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New Year Resolutions for 2014

Exercise regularly. I have always liked to do sports and have been an avid runner for almost two decades. But I have been lazy. Was motivated to run to lose some weight after giving birth to my third child a few months ago, but stopped after my weight went down.

Start/resume good habits. Such as putting on body moisturiser, hand lotion, foot cream. I already have the items, surely I can spare five minutes doing this before I sleep every night? And to eat my supplements (multivitamins, glucosamine for my joints, antioxidants).

Take better care of myself!

Be more balanced in my reading. I read parenting books most of the time, but I do like to read novels too. There are too many good parenting books for me to finish reading them, so I shall not wait. Novels work my imagination by bringing me into different worlds. And imagination is surely a good thing to have when I spend almost of my time with three young kids. And not only novels. I can read all genres of books. My Lee Kuan Yew book (One Man’s Viiew of the World) is still waiting for me.

Mop the floor everyday. This seems like a silly resolution. As it is, I mop the floor at least three times a week now. But I only do so when the floor seems very dirty. I shall just make it a habit and mop everyday. A clean house for my three darlings.

(A more ‘normal’ resolution might be ‘to keep a cleaner house’. But no. I am not going to even think about the dust collecting in the nooks and corners. Just the floor.)

Learn to cook more dishes. Learn to cook better.

Start to learn to sew. I hope that when my baby girl needs a custom-made costume or two when she goes to school I would be able to make them for her!

(The above two are related – I hope that when my children are older, they will think their mother can do anything! Or at least, anything that a mother does!)

Learn photography skills. I hope to take better photos of my children. Since I am with them almost all the time, I am in the best position to capture their beautiful childhood.

Happy New Year and all the best for your resolutions!

Not parenting books!

Not parenting books!

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Two Weeks of Exile

It has been two full weeks since I decided to ‘de-entertain’ the kids. The first week, we stayed at home on all the weekdays, and only went to the grandparents’ in the afternoon during the weekends.

The second week was Christmas week and Hubby was home on two of the weekdays. We only went out for breakfast one morning (so that I could go to the wet market). But on Friday, I caved in and brought the kids out to a nearby mall, mainly because I was too bored at home! OOPS! After a bit of shopping, the boys got to play at the neighbourhood playground before Hubby arrived and we went for dinner together. Saturday was a family BBQ while we were at home the whole of Sunday.

Actually, the difference in the frequency of outings is not that significant. But for every extra outing that we have, it means a morning or an afternoon gone. There are fewer transitions and the day goes more smoothly when we just stay at home the whole day.

The bigger difference actually comes from me not setting up any play activities anymore and even minimizing reading to them. I am leaving the boys to their own devices most of the time. (But we still have bedtime reading, of course. The boys won’t let us off without it!)

The most surprising of all is that after just one week, I found that the boys had significantly cut down on their requests for me to read to them, and on asking me what they could play with. I can see that Kor Kor is able to occupy himself very well, spending most of his time reading and playing with his trains. (Of course he prefers to watch television all the time. But he’s used to the quota of about 30 minutes a day, with occasional ‘extras’ during weekends.)

I am reminded of how independent Kor Kor was when he was younger. He used to spend long periods playing on his own without even looking at me or needing me near him. Then, somehow, he got more and more clingy and needy. Hmmm, come to think of it, it might be due to two main factors – firstly, as Didi got older, Kor Kor couldn’t really play by himself anymore. In addition to playing with Didi, there were also times when Didi just refused to leave him alone. More siblings = less personal space, less time alone…

Secondly, it’s ME. Kor Kor must have got used to me setting up activities for him. Honestly, I really think I was NOT filling up all his time with what I wanted him to do. I really really think I left a lot of free time for him. Take a look at our routine. Perhaps just half an hour on an activity in the mornings?  That isn’t too much, is it? But I guess perhaps it became a habit, or an expectation…  And what with the mundane stuff like meals and naps and the accompanying transitions… Sigh…

I feel so guilty. What did I do to my independent boy? : (

As for Didi, I haven’t really seen much difference. Mainly because he tends to follow whatever Kor Kor says/does. If Kor Kor asks me to read, Didi parrots him. If Kor Kor plays with his trains, Didi follows suit. Hmmm. I wonder if this is normal for all secondborns? (I am waiting for a book on birth order. Hope it cast some insight on this!)

I am heartened by the results of the ‘exile’ so far. It has only been two weeks! The outcome is so satisfying that I am tempted to move on to the next stage, i.e. my second priority – outdoor time. But I shall take it slow and not move in haste. Since I am making such big changes to our lifestyle, I might as well hang on and go all the way. One more month!

 

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Screamfree Parenting

The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool

I am so happy I have finished reading this book! AND not be disappointed at all! Thanks to another mummy P who recommended it  : )

Similar to the previous book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, the author Hal Runkel advocates parents return the focus to themselves and their own behaviour. While references to the Christian religion are liberal throughout the book, I still enjoy reading the book and find that the book makes sense. Because the author first explains what he is saying without such references, then sometimes uses quotes from the bible to further convince those who might have not been very convinced.

