How To Raise Independent Children

It happens all the time. You drop your son or daughter off to school, and as you hop back in the car, you realise that they’ve forgotten something. Maybe it’s a book, or their lunch/water bottle, or something else they’ll probably need that day. So, off we go, back into the school to drop off the item at the school office so that it can be delivered to out child’s classroom. But is this the best idea to help our children become more independent?

Would it be better to just leave and let them deal without having that thing for one day? Which choice would be best in helping them to become more independent? And make them not rely on their parents fixing every little problem for them.

One school here in Singapore has taken that decision away fro parents, and I think this is a good thing. At Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School they’ve put up signs telling parents not to drop off forgotten items. And if the parents still go to the school office, they won’t accept the item and they’ll be turned around.

The full text of the signs read “STOP. Let Your Child Grow Up. If you are delivering your child’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, shoes, instruments, etc. Please TURN AROUND AND LEAVE. Your child will learn to solve problems and take responsibility for the consequences in your absence. Thank you.”

I think that says it all really, and whilst my son’s (Jay) school doesn’t have this policy, I’m going to follow it and if he forgets to take something with him, he’ll have to do without for the day. Oh, and if you think the kids might be left without lunch for the day, the school will lend them money to buy their lunch, but they’ll need to repay it.

I seems to me that this is a perfectly simple but effective way of teaching Jay about responsibility without any major risks. The only time I can see myself not following through would be in the case of needed medicines. I think even the school above would make an exception for that.

The biggest problem with this plan, is that in the last 2 1/2 years that Jay has been going to school, I can’t actually remember a time when he has forgotten anything. Oh, there have been a couple of occasions where my wife or I have dropped something off at the school office, but they were cases where we had to buy a text book for him that hadn’t been previously available and then drop it straight off.

Which means that using this system of teaching him independence may not work for us, unless we deliberately take something out of his bag and let him think he forgot it. But even I’m not that mean, and I’m the type of person to plan to shave peoples heads whilst they’re asleep.

Thankfully there are plenty of other ways we can teach independence on a daily basis, but I think I’ll leave those examples for another time.

Your Child Can Be Anything They Choose

Recently, my wife, SO, sent me a. Newspaper article about a toy poodle by the name Anzu in Japan that is a police dog. It’s a strange thing and the idea of a tiny toy poodle being used in this role is something that I, and I suspect most people, would never have considered. But apparently, not only is she a police dog, she’s also a good and useful one.

But how, I hear you ask, does this relate to our children? Well, they have the answer, and you can read about it here.

If you didn’t read that, or haven’t done so yet, what they talk about in the article is how we as parents can use the example of that tiny canine in how we think about and treat our kids. By seeing the hidden abilities of Anzu she has become an invaluable part of his police team. And we can, and should do that with our children.

In raising our kids, in my case my son Jay, we should look for these talents. Not just the ones we can already see, but also those that are hidden beneath the surface. By being aware that there may be abilities that don’t show themselves in our daily lives we can be on the lookout for them. And when we find them, we’re already in a position to help our children to pursue them, and encourage them to grow in ways that may have never have occurred to us.

I know for SO and I, we’ll now be more aware of these things, and I hope that through Anzu’s story other parents will also do the same.

How Many School Holidays Do Children Have Now

Is it just me, or do kids seem to have more Holidays now? Okay, thinking back to my own school days, I guess we had just as many. But they just seem to come so often now, it feels as if they’ve just gone back to school and then their off again.

Jay went back to school on the 2nd of January, and it’s now the 13th of March and he’s got a week holiday. To make it worse, he was sick for a total of 7 school days, meaning he was home for 11 days in a row. I guess that made it seem like he had an extra week of holidays in the middle of term.

One thing that is different from when I was a kid, and maybe this is just the Singapore system, is that he has homework to do while he’s off. To do it, he has to log in to a website and go through the material there. At the moment, I’m in two minds. Part of me remembers the thrill of school holidays and the time away from having to learning, and wants him to enjoy his time of leisure in the same way my brothers and I did. The other part of me, the part that is Jay’s father (and guide in this life), wants him to excel in his studies and do the work.

And so we have the conundrum that I feel caring parents of the world share. We want our kids to grow up happy and enjoying their childhood. But we also see the reality that we need (must?) encourage them to continue their education and development, even when their peers are out enjoying themselves and having fun.

So what course have I chosen? I’ll let you know when (if?) I decide. It’s only the first day of holidays, and so far I have reminded him several times to do his homework, but admittedly have not pushed too hard. I can see, for I’m not delusional, that by the end of the week, I’ll be pushing harder and forcing him to do it. But for now, I’ll let him have fun and continue the nudges in the right direction, and try not to ruin his fun time too much.

