What would I do if I had an 18-month old again?

I gave a talk to 80 families whose babies turned 18-months old. That stage feels like so long ago. My eldest is 18 years old! Gosh, did 18 years just evaporate like that? I asked myself: What would I have done differently?

I would have enjoyed them more.

I was hung up on certain things and was too engrossed in wanting to bring them up ‘properly’. I was chatting with the hubs, and he has a whole different outlook of their early years.

He really enjoyed their company, and if he could turn back time, he would love to have a bunch of 5 little kids again. Initially when I heard that, I was going to jump at him with the “That’s because I did all the work while all you did was play with them” line. However, as I mulled over it, it dawned on me that it was up to me how I chose to see the ‘job’.

I saw the tantrums, the mess, the challenges. He saw their joyful responses, the spontaneous cuddles, the happy laughter. That’s not to say he did not discipline them – he is the disciplinarian in the house. Rather, he never let one part affect another, nor his mood, which I tended to do.

Baby Kate

I would make time for myself.

A short walk around the block, a phone call to a good friend, a book in the park. I lived with a “not enough time” mentality for many years. I didn’t even have time for a decent shower, let alone coffee with a friend.

Finally, I took a 2-week pilgrimage with my mum as she’s getting old, and turns out, they could survive without me! I should have given myself permission to take an hour or so every fortnight, or even 15 minutes every day to care for myself. It would have helped my sanity tremendously in those trying days. A happy, recharged mum would definitely make a better mum, don’t you think?

And most importantly, this is what I would do differently.

I would discipline them with love.

To discipline is to teach, and because guiding them was a huge part of raising these little people, I swung from a patient, loving mum to a yelling monster, sometimes in the span of minutes and sometimes it became a daily occurrence. With 5 kids under the age of 10, you can imagine how often my patience got tested.

With Kate, I have finally learnt that you can still love your child while in the midst of disciplining them. It was such a radical experience for me, to come from a place of peace and love, standing firm with her boundaries, without feeling my anger or frustration rising with each passing second! It starts with awareness and gets better with practice.

Since I can’t turn back time, I can only share these hindsight notes with you 🙂 Happy parenting your little ones!

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Tip #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers
Tip #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids?
Tip #12: What a day out with #1 taught me

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



Discipline tip #11: Who has the energy to discipline our kids?

When I dropped Kate off at school, she was more clingy than usual and wanted me to stay.

Ms S, the teacher who taught her last year, called me aside and told me about a little incident that happened the day before.

Ms S was walking past the children when she heard Kate saying to her classmates, “You all better put the books properly back on the shelves, if not teacher will put you on the thinking chair.”

(I can just imagine a tiny little Miss Bossy wagging her fingers at her bigger friends.)

The other kids looked worried and started packing up the reading corner.

Uh-oh. Who’s naughty?

Ms S pulled her aside and asked her what did she say to her friends.

“Nothing”, came the immediate reply.

Nobody gets punished because of a slightly messy reading corner, and Kate was aware of that.

“Nothing? You sure? What did you say to your friends?”

“Nothing”, and she looked away.

If Kate had simply explained what had happened, that would have been the end of it.


However, she knew she did something wrong, and decided to lie and cover it up.

After pressing her repeatedly, Kate said that she wanted the corner to be tidy.

Ms S spent the next few minutes, or however long it must have taken, to get Kate to admit her mistake, before teaching her that it is wrong to scare her friends with untruths, and that she should not lie when being questioned, but to own up to it and apologise.

Some might say it is just a small matter.

It was an incident that could have been ignored.

After all, Ms S was on her way out as she had finished teaching her class for the day.

She did not need to make the extra effort to pull Kate aside to discipline her.

As parents, we know how draining it is to correct kids and it takes a lot of patience. We have our excuses – a bad day at work, a multitude of worries bothering us, or simply being too exhausted juggling between work and family.

Kate wasn’t even her current student.

Yet, Ms S was committed to her calling as an educator. To raise the next generation of children with right morals values.

For every time when we allow a transgression to go unchecked, we have failed them.

