What a day out with #1 taught me

Continuing on from my car-less saga, I spent last Saturday with #1 around town. She accompanied me to a book launch after which we grabbed a simple lunch followed by a trip to Spotlight.

We ate at a hippy-looking eatery, and the self-service ordering process was so complicated that #1 had to decode his questions and ended up making the decisions about what toppings, sauces or sides I wanted.

Too many choices to be made under pressure in dim surroundings. All too much for me. I felt like an auntieBut it was a lovely mummy daughter meal sans little kids blabbing non-stop.

After making our way through spotlight, I was beat and ready to head home. At the bus stop, she checked her phone and announced that the bus would be coming in 7 minutes.

Oh yes, bus apps. That was nice to know.

The bus came promptly in 7 minutes, and after chatting for a bit, I fell asleep. What a nice change from me driving and people falling asleep behind me! I was gently woken up by #1 whispering, “Mum, wake up.”

I opened my eyes and noticed that it was pouring.

Oh dear. It was a far walk home and we didn’t have an umbrella.

“Don’t worry mum, I’ve already called an Uber and it will be here in.. (checking her app) 2 minutes.”

Surprised at her quick thinking, I was glad, but wondered if it was a waste of money since it was just a short ride in to our estate.

Reading my mind, #1 added, “It’s just 1 cent! There’s a promo.”

Really?! Wow.

I looked up at her.

Suddenly, I felt small. My kids can now take care of me?

The way technology is taking over our world, soon I will be reliant on them, and not the other way around.

It was a humbling moment.

The memories of those years of screaming at them and punishing them in mean ways go stand outside the door if you cannot abide by the rules of this house! or no going to the playground for a month! where I was boss and they were at my mercy, came flooding back.

I was a monster mum.

It was only many years later that I learnt the proper way to discipline them. To guide them gently yet firmly, and always with love.

Ice cream night

Thank goodness children are forgiving.

I still trip up at times, and just last night, #5 was testing my patience, refusing to pack his bag and get ready for bed and I ended up yelling at him, something I haven’t done in a long time.

Kate came next to me and said, “Mummy, don’t shout. You will lose your voice and then you cannot talk to me.”

That calmed me down instantly!

I need to constanly remind myself that the other kids are watching and how I respond will be they way they learn, imitate and treat their younger siblings and children in future.

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?

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

Kate’s been having a rough time

For the past 2 weeks, Kate has been crying every morning when I drop her off at school.

It started because of a change of routine, as some days I could not pick her up after school when I was still at work.

It did not help that the first time the hubs had to pick her, he completely forgot about it! By the time he reached her school, he was half an hour late.

To a little child, 30 minutes feels like an eternity.

She later told me that she was afraid daddy had forgotten about her and left her in school. Besides, she was very, very hungry.

From that day on, she kept saying she didn’t want to go to school anymore and would cry upon arriving at school.

We kept trying to talk her out of her fears and reason with her, to no avail.

After trying to problem solve for 2 weeks, I found out that she has 2 trigger points.

Poor lil Kate

The first is that she does not take to change well.

Her teachers explained that in children around 3 years of age, their sense of order is quite strong. More so in some children, and less in others. For Kate, she has a very strong need for order and her teachers mentioned how on Fridays, she gets out of sorts because they have music and outdoor play, which throws her out of whack.

Her teacher managed to solve this problem by giving her ample time for transition and to pre-empt her before a change in activity.

Thus the fact that it was a different person picking her up everyday, either myself, the hubs, or one of my sisters-in-law, made her anxious.

Her teacher said that like clockwork, at the start of their dismissal routine, she would suddenly burst into tears.

I solved the problem by letting her know the night before who was going to pick her up the next day. Initially, when she asked me in the morning, “Mummy, are you going to pick me later?” I would say yes, or I’ll try. I didn’t know what was behind that question, and that a vague answer made her more anxious.

