2 weeks without our helper. Help!

We were help-less for 16 days with our helper on home leave. I preferred that she went home during the school holidays – no routines, no early morning starts. However, she wanted to be there for her kids’ year-end celebrations in school.

Previously, she went back during the June holidays and we drew up a chore list from ironing to throwing out the garbage. This time, her absence coincided with common test week and I moderated my expectations of the 4 older girls. As it is, #1 and #2 return home about 9 or 10 pm on most school nights after CCA or night study, and struggle to stay on top of their assignments and revisions.

What I didn’t want though, was 6 kids hurling their demands at me. As kids who have grown up with a helper, it wasn’t uncommon to hear them call, “Auntie Jane, where’s my lunch?”

I get asked a lot, “How many helpers do you have? We only have one and she manages to take an afternoon nap on most days. The hubs and I believe that the kids should do most things on their own, and Kate was able to shower and get ready for school by herself before the age of 3.

My little elf

Setting expectations right. A few days before she left, I sent a text to the older girls. *Reminder: Auntie will be going home from xx to xx. Please wake yourselves up, make your own breakfast and wash your clothes. If you yell for me, I’ll pretend not to hear you.” I added some cute emojis to lighten the mood.

After making clear that everything was their own responsibility and that things do not happen magically around here, I went around to their rooms and checked what their plans were.

Kids being kids, they came up with creative solutions to do the chores faster. They organised their own laundry system and roped Kate in to be their distribution channel.

#3 asked pleadingly, “But mum, can you prepare breakfast for us? We have a lot of homework and revision and there’s no time to make breakfast.”

“Ok, but whatever I make, even if it’s just bread and butter, I don’t want to hear anything else besides “Thanks mum.”


I’m no gourmet chef and some meals tend to turn out poorly so I had to pre-warn them if not I’ll get upset with their attitude after putting a lot of effort into cooking.

Homemade wonton

Motivated Monday: 5.30 am. I was all psyched up, ready to take charge. I don’t work on Mondays and dedicated the day to seeing to their meals, doing chores and planning the crazy week ahead. I stuck the daily schedule on the fridge so no kid gets missed out.

5.30 Wake #5, Make Breakfast
5.45 Check if #3 is awake via text
6.00 Prepare lunch box
6.15 Check if #4 is awake via text
7.00 Send #4 to school
7.20 Back home
7.30 Make Kate’s Breakfast and lunch box
7.45 Send #2 to bus stop
8.10 Put #1’s breakfast on the table
8.15 Send Kate to school

Salad box
Feeling energetic, I whipped up a hearty breakfast for the girls to last them through their exams.

After Kate was nicely tucked in school, I made a huge batch of banana cake with the ripe bananas my mum brought over from her garden. The washing up after was no fun, but the smell of freshly baked banana cake and knowing that the kids look forward to it made it all worthwhile.

Fresh bakes

It turned out to be a fulfilling domestic sort of day and if given a choice, I like life without a helper. Perhaps when Kate grows older.

For dinner, I pulled out whatever I could find in the fridge and whipped up a simple meal. The kids were impressed as I never cook dinner and usually make one dish meals. (Actually, I used the same seasoning and the same pot for all 3 dishes to save washing!)

Dinner time

After dinner team chores. It was #1’s turn to do the dishes and she was stunned to see the sink filled to the brim with more plates piled at the side. “All this from one meal? That’s so ineffective. We should just buy back.” After she was halfway through she suddenly said, “Don’t we have a dishwasher? Why aren’t we using it?” With our helper around, we hardly used it and have forgotten all about it.

By Day 4, they were all missing Auntie Jane.

They were fortunate enough that our helper had arranged with my sis-in-law’s helper next door to wash and iron their uniforms. All they had to do was wash and refill their own water bottles for school, collect and fold their laundry, clear up after meals and do the dishes. The hubs works from home and did the bulk of the chores.

Add a dose of humour. When the clothes were dry, I made an announcement. Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls… The clothes are ready to be collected! And pointed to the direction of the backyard with a grand flourish. That lightened the mood and was more effective than nagging.
Count down

Up at 5, out by 8. I began the week too enthusiastically and soon ran out of steam. My priority changed from wholesome meals to fast-to-cook-and-easy-to-wash meals.