How To Deal With Temper Tantrums

It’s happened to most parents at one time or another. You’re in the middle of a crowded mall when suddenly the world shatters. Lying in front of you, trying to smash the floor to pieces, is your little one. Frustrated at not getting what they want, they lash out with no concern or acknowledgement that anything in the world exists, except for them and what they want. And you, dear parent, and I am with you in this, are the cause of this monstrous disaster.

So, what do we do? For those of us who have read the parenting books, and we even discussed this in class at university when I studied psychology, we try to ignore it and let our precious angel wear themselves out. You may have even seen that photo of Drew Barrymore that’s going around now, standing there ignoring her daughter as she throws a tantrum. It seemed so easy for her, and she even gets to go on talk shows to explain it.

For us mere mortals though, we don’t get a chance to explain to the world, and yet we still get those onlookers glaring at us as if we were the worst parents on earth. Is it just me, or do most of these glarers seem to be of the childless variety? So, what do we do? (Yes, I know I asked that earlier, but I have a limited attention span, and small vocabulary)

What we do is our best. First thing I try to do, almost successfully, is to block out the rest of the world and focus only on my son, Jay. Then I try to remain calm and not react until he has expended his energy and is calming down. It’s a constant struggle with my own will, with most of me wanting to stop him and physically restrain him until he stops his Hulk impersonation. And in the long run I know the best is to let him go, and as long as he doesn’t hurt himself or others it will work itself out.

One thing that I’ve seen others do, and I saw this a lot when I worked in a department store, is that the parent will then buy something for the child as a way to further calm them down, and to avoid further embarrassment.  I learnt early on that this is just rewarding the child for their bad behaviour. Even when it’s not the item they originally wanted, the child still sees it as a win and teaches them that bad behaviour will get them rewards.

The best way that I can put this, and is supported by the experts, is 1. Ignore the child until they calm down 2. Ignore others that seem to think you’re in the wrong 3. Don’t give anything that can be seen as a reward by the child. It’s difficult when you’re in the middle of it, but it does pay off in the end. Remember, we all go through this, you’re not the first and won’t be the last.

Cooking With Your Child

One of my favourite memories growing up, is when I would help my Mum cook. Mostly it would just be things like cakes or pancakes. The pancakes were probably my favourite to cook because I got to use the frying pan and would pretend I was a famous chef. Although as far as eating goes, cakes win hands down.

Carrying on this tradition, my wife, SO, and I have made it a regular activity that we cook with our son, Jay. Unlike cooking with my Mum, we tend to cook meals together as a family. We have done desserts or cookies a couple of times, but we don’t really make cakes and things like that very often. Largely because I’m the only one who really eats cake. Yes, I have eaten a whole cake by myself on occasion (over several days that is). And cookies aren’t something we like to have too many of around the house because Jay and I do tend to pig out on them, and we have become much more conscious of our health and weight. I talk about Jay’s weight issues here.

As a result we tend to focus on meals for our family cooking sessions. In general we let Jay choose what to cook, with the idea that if it’s his choice he’ll be more interested in completing it. Which normally works, but there are still occasions when he’ll start and then get distracted by other things, like TV or games. Most of the time he’ll complete the meal, and we try to make it a fun activity for all of us.

It doesn’t work all the time though, and there are times when we get frustrated with him. But that’s just something you have to deal with when working with a child.

One of his favourite things to cook is pizza, which we do completely from scratch. Meaning we make the dough ourselves. It does get a bit messy though, which I think may be why he likes cooking it. On the other hand, he really does love pizza, and his favourite topping is pepperoni. He does pretty much all of the work, with SO and I assisting with things like measurements, and making sure the sauce is evenly spread. If we didn’t we’d end up with clumps of sauce in some areas and none in others, mostly because he wants to do this part quickly and get the toppings on.

Other things we’ve made with him are pasta and salad, where he will boil the pasta and cook the sauce. Okay, salad you don’t cook, but he does like to chop up the ingredients and toss the salad.

We are trying to get him to cook other things, but the problem with that is that he isn’t familiar with a lot of the other foods we want to cook, so it’s a bit of a work in progress there.

Overall, I find cooking with Jay a great way to bond and have fun together. Plus we get good food, and Jay learns a valuable skill. He’s already mentioned several times that he wants to open his own restaurant, although I’m not sure how he’ll do that and be a scientist and a basketball star at the same time.

Dealing With A Sick Child

Jay’s been sick this last week, and still is. He had last Thursday and Friday off, and it’s now Monday, and he’s off from school again. It’s not anything that out of the ordinary, just a regular cold, but it’s a difficult time for him, and as a result, for the rest of us.