For every time when we do not hold our children to higher standards, we have failed them.

And when we start to see bigger issues in future, we wonder how that happened and what went wrong.

The more I am aware,

The more I have grown as a parent,

The more I can see how I fail as a parent.

Sometimes, I wonder.

Is it really their fault? Or mostly mine?

After recounting the whole incident, Ms S awaited my reaction.

Nope, I was not defensive.

I did not make excuses for Kate.

I did not doubt Ms S nor think that she was making a mountain out of a molehill.

After so many kids, I have gone past such myopic responses.

Instead, I was worried.

“Oh dear. For the 1 time that you catch her, there may be 9 other times she’s gone unchecked.”

I can just imagine this little imp, with all her tricks up her sleeves.

And she’s only 3.

Ms S burst out laughing, “I’m sure you can take it. She’s your 6th.”


Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’
Tip #10: 6 Tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

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


Discipline #10: 6 tips to stop tantrums in toddlers

It is common for toddlers to throw tantrums, but can be quite embarrassing for parents when done in public. How do I keep my kids from throwing tantrums without giving in and handing over an iPhone to keep them quiet?

I believe in being prepared and setting the stage right to pre-empt the eruptions from happening. Here are 6 simple tips to minimise tantrums in young children.

How to deal with temper tantrums


1) Ensure their basic needs are met

First things first. Have we done our part to keep them happy and comfortable? Have they had their nap? Have they been fed? Are they feeling under the weather? You can pretty much expect hungry and cranky kids to kick up a big fuss. Keep an eye on the clock and have some snacks on hand if there’s a chance of the schedule running way past their mealtimes.

2) Don’t let your boundaries shift

Kids whine and throw tantrums because they know they will win in the end. If your boundaries are constantly shifting, your child will be confused and the very determined ones would keep up the fight until you give in, whether it is to buy a toy or to get whatever demands met.

When we are tired or in a rush, it is easier to give in to keep them quiet. However, it doesn’t help in the long run. I have learnt to stick to my guns and am able to say ‘no’ with consistency – sometimes with help from my teens. (They can tell when I’m about to be soft and will say, “No mum, no. It’s for her own good”).

3) View the day as a whole

If the kids are expected to sit through a long event or ceremony (weddings etc), I would get them to expand their energy in the morning by taking them to the park for some cycling or free play. Or if we are going to have a hectic day, I will plan it properly so that Kate will have time for a short nap in between. If we have to stay out past her bedtime, I will let her have her nap slightly later that day.

4) Bring a busy bag

I have a drawer in the living room where I dump miscellaneous stickers and freebies accumulated by the older kids & grandparents. When we go out with Kate, I simply grab a few items and throw it in the bag to keep her entertained during times like waiting for food to be served.

5) Acknowledge their feelings

In the past, when our kids cried, we used to say things like, “Ok, that’s enough. Stop crying.” It never works. In fact, the crying usually escalates. Over the years, I have learnt about validating their feelings, and have been using it with Kate. It works! Try it.

When she is emotionally or physically wounded, she will cry and fold her arms. I go close to her, bend down to her level and say something soothing like, “Are you angry?” She would nod her head and say what she is feeling and why. After she is able to express herself, she feels understood, and quietens down very quickly.

6) Have realistic expectations

It is futile to expect all your kids to be able to sit through a 2-hour meal just because the eldest could. Once you know what each child can comfortably tolerate at that particular age, work around that. Look at activities from their perspective. It may be boring, tiring, or too restrictive.

Also be mindful of the environment. Don’t bring toddlers to posh restaurants and expect them not to touch the glassware. Either acknowledge that the days of leisurely window shopping and long relaxing brunches are over, or leave the kids at home with the in-laws while you take a break and enjoy yourself.

Save tip: I prefer to put ‘unwanted’ stuff in Kate’s busy bag so I don’t have to watch her closely and won’t be perturbed if the items get lost or damaged.

Sane tip: I’m glad that none of my kids has ever thrown a fit in public (the lying on the floor and screaming at the top of their lungs type), but at times when they did throw tantrums, I used to raise my voice as well. I have since learnt that shouting at them does not help, and am now able to control myself and speak to them in a low and firm voice.