Time was precious in the morning, getting 6 kids fed and out the door. Every minute counted.

Breakfast became kaya toast and the kids were quick to chope dinner leftovers. Kate’s lunch box was pared down to biscuits and tomatoes, and she packed her own box on busy mornings.

I was pleased that they kept to their word and were appreciative of anything I put on the breakfast counter.

Easy meals

Kate to the rescue. She had the most spare time and willingly helped around the house. Some mornings she was woken up by my alarm clock at 5.30 and since she was already up, she helped to prepare breakfast.

When I came down after showering, I found her in the garden watering the plants, as she had seen our helper doing.

Junior chef

In the evening while I was cooking, she asked me to play. I told her I was busy and asked her to look around and see how she could help out. She spent an hour sweeping the car porch and had the initiative to put the shoes aside before sweeping away all the leaves. She’s very meticulous and placed them back neatly in a row.

When her cousin popped by and asked her to play, she said, “Later ok? Auntie Jane is away so I am sweeping up the leaves.” Glad she didn’t throw the broom on the floor and run off to play!

I praised her and told her what a great little helper she was. She saw me bringing out the dishes and set the table without me asking.

Mini gardener
I was surprised by #5 too. He heard me delegating chores to the older girls and asked if he could help wash the dishes. I must admit that I don’t expect much from him compared to the girls. If he can get his school bag and work sorted and filed without his teacher calling me, I’m already a happy mum.

Upon reflection, I realised that those are 2 very separate issues which require different skills, and he did want to make himself useful. In fact, he continued to help with the dishes for several nights when he saw that I was busy.
Enthusiastic helper

I woke up LATE! By Friday, I have been surviving on less than 5 hours of sleep per night and didn’t hear the alarm go off. Suddenly I jolted awake!

#5 jumped out of bed, hopped into his uniform, grabbed his bag and ran to the waiting school bus.

I rushed into the kitchen and quickly whipped up banana pancakes for #4 and boiled pasta for her lunchbox. I literally squashed the banana, threw in wheat germ and mixed it vigorously with some milk and plonked them into the pan. They became known as my ugly pancakes but yummy nonetheless! #4 polished them up and said, “Look mum, I used a toothpick to save you washing a fork.”

Kate went to her school bag, pulled out her water bottle and lunch box from the day before (thankfully it was empty and clean-ish) and washed them while singing an upbeat song really loudly. At 6.45am.

It was one of those moments when you feel so drained. But seeing them trying to help cheered me up.

Between planning, executing, disciplining the younger ones and counselling the older ones, I was TOTALLY EXHAUSTED.

It is a herculean task to work, put 3 square meals on the table, take care of the kids and keep the house in order.

Those who have been doing this day in day out, seriously, hats off to you. You need to share your tips!

I can get through one more week. Just one more week…

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

Lesson #15: What are we worth, mums?
Lesson #16: What do you do when you get sick of parenting?
Lesson #17: The tragedy of our society

Life Lesson #21: Are we slowly killing ourselves?

We are just into the second week of January and I need a break. A vacation. The kind where you don’t bring the kids so you can chill at a secluded beach, let the sound of the waves wash over you, and let your mind wander.

It’s been a pretty full-on week. On top of working full-time, I squeezed in a JC Open House, charity event, orthodontic visit, church group discussion and met up with friends over dinner. And then there’s the weekend with a meet-the-principal session, University open house, two birthday parties and a dinner. All while juggling the kids.

We are trying to fit too much into our lives, aren’t we?

I was telling some mums who were concerned about their kids being over-scheduled that they are like sponges. There is only so much they can absorb and everything else will spill over.

It is no different with us. We are rushing from one place to another. Have we stopped to think about our lives? The quality of it? Our connection with others? Our connection with our kids? Are we always barking at them to hurry up? Ferrying them from one activity to another without spending time with them? Do we know what is on their minds and in their hearts?

It’s funny how every time someone asks us, “How are you?” Somewhere in our answer will be “Busy lor, with work, kids, and whatever million other things we have on our plate.”

Since when has being busy become a badge of honour?

Have we given much thought about how we really are feeling? C’mon, there’s so much to do, who has time to stop to think if this is what we really want our lives to be, or if we are deep-down-contented happy.

There are bills to be paid, a household to run. And say, if we did reflect on how our lives are going, do we have the luxury to stop, if we find this is not how we want to live our lives?

