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

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

I would have enjoyed them more.

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

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

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

Baby Kate

I would make time for myself.

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

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

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

I would discipline them with love.

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

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

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

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

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

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



How do you respond when your child falls?

Kate’s teacher related an incident at school, and commented that she is very brave.

She had accidentally dropped a toy on her toe and it bled.

She winced but did not burst into tears.

Her teacher noticed that whenever she falls, she would just pick herself up, and asked me if that was because she was the 6th child. Tough and resilient.

I think how a child reacts has a lot to do with the way the adults respond.

Kate was a few months old when our helper, Mary, came. Every time she fell, I don’t know who shrieked louder. The child or the helper. Sometimes, Mary’s loud scream scared her even more than the fall itself. Mary would run over, pick her up and sayang (pacify) her effusively.

I told her not to do that as her response only served to make her cry even louder so that she will be showered with more attention.

Tripped and fell
Thinking back, my mum had an even more ridiculous response when the kids fell and cried.

Once, one of the older kids knocked her head against the side of the table and cried uncontrollably.

When all soothing words failed, my mum tried to distract her by hitting the table loudly saying, “Naughty table! You hurt my little girl.” Grandma and toddler ended up hitting the table repeatedly together, scolding it for her mishap.

As that response worked to stop the child from crying, my mum would do that whenever any of them fell and cried. Be it the floor that was naughty, the door, or some poor innocent toy. I can still picture in my mind’s eye many a ridiculous scene with grandma and toddler admonishing some inanimate object.

With Kate, I have stopped my mum from doing that and explained that it will teach her to adopt a blaming or victim mentality. I got hurt, it’s your fault. Always somebody else’s fault.

The hubs, on the other hand, has his own method of dealing with it. He would try to console them for say, 10 seconds, but if they continue to sob, his patience would run out.

“That’s enough. You’re a big girl/boy. Stop crying. It’s just a little cut.” And that was that. They would have to get on with it, no matter how much it hurt.

It might stem their crying quite quickly, but it is not very healthy for them emotionally as they will bottle everything inside.

My teens and I were having a good laugh recently when they read something off social media.

When a child falls, the caucasian mum will go, “Honey are you alright?” Followed by hugs and kisses.

A Singaporean mum would scream, “Run la! Run some more!” (rub it in, shall we!)

I’ve had a lot of practice dealing with their scrapes and scratches, and with Kate, I’m now as cool as a cucumber.

She was running in the mall and fell face forward on the ground. The s-p-l-a-t kind of fall. The adults around her gasped and waited for the wail to follow and the rush of hands to grab her up.

Silence.

For 3 seconds, no one moved.

Kate looked at me, and I gave her my yes, I know you can pick yourself up look.

She got up, dusted herself and came to me for a big hug.

I asked her quietly “Does it hurt?” She nodded, and because her hurt was acknowledged, she didn’t need to cry loudly to make it known. “Where is the pain?” She pointed to the few places where she hit the ground.

I kissed her to make it better and she was as good as new.

The adults looked at me and smiled. Seriously. They stood there and watched the whole ‘show’.

I guess the bigger lesson for them to learn is that even if in future, they fail or fall, they will be able to pick themselves up.

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

Life Lesson #16: Do our kids even know we love them?

A reader wrote in telling me that she was inspired by my Life Lesson #14: To measure our lives in love. She said that it was inspiring but hard to do and asked if I could write about how to handle stressful situations, and how to lovingly set firm boundaries for her 2 kids.

I won’t go into details on how to do that as there are too many scenarios. I’m sure as mums, setting boundaries is something we all know how to do. The question is how to do it lovingly.

 
I will attempt to answer her question by sharing 2 things I think of to calm myself down whenever I am starting to get really angry with them.

One is to imagine them as teenagers. Well, I don’t have to imagine, as my 3 older¬†girls are firmly ensconced in the ‘teenage phase’. I can tell you that this is the real litmus test of¬†whether you have done your job well as a¬†parent. They will be faced with peer pressures and negative influences and have to make many choices. What do you want them to be able to draw from? Many happy memories with the family? Being able to easily remember times when you loved them, cuddled them, showed them that you care? Or will they find it hard to picture such memories, and instead only remember that you were constantly shouting at them or barking orders and instructions to them?

