I’m back on the blog again! 2 weeks into 2018 and I hope I am making good progress in “reviving” my blog. It’s rather random, adhoc posts for now but I figure I just gotta start somewhere after being rusty for so long! My thoughts today is about empowering my kids – teaching them to fish rather than to hand them the fishes when they are hungry.

I have come to realise, that in this fast paced and stressful environment that we parents are in today, we often make the mistake of “doing” stuff for our kids without even thinking about the consequences, or even aware if there is any consequences. It’s just more efficient, faster and more convenient to us. Some of these activities may include things like…

  • cleaning up after our kids after they have their meals
  • packing their school bags for them and checking their timetables
  • cleaning up their toys after them when they are done playing
  • making their beds for them after they have woken up

I have heard so many fellow parents complain about how tiring it is for them, and how they clean up the playroom only to find it in a mess moments later and that they are constantly picking up after the kids. I admit – I sometimes do the same too!

With Jerry getting into primary 1 this year and requiring him to be a lot more independent as a kid, I have come to the realisation that I may not have equipped him enough with skills to care for himself. What comes out more acutely is how much I suddenly realise that my husband is like the little minion constantly toiling around the house FOR the kids. Especially in the times when I am not around to boss the kids to clean up after themselves…. the husband will quietly clean up after them, and then restore the house into impeccable order. Oh, horrors! That’s definitely not how I wanted the kids to be brought up.

But I can understand. It’s a compulsive urge for Der to some extent – he is anal and cannot stand mess, feels the constant urge to keep thing in order and get things done. He’s been like that all the time (and the good thing that comes out of it is that my house is always quite clean and neat), I just wonder why I never see it as clearly as now when it comes to the kids. For the past 2 weeks, every time I see him “cleaning” or “toiling” after the kids, I made sure I got his attention on it and asked why he is doing what is he is doing. I often get answers like – faster, saves time, I’m helping myself (to prevent shouting or scolding the kids), the kids don’t listen to instructions etc, and he just go and get the job done.

I delivered a reality to him in the face today. Harsh as I may be. I simply told him this – You are just helping yourself to be a lifetime slave to the kids. 

Do you agree with me or not? I am happy to hear your comments.

But my point is this – if you never attempt to get the kids to do something and have them own the task, they will never learn. And this is a vicious cycle. It sets up frustrations on the parents to keep doing the tasks for the kids, and then get upset with the kids when they mess up, and all I see is a downward spiral.

I have 2 scenarios to share that happened today. Before that, I just wanted to say.. I am not putting my husband down or anything. I genuinely feel that the sharing will help some parents out there to come to the realisation that their frustrations may be uncounted for, and they can do something to improve the situation. And as with all parents, we are constantly learning to be a better one each day, and we learn new things with each encounter with our kids as well so that’s really my main objective.

Counting the daily pocket money for Jerry

With the start of the school term, I have instructed that Jerry has to count his pocket money each day and take ownership in keeping the money in his wallet, and bringing it to school. He can learn how to identify and count the money, have more hands-on experience with handling money and be more comfortable with it. Sounds like a plan?

Well, today, I realised that the husband has been counting $2 worth of pocket money, pass the $2 worth to Jerry and have him count it and verify it before putting it into his wallet. Do you think if there is any problem with the approach?

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I had a big issue with it. The amount is pre-counted. There is no room for error since it is counted before by an adult, and even with it.. Jerry kept counting the $2 as $3. There is some form of classical conditioning taking place. Jerry knows that Daddy has already counted the money beforehand, so he does not really care for counting the money properly and is just going through the motion so that he can get back to playing or whatever he was doing before the task. Jerry also knows that if he gets it wrong, Daddy will be there to help him. There is also no negative scenario testing. Like, Der always reliably give him $2 and didn’t attempt to purposely make mistakes on the amount and allow the kid to point out any possible mistake.  See where I am coming from now?

I shooed daddy away. I took all the coins and dumped them back into the coin container that we had and asked Jerry to take out the coins and put them in piles of $1 and let me know how many $1 piles he can make with all the coins. I stepped away and left him to it and told him to tell me when he is done. He is now left on his own with no supervision to get the task done. He slowly counted the coins, put them in $1 piles… and when he is done.. he had about 9 $1 piles around the table (all counted correctly!), and threw some coins back into the box. I looked at those and asked if he can make another $1 pile from those.. and he says there isn’t enough. I prodded him along and ask him to help me count how much is missing to make another $1 pile (there is sufficient coins actually, but there were a lot of 5 cents in there and I think he was struggling with those). He finally made it to a 90 cents pile and told me that’s $1 (with 6 5cents coins within). I asked him to count for me slowly and show me how he get $1 from those. He counted till 90 cents, looked up and went… Eh!! Takes another 2 5 cents to make the $1 pile. The last pile took some time, but I feel, he would have (1) a sense of achievement having to complete the task on his own (2) figure out on his own on how to make up $1 and that the lesson would likely stick more to his memory. My next task was for him to take $2 from all the $1 piles that he had laid out in front of him. That’s so easy for him suddenly and I asked him if he felt so too. With that, I simply just told him that from tomorrow onwards, he will have to count the $2 himself from the money box himself and have papa verify. It’s a simple role reversal, but the kid is now empowered to do something, holds the responsibility for his own pocket money and knows that he is accountable for it if he forgets or counts wrongly.