I do what I have to do quickly and leave the place as soon as possible, without giving in to their demands. We have to show them who’s boss when they are little because as they get older and heavier we can’t tuck them under our arm for a quick escape!


Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’

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

Discipline #9: When the Gramps can’t say ‘no’

When we were growing up, my dad was busy working most of the time. On the occasions that we were out together and I asked him to buy me something, he would gladly do so because he wanted to see his kids happy. Now as a grandfather to my children, it is no surprise that he dotes on them, sometimes excessively.

Anything to see them smile

I still remember the first time it happened. It was many years ago and my parents had taken the 5 kids to market for breakfast. They came back and I saw one of them holding a handheld game. Then I noticed that ALL of them had one. “What’s all these?” My voice must have been raised. “Gong gong bought for us”.


I stared at my dad for some explanation. “They started arguing so to settle the problem I bought them one each. It’s just $2 anyway.” (everything to him is just $2, whether it’s actually $5 or $20!) My mum noticed the look on my face and said to me quietly. “Your dad is getting old and he gets very stressed when they bicker. Just let him be. It is no good for his high blood pressure. Let him enjoy his grandchildren.”

Things started going downhill from there. It became like a me-against-my-parents mini war.

About a year ago, #5 wanted to buy a set of LEGO Ninjago with his angpow money. I allow them a portion to spend as I wanted to teach them budgeting and delayed gratification. My dad was free to take him out and I gave him specific instructions that he was not to pay for it as #5 has his own money. He came back with the set and I thought that was the end of it.

The truth came to light when my friend brought her son over to play and she commented that they have the same set. She was lamenting how expensive toys cost, that $39 gets you a small structure and just one figurine.

Wait a minute.

ONE?

I was certain the set came with 6 figurines. She insisted her set had just one. We called the boys in and lo and behold, #5 admitted that the other 5 figurines were bought separately, with gong gong’s money. And gong gong told him NOT TO TELL MUMMY. I looked at his distressed innocent face and I knew I couldn’t get angry with him. After all, it wasn’t his fault.

I had a talk with my dad and wanted to tell him that not only was he spoiling #5, but he was teaching him to lie. I expected him to feel bad about it, but guess what? He thought I was the one who was crazy!

Before I could even finish what I wanted to say, he told me that I was being mean and ridiculous and that my son is just a young boy and if that makes him happy, he should be allowed to have his toys. I was the one who needed some sense drilled into me. Unbelievable.

Over the weekend, I caught #5 secretly eating a whole tube of sweets. I asked him where did he get it from and #4 chimed in, “Of course Gong gong la. He has a whole bag of sweets.” I scolded him and reminded him about all that he went through with his teeth. I asked my dad why did he buy him so much sweets and he replied, “I did not.”

“You did not? Then where did he get the bag of sweets from?”

“Oh, he asked me for money.”

Faint.

After so many years, I have finally stopped being angry with my parents for the lack of boundaries with regards to the kids. Some old folks tell me it is the parents’ job to discipline the children and the grandparents’ job to spoil them.

Ah well. I wonder what sort of grandparents we would be when it’s our turn.


Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?

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

Discipline #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?

I was caught off guard when Kate’s teacher informed me that she had told a lie. I have to admit that in my earlier years of parenting, when faced with such an awkward situation, I would have either fumbled for a reply, made some excuses or doubted the teacher. My kid? No way! There must have been some mistake.

Instead, I remained calm and wanted to know the whole story so that I could figure out how to deal with it. This was how it went.

Uh-oh

Kate had taken a new activity to play with, and her Chinese teacher asked if she had been taught how to work with it. Kate immediately replied, “Yes.” Her Chinese teacher knew it was not the case and asked who had demonstrated it to her. Kate responded, “Ms Sha”, without batting an eyelid. Ms Sha overheard the conversation and walked over. Kate knew her lie had been exposed and looked down, afraid to look into Ms Sha’s eyes. Her teachers took the opportunity to teach her that lying is wrong.