Wednesday night when we got home from work, he was complaining about a fever and he didn’t feel well. It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t going to school the next day, when his fever was going up and he started throwing up. Fortunately we still had some medicine he could take. Unfortunately, when he gets this bad, he doesn’t want to take it and will fight not to have any.

Of course this meant that for pretty much the whole night, none of us got much sleep. I think I may have had a total of 3 or 4 hours all up, and SO got about the same.

So what did we do? We tried to cajole him into taking something to bring the fever down and stop his coughing. We didn’t have much success though, and on Thursday he went off to the doctor to get something to take.

As an aside, he’s now been to the doctor three times, because he needs an MC (Medical Certificate) for every day he’s away from school, and the doctor will only give him one day at a time. At least doctor’s visits aren’t that expensive here.

Over the last four days he has taken some medicine, although not as regularly as he is supposed to. When he’s feeling a bit better, he’ll take it, but if he starts to feel too bad, he refuses. Which has put us into a bit of a circle. When he needs it the most, he won’t take any.

So, what we’ve been trying to do is to get him to take it regularly when he’s feeling better, and keep it going so he doesn’t feel any worse. Unfortunately, when he’s feeling a lot better, he doesn’t think he needs it and so won’t take it.

We’ve tried all the tricks, putting it in food, in drinks. The problem is, he’s too smart and can taste the difference. We tell him it’s just because he’s sick that it tastes different. But that rarely works. He really is too smart for his own good (and ours).

And now we’re on his fifth day of being sick and we’re still trying to get him better. If anyone has some suggestions, there are two increasing tired adults here who would greatly appreciate it.

My Son The Basketball Star

My son, Jay, came home from school on Friday a little disappointed. “I got basketball” he told me, with a hint of sadness in his eyes. It wasn’t what he was hoping for, but after a bit of a chat, he decided it was, not just okay, but a potentially good thing.

You see, here in Singapore, primary 3 students (that’s elementary grade 3 for the North Americans) get to choose a CCA (Co-Curricular Activity). The choices include things like science, music, dance, martial arts, scouts, red cross, a few different sports, and some others I can’t remember at the moment. I think there were about 16 choices in all, and the students get to list the 3 they are most interested in.

In their first 2 years they do get a chance to do other CCAs, like Rollerblading that Jay did, but they don’t continue these. They’re only short term courses where they learn a skill to continue with outside of school.

For Jay, his first choice was the robotics club, where he would’ve learnt how to make robots and control them, as well as learn other skills like programming and photography. His second choice was science, where he has a major interest, and would’ve allowed to learn more about a subject that he has a passion for. I’ve written about his interest in science here. To decide who got into what CCA, the school put all the names who were interested in each CCA into the old electronic hat and randomly chose who would join each club. Unfortunately, he didn’t get either of his first two choices.

His third choice was, if you haven’t guessed already, Basketball. It is something he’s interested in, but he was hoping to get one of the other two. This did disappoint him, but after talking a bit he’s getting more excited about doing a sport. He is, after all, quite tall for his age (he towers over most of his peers), but we’ll have to wait to see if he has the skill the support the physical advantage.

The other good thing, which Jay brought up himself, is that it will help with his physical fitness and weight. If you haven’t read about Jay’s weight issue, you can read about it here. This is a big positive, but my main concern is that he enjoys himself. He’s only eight and I believe that at his age he should be learning and playing sports for enjoyment. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be competitive, and I’m proud to say Jay mocks other people who are proud about getting a participation award, but I do want him to focus on the fun and not worry as much about the competition or how it’s helping him to lose weight.

Should Parents Post Their Kid’s Pictures On Social Media?

It’s Julie’s first day of grade 5 and her parents are excited and decide to tell everyone they know by taking a photo and sharing it with friends and family on facebook. There she is in her school uniform and her parents leave the comment “First day of grade 6 for our princess at Whatchamacallit School”

It’s what we all do, right? Tell our friends and family what our kids are up to and share their lives. For people like me, living in Singapore, with family in Australia, Indonesia, and Canada, it makes sense sharing online.

But how safe is it? One of the first things kids are told about safety online, and we’ve got handouts from Jay’s school, is “Don’t post any personally identifying images”.

So what’s the problem? Little Julie up there doesn’t have a facebook, twitter or other social media account, and she’s not posting anything online. The problem is, her parents have broken that first rule. With one photo they’ve told anyone who can access that photo, how old she is and what school she goes to. There may even be a comment, from her parents or friends, about how they worry about her walking home alone after school.