When you are able to stop yourself in your tracks and picture your teen desperately needing to draw from a fountain of your loving relationship with them to navigate through the tough adolescent years, you will naturally know how to handle the situation in a more loving manner.

The second thing I think of is being on my death bed. No, I’m not being morbid but after¬†volunteering at a hospice and seeing the realities of life at the end of our days, it has become very real to me. When I am close to death, do I want my kids to be there with me simply because it is their duty to do so? Or do I want to celebrate a life where we had a very close relationship. The older I get, the more I see that it is not a given that parent-child relationships are automatically warm and fuzzy. How will my kids see me? Will they see me as a mother who was only concerned that they went to bed on time, ate their veggies or scored good marks? Or will they see me as a mother who was patient and kind with them, who disciplined them firmly but with love?

There will definitely be days when you can’t find it¬†within yourself to show them love. Days when you yourself are so depleted. Be gentle on yourself. If today was a bad day, leave it behind. Tomorrow will be a brand new day. Kids are such amazing beings. They forget. They forgive so easily. They have such a great capacity to love. Sometimes, we have to soften our own hearts to allow them to teach us. To¬†teach us how to love so purely. Not to love them only after they have done what we told them to do. Not to love them only when they have achieved¬†something great. Not to love them only when we are in a good mood.

Many times, we do things because we love them. We scold them, punish them, make them do things they don’t want to do all because we want the best for them. We tell them that one day when they are adults, they will understand that we are doing all of this precisely because we love them.

But while they are growing up, do they feel our love? Perhaps we should find ways and space to bring back love into all that we are doing with them and for them every step of the way. Let us strive to learn to love them in ways they understand. Let us not wait until they are parents themselves to realise how much we love them, but let them feel our love accompany them along their journey of life.

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 ~

Thankful‚Ķ for #4’s resilience and forgiveness

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


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

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

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

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

Indeed, I have much to learn from her.

Thankful Tuesdays:

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


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

Thankful‚Ķ for our helper
Thankful‚Ķ for my family
Thankful‚Ķ for the beauty of nature
Thankful‚Ķ for my mum-in-law

Linking up with:



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

Discipline #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‚Ķ. 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 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 ~




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 Р6 weeks  : 45 mins
2 Р3 months     : 1 hour
4 Р5 months     : 1.5 hours
6 Р7 months     : 2 hours
8 Р9 months     : 2.5 hours
10 Р12 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! ūüôā
 
Do read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr Marc Weissbluth for a better understanding and some case studies of babies. 
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 ~

Life Lesson #2 – Don’t over-sacrifice

Being a mother comes with a lot of sacrifices. Not only on a daily basis, but sometimes we even put our careers, our hobbies, or even our hopes and dreams on hold for our children. For years, I didn’t see the night sky as I stopped going out with the hubs or with friends for dinner because you could either call that prime time with the kids or ‘the witching hour’, whereby I had to see to dinner, baths and bed. And of course, after all that was done, I would be so exhausted that some days I would fall asleep while putting them to bed even before they fell asleep!

And because we have done so much for them, we get upset when we feel unappreciated or taken for granted. Worse, when they were around the ages of 8 or 9, sometimes they would say things like they liked daddy better because daddy plays Play Station with them and lets them watch movies and play the iPad. Here we are, doing all the hard work and sacrificing almost everything for them, yet daddy just waltzes in and is the favourite parent. Thankfully, I had a very good bunch of SAHM friends and we managed to laugh at the irony of it all as we were in the same boat.