The greatest thing you can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself.

Just this very morning, I experienced this. I had not yelled at Kor Kor for almost two weeks (sadly, I did yell at Didi. Sigh.) but this morning I was very snappy and impatient with the boys. Only when I finally got to rest while the boys were watching television and Meimei was napping that I realised I was feeling really unwell. Very lightheaded. But I had done the usual morning routine without even thinking much about how I was feeling, just do and do since I was so used to it. So, it was because I was unwell and didn’t even realise I was unwell (cos I would have asked Hubby for help if I had known) that I was so short-tempered. I didn’t focus on myself. I only focused on the tasks at hand.

We are not responsible for our children. We are responsible to them.

If we make sure we behave- even when the kids misbehave- we have a greater chance of positively influencing the situation.

And then I don’t know how to summarize anymore. What I usually do is, I read the book once, digesting and re-reading certain parts if need be as I go, getting a gist of whether it is a good book and whether I like it, then I go through again to try to write a summary/review for this blog. But now, as I am going through it trying to find the main points, I realise the whole book is good! Trying to summarize it is like trying to summarize a good novel – but what is a good novel without the ‘juice’? 😛 Full of meaningful and useful examples and concrete suggestions. I strongly strongly recommend you pick this book up for a read! I think I shall read it again soon too!

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Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting

‘Based on the latest research on brain development and clinical experience with parents, Dr. Laura Markham’s approach is as simple as it is effective. Her message: Fostering emotional connection with your child creates real and lasting change. When you have that vital connection, you don’t need to threaten, nag, plead, bribe – or even punish.’

Picked up this book in my ongoing quest to stop yelling at the kids. Now that 123 Magic has helped me cut down drastically on my yelling, I would like to stop yelling completely… if that’s possible.

First and foremost, I agree completely with the author that ‘parenting isn’t about what our child does, but about how we respond.’ Because I know my biggest hurdle is not the children’s misbehaviours, but my short-temperedness and my tantrums.

On good days, i.e. when somehow I was able to remain calm when the kids were acting up, their misbehaviours rarely escalated into full-blown tantrums. I have experienced this ‘miracle’, but the difficult part is, how do I always remain calm? (or at least most of the time)

But alas, as I read the book, I felt that its proposed solution is for the parent to attain saintly composure and patience and always do the right thing. It advocates no punishment, no cry-it-out – very attachment parenting. (Which is good. If I have three domestic helpers, one for each kid. Oh, make that four – one for the housework. Gosh, I shall write a post on attachment parenting soon. A lot to say about that.)

This book is also too psychoanalytical for me. The author suggests that parents run into difficulties because ‘virtually all of us were wounded as children, and if we don’t heal those wounds, they prevent us from parenting our child as we truly want to.’

Hmm. I did my degree in psychology and I have always preferred cognitive theories. I also very much believe in WILL over being controlled by childhood incidents that occurred 30 years ago.

In addition, the author also says that children’s tantrums are a result of repressed emotions.

“.. we could also think of misbehaviour as acting out a big emotion that the child can’t express in words. So all ‘misbehaviour’ is a signal to us as parents that our child needs our help with an emotion that he can’t process, one that’s driving him to misbehave.”

Gosh. While I don’t believe that children purposely manipulate parents, neither can I accept that ALL misbehaviours are symptoms of bigger problems. I prefer to think that children are just naughty at times. I mean, they are children after all!

Suggestions are given on anger management for the parent, such as a parent time-out, to wait before disciplining, monitor our tone and word choice, etc. But I think these are pretty standard ideas for anger management and nothing new.

Then, comes another recommended solution that I cannot fathom – scheduled tantrums. “Ignoring his behaviour and hoping he’ll get into a better mood will result in an escalation of acting out until he ends up in a full-fledged upset, usually at the most inconvenient time for you. Instead, move into a ‘scheduled meltdown’ on your own schedule – while you are still calm enough to stay compassionate.”

OK, the rationalisation for this sounds logical. No doubt the parent will find it easier to remain calm if she is not busy at the point of tantrum, and is prepared for the tantrum to happen. But… purposely making the child have a tantrum seems rather cold-hearted… : (

The author goes on to suggest that if the child gets angry instead of crying, ‘help him surface his fears by lovingly confronting his defiance… feeling the love coming from your eyes will melt his hardened heart and flood him with all those hurting feelings that he’s been hiding away… He will either burst into tears (bingo!) or lash out angrily.”

Aiyo. Actually, I shouldn’t be spending time writing this since I do not think this book will be useful for my readers anyway. But I really need to say what I feel about this book!!

There are two ideas which I like though –

1)    The most important parenting skill: Manage yourself. Much like inflight emergency procedures advise parents to put on the oxygen mask for ourselves before attending to the child, the parent should take care of herself so that she is not venting on the child. Tired, hungry, stressed? Won’t be easy to be patient then!