The thing was, we were shocked that a 2.5 year old knows how to lie so blatantly!

On the way home, I reiterated that it was wrong of her to lie. However, I knew deep down in my heart that the problem lies with us, not her. After all, little kids imitate and absorb what they see and hear.

At dinner, I told the rest of the family what had transpired that day. The kids were old enough to point out that “adults also tell white lies, even you and daddy, so that must have been where she picked it up from”. They recounted many instances where the truth was not spoken.

  • You always say, “Everyone is going”. (to a child, everyone would literally mean every single person. Ok, I’d better wipe that one off my list of constantly used words.)
  • Dad tells whoever we are meeting that “We are almost there” when we had just left the house. I heard Uncle T say that last week too.
  • Aunt J always promise us that she’s coming to visit soon. But she never does.
  • You said you’ll be back in 15 minutes. You lied.
With 5 “witnesses” to our daily behavior, the examples came fast and furious.

I had nothing so say. The kids were right.

The next day, I was on high alert to what I was saying and what others around me were saying to Kate.
  • Kate spotted the Crocs shoes her cousin passed down to her and wanted to wear it. As we were going to the mall (we try not to allow Kate to wear Crocs on escalators), our helper said, “Cannot”. Kate persisted. “I want”. She quickly replied, “Cannot. Got lizard poo poo.” Kate said “Where? Let me see.” (of course, there was none.)
  • The girls were eating sweets and when Kate asked for some, they replied, “No more.”
  • I went home and found #5 quietly giving Kate his snacks (which are too salty for her) and when I boomed, “Why are you giving her the pretzels?”, he said, “Just a few.”. I’m sure she had way more than a few.
  • There were countless instances where words came out of my mouth before I realised they were not the absolute truth.

I noticed a pattern here. We instinctively try to shade the truth to avoid her whining or crying, so that we don’t have to deal with it. Unknowingly, we taught her to lie.


It’s not about her.

It’s about us.

It’s about me.

So. Where do I go from here?

I’ve decided that I’ll start focusing on improving one parenting skill at a time until I conquer it. Then I’ll work on the next one.


Here’s the first:

SPEAK THE TRUTH.

Anyone joining me?



Here are some good tips on how to help your child deal with lying, over at Life’s Tiny Miracles blog.

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

Tip #6: Ban books? What are you gonna do about phones?

I was reading about the saga following the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of 3 seemingly ‘unacceptable’ books regarding homosexuality. Apparently it has been confirmed that at least 6 books have recently been pulled off the shelves.

While this issue of censorship has been debated furiously on social media, I have also been facing the same issue of censorship with my teens. And the more I think about it, the more worried I’m getting.


It all began with giving them their iPhones and iPads (which by the way, was both the hub’s idea).
The 2 oldest kids got their first phones when they were 12, as a reward for doing well in their PSLE. If I had my way, I would hold out as long as possible. Unfortunately, the hubs is a huge fan of gadgets, and he enjoys buying them for the kids. His rationale? “You can’t shield them forever”. So his job was to make that 1 awesome purchase, with the kids hailing him as hero, thereafter, the onerous job of instilling limits and rules on gadget use fell on me.

As with most parents, my top 2 concerns were duration of use (not too long and not too late), and usage (the apps they were downloading).

When #1 was first given her phone, my concerns and rules were relatively straightforward.

1) Phones out in the living room at 8.30pm every night (I didn’t want them to be using their phones instead of sleeping)

2) Limit amount of talking on the phone (exorbitant phone bills)

3) Monitor their Facebook use (concerned about internet safety)

4) Limit amount of YouTube use (content and too tiny screen)

How naive I was. Fast forward 4 years later, and I have totally lost control. #1 and #2 are now 15 and 13 years old respectively, and their phones are almost like an extension of their hands. Not only are they constantly on it, but talking on their phone has now become the least of my concerns. In fact, I am happy to see them talking on the phone (the house phone, that is). These days, kids hardly even communicate verbally. They spend a large part of their time communicating digitally. Facebook is also not much of an issue, because as any ‘cool’ teen will tell you, “Who even uses Facebook? Get with the times, mum.”

