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 ~

Discipline #3 – Never, ever, tell your child that you will go away

The early days were crazy days. As we live with my in-laws, it didn’t help that there were a total of 13 people living in our small condo apartment, so there was no space to take a breather and calm down. There were some days where I told them (and probably meant it then) that if they didn’t stop misbehaving, I would just go away. I was that near losing my sanity that I felt I had to walk away. I kept dreaming of rolling hills and green fields. There were days when I wanted to run away and be alone. I was dumbfounded when #3 told me recently that she remembered me saying that to them. She was probably only 4 or 5 then. I can imagine what those words would have meant to a child. It probably brought out all sorts of insecurities in them. It probably made them so afraid that one day they would wake up and find their mummy gone.

So no matter how difficult things are and no matter how much you want to escape from it all, don’t ever, ever, threaten your child that you will go away if they continue to misbehave.  It is better to remove yourself from the situation, tell them you need to go for a walk to clear your mind. If you don’t have the option of leaving the house, lock the bathroom door and have a soak in the tub. No tub? Sitting on the floor with some chocolate works too. But the best place I found to take a break from the screaming kids? The stairs right outside my house. I realised that if I locked myself in the room, I can still hear them quarrelling outside which doesn’t help me to calm down. Worse, they would sometimes keep on banging on the door (I’m not sure if it was to irritate me more or to see if I was still alive in there). So I would leave the house, shut the door, and sit at the stairs. That way, I got a chance to get away from whatever was driving me nuts and yet I was still close enough to know what was going on in there. And you know what? The kids will immediately stop their nonsense when they see mummy leaving. But before you walk out the door, tell them that you need to take a 10-minute break so they don’t think you are going for good. 

It is very important to take time out to care for yourself. We tend to keep on sacrificing and putting the needs of our kids above our own. Before we know it, we have turned into grumpy old women and I realised I was constantly simmering just under the surface. #4 who is very sensitive, gets upset when I’m in a bad mood. Now, we make a pact and she would tell me “mum, you are getting very grumpy” and that’s her sign that I need to chill. I have a good friend who goes away by herself once every year while her wonderful husband takes care of the kids. That is one smart husband, if you ask me!

But not everyone is so fortunate to be able to take a few days and scoot off. If you do have enough family support, checking into a hotel for a night would be a great option too. That was my birthday wish for many years, which never materialised. I felt that I couldn’t leave them and because there was always a child who needed me in the middle of the night, I never gave myself permission to put my own needs above theirs. And in the end, I was like a wound up toy that would jump at any slight provocation.

L O V E


So what do I do when things get really bad? Like when you are pregnant and 4 other little kids are sick or/and misbehaving and you are about to go mad? I take one day at a time and keep reminding myself that “This too, shall pass.”


And above all, always keep love in your heart. Only if you love yourself, can you love your family well. To all the mummies out there, you are doing the best you can, so give yourselves a pat on the back!

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’


Linking up with:

mamawearpapashirt

Discipline #2: Don’t go overboard in your punishment

Another terrible thing I used to do was to mete out punishment that was way beyond their crime. We had no consistent rules and their punishment was gauged not so much by their wrong-doings but by our disposition at that point in time.

When they misbehaved, initially I would punish them by taking away their toy or making them stand just outside our main door. I would tell them, “If you don’t want to listen to me, stand out there so I don’t have to see you or hear you. On some days, nothing I tell them worked and they will keep misbehaving, quarrelling over toys or throwing tantrums. By evening, I would be up to my ears and out of desperation, I will warn them, “You do this one more time and I will lock you in the bathroom”. 

So when they misbehaved again, I would take the child by the arm and put her in the dark bathroom. I forgot which child it was, but she was extremely afraid of the dark and pleaded with me not to put her in there. I was so angry, shouting at her that I had already given her a warning while dragging her to the bathroom. I closed the door and could hear her wailing inside. She was trying with all her might to open the door from inside but I was holding it tightly shut from outside. All the while, she was screaming and begging me to open the door. Thinking back, I can’t believe how barbaric I was. 

