Tip #7: 10 House Rules for Gadget Use

Recently, I was very disturbed by the issue of smartphones and iPad usage with my teens. I attended the Singapore Parenting Congress and learnt a lot from the speaker Chong Ee Jay. Mr Chong has been working with youths for the past 10 years and is currently the assistant manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness. He shared with us many of his experiences where youths become so addicted to gaming and their gadgets that they can’t focus in school and even stop communicating with their parents entirely. There was a lot he touched on, which I will detail in another post.

One thing he mentioned was having house rules for gadget usage. He went as far as advising us that when we give our children their first phone, we should tell them that the phone is OURS, so we have the right to take it back if need be. Personally, I think that is very wise (especially if the child is still in primary school) because otherwise, if the child feels the phone is his, he will be very resentful if you take it away from him. For my kids, we give them a phone when they are in P6. Most parents tell me that their kids start asking for a phone from the time they are in P2. Well, they can ask, but it doesn’t mean that we need to give! #4 is in P4 and she has been asking for a phone as almost all her classmates own a phone. I told her there is no need for her to have a phone now as she takes the school bus home.

I had our own rules for gadget usage, but it was verbally communicated and never written down. I guess to be clear, before you hand over a phone or iPad to your child, sit down and discuss the rules and the reasons behind it with him. And don’t forget to be consistent in enforcing the rules. Here’s a sample of our house rules, and you can adapt it to fit your own family circumstances.

1. No watching TV, playing computer or iPad on weekdays.

Last time, I did allow them to watch TV for 1 hour, but when it was time to turn it off they were unhappy. I found it easier to have a complete ban on school days.

2. On weekends, homework must be completed first.

Once they are done with homework, they can use it for 1 hour on Saturdays and 1 hour on Sundays, but it is very hard to enforce especially when I am not at home. Sigh. Haven’t figured a solution for this one.

3. Phones and ipads to be at the charging station by 8.30pm every night.

When I just gave birth to Kate and was too exhausted to check on the older ones, they kept their phones by their bedsides and it constantly beeped with texts or tweets from their friends even at midnight! It is hard for teens to regulate themselves, and they end up not having proper rest for school the next day. For my older girls who are in secondary school, I get them to leave their gadgets to charge near the front door so they can pick it up when they leave for school in the mornings.

4. No gadgets during mealtimes.

What happened with this rule was that the older ones would quickly eat then return to their rooms. When I was describing this scenario halfway to Mr Chong, he already knew what was coming and told me that’s what all teens will do! His suggestion was to set a blanket ban of 1 hour during mealtimes.

5. No gadgets in the toilets.

I heard this one from friends, where for the longest time, they thought their girls just took a long time to bathe. Finally they realised that they were hiding in the bathroom using their phones, and some kids even left the water running as a camouflage.

6. No using gadgets in the car unless urgent.

I realised that as they are sitting behind me, they could be using their phones without us noticing. Not only is it bad for the eyes as the screen is so small and the car is constantly moving, but it also ends up giving some of them a headache.

7. Stop playing within 5 minutes when asked to do so.

Without this rule, the kids will always tell you they are in the middle of a game or some other important job like harvesting fruits etc.

8. Never chat with anyone you do not know online and do not disclose personal information.

You have to constantly teach and remind the kids about internet safety as that is of utmost importance.

9. No gaming during exam periods.

The time should be used for revision or relaxing the mind with outdoor activities.

10. Gadget usage is not a MUST. It is a privilege given by parents and can be taken away.

This one I picked up from Mr Chong, which I think is very important to let the kids know so they don’t think it’s a natural entitlement, especially when almost all their friends seem to have a smartphone.

And of course with rules, there need to be consequences. The most logical consequence of breaking any of the rules is:


Sane tip: Before you give your child a phone, I seriously advice you to sit down and have a long discussion with your child about rules, limits, privacy, not believing everything they read on twitter, the internet or whatever else, and to always come back to us parents if they have any questions at all. Try to keep communication lines open with your children. That is your best bet in helping them to navigate the whole scary digital world out there.