Jokes aside, the greater issue here is that I¬†have seen women in my mum’s generation who¬†have spent most of their lives sacrificing for their families, and now that they are reaching the end of their lives, they could be silently regretful or even resentful. They may have given up their careers, their passions, or even hung on to an unhappy marriage just for the sake of the children.¬†

And if somehow their children end up being unfilial, or perhaps even filial children who might be faced with the constrains of taking care of their own families and have not enough time, money or energy left for them, they may feel very sad or bitter. But can they blame their children?¬†After all, the children did not even know what had transpired and definitely did not ask their mums to give up everything for them. But as mums, that’s just what we tend to do. To put everyone else’s needs before our own.

S A C R I F I C E

I have a whole long list of ‘Things I want to do when the kids are older’. But I’ve come to the realisation that I should stop putting my life on hold for the children (after all, I’ve already devoted 15 years to them), and think out of the box to see if there are things I have always wanted to do that can be worked around the family, and start from there.¬†Because I sure don’t want to reach a point when I am old and be full of resentment at my kids or angry at myself. And even if my kids end up being filial and try their best to make me happy, I might¬†still be discontented as I was not able to fulfil all the things I wanted to do in life. Perhaps I’ll share my bucket list in another post.

So I’m going to seriously look at my list, and even though my hands are already full taking care of the 6 of them, I will spare a thought for myself. Because if I don’t I may end up being unhappy which will make my family unhappy, and even if they wanted to, they can’t turn the clock back for me. I don’t want to be on my deathbed with a heart full of regrets at a life half lived.

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

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

How to use your children’s hong bao money to teach them financial literacy

When the kids were younger and we took them out, they would invariable ask to buy something. I would have 5 incessant pleas of “Mom, can I buy this‚Ķ please?” If I said no, they would take another item and say “What about this? Please?” It drove me nuts. And I would have to make a decision to allow the purchase or not. Sometimes just to get them out of my hair so I could shop properly, I would allow them to buy the toys if they were not too expensive. Or if some days they kept badgering me until I lost my patience, it was “All cannot buy!”

So I started thinking about this issue seriously. What did I want them to learn about money? I wanted to teach them to make the decisions themselves, to decide if the item was necessary and if it was value for money. I also wanted to teach them to spend within their means, and to learn values like thrift and charity. And I definitely wanted them to know that money didn’t grow on trees, which I concluded when I was young, as my parents bought me everything I asked for.

I was a financial consultant for a decade, and I saw too many adults not having the proper financial skills needed in life. It did not matter if they were earning $2,000 or $20,000. They could be making the same mistakes and I realised that it was not only how much you earned but what you did with your money that mattered.

I formulated a plan. I realised that giving them a little extra in pocket money and teaching them to save to buy something did teach them delayed gratification, but not much else. So I didn’t use their pocket money as a teaching tool. I gave them $1 per day for recess starting from Primary 1, with an increment of $0.50 every 2 years. That was to cover their food in school. For all other purchases, I allowed them to keep a small portion of the money collected during Chinese new year, which they were free to use as they pleased for the rest of the year. 

$200 to last them a year

This program commences the year they enter Primary 1. For me, I need to standardise everything so that it’s fair and easy for me to remember. However, based on your own family’s needs, you can start the child at an earlier or later age as you deem appropriate. Generally, kids from 0-4 are contented with hand-me-downs and creating fun out of simple or recycled objects. It is around the age of 4 onwards where they start to ask for particular toys as seen on TV or something their friends have. So at that age, I started to discuss and teach them simple concepts such as what are needs and wants and how much toys cost in relation to something else. For example, I told #5 that a box of Lego ninjago can buy us 20 packets of chicken rice, and his eyes widened in surprise. When they reached 6, that’s when I started to give them a lump sum from their hong bao money to allow them the opportunity to learn the financial lessons themselves.

This is how I derived the figure – I roughly estimated what I was currently spending on each child in 1 year on non-necessities like toys, watches, fancy stationary etc. I rounded it down, and was comfortable with a figure of $200 per child per year to spend as they like. The rest of the money went into their bank account, which is earmarked for their tertiary education. (Another option is to start them off on a smaller amount for the first couple of years, say $100, before increasing it as they get older).

