Kids need real dollars and cents to learn money sense – don’t digitize their pocket monies

“The financial habits you develop when you are young are going to go with you into your adulthood.” – Warren Buffett

The “invisibility of money to young people” is one main factor exacerbating the problems that young people have with money. – Founders of Money Doctor, Nicky Reid and Marilyn Holness, quoted in ST

I read with some disdain the news of POSB introducing digital watches that basically act like prepaid debit cards for kids in certain primary schools. It allows students to buy food and stationery at the canteen and school bookstore by tapping the gadget on NETS digital payment terminals. They can also use the watch at such terminals outside school.

The initiative has been rolled out to various primary school levels at 19 schools, but the bank aims to get all students from all 190 primary schools here to own this gadget within the next two years.

But would you seriously considering giving such a “debit card” to your 8-year old? Albeit this smartwatch would have a safe daily limit of say $2 a day. But still…

I know countries around the globe are moving towards a cashless society, and cashless generally means greater convenience, and less hassle of carrying cash that can be physically lost or stolen.

Through an app that parents download onto their phones, they can track their child’s spending (and saving), and also send their child money in the event of an emergency.

But honestly, I think if we are talking about young children who are aged 7, 8, or 9, who are just getting a grasp of money matters, it is best to stick to the devil we know – real, tangible, countable cash.

Here are my 4 key concerns about this initiative.

1. It will create a “buy first, think later” culture

Because all you need to do is flash your watch and receive an item, it makes it all too easy to buy things and worry later.

We all know (even as adults) that it’s hard to curb spending with cards. Which is why as financially savvy adults, we choose to limit the number of credit cards we hold and have a clear reason and purpose for every card that we do choose to apply for.

As it is a digital medium, the concept of money is made more surreal and less tangible, which makes it harder for young children to fully grasp the concepts of spending within your means, budgeting, and saving, although the programme tries to sell these things.

Everything is reduced to mere numbers on a screen.

Instead they may learn that there is no need for delaying gratification, since you can just buy things so easily and without much thought.

Mary Hunt, author of Raising Financially Confident Kids, has this to say when comparing cash and debit/credit cards, “Cash is very visual, clear cut and not confusing…Credit sends a mixed message to kids.”

2. It takes away one of the most natural places for kids to practise money management

The school canteen /bookshop is one of the safest and most natural places for kids to learn about money –

  • counting (Did I bring enough for a bowl of noodles?)
  • budgeting (If I get an extra drink today, how much will I have left for tomorrow or day after?)
  • differentiating between needs and wants (Do I really need that new rainbow-designed pencil?)

It also provides real-life opportunities for them to practise life skills such as checking the change, making sure that it’s right, and if it’s wrong, to be able to speak up and tell the truth. (With the digital watch, there’s no need for change.)

We give our eldest a weekly budget of $8-10. She’s expected to manage her budget on her own – in other words don’t go buy some fancy pencils on Monday and expect us to give you extra money on Wednesday when you’re left with nothing.

If she overspends, she will have to figure things out on her own – maybe go hungry, or buy something of lower value, or pack a sandwich for recess on Friday.

With all this daily practice, I’ve noticed her becoming more aware of the money that we spend as a family. One day, when I got charged for an extra cup of tea that I didn’t order, she was able to pick it up on the receipt, and I was able to ask for a refund.

With the smartwatch, it may become too convenient for parents to come to the rescue and top up a zero-balance account electronically. (Let’s face it, even if you don’t want to bail your child out, the temptation is there, at a click of a button.)

It thus makes it harder for children to learn through experiencing the very real consequences of money-related mistakes that they make.

As Hunt also says, “It’s important [that children] make choices and then live with the consequences.”

3. Is this going to be another digital distraction?

I’ve heard stories from my daughter about friends owning new gadgets like a smart watch. She says her friend sometimes gets into trouble for playing with her watch in class. It is a distraction to her and her friends sitting close by.

We live in an age of digital distractions. A child at lower primary levels is not likely to own a phone, but also for good reason, since they are not going to be travelling about on their own.

Alone the same lines, why give them a smart watch that will serve as a distraction, as the latest cool gadget in town, and as a means of comparing between the haves and have-nots?