Save tip: For their first phones, I used to give them the old type of flip phones. It is hard to get them these days, so the next best thing is to pass down your old phones to them. I see a lot of kids these days with the latest smartphones. I don’t think it is necessary at all and should be saved as an extremely valuable reward to give your child as motivation if they do well for their ‘O’ levels. If you give your kids things too easily, not only will they get a sense of entitlement, but you will have nothing left to motivate them for their major exams.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Thankful… for blogging perks

When I received an invite to the preview of Disney’s The 7D, I had no intention of going. The thought of driving all the way down to town for the kids to watch some cartoon and fight the weekday traffic home didn’t seem worth the trouble. I casually asked if any of my other mummy blogger friends were going for the media preview and was surprised that a lot of them were. So I asked a really dumb question – Why were they all going?

Because it’s DISNEY! (… silly!)

Being the boring dinosaur mum I am, I was still not convinced that I should lug the kids so far to watch a cartoon. I sounded #1 out and she said I should take the kids. I asked her why, and she said something about how all celebrities attend premiers and it’s the cooool thing to do. Er ok. I’ll be cool this time. She asked me where it was going to be held at and when I told her it was at some cafe called EatPlayLove, she surprised me by saying that she’ll try to join us if she’s off early from school as she likes that cafe.

Captivated by the little dwarfs

As it turned out, the kids had 2 days off from school as the P6s were having their PSLE oral and I couldn’t be more delighted that I had somewhere to take the kids to. After the screening of the animated series loosely based on the Seven Dwarfs, which not only the kids but the adults seemed to be mesmerized by, tea was served. Kate sat and fed herself a whole bowl of Mac n cheese while the older kids helped themselves to burgers, nuggets and fries.

Disney throws good parties!

After they had their fill of happy food, the kids headed to the craft table and occupied themselves while the mummies sat and chatted. The older kids took good care of Kate and she had a swell time crafting as well. Periodically she will come and show me her masterpieces, beaming from ear to ear and saying very loudly, “Look mummy!”

Busy crafting

It was time for a group photo and I think Kate was wondering what the other kids were up to, lining up in a row. Perhaps she was expecting them to break into song and dance.

As we left, the kids were given goody bags with exclusive Disney merchandise. On the way home I asked if they had fun, half expecting them to say it was “ok la”. At 10 & 8, everything is pretty much ‘lame’ to them. I was surprised by their exuberant response “So Fun!” Ah, I guess we can always count on Disney to weave their magic.

Hi ho, hi ho, with goody bags we go
When Kate was born, I was thinking that with 6 kids and the older ones getting more expensive to raise, Kate wouldn’t have much. As it turned out, we have been blessed with lots of unexpected extras.

I’m really glad we came. We could get used to this! Oh, and I do like EatPlayLove cafe.

Don’t forget to tune in to Disney Channel (Starhub Ch312 or SingTel mio TV Ch 234) at 11am on 7 September 2014 to catch the premier episode of The 7D.

Thank you to the lovely people behind Disney for inviting us!

Thankful Tuesdays:

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus

Thankful… for the hub’s cooking
Thankful… for #5’s cooking and caring of Kate
Thankful… for #3 in so many ways
Thankful… for sister-in-law #1

Thankful… for our helper
Thankful… for my family
Thankful… for my mum-in-law

Linking up with:

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

School Stories #2: My son the loanshark

Last week, I got a call from #5’s teacher. Again. This time, it was not for fighting nor for disturbing his classmates. He was being an ah long in school. Apparently, he had lent his classmate 20 cents. The boy returned him $2 the next day and #5 told him, “You give me $2, I’m not giving you change”, and he promptly pocketed the money. The boy related the incident to his mum who called up their form teacher. His teacher told him to return the $1.80 the next day, and that even loansharks don’t charge such exorbitant interest.

The hubs and I talked to him about it but as usual, he clammed up and refused to tell us why he did it. The only thing I could think of to explain his actions was a discussion I had with the girls about CCAs in secondary school. The younger ones were asking what “Entrepreneur club” was all about and I explained something about entrepreneurship being “You buy some items from someone who makes them and you sell it at a higher price to others”. His eyes opened wide and he said firmly, “I’m going to be a businessman like my ah gong”. Perhaps he thought he could ‘charge’ his friend a higher price. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt this time. Hopefully, he really wasn’t intentionally trying to cheat his friend.

We explained to him that we don’t make money from friends and that he was to give or receive the exact amount if he borrowed or lent money from his friends. I decided that this simple explanation would suffice for now so that there was no room for misinterpretation. And as a punishment, the hubs made him return his friend the full $2 so that he would feel the pinch. Ah well, I would never really know what he was thinking. All I know is that with this boy, I have to be constantly on my toes.