So now, what is worrying me? One main thing is Twitter. Firstly, they can ‘Follow’ anyone they want to ‘Follow’, and that is where they get a lot of their information. Believe me, your hair will stand if you read some of the tweets. Your teens will be exposed to the opinions and ideology of literally any other teen or celebrity in the world. Secondly, the tweets happen every other second, so before they know it, your teens will be addicted to these tweets. Remember how in our time, we went crazy over pop stars or movie stars? Well, they have certainly taken crazy to new heights. I can accept the posters all over their bedroom walls, and their ears constantly plugged in to music. But now they also have ‘fandoms’ on Twitter, where a community of people who admire the same idol come together to discuss and rave about that celebrity. They end up getting addicted and spend a whole lot of time on Twitter sharing information about their idol. They then become friends with a whole array of teens hailing from different countries as they feel a connection with them, and move on to communicate one-to-one via Whatsapp.

Then there is Snapchat. I have been watching my teens using Snapchat for some time now. They will take fun shots of where they are or what they are doing (eating, shopping, playing) and it will be sent to their circle of friends. It is however not quite like normal photo sharing. You can allocate a certain time for your recipient to view it (1-10 seconds) and the photo will vanish after that. However, the party you have sent the image to can save it if they quickly screenshot it or use another device to take a picture of it before it disappears. It did seem relatively harmless to me, but when I was reading an article on this issue, it describes Snapchat as dangerous. Yes, now that they mention it, I can see how this can get dangerous if they start to snap indiscriminate photos of themselves, and of their locations. And what if their friends turn against them one day and start to disseminate their photos.

Needless to say, the phone is seriously one potentially dangerous piece of gadget you will be giving to your child. And the scary thing is, you will not be able to see the dangers until it is much too late. By that time, the amount of uncensored information that has entered your teen’s head is astronomical, and it is insidious. One day, you will be having a conversation with your teen and you will suddenly think to yourself “Is this my kid? The kid that I raised under my roof?” And that will be a sad, sad day for you. I just experienced that, and was disconcerted and depressed for a whole week. I couldn’t place my finger on the reason I was feeling down, but now I think I know why. You give of your best and try to bring them up well, but all comes to naught as their minds are gradually brainwashed by social media and the friends they make online.

I understand the sentiments of those parents who are fighting for the books to be kept away. That was my first response when I realised my teens were getting access to so much unregulated information on the internet via their phones and iPads. Yes, we can fight to take away 3, 6 or even 60 books. But how are you going to fight to take away all the information on the internet and on social media that goes against your values?

As I was mulling over this, not only with my mind but with my heart, and wondering how I was going to re-address the issue with my teens, yesterday’s article in The Straits Times provided me with my answer.

Dr Lim Sun Sun (associate professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the NUS) says that a ‘Cot bumper approach’ to raising kids won’t work. 

“You hold the key to building your child’s defences against perspectives that contradict the beliefs that you subscribe to, and that you want your children to subscribe to. You can interpret, moderate and mediate for your child the media content that he is confronted with…. It is an ongoing journey of trust, sharing, discussion, and debate. Rather than obliterate all opinions that you consider deleterious, embrace each alternative view as an opportunity to rationalise to your child why you disagree with it. Foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding where your child knows that she can turn to you when she encounters messages that are confusing or upsetting. Instil in your child the skills of discernment that will see him through every PG movie, First-Person shooter video game or inflammatory online comment.”


At the beginning of the year, I had a conversation about LGBT relationships with #2. I was surprised that she had such strong opinions on the issue and she felt that it doesn’t matter whether it was between heterosexuals or homosexuals, but if they loved each other, what was wrong? And why must you judge them? I went on to explain to her our values and our religious stance and finally I said that what her friends are doing or what their orientations are are not of my concern, but because all of you are my children, I expect you to get married to a person of the opposite sex and have children. Then she replied, “Oh, then what are we arguing about? I thought you were against other people being gays and lesbians.”