Will it not distract them from the real meaning and purpose of school, which is to learn, to practise life skills, to socialise, and to curb impulsive behaviours?

4. Are there going to be safety issues with money flowing so easily to your child?

This may sound extreme but imagine if your child finds himself in the situation where he is being extorted for money or for an expensive item at a bookstore outside school.

Of course the daily /weekly allowance limit won’t be set too high, but if he’s being forced and he calls you for help, the parent may try to send him the money he needs on the spot, just to bail him out of trouble.

It’s potentially tricky to navigate such unexpected situations. Also the issue of privacy regarding spending habits that are tracked electronically is always lurking in the background.

learning money sense with three piggy banks - spend, save, share

TRAINING IN FINANCIAL LITERACY STARTS YOUNG

We treat financial literacy training with our kids quite seriously.

As mentioned earlier, we choose to give a weekly allowance, so as to give my daughter a chance to exercise choices and learn responsibility.

We also make sure they have a bit leftover for the practice of saving. This goes into 3 piggy banks – for spending, saving, and sharing.

The “spending” bank is to allow the kids some freedom to exercise choices. We try to discuss with them and help them make better decisions by weighing the pros and cons of buying a small toy now versus waiting a month later for the money to grow in order to buy a more valuable or higher-value toy.

We dissuade them from impulsive buying behaviour, and try to verbalise our own money decisions and dilemmas, so that they learn from us.

The “sharing” bank is to encourage the kids to share in terms of buying small treats or gifts for their siblings. It is also for giving to the church or to communities in need.

The savings go into their individual savings fund. At the end of the year, we tally the total, and put them into their own fund. (This is the equivalent of a savings account except that the money isn’t physically with the bank, it’s kept as part of our family bank account. But the concept is the same, they get to practise and see us tally their money at the end of the year, and they know that we’re safekeeping it for their future.)

I’m sharing this because financial management is probably one of the most important life skills and gifts that we could ever give our children.

The money habits they form now will likely follow them through life.

Just look around at those with burgeoning credit card debts or finance-related troubles – “money no enough” is one of the top destroyers of families around the world.

I understand the beauty of hassle-free technology and conveniences that it brings, but in this case, I think it only benefits the markets and companies involved, not so much our children. So please, please leave our kids’ pocket monies alone.

OPT FOR LIFE SKILLS INSTEAD

Yes, not opting for this smartwatch may mean slightly longer and slower queues at the canteen. But the upside then is our kids get to exercise invaluable life skills of

  • patience (why so slow…)
  • prioritisation (I want to pee but I’m hungry, hmm quickly get food and then go to the toilet)
  • flexibility (Wah, chicken rice queue so short today, let’s go for it!)

Yes, it means that we have to scrape together small change for our kids every week. (I like to give my daughter a mix of $2 notes, and various coin denominations, in order to teach her to count and manage her own daily budget.)

Yes, it means that our kids may accidentally lose that $2 note on an odd day or two, but then they get to exercise problem-solving skills and initiative by asking a trusted teacher or friend to help.

When it comes to technology and kids, we need to proceed with caution and think about the cost.

What price do we as a society pay in the end?

Are we letting go of precious opportunities to hone life skills and money wisdom?

Will we raise a generation of children who think that money runs on tap and it’s easy come, easy go?

Like how we are so reliant on our smart phones and can’t be bothered to use our memory to remember phone numbers. Or when we rely on calculator or excel spreadsheet to tell us what the answer is, and avoid doing mental calculations on our own. Will our kids not learn or bother to count simple cash anymore?

Precious opportunities to hone life skills are lost when we rush into technology recklessly. As Dr Nicky Reid, founder of Britain’s Money Doctor, said in this ST article:

“As parents, we always want to make things better for our children, like giving them everything. But as we become more affluent as a society, we are not giving them that life skill.”

I hope that we will take the time to think first, and weigh the pros and cons, before we embrace and adopt smart technology like this.

How to be kinder to ourselves and our children

So I lost it one evening, when my eldest decided it was okay to totally neglect her violin practice for the whole week.