Packing for swim class

So, with the new year, I have also finally signed the kids up for swimming classes. Been on my to-do list for the longest time, but just never got down to it despite enquiring around a fair bit. They had their first lesson last week and loved it despite the fact they had to stay indoors for theory because of the bad weather.

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The 2nd class is today, and some time in the afternoon.. I see Der taking a bag around the house and started packing the items for the  swimming class! I had to tell him to stop, and put everything back in place where they should be. The swimming class is something that the kids enjoyed a lot and I figure that I needed to make them own the task and be responsible for packing for their own swimming gears and stuff for the class themselves. So.. I took a piece of paper, rounded the kids, drew a cute swimming icon on it and titled it: Swimming List. I asked the kids to tell me what they needed for the swimming class and they were excitedly shouting all the answers at me – swimming suit! goggles! float! towels! They actually knew what they needed, so do they really needed our help in packing? Maybe not? After they were done, I said I am going to add an additional item on the list for them – a wet bag and told them I’ll show it to them later. I stuck the piece of paper on the store room’s door and went.. OK! Now, shall we pack? Where are the swim suits? 

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The kids excitedly ran to their wardrobe to search for it. It became a fun game instead. They found the swim suits with some help (it wasn’t in the usual place it was supposed to be), and I made them ensure it was a matching suit that they each have gotten and told them to drop it into the bag. We moved on to the next item, and the next item.. and then.. the swim bag was almost done, although everything was thrown in haphazardly. Does it matter to me that it’s messy? No. They will eventually learn to be neat, but my objective was to get to them get ready the essentials they needed for the class. I then brought them to where the wet bag was and showed it to them and asked if they knew what it was for. They didn’t so I explained that it helps to contain their wet swimming suits after they are done with swimming so that it will not wet all the contents in our bag and helps keep everything dry. The result? This:

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When the kids are done, I gave them praises and told them that they will have to pack their swim bag each week with the help of the list and they just went ok! Did I have any struggle? No. Were the kids happy to do it? Yes. Would it be easy for us to pack the bags for them? Yes. Would they ever learn if we have done so? No.

Do you get my point? While it would be faster for us to pack the bag effortlessly week on week, the kids will not be learning anything out of it, and it will then be taken for granted that the swimming bag be packed for them and in the event that something is being left out, it becomes our fault and the kid may potentially be upset or throw a tantrum while at it. But, if the kid is being empowered and if the fault is his to own, he will learn a lesson and be more careful in the future because he is bearing the consequences of his own actions.

So, go empower your kids today. We don’t have a maid so my kids are expected to bring their bowls or cups to the sink whenever they are done eating/drinking, throw rubbish into the bins when there is, clean up after the playroom themselves when they play, turn off the TV when they are done watching or charge their own devices (ipads) when the battery is low. It really helps the kids and us to function together as a family, and for them to grow independent.

My 4 years old going 5 years old Jerome is capable of waking up by himself, brushing his own teeth, going to the toilet to pee and changing out of his PJs, switching on the tv and aircon, and just chill while watching tv… while the rest of the household is sleeping. He does that because he is motivated to do it and knows that no one can help him since everyone else is still in dreamland. He even cleans after himself after he poops (there was once I dozed off while waiting for him to be done), and poor thing was shouting for someone to help him but no one went to his rescue. He then cleans up himself, and came to the room to wake me up and tells me to help him wear his diaper (for sleeping). I was shocked and said sorry for dozing off but all he said was.. It’s ok. No one came when I keep shouting so I clean up myself lor! Can you check if it is clean? It was. After that incident, he never needed help again even when I offered and told me he can do it by himself and it’s ok. He does the same in grandma’s house and in school too. This kid, he taught me so much actually and the fact that it is really ok for us parents to let go and let them learn. It really is OK.

I hope this blog post inspires you as a parent to rethink how you are empowering your kids and how some of your daily actions might actually do more harm than good. I do know of friends who are doing awesome in this aspect and their kids can even cook and bake and cut vegetables. For the non-parents, the theory actually also applies at work if you are coaching a co-worker or someone junior, or managing interns. Instead of  “I’ll help you do that first.”, gives them clear instructions and have them try it and guide them along the way. It’s often helping ourselves in the long run.

Till the next blog post!