#2 has been doing the JC Open house rounds with her schoolmates these past few days. They have 4 days to make a decision and fill in their 12 choices. She invited me to join her to check out her top choice (yes, now mummy can’t just barge in to the teenagers’ activities).

It was a vibrant scene. The aspirants were eager-faced and excited to join the big new JC world and the seniors and teachers were enthusiastic in answering their questions and encouraging them to join the school.

As I looked around the bustling hall filled with students, parents and teachers, as much as a part of me felt joyous that #2 will be embarking on a pivotal and memorable 2 years of her life where they will study hard, play hard and form solid friendships, I had a nagging feeling.

What have we, as a society, driven ourselves to?

Hearing about how hectic their week is going to be made me wonder if there can be another way.

Seems that for the subject combination she intends to choose, classes will end at 5pm most days, and CCAs are at 5-7pm on 2 days. #1’s school was along this bus route, and even though it is 4 bus stops away, during peak hour the buses don’t stop if they are full. Thus we expect #2 to be home between 7-8.30pm. Given that they leave the house at 7.30am, that is longer than a working day for adults! Factor in dinner, shower and homework, and it is beyond what a healthy day should look like.

I’ve heard from many that the weekends are not spared, and they spend it catching up on sleep, revising their work or meeting classmates for group work. My uncles who have been teaching in JCs for the past 30 years concur that times have changed and things have become much tougher than when we were in JC.

It is the same story for #1 who is in poly. She leaves the house at 8am and on days when she has CCA, she is back at 10pm.

This, my dear friends, is our school and work culture. We start over-scheduling our kids when they are in pre-school, the schools take over that job soon enough, and we enter the workforce where it is the norm. Somewhere down the line, we pause and wonder, how did we get here? This is not what I envisioned my life to be.

It is like the speedometer where you rev the car, the pointer is going up up up, and we keep revving, until it reaches the red point. It is no surprise that we have kids attempting suicide. There is only so much a person can take.

Something is seriously wrong. We are advancing so rapidly, but getting nowhere.

What can we do?

How can we slow down?

What can we cut out?

Running at full speed for months on end with only 2 long breaks in a year is hardly sufficient. How can we put more weekly breaks into our schedules so we don’t become over-stretched. Both as parents, and for our children.

As parents, we don’t even get the break we need (and truly deserve) during the weekends. There are still children to tend to and activities to get done.

I don’t have the answers. It is even harder for us with big families as things are multiplied and magnified. The good, the bad, the busy.

All I know is I need to not stop searching for a better way. I hope never to fall into the trap of going with the flow and end up feeling tired, overwhelmed and dejected. Because if we, who are supposed to be the pillars for our children, are ourselves overburdened, how can we support them?

Everyone is running on their own treadmill. In a big family, yes, there are more siblings to share their worries and keep an eye on one another, but there are also more children, more unique personalities and a higher probability of one falling through the cracks. And I only have so many hours in a day, and too many kids who need my attention (although I hear the same cry from parents with only 2 kids!) I do worry.

I guess I’ll start with baby steps. Spending time in silence always helps me to recalibrate. I need to be intentional about scheduling that at the end of every week to remove the build up of stress that has accumulated over the week of madness. And I have to engineer the weekends to be rejuvenating, instead of cramming too much in. Some things have to be relinquished.

The big question is, which ones?

You know what comes to mind? The story of the frogs. The one where if you throw a bunch of frogs into a pot of boiling water, they will jump out. But if you put them in water and slowly boil them, they wouldn’t know any better as the temperature slowly creeps up on them.

Are we slowly killing ourselves?

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

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Life Lesson #20: Will you teach your girls to find a rich husband?

Over Chinese New Year, the prying aunts were at it again, asking the single women when they were going to get married.

We may be so used to these obnoxious questions that none of us batted an eyelid, but to the listening children, they are forming their own views of societal norms of marriage via the discussions of trusted adults around them.

As parents, are we conscious about what messages we are conveying to our children?

Are we aware of the remarks we may have carelessly said without realising the impact they are having on our children?

Have we sat down and thought long and hard about what we want to teach our children about this very important matter?

I remember having a discussion with some mummy friends. I was griping about how miffed I was at my parents for buying #1 a pair of designer spectacles costing $500.