I guess it was partially the frustration I had with myself, for failing to help her to be more disciplined with her practice. I was angry alright – both at myself and at her.

The train of negative thoughts in my head went ahead at full velocity, and I lost control of the brakes.

We crashed into one messy, teary heap.

I started to think about what went wrong. I love this little person in front of me, so why would I say such hurtful things about her?

I stepped out of the room for some air; the space I put between us helped to calm me down and give me a better perspective of the size of the problem.

I thought about how she had had to revise for her upcoming oral exams, and for how she took time almost every night to practise her spelling.

For the first time that night, I stopped thinking about how disappointed I was; instead I switched gears and put myself in my 8-year-old’s shoes.

I took a full breath, pulled the hand brake, and changed course.

I went back into the room, hugged her gently, and apologised for making harsh and accusatory statements. (The words that I’d just spoken were still ringing in my own ears.)

I then told her that we’d work a schedule out together, and that we’d keep each other accountable.

We discussed and worked out the days that would work best for getting some solid practice in. We also set a target of 2-3 practices in a week.

I know my daughter. She takes pride in doing the best she can. This wasn’t deliberate defiance; it was genuine lapse.

It was a wake-up call for us to put some structure in place to help her remember to practise – a clearer visual schedule, or set up an alarm reminder on the calendar perhaps – and that would have solved the problem.

But it was a big lesson in compassion for me; and a lesson in taming the tiger that lurks within us all.

How to be kinder to ourselves and our children

What does compassionate parenting look like?

In order for me to be more compassionate with my daughter, I have to practice that same compassion on myself.

First of all, what is compassionate parenting?

Compassionate parenting is about putting ourselves in our children’s shoes. Compassionate parents set firm limits about core issues that are non-negotiable. With everything else, they encourage cooperation. The result is effective discipline that leaves the crucial relationship between parents and children intact and flourishing.

As I sat down to reflect on the incident, I realised I could have reached out in a more collaborative, more compassionate way.

I also realised that we all need to be kinder to ourselves because there is always room to grow.

Here are 5 lessons I learnt about being a kinder parent.

1) We don’t have to punish for making mistakes

Do children really learn best through punishment, or consequences? The short answer is “no” – they learn by modeling, and through scaffolding strategies, that is, doing with support. They then take on more by themselves, as we withdraw the support gradually over time.

This is at the heart of compassionate parenting: viewing mistakes as valuable lessons in learning and growth.

2) Reframe in a more positive or neutral light

“…There is no such thing as bad behaviour in children. Instead there is a child who is doing the best she can and we don’t understand her.” – Naomi Aldort
Reframing is about being aware of the negative thought that pops up in your head about an event, and then replacing that thought with a neutral or positive one.

Most unexpected child behaviours tell of an unmet need, or a gap in the child’s ability to do what is expected of them. Whatever the case, we need to put on an investigator’s cap to get to the root of the issue.

the way we talk to children becomes their inner voice

3) Seek to understand first, without judging

Instead of jumping to automatic assumptions about why your child behaved badly, ask questions to understand:
– Has it been an overwhelming week for you?
– What do you think you need?
– How can we help you?

Be careful of the words we use, because a carefully chosen word can also offer grace to a child. Remember, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”

4) Put ourselves in their shoes

When we switch gears to start thinking from their perspective, instead of being fixated on ours, it helps initiate the empathy muscle. This also enables us to respond in a compassionate way.

Compassion is other-centered, not self-centered. But do note that it does not remove entirely the responsibility to correct the wrong or make amends.

Apologize and make amends with your child

5) Apologize, often

We will all make mistakes, in spite of our best intentions. An apology communicates to our children that mistakes are not final, and that a sincere apology can help to redeem a situation and repair the relationship.

PS. I also realise that to encourage her in this hobby, I should be more involved. I should learn to listen more, and just enjoy her growing in this area of interest.

She is after all just a child exploring her various interests, and is only beginning to discover her passions in life.

How do you encourage your child to grow in their hobbies or interests? How do you tame your tiger mum instincts?

How to focus in a distracted world, and teach kids to do the same

Generating good ideas and quality work products requires something all too rare in modern life: quiet. (Source)

Technology and social media is undermining our ability to concentrate, think deeply, and be creative.