2)    Having daily Special Time with each child. It can be just ten minutes when the parent is being fully present and paying full attention to the child. No television or radio or phone. No other children around unless that child is able to self-entertain and not disturb the Special Time.

I am now reading another book called Screamfree Parenting. Similarly, it focuses on the parents. But it looks a lot more promising! Shall write the review once I finish!

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Baby Led Weaning

When my firstborn started semi-solids, I read many books, cooked gourmet meals for him, pureed and froze in bulk (oh ya, and pumped breastmilk and froze gallons too), and let him try self-feeding from a very young age too. I had high ideals – self-feeding would allow him to 1) eat more (he was a picky eater from young); 2) practise his self-feeding skills; 3) have more sensory ‘play’ opportunities as he touched and mashed (and threw around) the food.

My secondborn was a happy eater. He likes to eat and is easygoing about food. Self-feeding? Urmm, I didn’t really have a choice cos he wanted to eat whatever we were eating! But I didn’t allow him to get as messy as Kor Kor since I had an older toddler around too.

Now, it’s Meimei’s turn. She is already eight months old, and gosh, she is an even tougher nut to crack than Kor Kor! It’s practically impossible to spoonfeed her – she clamps her lips shut and when I do manage to get some food into her mouth, she just spits it out. Then I discovered that she is more open to me feeding her with my fingers (duh!).

But you see, I don’t mind spoonfeeding a baby cereal/porridge because she is too young to be able to use a spoon herself. But errr, since we are using fingers anyway, she can jolly well do it herself right?!

And so we embarked on this messy journey!

(Warning: It is sometimes stressful when other well-meaning people express concern about your baby not getting to eat the usual baby purees/porridge/cereal. Stick to it as long as you know you are doing what’s right and good for your baby! Luckily I am very resilient and unmoved by external forces :P)

So, what is baby-led weaning? You can read this book or visit their website. Very briefly, it means babies are introduced to solids by giving them healthy food items and letting them feed themselves. So, instead of carrot puree, we give the baby a longish piece of carrot.

When we first started, Meimei would take the food in her hands and put it to her lips, but she did not really eat much. After about two weeks, she started really eating! Not gobbling down a lot a lot, but enough to satisfy me : ) She has four teeth now by the way, and her current favourites are bread and cheese.

Ahhhhh.. I feel so relaxed. Three kids under five… and no need to feed any! 😀

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Project Mummy-Is-Busy, Codename Pandan Cake

Over the weekend I had a brilliant idea – since I was intending to ‘ignore’ the boys for the next few weeks (to sorta ‘deschool’ them, ‘de-entertain’), why not I spend the mornings doing something else?

Last week we really stayed at home from Monday to Friday. The kids didn’t step out of the house at all! (I went out with my friends on two nights, which was why I didn’t go nuts.) Instead of setting up play activities for the boys &/or reading to them whenever I was free, I hid in the kitchen pretending to be busy.. ha!

(By the way, I would say my plan for the boys to ‘re-learn’ free play has been very successful so far! By the end of the week, they had stopped asking me ‘what are we going to do now?’, and was not whiny at all about having to stay at home the whole day everyday.)

Before I started making the cake in the morning, I had expected to have to explain to the boys that I was not free, to have to encourage them to self-entertain, and to have to ‘teach’ them that it would be like this from now on. After all, for the past many months, the things I did in the morning were pretty standard – breakfast, baths, prep for lunch, feed Meimei… The boys were not used to me doing extra stuff like baking.

But surprisingly, the boys didn’t object at all! There were no questions even! And…. drumroll please…. NO SIBLING SQUABBLE! They played happily and peacefully together for the entire hour! I am hoping that with even more free time in each other’s company now, they will learn to get along better and learn to solve their own disputes. (Though they have always been spending most of their time together, previously a significant amount of time was spent on journeying here and there and on activities arranaged by me.)

It has only been one week though. The theory remains to be proven. I am holding my breath!

(This project also means I will have more time to finally do something which I have always wanted to do – bake more and cook more! I definitely need more practice… the pandan cake didn’t turn out too well… but I am very proud of myself for making pandan juice from scratch!)

 

 

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Free To Learn

Why unleashing the instinct to play will make our children happier, more self-reliant, and better students for life. By Peter Gray

When I collected this book from the library, I was thinking thinking thinking about how to let the boys have free play, so I was very excited about reading it!

The author started with explaining why children need play and the problems with the education system. It was very well written and I enjoyed reading very much and was looking forward to The Answer in the later chapters.

Unfortunately, the book only suggested minimizing the amount of time children spend in schools and other structured lessons, giving children more opportunities to play with other children of varied ages, and to practice trustful parenting. Trustful parenting being not over-protective, to be very brief.

Sigh. The Search continues.

(By now, you should have realised I read a lot!)