Times have definitely changed. For every standpoint you make, they would have heard a hundred other counter opinions of it. And trust me, they would not be as subtle as 2 male penguins raising a baby penguin. It will be direct, passionate, in-your-face statements.

I’m going to need to take a deep breath and psych myself up to face this new wave of challenges I can see heading my way. And we all thought it was tough dealing with the terrible twos.

Sane tip: Before you even hand them their very first phone, find out all the current apps that teens are using. Sit down with them and set limits on which apps you allow and explain to them why you do not allow them certain apps. Also set basic rules on time limits such as no phone use after 9pm, during mealtimes and homework time. I wish someone had enlightened me about all this before I gave #1 her phone. It is so much harder both for me and for them to re-negotiate their gadget use after they have been on those apps for so long.

The good news is that there is an app called TimeAway which was created by an American working at Google. She is now living in Singapore and noticed that the kids were glued to their gadgets. She spoke to many parents and realised that while they wanted to give their kids phones for various reasons, they also wanted to prevent addiction and social isolation. TimeAway was created to solve the problem as it allows the parents to monitor and control device usage and app downloads. It is able to pause devices, set time limits and even block apps that cause concern like Snap chat (gulp!)

Save tip: If I had my way, I’ll be giving them flip phones! Although as #1 informed me, “they are obsolete mum”.

I would love to hear from parents who have some good ideas on how you work this out with your children.

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’

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




Discipline #5: How to talk to boys vs girls

My first 4 kids were girls. Being a mother, I had no problems communicating with them. Then along came my son. I would be nagging him constantly to tidy up his room to no avail. Finally one day, I was having a conversation with some friends who only had boys. They told me their house sounds like a military base, where orders are given straight and curt. I was telling them how my nagging seems to be falling on deaf ears. I would be standing at the doorway to his room saying, “Look how messy your room is! How many times must I tell you to clear up the mess? Why don’t you ever listen to me?” With my girls, they understand these implicit instructions and immediately they will start to tidy up their room. However, my friends laughed and told me that with boys, I had to be direct. And explicit. With my earlier instructions, #5 must have been thinking, “Ok, I’m looking. I’m not sure how many times. I am listening.”

They said that with their boys, getting them to tidy their room sounds more like this: “Ben, pack all the Lego into the blue box now.” Clear, precise instructions.

For showering, I would tell my girls, “Why haven’t you showered?” And into the bathroom they would go. For the boys? They taught me that I should be saying: “Ben, take off your clothes and go and shower now.” 

When I was sharing this with some other friends over breakfast (who also had girls first), one of them told me that her son was the same. He would constantly forget to close the cupboard doors and she decided to nag him incessantly until he remembers to do so. Obviously, that isn’t working, and he has probably learnt how to tune out her voice.

On the other hand, for those of you who had boys first and are used to the command driven method of communication, take more care when you speak to your girl. My friend who had 2 boys followed by a girl was so used to ‘commanding’ her boys that she automatically did that with her girl. And the poor 2 year old used to break down in tears when her mum forgot and said to her in a stern voice, “Girl, go and bathe now.” Her hubby chided her gently and told her not to speak to their daughter so firmly, and when she spoke to her girl in a nice and gentle tone, her girl smiled, said “Ok mummy” and happily went in to shower.

We also realised that boys are generally not able to multi-task. If they were thoroughly absorbed in playing their Lego, they can’t hear you speaking to them even if you were right next to them. Once, when Kate was just a few months old, she was crying in the room next to where #5 was engrossed with his Lego. I was showering upstairs and heard her cries. When I went down and asked him why didn’t he go to her when she was crying so hard, he replied: “Oh really? She was crying?” Sigh. But at least now I know why the hubs doesn’t reply me when he is engrossed in his movie. And all along I thought he was pretending not to hear me…



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

Discipline #4: 6 common sleep mistakes for babies

One of the biggest parenting mistakes we made was not knowing anything about babies and their sleep. I did read a few books such as Babywise and What to Expect in the First year and knew about routines and bedtimes. However, I didn’t know just how absolutely important this whole business of sleep is. It was only after I had #5 and a close friend pointed out a very good book to me that I was enlightened.