This study shows that adults check their phones about 50 times a day. The constant changing of screens, moving of images, beeping of instant messages is putting more and more demands on our limited attention and mental space.

Yet in the 21st century, focus and creativity are among the top qualities that employers are looking for.

How do we set boundaries on our own lives to optimize our ability to concentrate, in the midst of all the digital clutter?

Here are 12 tips to help you build your (and your kids’) focus and attention skills.

how to focus in a distracted world and teach kids the same

1) Teach attention explicitly

Tell your kids you can train your brain to pay attention and focus. There are games you can play with young children to help enhance their awareness – like Simon says, or Duck, duck, goose, or I spy, or a scavenger hunt list for places you go such as a restaurant.

When you’re reading a book, talking to a person, or listening to a podcast, whip out a notebook and scribble down notes. This is active listening and is a great habit to cultivate. Pass this tip on to your kids too.

prioritize your tasks with a to-do list

2) Prioritise your tasks from the get-go

Checking emails first thing in the morning makes you a slave to other people’s agendas. Instead, use your prime time to focus on the things you really want done today.

Also, guide your kids on how to prioritise their homework and responsibilities, based on either the deadline (Which is more urgent?), or how much effort and time it would take to complete a certain task (Which requires more time?).

 

3) Intentionally cut down on rush

In order to focus to do good work or just to spend quality time with loved ones, you need to be a state of calm.

You can’t be worrying about this or that problem; it only results in ruminating. Likewise, rushing around and feeling frantic inhibits your focus and thinking process.

 

4) Practise moments of quietness

You know what they say – take time to smell the roses. We literally need to schedule such times of true mental and physical breaks to enter into the zone of quietness.

Quietness is sadly, a lost art. But with intentionality (and some new habits), it can be achieved. Going out for a walk in the park is a great way to quieten down your heart and pay attention to your environment and refocus on your larger goals.

 

5) Cultivate essentialist thinking

Think about your highest point of contribution, your highest talent to offer the world – are you giving yourself space to create the very things that you were born to create? Or are you too bogged down by obligations and commitments?

Likewise, schedule your child’s enrichment activities wisely and selectively. Focus on the areas that they really love and that they really need. Don’t over-schedule them as this could result in burnout over time.

 

6) Use apps that control social media use

If you find yourself getting distracted too often and drifting on to social media sites, it may be worth checking out apps to help control your habits. One such app is Self-control for mac users. Another is Think, an app that helps you to single-task.

 

7) Go on airplane mode

Another simple way to eliminate distractions is to set your phone on airplane mode. It’s amazing how much work you can get done when you set your mind to it, focus, and are not distracted by messages and notifications popping up every 15 minutes.

 

8) Establish an early shut-down time

The period before bedtime (e.g., 10-11pm) is a crucial one. Like a child needs to wind down his mind and body for the night, we adults need to relax and breathe.

As I do a lot of content writing and find it more productive to work at night, I often struggle with this. So I’m gradually moving my shut-down time forward, and giving myself permission to rest and continue the work tomorrow.

 

9) Focus on one task at a time

It is almost an art form to be able to single-task today. Jumping between tasks actually slows us down. Multitasking may also inhibit deeper, more meaningful learning. So while kids may finish all their homework, they may not fully absorb or retain the information learnt. (Source)

have a popcorn snack break 

10) Know when your child needs a break

Children tend to tune out when they think the task is too hard or they are not interested in the subject. Provide support by breaking a big task down into smaller chunks. Engage them actively in the learning, or give snack and movement breaks in between tasks.

Remember growing attention is a process, not a one-time achievement.

 

cut down screen time and video games

11) Cut down screen time

Screens can mess with our brain’s ability to hone focus and attention. Help your child cut down screen time. In place of screens, play puzzles, memory games, or old-school card games like fishing, bridge, and snap.