Here I was trying to teach them the value of  money, and there they were, spoiling them rotten. When I chastised my mum, she quickly pointed to my dad, “It’s your dad, not me.”

My dad looked baffled and said “The salesman said this is a special lens and the frame is very light. Since it helps her see properly in school, I don’t mind buying it for her.”

I expected the other mums to feel the same way as I did, but was surprised that we were split into 3 camps.

Some agreed that we shouldn’t let our kids get used to such luxuries and expensive items when they are young, especially since they are not earning their own keep. Others felt that if it were the grandparents spoiling them, that’s ok, as kids seem to understand that grandparents love and dote on them boundlessly.

I was surprised that the rest felt that there was nothing wrong bringing our girls up to enjoy luxuries as they will be used to that level of comfort and will expect no less from their future husbands. One friend mentioned that her mum taught her to marry a rich man so that she would not have to struggle like her mum did.

I was even more taken aback when a majority of the mums agreed that it is wise to teach our girls to find well-to-do husbands as that is being pragmatic, living in an expensive city like Singapore. They gave examples where after divorce, it is easier to bring the kids up when you have a higher alimony.

I left the discussion with a million thoughts swirling in my head. Have I been making comments too flippantly which are not aligned with the values I want to inculcate in them? Sometimes I joke with #1 that given her very expensive taste, she has to either earn a lot of money or marry a rich man.

I had never considered what all the listening kids might be extracting from statements such as these. Marriage = source of funds?

I pondered these questions and discussed them with close friends. I asked them what advice did their own mothers give them about marriage and we discovered that many of us in my generation did not have proper discussions with our parents and were not given sound advice about marriage and finding a life partner.

Instead, these were the more common refrains heard:

“Marry someone who loves you more than you love him”

“Marry wealthy man” (translated)

“Don’t marry xxx (race)”

For some, the closest advice they got regarding dating/marriage was, “Don’t get pregnant! or to the guys, “Don’t get any girl pregnant!”

And this one, “Don’t marry someone like your father!” we all laughed about, but isn’t it sad that many of our mothers felt this way? Possibly because that generation did not ‘wash their dirty laundry in public’, all that was seen was the false appearances of blissful marriages.

This topic became quite intriguing and I was curious about how couples ended up tying the knot. The more I asked around, the more I realised that in the void of good advice from our parents, many of us actually married for the wrong reasons.

Some were swept off their feet because the man was very handsome and owned a house and a nice car.

Some married caucasians because the romance of migrating to a foreign land was exciting while others “wanted a cute ang moh-looking baby”.

Some got married because they couldn’t wait to get out of their parents’ home and some did it because they have been together for many years and their friends were getting married one by one, so it was a natural progression to the “Which HDB should we get” discussion.

Some were pressured by parents or grandparents to tie the knot and start a family.

Now that we are married and wiser, we all agree that it is important to teach our children to seriously consider their choice of life partner and not just the circumstances surrounding the relationship before making such a huge commitment.

It is choosing someone you will want to spend the next 50 or more years with, raise a family with, and grow old together with. Isn’t that the most important decision they will ever make in their lives?

As parents, we know that a broken marriage is never easy for the children. It is important to guide them towards building strong and fruitful marriages and the first step is in providing them sound advice in finding the right spouse and teaching them that marriage is much more than the champagne and flowers on the wedding day or the ring, for that matter.

Being in a good marriage will bring them (and us!) much happiness, while being stuck in a miserable marriage becomes emotionally draining.

Neither do we want them to grow up thinking that something is wrong with them if they are not married by a certain age, nor feel the pressure to ‘just settle down’ because it is expected.

We all have diverse opinions of marriage and suitable life-partners, but as parents, it is good to start discussing with our children what are the ingredients of a healthy marriage before we let slip comments which have been ingrained in us by our own parents.

Although as life would have it, no matter how you try to guide your children, they will probably follow their hearts and give us sleepless nights with their choice of partners we might not approve of.

And we thought the ‘terrible twos’ or the defiant teenage phase would be the last we had to worry about.

What would you teach your child about marriage and finding the right partner? I would love to hear your views.

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

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Life Lesson #18: 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 life lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family
~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~


Life Lesson #12: Who’s selfish? The kids or me?