The inspiring story behind the Golden Gate Bridge

We’ve all seen countless photos of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, but did you know there’s an inspiring story behind its construction? This was a bridge which everyone said shouldn’t be built and couldn’t be built. By the sheer determination of one man, Joseph Strauss, this engineering feat was accomplished. Not only that, but in those days, for every $1 mil of construction, 1 life was lost. This bridge was to be constructed at a cost of $35 mil and he vowed that he would not lose 35 men. He invented a movable safety net which was constructed under the bridge and in the course of the 5 year construction, 19 men fell into the safety net. These men subsequently formed a club which they called “The halfway to hell club”. Unfortunately, 11 men lost their lives when a chunk of concrete fell and was too heavy for the safety net to withstand. Thanks to one man who made the extra effort, 19 lives were saved, and 19 families were shielded from devastation. I’m sure if we all had a vision and persevered, great things can be done too. Ah, I’m inspired to ram up my engine. There’s so many things I want to do on my bucket list but just have to find the time.

Most photographed bridge in the world

As the boat made it’s way back to Fisherman’s Wharf, we passed Alcatraz, the high-security prison which held the most notorious criminals. It is no more in use and has been converted to a museum and tourist attraction. As I looked out across the waters, the stark contrast of what the bridge and the prison stood for hit me squarely. Imagine, as little babies, there is so much potential ahead of each and everyone of us which could be used for good or evil. As parents, we have such great responsibility to ensure our children go out into the world and bring positive change instead of destruction.

Alcatraz island

The last time I’ve been to San Francisco was about 30 years ago. How it has changed. We passed this futuristic building in Anaheim. Guess what it is? A church! Looks more like something out of Batman. It is in fact the largest glass building in the world.

Used to be Crystal Cathedral

As part of of our pilgrimage to Mexico and California, we visited the many missions along the West Coast. Our first stop was downtown L.A. where we visited the largest Catholic church in L.A. I really liked the beautiful wall tapestry depicting the saints. 

Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels

We met up with Corrine May as she is currently based in L.A. and were looking forward to hearing her sing. However, the 80-year-old docent was so enthusiastic in sharing with us about the history and significance of the various details that he exceeded his tour of the church by more than an hour. How come we don’t feel patriotic like that about our own country?

On our drive up to San Francisco, I fell in love with Pebble Bay. It is home to some of the most renown golf courses in the world and I can definitely see why. Dreaming of retiring here…
17 mile drive

The majesty of the Pacific Ocean is just breathtaking. I could sit here all day. Listening to the sounds of nature. Breathing in the essence of life. Feeling a deep sense of peace. Being humbled by the vast expense of the ocean and being reminded of how little we are in the scheme of things. Writing poetry. Dreaming. I’m getting carried away…

Hello lil’ fella

There are lots of candy stores everywhere, and honestly I have never seen that much sugar on display before. Glad my kids were not with me. I’m sure Kate would have quietly popped a couple in her mouth while no one was noticing. 

Sugar high, anyone?

I just had to take this photo to show my kids. They watch Spongebob and keep going on about crabby patties and crab shacks. They were tickled to see a real one.

I couldn’t leave California without a visit to the beach. Although we were on a tight schedule, I woke up early in the morning and called a cab from our hotel to Pismo beach. The lovely lady cab driver was kind enough to pick me from the same spot 2 hours later. I had the beach almost entirely to myself and it was such an uplifting experience to sit there on the sand, taking in the sight. There is something about the sound of the waves which is so soothing and calming to the spirit.

Swings with a view
It’s been 3 months since I’ve been back and I miss my trip already. Singapore is such a concrete jungle that being in the midst of nature and vast expanses of space is not a usual part of our day or even our week.

Ok I’ve decided. Starting from this year-end school holidays, I must make an effort to take the kids to venture into our surrounding islands every school holiday or long weekend as they don’t even know what their souls are yearning for. All that buzz, all that rush. A nature detox is what we need.

Linking up with:

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Kate’s antics: Meow…

Kate seems to be fond of four-legged friends.

“Mum, can I touch him?”

Before I could even look around and ask if the lady was the owner of the cat, Kate bent down to give it a scratch. Thankfully it was not a stray cat.