I went on to read a few more books on the subject, and have come to thoroughly respect a child’s need for good, proper sleep. There is a lot of information to digest, so I’ll start with the 6 most common sleep mistakes for babies that parents unintentionally make.

1. Keeping them awake for too long

Babies can only tolerate a very short amount of awake time when they are young. Once you pass this time, they will start to get cranky and it will be harder to get them to sleep. There is a ‘magic’ window of opportunity when it is easiest for baby to sleep. You have to catch that window before they get over-tired. You know how it is that sometimes we feel drowsy, and suddenly our eyelids start to droop and we really feel like sleeping? That’s the window period where baby will easily fall asleep. If you ignore this time frame and keep baby up, she will start to fuss and get cranky. If you continue to ignore it and baby is not put to sleep, hormones will kick in and it becomes even harder for baby to get to sleep because the hormones drive her into a hyperactive state.


So how long should babies be awake for? Here is a general guide, but observe your own baby for their sleepy signs.

Birth – 6 weeks  : 45 mins
2 – 3 months     : 1 hour
4 – 5 months     : 1.5 hours
6 – 7 months     : 2 hours
8 – 9 months     : 2.5 hours
10 – 12 months  : 3 hours


2. Not watching out for sleepy signs e.g. yawning

I didn’t know about these signs to watch for until I had #5. Well, nobody told me, so how was I supposed to know right? All babies have a signal that it’s time to hit the cot. It could be rubbing their eyes, swiping their ear or pulling at their hair. Watch your baby. You will notice a pattern they display just before they are ready to sleep. Once you identify it, put them straight to bed when you see it displayed.

3. Going to them between sleep cycles

Babies’ sleep cycles last for one and a half hours with a little break at 45 minutes. They will stir, cry or make a bit of noise at this juncture. DO NOT go in to your baby. Give them the opportunity to fall back asleep by themselves. If you go in, they will be disturbed by your presence and will not want to go back to sleep. And it will likely result in a bad habit of wanting you to go in and carry or rock them back to sleep. After about 5 – 10 minutes of fussing, they will fall asleep again for the next cycle.
Kate woke up very early to send us off
4. Too late bedtime

Most people think that by keeping the baby awake later, she will sleep better at night. We thought that too, and our babies used to go to bed around 8 or 9pm. When they were waking up in the middle of the night or waking up too early, the hubs suggested putting them to bed even later so that they would be so tired they would sleep properly. What happened was that they woke up even earlier! I remember #4 used to sleep at 10pm and began her day at 5.30am. It seems like an illogical explanation, but sleep begets sleep, and the later the baby sleeps at night, the earlier she will wake up. After I read about sleep, I shared the information with friends who had babies the same age, and all our babies (from the time they were 6 months to around 4 or 5 years old) went to bed at 7pm and woke up slightly before 7am! We are now firm believers of giving our kids adequate sleep.

5. Sleeping in motion during naps

Sleeping while in the stroller when you are shopping, or in a carrier does not allow the baby to have the necessary deep sleep she needs. Babies have to be placed in the cot or bed to sleep properly. It is akin to us sleeping on the public bus vs sleeping on our own beds. Having said that, we have to balance this with living our lives. We shouldn’t be a ‘slave’ to their schedule and end up being stuck at home all the time and being resentful of it. It’s just to have an awareness of what is happening. I didn’t know all this in the early years and I deliberately took the baby out in the stroller at nap time as it was easiest to put them to sleep that way.
Sleeping like a baby
6. Attributing the crying to colic or other reasons

Many people simply attribute their baby’s constant crying to having colic, being night owls, or that their baby is very naughty. I suggest you try your very best to implement the strategies and allow your baby the opportunity to have adequate sleep before you come to such a conclusion. In most cases, your baby will surprise you. And you’ll have your nights back! 🙂

Do read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr Marc Weissbluth for a better understanding and some case studies of babies. 



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