12) Model what you want to see

Give kids your full attention when they say, “look mummy!”  Teach them that it conveys respect and love when we give people our full attention when they’re talking. Also tell them how much you love it when they give you their full attention too. 🙂

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How this WAHM manages work and family without going insane

At the start of 2015, I took the plunge to quit my job, and become a stay home mum. I chose to leave the work that I enjoyed, but my son had a greater need then and I decided to be home to help him.

About a year later, almost by accident, I found myself knee deep in freelance projects – ranging from branding and PR to content marketing and writing jobs.

I’m very thankful to be able to work from home and be present with the kids, watch them grow, and help them through certain roadblocks or challenges. While I’m not as efficient as I would like to be (at work), the flexibility and freedom I have now are things that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

However, the journey has its ups and downs. Here are some lessons I’ve learnt about making things work.

1. It is hard to find a balance

It’s been a year plus now and I think I’ve only just found a groove that works. Most days the kids are in school so I work the morning shift until pickup/lunch. For the afternoons, I use small pockets here and there for admin /emails. (I realise I need to keep things easy in the arvos as it’s also my best time to play/catch up with the kids.) Then the night shift – after the kids sleep at 9, I’m working again for another 3-4 hours.

But this doesn’t mean I’ve got it all perfectly balanced. First things first, there ain’t such a thing as perfect. Some days are just more balanced than others – we call them “the good days.” Others are simply out of whack. You’ve got to take both in your stride, and keep moving on.

2. It’s even harder to keep priorities straight
There was a period of time when things got busy and my husband sat me down and reminded me of my focus this year. It wasn’t to earn as much money as I could; it was to serve my family and nurture the kids. Sure I could take on projects if I wished to do so, but it was to be minimal (read: manageable) and not eat up all my time and strength for the family.

It’s easy to get tempted when the work comes along, so this is an area that I’m still learning to manage. If my cranky-meter goes into the red multiple times in a day, then it’s a sure sign that things have gone off-course.

3. Knowing the ‘why’ is extremely important

Having a very clear reason why you’re in this makes all the difference. It will help you through the bad days. For us, we’ve decided that it is good to have one parent stay home, to be the main carer for the kids.  I also see myself growing in my ability to help JJ with his emotional stability and control – it’s a work-in-progress!

Whenever I take a step back, I do see it as a very awesome privilege. The time we have with our children is really quite limited, so being able to spend their early years with them is a blessing.

cafe idyllic

4. You get to stretch and put your management skills to the test
WAHMs have to manage space – Initially I found this difficult. You know the kids see me physically around and my desk is in the living room, so there’s no real way to separate work /family. Now I’ve carved a simple work-space in the bedroom, and it’s made all the difference.

And time… I need to manage my own deadlines and keep my schedule organised. (If you look into my google calendar, you’d find I have personal / work meetings, deadlines, projects, date-nights, kids’ activities all scheduled in one place.)

I also found I needed a good degree of flexibility. That simply means not being greedy and accepting too much work at any one time; it also means being willing to put my kids’ needs first when they really need it.

Joy can keep us afloat. Whether you’re a FTWM, SAHM, or WAHM, hold joy, hide it in your heart, and don’t let the day’s momentary troubles steal it away.

park and clouds

5. The most challenging part is keeping joy in the midst of it all
I believe the key that can keep us afloat or make us drown is joy.

Whether you’re a FTWM, SAHM, or WAHM, hold joy, hide it in your heart, and don’t let the day’s momentary troubles steal it away. That’s something I remind myself often too. Whatever situation we are in, it’s a choice that we’ve made and we just need to give it our best.

Remember the earlier point about knowing WHY? Know what you’re working and living for, and joy will help you stay the course.

breakfast with poached eggs

If you’re thinking about becoming a WAHM, here are some tips for you.

#1 Choose work you enJOY
I love my work and consider it a privilege to put my writing skills to good use. I also love coming up with new content ideas that can add value to my client’s digital marketing efforts.

At the same time, I’ve also completed a professional course on educational therapy. It began as a small bubble in my heart, and as it rose, I just had to take action. It was partly driven out of my desire to help my child cope with his emotions. Later on, I also found a deep sense of purpose working with kids with special needs.

A friend once told me this: “Follow your joy, and it’ll lead you to your calling.” I thought that is so true and helpful.