It just dawned on me that all kids are altruistic. Somehow somewhere along the line, they learn the mentality of scarcity and start to hoard things for themselves.

Last week, I was discussing the issue of happiness with them and trying to impress on them that we don’t need material things to be happy, but if we learn to give from our hearts, that’s where we will find happiness. 

We were sponsored a really beautiful shower head from GROHE and I used the opportunity to ask them if they would like to give that up to another child. I made it real to them by telling them that many other children are not as lucky as them to be living in a big new house with such nice spacious bathrooms, and a gift like that would surely brighten up another child’s day. Honestly I was surprised that they agreed to give it away without much hesitation (although #3 did say, “But it’s really really nice, mum”). I’m quite sure that was the end of it for them and they never thought about it again.

But you know what? I thought about it the whole day. Especially when I read your comments on our Facebook page about how pretty it was and how delighted your kids would be to receive it. And I was asking myself why in the world did I suggest to the kids to give it away.

“Give money to the cow?”

I thought back to the other times when I asked them to be charitable and their generosity became apparent to me. The fact that #4 decided to donate her entire collection of rainbow loom charms to raise funds for the chronically ill children without second thought. The previous time when I asked them if they would like to donate any of their pocket money to help the dear elderly nuns, I told them the story of how their convent was old and leaking. #1 did not donate, but the other girls donated between $30 and $120 each, and #5 even told me to take all the money from his piggy bank.

I realise that so long as you tell kids the story behind it, their natural response is to help. Sadly, as we grow older, we become apathetic to other people’s plight. Perhaps if we keep giving them opportunities to practice being charitable it will become second nature to them.

I am still peering into their hearts and learning from them, and maybe one day, I am able to say “Here, take everything I have.”

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

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family

Linking up with:


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

Life Lesson #11: What must kids do for us to stop pushing them over the edge

Last week, a P5 child attempted suicide in my child’s school. Hopefully after this episode the child’s parents will heed this cry for help. Last year, a Sec 4 child in my other child’s school committed suicide.

A close friend was sharing with me that her 8-year old wanted to run away from home. And take the cab to her best friends house. Of course she wasn’t seriously going to carry out her plan but she was so terrified of her mummy’s anger that she wanted to escape from it. Only then did my friend realise that although she doesn’t use the cane on her kids, sometimes, her wrath is much more fearsome and hurtful to them.
A police friend told me that kids are now running away from home younger and younger and they have found 8 and 9-year olds on the street. How terrifying. A home doesn’t seem to be a haven for some children anymore.
Many years ago, when I reached out to hold one of my daughter’s hand to cross the road, she said, “Let the car knock me down better. I’d rather die.” I literally stopped in my tracks.
Our kids are crying out to us. What must they do for us to stop pushing them over the edge?

In a recent study of over 600 primary school children in Singapore, a group of doctors from IMH found that more than 20% indicated they wanted to kill themselves or harboured suicidal thoughts at one time. I highly recommend parents and teachers read “The Day the Ball Didn’t Bounce” which is based on a true story, written by Dr Peter Mack.

Linking up with:
Other life lessons (which I’ve learnt the hard way):

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family

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

Life Lesson #10: Why we went on holiday just before the PSLE

When my friends heard that we were going to Melbourne just 1 week before the PSLE, they were stunned and laughed that only I will do such a thing. This trip was to attend a cousin’s wedding, and it was the first time that the whole extended family was going on a vacation together. I was in a dilemma. My first reaction was that #1 and #3 should stay behind to study for their exams with my mum taking care of them. However after giving it some thought, I decided to allow #3 to go. For #1, as she is already 16, I gave her the choice to make her own decision. In the end, after much deliberation and after hearing all the exciting plans we had, #1 decided to join in, even though this trip was 3 weeks before her ‘O’ level exams. Here’s 6 reasons why I allowed them to go.

1) Values

With all my major decisions, I always think back to the root, of what values we are conveying to our children. This trip to Melbourne was a once in a lifetime opportunity where the entire extended family made an effort to celebrate the happy occasion with the couple and to spend time together with their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. If I had not allowed them to go, what message would I be giving them? That the exams are so important, to the point that it takes precedence over everything else, including family life? I really wasn’t comfortable with that notion so I thought of what I could do to ensure that she could go yet still be able to handle her exams.