The first time #3 had her money, she was overjoyed and spent it freely. She bought all sorts of cute stationary from her school bookshop, toys when we went to the malls, and even knick-knacks for her friends. I didn’t chastise her as I wanted her to learn the lessons on her own. Within a few short months, she was shocked to find that her wallet was empty. She came to me and told me tearfully that she was ‘wallet-krupt’. I didn’t quite understand, until the older girls told me that it’s not her bank account that was depleted, but her wallet. She watched in misery for the rest of the year as the others had money to spend. It also taught them generosity as there were occasions when the others had money to buy something and she didn’t, and they bought it for her, knowing that she had fallen on ‘tough times’. The favour would be repaid the following year when her finances were better. All these situations mimic real life, and they are teaching moments which can be used to reinforce the things they are doing right and to teach them other options if they are not quite on the right track. I figured that it was better for them to make the mistakes when they are young, than to learn the hard way when they are older and the amounts are more substantial.

So for #3, I instructed her to gather all the things she bought that year, and she was puzzled as to where the money went as there was not much to show for it. She realised that $2 here and $5 there amounted to a lot of money, and she regretted buying some of the items which she didn’t even want anymore. The next year, she was much more prudent with her buys and by the end of the year, she still had a good portion of the money left.

As for the rest, #1 is very meticulous and she notes down every little purchase and carefully budgets her money to ensure it lasts her the year. #2 never liked shopping and saved almost all of her money. #4 was very careful with her buys from the get-go as she saw what happened to #3. Last year was the first time #5 had his money and he readily spent it all on Lego and didn’t mind that the rest of the year he had no money left as he spent the year happily playing with what he had bought. Let’s see if his spending pattern changes over the years. It was also really interesting to see how their characters were reflected in their spending habits.

When they reached Primary 5, I gave each of them a little notebook to record their purchases. They will write down the item, how much they have to begin with, how much the item costs, and their balance. This allows them to look back after a year to see if the purchases were worth it or not. If they were still using the items and it was serving them well, that’s good as they got a lot of mileage out of it. They will put a tick under the ‘Note’ if it was a wise buy and a cross if it was not a good buy. It can then be seen at a glance if a majority of their purchases were good or not, and they can try to improve on that the next year. They also naturally realised that a lot of stuff they bought were useless or bought on the spur of the moment. This leads them to consider more carefully in future before they bought something.

Cashbook to record their purchases

The only times they get presents are during their birthdays and Christmas. During the year, if they want something which would take up a sizeable chunk of their money, they will note it down, and if some months later they still want that item, they will request it for Christmas, either from us, their grandparents, or their aunts and uncles. That teaches them delayed gratification and also helped cut down a lot of unnecessary spur of the moment “I really want” type of purchase, only to regret it later.

Sane tip: The best part of my program? No more “Mom, pleassse, just this 1 thing?” I can now shop in peace while they are busy figuring if they should buy an item, or comparing prices, or sharing info with each other about where to get cheaper and nicer items which they were looking for. And instead of thinking that “Mom is mean” when I refuse to buy them something, they are empowered to make a wise decision. They have also learnt the very important skill of budgeting and spending within their means. Giving to charity has also taken on more significance to them, as it is given out of their own pocket.

Save tip: I have saved quite a lot of money, because now, everything comes out of their $200, even concert tickets! They used to bug me to take them to Hi 5Disney on ice, and High School Musical when they were younger. A concert outing could easily set me back $500, not only for tickets for everyone, but they also wanted those silly wand sticks or ice balls which cost more than $10 each! After they turned 6 and had to spend their own money, they bought it once, forking out $68 each. After the show, I asked them if it was worth their money. They replied that it was not bad, but that I had taken them to enough concerts over the years and that they wouldn’t go the next year (that was what I had been trying to tell them all along!) And of course, they did not part with their money to buy any of the overpriced memorabilia after the concert. The good thing is that you can still take them to any concerts or events which you feel you want them to be exposed to, and believe me, the kids will be so grateful to you for paying for it ūüôā


Here are more tips on how to keep their birthday parties within $100 while equipping them with financial skills like planning and budgeting.

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