Little Lessons: Kids need us to notice the small details

I have a little scrutineer in our house. She notices everything we do, wear, and say. It’s totally disconcerting. I can imagine myself replaying in the video of her mind – mummy said this, she frowned when I did this, mummy wore that pretty pink dress with the brown belt when she went out with daddy on a date. Etc etc.

There was once we were at a prayer meeting together, and she met many aunties and uncles for the first time. On our way home, she asked me who aunty B was, and I tried to describe where aunty B was sitting, and the length of her hair. She thought for a while and asked, was she wearing blue sparkly earrings, like diamonds? I blinked and said I wasn’t sure. Then I messaged aunty B to ask if she was. And lo and behold, she was indeed.

So…I guess we should never underestimate the observation skills of young ones, especially girls.

I guess part of the reason why they seem to pick up on the details (and remember some of the weirdest ones) is that their brains can be so focused on that one thing, that person or the experience, particularly if it’s a fun and memorable one. Whereas as an adult, our brains are so busy multi-tasking, looking for directions to a place, calling or texting our friends, moving on to the next thing on our list, wondering if we should buy that outfit we saw online last night, etc etc – that we end up being scattered and unfocused.

But as busy as we are, I think our children do need us to focus and pay attention, especially when they’ve just arrived home and have something important to announce. (Ahem, as they always seem to have.)

As much as I hate to admit this, I sometimes mentally shut down when Vera goes “mummy, I want to tell you something.” (Like not again honey? You just told me something 30 seconds ago…And just before that, your brother had to tell me something. How could you both possibly have so much to say?)

I struggle really just to respond with appropriate eye contact and nod my head. Some days I am so harried I don’t think I even get to ask her about school, how she felt that day, who she spoke to, or whose birthday is coming up.

There was one day, she came back from school waving a strip of star stickers in the air. I asked who gave it to her and she proceeded to report about how she was one of a few who volunteered to play a math game and managed to match the right numbers to the items. I cut her off as I was rushing off to the room to nurse Joshua, as it was time for his nap. As I was lying on the bed, I felt a tinge of guilt for waving her off. (I think this is one of the hardest parts about having three, and am constantly trying to balance attention between all of them…)

When I was done, I went back and asked her to share with me more about the game, which she did so rather happily. I was thankful for the little opportunity to affirm her enthusiasm, and told her that I was proud of her for being game enough to try.

I know Vera has learnt to be patient in waiting, something that her little brothers have yet to fully learn. And because I know she’s able to wait, I’ve made her wait more often than I like to. It’s tough, and always a balancing act, but I’m reminded of this: even when I do need to settle the more “urgent” things, that I should always promise to come back to her request, and to keep my word.

Our children need us to notice the small details, and to celebrate even the smallest of achievements. It’s one of the ways they feel loved and important in our eyes.

This is week 20 of Little Lessons. What have you learnt this week? Do link up your post below!

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The love / discipline sandwich – Lessons from The Five Love Languages of Children

I learnt something important after re-reading The Five Love Languages of Children (affiliate link) over the weekend.

On the subject of discipline, the author emphasises the importance of contextualising discipline in love. That is, when the child is receiving correction and consequences of his behaviour, he needs to know he is first of all loved by his parents, and also that this discipline /correction is part of that love.

That is, “We love you, that’s why we need to correct you.”

One useful method that Chapman advocates is to sandwich the discipline with love, using your child’s main love language.

So for instance for Vera, quality time and physical affection are important to her, so before I mete out a discipline or consequence, I can give her a hug or hold her hand. Then after the discipline, spend a few minutes with her instead of rushing off. Or I could actually sit her on my lap throughout the whole time. This way, she knows that I am not withholding my love from her, even when I need to address the wrong she’s done.