“You need a scratch right?”
She then made herself comfortable to pat the cat. Never mind that it was by the sidewalk. I seemed to have raised a little kampung girl.
“Pat pat, cutie cat”
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Thankful… for #4’s resilience and forgiveness

#4 has always been a very sensitive child. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it when she was younger. During the crazy days when it was a daily challenge taking care of the 5 of them, I would scream at them when I got angry. And that happened ALOT. Poor #4 was the most affected because of her sensitive nature. Thank goodness children are resilient, and are able to bounce back even when assaulted by our bad parenting.

These past few years, I have gradually come to see her beautiful nature. She has become my morale compass. When I am mean or getting too wound up and treating everyone around me harshly, she will write me little notes which never fail to stop me in my tracks and re-centre me. A few weeks ago when I was feeling down, she wrote me notes with such sincerity and concern that it made me feel better.
When I watch her looking after Kate or her little cousin, my heart fills with pride and joy. She handles them with such gentleness, patience, and care. This child has a heart of gold. I’m so ashamed that for most of the past 10 years of her life, I haven’t helped her to blossom and shine but instead have neglected her in my busyness. Even her kindergarten teachers noticed it and advised me to spend more time with her. I kept telling myself to do that, but life has a way of pushing you around with more pressing things which need your attention. She was never demanding and quietly followed along in the background. Yet, despite all that, she has still managed to cling on to the beauty of her soul.

There was one time, when she first entered Primary 1. She cried every single day for about two months. Not only because of the transition into a big school, but I had made the very tough decision to put her in a different school from her 3 older sisters. To make matters worse, the adults kept praising her for getting into this ‘good’ school, and her siblings retaliated by telling her “what’s so good about your school, etc” and gave her a hard time. Her crying spells got on everybody’s nerves and #2 said in exasperation, “You are her mum. Can’t you make her stop?!” I tried all means to get her to stop but to no avail and I ended up ignoring her because I was at my wit’s end. I wished she could be more like her sisters.

One evening, the whole family had to go for a dinner party and we left her at home with our helper as she had a fever. I scolded her for not listening to me and drinking enough water and sleeping on time, and added in harsh words for good measure about always crying and being so hard to handle. The next morning, her fever broke and I said “Oh great! Your fever’s gone.” She told me that when she went to bed, she prayed that she will get well the next day. I asked her what else did she pray for? And she quietly replied, “That all of you will enjoy yourselves at the party.” I was stunned. A sick 6-year-old, home alone, having been miserable for weeks, yet her concern was still for others. I’m sure if my boss had given me a good dressing down and told me to work overtime while he went off for a party, wishing him a good time would be the furthest thing from my mind.

As I am writing this, the memories are slowly returning and it saddens me to think that I have been such a horrible mum to her and how much emotional turmoil she must have gone through. I spoke to her about the past and was dismayed that she remembered many of the incidences (which some I have even forgotten). Sigh. I must guard my harsh words more carefully as it could stay on with them forever. I asked her if she will forgive me for being a bad mummy in the past and she nodded.

Indeed, I have much to learn from her.

Thankful Tuesdays:

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus

Thankful… for the hub’s cooking
Thankful… for #5’s cooking and caring of Kate
Thankful… for #3 in so many ways
Thankful… for sister-in-law #1

Thankful… for our helper
Thankful… for my family
Thankful… for my mum-in-law

Linking up with:

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

iBabyGuard – Baby monitor which helps prevent cot death

When #1 was a baby, infant monitors were simple one-way walkie-talkie type gadgets. We used them so that we would be alerted when baby woke up from her nap, or when she was crying in another room. These days, they even have video monitors where you can not only hear your baby, but also watch her on the little screen while you are in another room, for added peace of mind. But did you ever wonder, if baby really stopped breathing, would you even know?

In Singapore, not many of us have heard of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or cot death. When I was in Australia, the awareness there is great. They keep reminding parents not to place baby to sleep on their tummy, as there may come a day when baby’s neck gets strong enough for her to lift her head, yet not strong enough to turn back to the side. They also keep warning parents about the dangers of having loose bedding like towels or blankets lying around the cot. A revolutionary monitor has been created which can monitor baby’s breath count to ensure that baby is sleeping safely and soundly.

The iBabyGuard Infant Snooze is simply placed beneath your sleeping baby and it can detect her breathing pattern which is monitored with the help of a state-of-the-art Fibre-optics sensing system. It uses light as a sensing medium so that parents need not worry about electrical energy being emitted from the device. What’s more, it runs on dry cell batteries, making it wireless so that you needn’t worry about baby getting strangled by the same device you put in place to keep her safe.