I also asked whoever was picking her to be there 10 minutes early, so that once she started craning her neck to see if someone was going to be at the school gate, she would spot one of us before the fear seized her.

We did this for a week to reassure her and this stemmed her dismissal meltdown.

Secondly, I discovered that she is very sensitive to tone of voice.

Every time she cried, her teachers would try to gently talk her out of it. When that did not work, they must have talked to her in a firmer tone, and sometimes they got her to sit in the thinking chair in a corner so that she did not disturb the other children while she cooled down.

I’m quite certain that none of her teachers have really scolded her, but to her, even a raised tone is considered to be a “scolding”.

It reached a point where I was asking her to do something and she replied, “Ok, I will do it, but can you ask Ms C not to scold me anymore?” When she responded that way the whole weekend, I knew something was wrong.

She was so fearful of her teacher!

After many, many little talks, she mentioned that she likes one of the new teachers, a soft-spoken, gentle lady.

I spoke to her teachers and they were very understanding, and stopped putting her on the thinking chair.

Whenever she started crying, the new teacher would sit with her and speak to her quietly.

Thankfully, that 2-week crying episode is over.

Even after 6 kids, I am learning something new every time.

I’m just glad I managed to resolve her worries and learnt more about her in the process.

~ 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 ~


A brother’s love

A couple of days ago, I was surprised to see #5 coming down the stairs in tears. As I was trying to find out what had happened, Kate bounded down behind him with a strange expression on her face.

Was that a smirk?!

Me: What happened?

Kate: I beat gor gor.

I went over to #5 and asked him where Kate had hit him. It must have hurt for him to be in tears.

The hubs heard the commotion and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Besides, #5 has always been the big bully.

Hub: You are crying because your 3-year old sister hit you? You are 9! What’s the matter with you?

#5: She hit me on the head with a stool. It’s very painful.

gor gor always to the rescue

The hubs couldn’t understand how he could have been so silly to allow Kate to continue hitting him if it was painful.

I figured out what it was.

He was not silly.

He just loved his little sister so much that he could not bear to retaliate.

It was the first time she had done this and he probably did not expect that she could hit with so much force.

I gave him a big hug and told him that of course he was never to hit back, but next time, he should restrain her gently and tell her to stop because it hurts.

I called Kate over and gave her a stern look. Before I could even open my mouth, she quickly said, “Sorry mummy. Sorry gor gor. I love you gor gor.”

#5 brightened up and said, “it’s ok” and took her to find some toys to play with.

Little sisters.

I can see her walking all over him.

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 ~

Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?

I came across this on social media which read, “Best books to help you recharge when you’re sick of parenting”.

I was just feeling that way, but never did it cross my mind that I could be sick of parenting.

I was nudging Kate upstairs to take a shower, and after getting her in and hearing her whines of “bathe myself!“, I gave up the fight and sat on the bed while allowing her to shower herself. I was tired of these daily struggles. The battles fluctuate with her moods. One time it was no want to bathe! Another was no want to wash hair! Yet another was I don’t want to come out!

Why oh why do kids not behave like robots and sweetly do whatever you ask of them?

I was getting tired of parenting, but I dared not even admit that to myself. It was my job, naturally. My life. My duty. How could I be feeling that way?

To see those words in print, normalising it, actually liberated me in some way. Others felt the same way too! And I could acknowledge it. I am sick of attending to her calls of being taken to the potty, sick of having to wrestle the toothbrush from her every day and night to finish the job properly, sick of having to nag at #5 to stop annoying her. Sick of the mundane bits of parenting.

So what should I do?

I think I would go on a nice, long holiday. Alone. To a faraway place. Amidst the beautiful mountains.

Or I should just go and eat a big slice of cake. Make that really big.

Or perhaps I will get onto Amazon and grab one of those books mentioned. This one sounds good, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents”. Synopsis reads, “speaks directly and clearly about the most difficult of modern tasks – parenting.