#2 Know your most productive times
We call it the power-hour. Whether it’s 6am before dawn, or working after the kids sleep till midnight, choose the hours when you can concentrate the best and get the maximum output from it.

#3 Carve out time for play-breaks 
I try to leave my afternoons empty because that’s when the kids are home, and eager to talk / ask questions, or play games. It’s a sanity check for me too, as some days we head out to the playground or pool and being outdoors helps me to relax and reset my mind.

scooting into sunset

#4 Encourage children to help one another

One of the things I’m always encouraged to see is the kids helping each other out. Whenever I witness moments of kindness, I feel like all of the work that we do as mums is worth it. In order for you to have a sane life working from home, it’s good to share with your kids your struggles too and get the elder ones to help pitch in and guide the younger ones when they need help.

brothers playing

#5 Simplify, simplify, simplify 
I recently decided to let Vera have violin lessons at home so that we save travel time. JJ only has some additional Chinese lessons and that’s part of the school’s additional enrichment offerings. When you’ve got many balls to juggle, you have to allocate time wisely and resourcefully. It has also forced me to examine our children’s needs carefully, and plan with their needs in mind.

#6 Plan for a single income lifestyle 
Before making the leap, make sure your husband is on board. Make sure you’ve done the sums together and know what aspects of your lifestyle needs to be changed. I can tell you, it’s hard. Maintaining a family of 5 isn’t easy on a single income. So it’s important to be clear on your financial goals, and to honestly see if you are able to sacrifice some material comforts for a couple of years until the children are older.

Take whatever income that you earn in the first year as a bonus, to be used as either additional savings or travel budget. This will remove unnecessary stress on finances (and your marriage!) as you work on growing your business during the first 1-2 years.

#7 Involve your children wherever you can

Instead of viewing kids as obstacles to your business, see them as little partners / helpers. I’m glad that the kids have a chance to see me at work every day. Now that the June holidays are here, when I head off to my “room-office” in the morning, I make sure to report to them too. “Mama’s going to work now, so I’ll see you in a bit okay?”

This hols, I’m planning to rope Vera in to help with simple admin stuff like preparing invoices, or just reading through the articles that I write. (She’s been asking me how she can help me out, so this will be a small step! Wish us luck!)