5 love languages of children

Another tip I learnt from the book is to refrain from using a form of discipline that is directly related to your child’s main love language. So if words of affirmation is important to your child, avoid using harsh words on her. As Chapman states, “Critical words can be painful to any child, but to this child, they will be emotionally devastating.” And if quality time is his thing, don’t discipline by removing that quality time you were scheduled to spend with him.

Now does this mean that if your child’s primary love language is touch, you should avoid spanking? I think for the most part, the answer is yes. And if you do need to use such a form of discipline, try your best to be measured in the spanking, for instance, setting a limit to the number of spanks that matches the level of misbehaviour. And when the discipline has been meted out, remember to hold your child close and reassure him or her of your love.

Reading the chapter turned on a light bulb for me. I’ve been rather stretched of late and I haven’t realised how curt and harsh I can be when disciplining the kids. I’ve been task-oriented, moving the kids through a long list of to-dos, and feeling frustrated when they don’t comply promptly. I’ve (conveniently) forgotten the love part of discipline, and am feeling a little bummed for allowing stress to steal our joy away.

But I guess it’s never too late to start on a clean slate. And I’m glad to have re-read the book just at this point in time when I needed a reminder. I hope you find this helpful too.

This is Little Lessons #19. Little Lessons linky runs on the blog every Thursday. Do grab our badge and link up your little parenting lessons / learning activities below!

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Little Lessons: My experience going live on radio 93.8

I was a bundle of nerves walking down that lonely path down to the radio studio. I kept thinking about what I wanted to say, and also asking myself, what have I gotten into?

Meeting my host, Angela, was a big help as she set me at ease quickly. She also drew clear directions about the topics we would cover and how she will lead me through them. It was very reassuring!

To be honest, when I first got her email invitation to come on the show, I was like, what credentials do I have? What can I say that might benefit others from listening? My first reaction was, no no no I don’t need to put myself through this stress. I should relax and spend my energy on more urgent things.

But it kept nagging at me. That this could be an opportunity to encourage someone, which I guess is the main reason why I write in this space too. (Yes…writing is therapeutic for me but I’m also driven by a desire to share and encourage those who may be struggling and working through similar issues as I.)

So finally I mustered up courage to respond to her email, and in it I expressed my worry about doing a live interview too. But like a pro, my host gave some words of reassurance and then left me with very little room to wriggle myself out of it. (Haha)

And then, I found myself in the studio (that incidentally looks like a big glass tank) yesterday, sharing about my journey and lessons learnt as a mum, wife, and WAHM. I also shared about my thoughts and tips for self-care, as well as the importance of working as a team with your spouse.

It was…surprisingly less intimidating than I’d expected. It felt for the most part (when I overcame the initial jitters) like I was just having a normal conversation with Angela. Also, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to fill up the air-time, since the entire programme is supposed to last one hour. It turned out that the programme would be broken up into four main segments with each segment lasting about 7-8 minutes. And when I was speaking my thoughts, it didn’t feel very long at all! In fact, I was like, hey I want to talk more. 😛

All in all, I learnt some good lessons about going on live radio. One, it’s hard to be 100% coherent and to say all that I really want to. Two, it’s easy to ramble, so it actually helps to have a number of points you wish to bring across for a certain answer, and to quickly move through them, rather than linger. (You’d think that for a PR professional, I would be acquainted with all these basics, but trust me, when you’re preparing other people for the hot seat, it always seems a lot simpler.)

The words may not have come out perfectly. And my thoughts may have been jumbled at various points. But I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to try something new, and to learn from it. I hope in future my kids will read this and decide for themselves (when they are greeted with a daunting task) to choose courage over fear.