And what would we find if we looked through her parents previous posts? Maybe they’ve posted about her dancing school or sports activities. How much information have we unwittingly posted about our kids, assuming that we control the information and haven’t given unwanted eyes access?

It would probably be fine if we set up our accounts properly and really limited who could see that information. But realistically speaking, how many of us really have? How many of us have given access to friends of friends without considering who those people might be? And when your friends have somewhere between 100 and 200 friends each, do you really know most of them?

Perhaps the better option is just to not post these photos and information. Can we have different ways of sharing with friends and family these milestones.

I’m not saying I have any answers, or that what we do is any better, but we tend to use our phones and use an app called whatsapp (there are others you can use as well) where we have a private chat where we can share photos and updates on our lives, and only those in the chat can see them. For me this seems a better and more private way of keeping friends and family up to date on what’s happening and reduces the chance that the wrong people will see it.

Chinese New Year In Indonesia

This past weekend was the Chinese New Year, and like most years we headed back to Indonesia to celebrate with my wife’s family. This is something that we try to do every year, since it’s an important time for SO and her family.

For those who don’t know, SO is Indonesian, born and raised there, but is ethnically Chinese. Both her parents were born in China and moved to Indonesia when they were teenagers, and as such still follow a lot of Chinese customs. This means family is very important to them, and a family gathering at CNY is always done.

When we go to Jakarta for the new year, we always stay at her parent’s house, which is the centre point for the celebrations, with everyone visiting there. Most years there will be tons of food and every meal there will be at least a handful of visitors.

Jay loves this as all his cousins and uncles and aunts will be there and he has a great time playing with them. Even though all of his cousins are older than him, the youngest is 6 years older than him and the oldest is about 30, he still gets in there and has a great time playing with them.

His favourite aunt also spoils him, and this year she got out a traditional Indonesian grill on which they cooked corn, fish and prawns. I’m not sure how much he enjoyed the food, but he absolutely loved fanning the fire to get the heat up. We all ended up smelling of smoke.

This year was a little different than most though since my Mother-In-Law was only released from hospital in Singapore on the eve, and as such didn’t have time to cook and make all the dishes that she normally does. There was still food at the house, but the family decided to do the two main get together meals at restaurants. Unfortunately we missed the meal on the eve as our flight was delayed and we didn’t arrive in Jakarta until later than planned.

The meal on the New Year’s Day was awesome though with everyone in SO’s immediate family turning up. I’m not going to add this up, but everyone includes, SO, Jay and myself, SO’s mother (her father passed away 2 years ago), her 3 brothers and 3 sisters, 2 brother-in-laws, 3 sister-in-laws, 5 nieces, 5 nephews, 1 niece’s husband, and 2 nephews girlfriends.

Okay, I did add that up and it comes to 28 people. Not bad considering we all sat at the same table to eat. And yes, if you’re wondering, there was a ton of great food and I almost needed help being carried out afterwards.

As an outsider, I always love the CNY celebration and getting to spend time playing with all the kids (who aren’t really kids anymore) and eating constantly for the whole time we’re there. Between this and Christmases in Australia I pretty much don’t need to eat for the rest of the year.

Leaving Homework To The Last Minute

There’s nothing worse than leaving something till the last minute, and for Jay, my son, he invariably leaves his homework until he’s run out of time. No matter how much we remind him, or tell him to do it, he always puts it off until he has no choice.

So what can be done about it? That’s a really good question, but what’s the answer?

We’ve tried talking to him, explaining how it’s better to get it done early and then he doesn’t have to worry about it, and he can play without it, or his parents, nagging him. We’ve tried giving rewards for completing it early, like going out to a special place or getting to play certain games. But nothing seems to work. It’s always just before bedtime, the night before it’s due, and he finally gets around to doing it.

Yes, we’ve tried punishments, like not being able to play games or watch TV, but they don’t work either. And to be honest, Jay seems to punish himself when it gets too late and panic sets in.

So we’re back to square one, what do we do? Is it our fault? I guess I can take some of the blame, growing up I always left homework to the last minute. I remember times in university when I had to write a 1,000 word report, and I didn’t start until the night before it was due.

Then there’s my wife, SO, who says that when she was at school, she always did her work early. This may be true, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying it, but she’s not setting the best example now. I’ve lost count of the times when she says she’s going to do something, like go out or take a shower etc., now, only for her to stay where she is, playing a game or reading, and not get around to doing what she said for an hour or more.

So, do we contribute to the problem with our actions? Should we be more aware of how we act and get things done? Of course we should, and one day I’ll get around to doing it. In the meantime, Jay’s going to continue to wait until the last minute, and I’ll continue to procrastinate about it.