Mothers always make things work…by God’s grace.

~~~~~

moms work button

This post is part of the “Mothers Make it Work! Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other inspiring stories, please click here.

If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can check out Mummy Wee as she shares her top 5 tips on being a mumpreneur. Michelle is mum to 6 kids and now that she has packed her last child off to school, she has time to channel her energies to her 7th baby, an enrichment centre called The Little Executive.

mummy weeNext week, Candice will be sharing her story about how she makes things work. A part-time-working-mum to two preschoolers, Candice shares about parenting, activities with kids, marriage and travel in her journal at MissusTay.com.

candice

What I love (and hate) about having 3 kids

Life as a parent of three kids living in Singapore is busy, funny, and a little mad. To keep myself sane, I drink lots of coffee and try to look on the bright side.

There are pros and cons, ups and downs. I start off this post with 8 things I love most about having three, and end off with the downsides…Here goes.

love and hate about having 3 kids

#1 Entertainment becomes cheap (Three is company)

Jumping on the bed, dancing to the track of Can’t Stop The Feeling, playing dressing up and acting to someone’s jumbled-up screen play. You name it, they’ve done it. They play with anything and everything, as long as they’ve got a companion (usually each other.)

There are some days when the messiness gets to me but you know, it’s also on those days I get to hide in the room (in peace) to finish off some writing work, so messes aside, I am actually thankful.

play dressing up

#2 We get to experience different stages of childhood (all at once)

While I’m coaching my eldest on her studies, and helping her to learn skills like priorities and planning, I also get to do silly things with my boys, and watch Josh make his little discoveries about how our world works. His sense of wonder never fails to make me smile. (I guess that’s the precious-ness of having a bonus kid!)

#3 We get to savour different strengths and specialities

Vera is into drawing and music. She loves doodling in her free time, and has started writing silly short stories around her illustrations. It’s something she does to relax and I marvel at seeing all her works.

child's artwork of a horse
JJ is a sports and dancing boy. He can’t stop moving at times, and his favourite past-time is jumping and dancing on our bed. As for Josh, well he’s currently top at…eating. He is a true blue foodie. I mean, which toddler actually enjoys tucking in a plate of salad?

toddler eating salad

#4 Multiple goodnight hugs before bed

Vera goes to bed first as she’s up the earliest. So we try to pray together and have goodnight hugs. Then come the boys who are always boisterous even at bedtime. Tucking them in can be tedious but eventually they’re out, and I get to smell their hair and kiss their cheeks. Bedtime is the sweetest moment for me, it’s when I can reset the day and give thanks all over again.

READ: Top 10 things kids need from their dads

#5 We can leave the house for date-nights knowing they’ll never have a dull moment

Yes they may squabble and fight over little things, but at least we know they’ll never be alone, bored or hooked to gadgets. And most times, they actually seem to get on quite well once mum and dad are out of the house. Weird but true.

kids playing ping pong

#6 They look out for each other

This applies mostly to Vera at this stage but I’ve seen some glimpses here and there in the boys. Whenever we’re at the pool Vera will be quite willing to care for Josh, especially when I explain that I need to do a lap or two. And the best part, when I go out with the threesome, Vera helps to chaperone the boys, one on each hand.

siblings walking hand in hand

#7 They pass on knowledge and ‘wisdom’

The beauty of having kids of differing ages is that the eldest will always share the stuff she’s learnt in school or through books. Although she’s only eight, her brothers look up to her and listen earnestly whenever she’s teaching them something. I can already see her playing the role of part-time tutor to her brothers in future. (Hopefully she doesn’t teach them the cheeky/naughty stuff too… :P)

#8 There are more hands to clean up

Who you gonna call when a huge mess has been made? Not just the one who made the mess of course, we teach the kids to help one another, and more hands just make the work lighter.

PS. Do you know that when children help out in the family, they feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership? *wink*

~~~~~

There are of course also some downsides to having 3 kids.

– You’re always outnumbered. There’s always a war you need to mediate.

If you’re at the mall, and one needs to go to the bathroom, another needs a drink, and yet another needs to go on the swings (right at this instant), you’ll never win. Every day we are at the negotiating table, teaching them what it means to compromise, have patience and wait.

– It’s so noisy you can’t hear yourself think

For an introverted mum like me, quietness is something I’ve always relished and actually quite need. Now that the kids are at school in the mornings, I get to enjoy some peace and quiet. And I consider it a huge win on those days when I get to take a nap, and the kids don’t start a fight the minute I fall asleep.

– It’s hard to go out in a normal sedan

We don’t drive as it’s expensive and we live in a central location. So we usually Grab or Uber our way around town. Now with 5 (albeit still a baby-ish looking 5th person), it’s tricky. Since the rule for child booster seats were made stricter, some Grab drivers also refuse to take us after seeing so many kids. (Thankfully they’ve launched Grab Family now.)

– It’s expensive to eat at restaurants

Step into a normal looking Jap place and the average bill is $60-70. And we’re not even talking about ordering mains for kids – thankfully they’re content with rice and miso soup bowl, along with chawanmushi (and some additional meat from our mains) on top.

READ: 20 ways to be a frugal family

– It’s expensive to travel too

We’re planning a trip to Melbourne this year and oh boy tickets alone costs about $2.5-3K. It’s also tricky to squeeze all of us into one hotel room. We always need to make room for our littlest on our bed.

– The bugs can make their rounds

With kids in kindy/school, when one brings home a bug, it inevitably “travels.” Some bad months, we’re so busy taking care of one sick kid after another, it gets a bit insane and we lose track of what happened when. (Tell me I’m not alone??)

~~~~~

Life with three means there’s never a dull moment. I’m also aware that it won’t be too long before they’re all teenagers and the only noise in the home will be the squabbling between the hubby and I.

So bring on the mess, the noise, the fights – I’ll take the whole package. I know I’m going to miss all these things when the house gets too quiet 10 years down the road.

Mums and dads, what are your joys and pains about having 1, 2, 3 (or even more) kids?

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