It’s good to step out of our comfort zone, once in a while. 🙂

If you can, do catch the repeat episode on radio 93.8 this Saturday at 9pm or Sunday at 3pm. I really hope you’ll enjoy listening to the interview!

my live radio experience

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Little Lessons: Little things can mean so much

This week, I’m keeping it simple for little lessons. The truth is I’ve been busy…

Last week was the school term holidays and we spent one morning getting some exercise together. Daddy led the way with two scooting kids behind, and mama here was trying to balance taking photos with one hand while pushing Joshua in the pram with the other. (Well at least I managed to get this shot.)

keeping fit together

It took us more than 45 minutes to arrive at our destination. Hot and sweaty but all happy that we made it. Obviously JJ didn’t last the whole 45 minutes. His battery went flat after 30 minutes or so. But the daddy graciously helped him along, carrying both him and his scooter skate on his shoulder.

We went to the godparents’ place over the weekend as we intended to hold a garage sale over there. But due to unforeseen events, the sale was called off and we spent the time letting the kids dip in the pool instead. Also managed to have dinner by the pool which was great fun.

This week, I realised that I’m into my third last week of maternity leave and I nearly sunk into depression after that. Not that I dislike my job (my boss might be reading this btw), but I really couldn’t figure out where the 13 weeks had gone. But then I took a good long look at baby J and found the answer…

One very hunky baby

Fattening this baby up.

(Has anyone else noticed that they’ve changed the cutting of baby clothes to tight-fit?)

Apart from that loud reminder to cherish these last few weeks, I was also jolted back to earth when I saw big sister and little brother working on this activity book together.

brother and sister

It struck me there and then how much they’ve grown. Just the other day, we were down at the playground. As the duo played with Vera’s friends (all older than JJ), I saw how she made a special effort to guide JJ along and include him (even though it slowed her down). I was really quite proud of her for doing that. When we got home I told her how much her actions spoke of her love and concern for JJ. I think her little thoughtfulness made a big difference to her brother’s day.

So yes…it’s been more than 13 weeks since we became a family of five. Though the days are often noisy and teary, and nights ever so tiring, when I look back I see how our hearts have expanded and made space for one another, weaknesses and flaws and all. And I’m thankful.

This has turned out to be a multiple-lessons post, or the one in which I learn a few things about life and love, about taking last minute changes in stride, and about how little things can mean so much.

PS> I’ll be taking a break in April for Little Lessons, as I’ll need some time to adjust to the new work-from-home-while-caring-for-kids routine. Deep breath. Wish me well. Meanwhile, this linky will remain open for most of April. Plus, you can check out our previous posts here.

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Little Lessons: 5 lessons from Why Your Children Love You

I attended a parenting seminar recently by Dr Eliza Lian-Ding and picked up a copy of her book Why Your Children Love You. Though I’m only halfway through the book,  I’ve picked out some insightful lessons to share with you.

1. The period when our kids need us most is short

“Developmentally, children want and need their parents’ physical presence for a short period of time. Then, as they approach adolescence, there is a greater need to separate from parents, as they explore their own values and identities. Our opportunity to make the deepest impact is time-limited.”

2. Their significance and value is found in us

“If we truly want to encourage our children to be life-long learners, then their efforts at learning should also matter, not just the final outcome…If your child gets the idea that his efforts count, then he will learn to accept himself and others. Children need to know that they are significant beings because they have been created with much love. It is a parent’s love that initially attributes worth to a child. He will later learn to value himself because of the way he sees himself being valued by his parents.”

3. Our actions and life weigh more than words

“You can instruct with words but your child can and will only be inspired by what he has seen in your own life.”

4. A child with a secure sense of self will have less need to give in to negative peer pressure

“… If a strong relationship has been established during the early childhood years, a child’s desire to please his parents will provide internal checks for his decisions. That is why it is vital for parents to be present in the early years. Persistent reinforcement of the values and boundaries that are necessary in life will help to leave a deep impression that will guide and guard the decisions of our children all through their lives.”

5. Performance-based acceptance can harm our children

Describing how she taught her daughter to cope with exam stress, Eliza writes,

“I wanted her to know that exams were merely for evaluating her understanding and knowledge. They did not define her self-worth. We need to move away from performance-based acceptance or our children’s self-esteem will be deeply affected.”

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