Oh well, Happy Friday everyone!

Other lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?

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


{Interview #4} Chong Ee Jay – Cyber Wellness Educator

Chong Ee Jay, 36, is the Manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness and Head of Volunteer Management of TOUCH community Services. He has conducted more than 300 cyber wellness workshops since 2007, reaching out to more than 15,000 parents, educators and youth workers in schools, corporations and the community.

He represented TOUCH Cyber Wellness as recipient of the Singapore Youth Award in 2011 – the highest accolade for youth achievement awards in Singapore. He is a highly sought-after speaker and trainer in the area of cyber wellness. He is married to a fellow counsellor working with children, youths and parents in tackling cyber related concerns. She is currently studying her Masters in Counselling and they are expecting their first child.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Your qualifications:


Bachelor in Engineering (NUS)
Masters in Engineering (Bioengineering) NUS
Certifications in Social work and Counselling

Workshop for parents
Describe your job: 

I oversee the cyber wellness department in TOUCH, comprising of 12 full time staff which provides a holistic suite of programmes and services for children, youths, parents, practitioners, professionals and educators. 

I conduct parents’ cyber wellness workshops to help parents be more aware of the current cyber trends as well as to impart practical tips and teach them how to manage and engage their children more effectively in this fast changing digital age.

I also run training courses for educators and social service practitioners to empower them with practical diagnostic and intervention skill sets and domain knowledge as they work frontline in tackling cyber related issues such as gaming addiction and cyber bullying.

Besides that, I’m involved in para-counselling and counsultation, working closely with individuals and families in overcoming challenges at the home front – such as parent–child relationship issues and young parents’ parenting concerns.
How did you find your passion?

Honestly, I never thought I would join the social service sector. It all started more than 12 years ago when I got “dragged” by my university friends to do volunteer work in Mendaki by providing tuition support for low income families’ children. After a few weeks I really enjoyed my time there interacting with their children and being able to encourage them and help them succeed in their studies.

Back then, I already noticed that kids were punching away on their parents’ mobile phones (non smartphones) monochrome screen playing the then-popular game – Snake! I was very intrigued because such a simple game could keep them glued to the phone… what more in the future when phones become more high tech? That’s when the notion of cyber safety came to my mind. 

After I graduated from university, I decided to follow my passion instead of what I had studied. My parents were initially hesitant about my career path because they felt that I would be “wasting” my Masters degree and considering too that my Masters project had secured me a patent. However upon several discussions, they were agreeable to having me pursue my passion. 

I had a good friend already working in TOUCH Cyber Wellness and I volunteered for 2 months as a programme assistant in the cyber wellness enrichment holiday camp. Those two months were really eye-opening and allowed me the opportunity to work closely in mentoring the youths who had excessive gaming behaviours, as well as connecting with parents to help them better empathize and understand their children’ habits and how to manage them.

Since then, I came on board as a full time staff with TOUCH Cyber Wellness and have no regrets looking back at these past 9 fruitful years!
Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

To be able to speak hope and encouragement to many parents who are struggling and feeling hopeless in dealing with their children. I also enjoy mentoring the children and teenagers, spending time with them and educating them on positive online behaviours. 
What does success mean to you?

Success in life to me means to be able to be a blessing to someone else. This is a fundamental belief that I have held on to since my university days when I started taking my life more seriously.

Are you involved in any charity / voluntary work?

Yes, I am currently actively volunteering as a life coach to a group of young adults. I also volunteer together with my wife in mentoring a few young adult dating couples and preparing them towards marriage. 
One advice to parents

The best way you can love your children is to love your spouse. And love is spelt TIME.
One advice to teens

YOLO – You Only Live Once… So make your life count for goodness and greatness!
To be a good youth worker (or youth coach), it takes someone… who is passionate and convicted about the importance of the next generation.


{Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

#1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine


#2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Concert at the National Stadium

#3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra


~ 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 ~