is one too many. What can we learn from this incident? How can we prevent a similar occurrence?

We Grew Up Without Helmets, Didn’t We?

I’ll confess. I’ve never ridden the bicycle with a helmet when I was growing up. I just went to East Coast, rented a bicycle and sped around. I was never taught about wearing a helmet then. I only started wearing a helmet regularly after I enlisted in National Service. No one I knew ever died because they had ridden without a helmet.

Horror Stories Of Cycling Without A Helmet

It was only after I became a father that the importance of a helmet while riding a bicycle was instilled in me. Maybe because at that time, I was working in an Orthopaedics Department and heard horror stories from emergency personnel of cyclists dying or suffering severe head injuries because they did not wear a helmet. Those were deaths and injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a simple device called a HELMET. The importance of wearing a helmet was brought closer to home following an accident experienced by a colleague who cycled to work everyday. One day, a truck bumped into the back of this colleague’s bicycle while he was cycling to work and he literally flew off his bike. He was badly bloodied up and his helmet cracked in two upon impact on the ground. If he had not had a helmet on, his skull would have fractured instead of the helmet and he probably wouldn’t have lived to tell his tale.

Wearing Helmets As A Rule

We were living in Vancouver at that time and it is a local rule that all cyclists must wear a helmet. When my son took his first cycling lesson at the age of 4, the instructors coached and taught the importance of wearing a helmet while cycling. Two years later we moved to the US and my son joined Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as a cub scout. It is a written rule in BSA that all scouts and accompanying adults taking part in any activity on bicycles and roller blades must wear a helmet. No helmet, no wheels.

So from young, my children were not allowed to be on anything with wheels (of course that excluded buses and cars) if they did not have their helmets on. As soon as they rode their first tricycle, bicycle and scooter, or put on their roller blades, we made them wear their helmets. There were no exceptions. No helmet, no wheels. That was and still is our rule to this day. Even if they wanted to cycle in or around the house, they needed to have their helmets on.

Make Wearing Helmets A Habit

Many parents may think that the little ones don’t go very fast on their bicycles or scooters. Even if they fall, they won’t hurt themselves very badly. However, putting on the helmet at a young age is not about whether the children are fast enough to hurt themselves or not. It is about developing a habit. As parents, we can only hope that putting on a helmet every time they get on wheels becomes a habit that will carry over through their teenage years to adulthood.

Sadly, in Singapore, we see many people, children and adults alike, without helmets when they cycle, scoot, skate or blade. When our children ask why they have to wear their helmets when others don’t, we explain that it’s our family rule because we want everyone to be safe. Once the children are used to putting on their helmets when they are young, putting on their helmets when they are older becomes a natural habit.

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It’s Easier To Instil Habit When They Are Young

When the children are not competent on wheels, it is easy for us parents to insist they wear a helmet. If they have never needed a helmet when they were younger, slower and less sure on their wheels, will they think they need a helmet when they become more competent and go faster on their wheels? Probably not. And therein lies the danger.

My 3-year-old knows our helmet rule too. Whenever she wants to ride on her scooter or balance bike, she will go look for her helmet. My teenager also knows if he forgets to bring his helmet when we go roller blading, he can sit by the side and watch the bags for the rest of us. As an accompanying adult in any activities on wheels, I make sure I set a good example by wearing my helmet too.

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Wearing Helmets Right

While wearing a helmet is very important, it is practically useless if it is not a sturdy helmet or if it is not worn properly.

a) The right helmet
Getting a good helmet is important. When getting a helmet, choose one that has passed ANSI or ASTM tests. Such helmets will be able to absorb the impact and protect the skull. The box for the helmet will indicate clearly that the helmet had been certified and there will be stickers inside the helmet indicating likewise.

b) Helmets have limited shelf life
The foam in a helmet has a limited shelf life typically of about 5 years. Beyond this period, the foam will have deteriorated and not able to absorb impact forces even though it may look perfectly good on the outside. Get a new helmet if yours is old. Do not use hand-me-downs or second-hand helmets especially if you do not know how many years it has been in use. A helmet with poor material will not serve the purpose of protecting your skull.

c) Buckle it
So now you have a new certified helmet.  Just putting the helmet on the head without buckling it is useless. As soon as we fall, that helmet will fly off our heads, defeating the purpose of wearing a helmet in the first place. So make sure the helmet is clipped on.

d) Strap it tight
Got the helmet buckled? Fantastic. But let’s make sure it is snug against your head. After buckling the helmet on your head, jerk your head around a little, forward, backward, sideward. If the helmet slides, it’s too loose. Adjust the straps till the helmet doesn’t slide around. If no matter how you adjust the straps the helmet still slides, it is not a well fitting helmet.  Get another one.  Of course there is not need to tighten the straps so much that you choke yourself. There are helmets with tightening devices at the back of the helmet. Those help to hold the helmets in position when they are properly put on.

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Invest in a new, certified and well-fitted helmet. It is worth it.

Let’s Keep Everyone, Especially Our Children, Safe

Let us all help protect our children. Help them develop the habit of putting on a helmet whenever they get on wheels, be it a bicycle, scooter, roller blades, long board, hover board, unicycle, etc. We never know when that helmet might save lives. Let us never have to utter the phrase, “If only…”

 

If you have enjoyed this post, you might like Part 2 of my Keep Them Safe series.

– Juay –

8 Ways to Strengthen Love at Home

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

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

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

Mother Teresa, Nobel Lecture, 11 Dec 1979

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

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

Questions to ponder:

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

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

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

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

– Vivian –