2) Her grades shouldn’t be affected too much

4 years ago, I had already tried this ‘vacation before the exams experiment’. #1 had just finished her PSLE and that was a big milestone and opportune time to take the kids back to Australia where #1 and #2 were born. I didn’t want to wait for the year end holidays as the weather would be too hot and the air fares more expensive (multiply it by 7!) So I decided to leave the day after her PSLE and return the day before the other kids’ year end exams. At that time, #2 was in Primary 4 and #3 was in Primary 2. Pretty risk free years for experiment. Friends were already shocked then that I took them on holiday during the 1 week marking break which was meant for their revision.

The verdict? Their language papers were not affected at all, as I had predicted. The only thing where they slipped by a few marks was in Math. This was because without the practice, they were not as quick. So this round, I told #3 that if I allowed her to go, she would have to give it all she’s got when she’s back.

3) She’s on track

#3 has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of P6 and I’m already very proud of her hard work and effort this past year. She has always had a weak foundation academically and failed almost all her subjects in P5. Unbelievably high percentage of relief teachers since kindergarten (bad luck), never been read to (my fault – too busy), hyperactive child (our traditional method of teaching does not suit her tactile/hands-on style of learning). She said to me just the other day, “Mum, I have never studied so hard in all of my past 5 years put together”. Anyway she shouldn’t be cramming everything in the last few weeks, and more importantly, I don’t want them to think that studying is for passing exams. It is for the acquisition of knowledge which should stay with them, not just facts to stuff into their memory to be regurgitated then forgotten.


4) Empower #1 to make her own decision

For #1, I did my own thinking first and was comfortable either if she went or if she stayed home to study. So I decided to allow her to make her own decision simply because I wanted her to take charge of her own decisions instead of being ready to lay the blame on someone else. See, I figured that if I didn’t allow her to go, next time when we reminisce about the trip or look at the family photos in which she was excluded, she might be resentful. But if I told her to go and it affected her results, she would be quick to put the blame on me for not being firm with her. I’m not bothered about being blamed, but I don’t want my kids growing up feeling like they are victims. Thinking that they have no control over their own decisions, which leads them to constantly blaming others for their failures. I’d rather them learn to make their own decisions, face the consequences and learn from the experiences.

5) That’s life 

Things do crop up at the last minute. Whether at work or in family life. I want to train them to be able to cope with whatever life throws at them. We shouldn’t let them learn that only if things go smoothly then can they succeed. On my part, I factored this trip into their schedule and informed her tutors way in advance. I also tried my best to eliminate any possible downside such as falling sick especially in such cold weather. To counter that, I made sure she slept at 8.30pm every night prior to our trip so she didn’t start off with a deficit in her immunity during this period. And on the trip, I got her to take naps in the car during the long drives as we slept late every night. Thankfully she didn’t fall ill.

6) Over-emphasis on PSLE

There’s too much emphasis placed on the PSLE which is totally out of proportion to the big picture. Yes, I do agree we are trying to get our kids into ‘good’ secondary schools mostly because we are afraid of the ‘bad influence’ in neighbourhood schools. However, at what cost? You might achieve your ‘goal’ and feel you have succeeded. But what of the child? Does she feel validated? Or does she feel that her self-worth is only based on her achievement in school, instead of being self-assured simply for being who she is. This will have far-reaching consequences which will affect her way into the future.

Trust me. You just have to explain to your child once, about how you expect her to study to the best of her ability and hopefully get into a good environment for the next 4 years of her school life, and to be able to get a sufficient score so that more schools of her choice would be open to her. They get it. After you have done that, stop harping on it and put the equilibrium right where the PSLE should not be at the centre of the family’s life, at the expense of everything else. You can read more about selecting secondary schools in, “6 tips to choose a secondary school that is right for your child”.

In the end, I am really glad the both of them joined us. They had so much fun and it is such experiences and memories which build up family ties and a sense of belonging.

Well, I said that their grades shouldn’t be affected much. Shouldn’t is the imperative word here. I’ll update you when her results are out 😉

Related posts:

To find out why I don’t put too much emphasis on the PSLE, read “So who’s smarter”.

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

Life Lesson #2: Don’t over-sacrifice
Life Lesson #4: My bucket list
Life Lesson #6: Passion vs Family

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

Discipline #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.
Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 6 kids):

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

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

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