At other times, when they disobeyed me, for example, by watching TV for hours when I told them they could only watch for an hour, I would get mad and bark out a ridiculous punishment like “No more TV for a month!”. Which of course will not be enforced, which sends the message to the kids that mummy doesn’t mean what she says, so subsequently they will not abide by my rules because they are just idle threats. And it totally confuses them because they do not know when the rules will be enforced and when they won’t. And to make things worse, we both didn’t agree on the same rules. I would tell them that they can’t watch TV, but a few minutes later, daddy will say “Can watch, but just half an hour.” Poor kids. When clear boundaries are not established, the kids feel confused and insecure and they will keep trying to push the boundaries to see how far they can go. Till today, #5’s teacher tells me that he has behavioural problems and he will keep challenging what she says. Just last week, she told them that since they use their hands to draw, their mouths must be shut and they are not allowed to talk. He took the pencil and put it in his mouth and started drawing, and when she scolded him, he told her that since he can draw with his mouth, he can also use his mouth to talk. I feel so sorry for his teacher to have to deal with him day in, day out.

Now, I try to match the punishment to the misbehaviour and I will lay out the rules first so they know what is coming. For example, if they use their iPads past the specified time, I will confiscate it for a week. And I try to be consistent in the rules, the punishment, and the enforcement. (Still not easy, though). Because it is only when kids try to push the boundaries and know that mummy and daddy will always say no, only then will they grow up to be confident, secure, and happy.

C O M P A S S I O N


Just because we can punish them in any way we like doesn’t mean we should. Power comes with responsibility and should be executed with justice and compassion. 

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’

Linking up with: 
mamawearpapashirt

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

Discipline #1 – Don’t scream at your child

My life as it is now is the best that it has been since I became a mom.

I can think clearly, function properly, and I am in the right frame of mind to enjoy my children.

I have come a long way.

I wanted to share more of my stories but have been busy writing about day-to-day happenings and never got round to writing about those challenging years.

I was reading a fellow mum blogger’s post on Life’s Little Lessons and was prompted to pen these lessons down which I have learnt over the past 15 years of parenting 6 kids.

Bit by bit.

Perhaps it would be cathartic to let it all out and slowly re-build the fragmented pieces of my relationship with the girls, especially #4.

She has such a sensitive soul that she was the one most affected by my horrible parenting.

As my words flow, I start to recall little incidences.

What was our discipline style back then?

It was a let’s-scold-them-when-we-can’t-take-their-nonsense-anymore style.

We didn’t know we had to be consistent.

As they misbehaved, I would tolerate and wait for their nonsense to stop. Which of course any mom could tell you, that’s just an absurd notion.

As a result, my anger would escalate and suddenly, boom!

I reached my threshold and unleashed my full anger on them.

I would rant on and on, and once, a neighbour even peered into my window to see if everything was all right.

Because you see, I have always been a very patient person. My old friends would tell you that I was the calmest and most patient person amongst us.

Somehow having the responsibility of taking care of 5 little people under the age of 9 turned me into a monster mom.

I was so busy trying to survive from day to day that I never stopped to think if there was a better way.

We had no siblings nor friends with kids to learn from or discuss things with.

Obviously I didn’t have time to read books nor surf the internet to gather some insight. Heck, I didn’t even know parenting blogs existed.

I just plodded along in my own crazy world. 

I vividly remember one incident.

I was driving the kids home after an evening out.

I started scolding #4 about something, and got so carried away that I was literally screaming at her.

Yes, in the confines of the car.

She recoiled from me and shielded her face.

My words were like bullets firing at this poor little child.

My child.

I must have been so exhausted and frustrated that I took it all out on her.

She must have been traumatised.

It was not the first time I had yelled at them, and definitely not the last.

And when you get into the habit of screaming at your kids, it just gets worse.

The first time you scream at them, it seems to work like a miracle.

They are momentarily stunned and would be on their best behaviour for the rest of the day.

I would finish yelling at them, then send them all to bed (it didn’t matter what time it was).

They would promptly fall asleep, probably in fear, and I got my hour of peace.

Subsequently, they got so used to my screaming that they did not fall in line immediately anymore.

What happens next?

I have to scream even louder thinking that somehow what I was trying to say would get into their little heads if I yelled LOUD ENOUGH.

It became a habit and I was yelling at them constantly.

So.

Please don’t scream at your children. Except in a dangerous situation.

Let peace prevail in your homes instead.

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’

Linking up with:

mamawearpapashirt