So how does it work?

All you have to do is to download an app, which is compatible with both Apple and Android devices, and it will graphically show you:

  • Breath Movements
  • No Breath Movements
  • Waking Moments
  • Absent baby (rolled off)

Here’s the crucial part. If baby stops breathing for 15 seconds, an alarm will sound. 15 seconds?? When I first heard this, I was taken aback. Isn’t 15 seconds way too long? They explained to me that if the duration is too short, your phone might keep beeping as sometimes babies do stop breathing momentarily due to several reasons. They assured me that doctors have been consulted and there is ample time to tend to baby before something tragic happens. Ok mums and dads, start practicing your sprints! (good incentive for a family workout, I’d say).

If baby is down with a bout of flu and struggles to breathe, it can all be monitored and displayed as irregular breathing patterns. Even your fear of baby rolling off the bed can be addressed because the sensors will alert you if baby is absent from the mat. No more bumps on the head for the little monkey!

Some other details which makes this device waaayy cooler than other monitors is that music can be streamed from your phone (you can come up with that Mozart playlist you’ve always wanted to do up for baby), it logs the quality and duration of your baby’s sleep (no more having to diligently jot down the timings of naps), and you can even adjust the sensitivity of the mat. And if that isn’t enough, the creators have also included an ambient temperature monitor just in case it gets too hot or cold in the room.

I was really impressed that this clever device was actually invented locally (yay for local talent). They have been tested in KKH and are currently being used in their delivery wards. This is the only such device in the world as it has been patented. If you see similar products online, they are their brand partners worldwide and have repackaged it for their own market.

Sane tip: I have to admit that we did prone our babies during naps as they slept better that way. And at the back of my mind, I constantly worried about them being unable to breathe. However for us, the house was very small and we had a lot of people around all the time so the baby was usually within sight. This monitor will truly give you peace of mind while you are busy doing other things. Take a look at the short video on their website. A separate parent unit can be purchased if for example your helper is using it and does not have a mobile phone.

Save tip: *Exclusive discount for my readers* The iBabyGuard Infant Snooze is currently retailing at Mothercare for $399. Mummy wee readers are offered a very special rate of $299! All you have to do is to send me an email (mummyweedotcom@gmail.com) to place your order and it will be forwarded to the people at iBabyGuard for delivery to be arranged. Payment terms: Cash on delivery.

Disclaimer: We are affiliate partners of iBabyGuard. All opinions are my own.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

KidsSTOP @ Singapore Science Centre

The latest attraction for kids from 18 months – 8 years is KidsStop at the Science Centre. They have an impressive gamut of activities which promotes experiential learning with a lot of fun!

I waited for the initial excitement to die down before taking the kids so that it wouldn’t be so packed. We went after school on a Friday and it was perfect as the place was not crowded at all. Kate and #5 had a whale of a time there as there is just so much to explore.

Kate patiently waiting her turn to fly the plane

Uh-oh. The two pilots ran off, along with the outfits. Oh well, we can make-believe just as well without the uniforms.

“You are my co-pilot. Must listen to my instructions ok?” “OK, gor gor!”
#5 finds our anatomy very amusing
Blasting off into space together. So long!
Everyone wants to touch the chick

We learnt how to tell the gender of the chicks. The females have a brown marking while the males are yellowish white in colour.

“Worm!” (She doesn’t know about millipedes yet)

#5 gave me a run down on hermit crabs – on how they ‘borrow’ shells, and about mud skippers. I didn’t know he knew so much about science!

Karoke Queen wannabe 
First you build the Lego
Then you use it for Stop Motion Animation
Be prepared for them being sandy!
After more than 2 hours of playing, Kate was ready to call it a day.
“Playing is such back-breaking work!”
Sane tip: Don’t forget to bring socks as some of the areas require socks to enter. They do very thorough health checks on the kids at the entrance so getting in takes a little while. You can purchase tickets either from the main Science Centre entrance or at KidsSTOP itself.

Save tip: I absolutely love this hands-on science museum! Definitely getting the membership the next time round. It’s $30 for a year and you need to bring along a passport photo and a copy of the child’s birthcert. Benefits of membership: 1 free admission for the child and accompanying adult. Subsequently, 30% discount off entry fees. Full benefits here.

KidsSTOP @ Singapore Science Centre
21 Jurong Town Hall
Singapore 609433

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~