I Bribe My Kids

If you stay dry in bed for n nights, you get a reward.

If you control your temper for n days, you get a reward.

If you bathe yourself for n days, you get a reward.

Bribes vs rewards? Thin fine line.

I usually use this method for things which I can’t really force the kids to do, or things which I can’t even really get angry about. Yet I know they are ready to do it. For example, Kor Kor was reluctant to start bathing himself. He said he did not know how to do it. OK, I don’t really mind bathing him, so I just dangled a carrot. If he’s keen to get the reward, it provides the extra push for him to start doing it. Like going without diaper at night – I can understand he feels safer with the diaper, in case he incurs my wrath for bedwetting. Plus, it’s much easier to just pee in the diaper than to wake up to go to the toilet! Carrot again – if you want, you try. If you would rather continue wearing diaper, so be it, I can live with it.

In order to encourage him to keep trying and to make it a habit, I give him a reward once he achieves the desirable behaviour for about three days. Then a second reward if he can do it for five days. Then a third reward if he manages 15 days. By then, it should be second nature and there will be no more reward. Say, he manages to control his temper for a stretch of 15 days, that means he has the ability to do it! It also depends on the level of difficulty – for bathing himself, it was only one reward for a stretch of ten days and that’s all.

I am willing to splurge on slightly more expensive presents, rather than many small items for daily behaviour, because my goal is to get the problem over and done with once and for all. Once it’s clear that he CAN do it, I expect him to do it without any reward. Instead, he will get punished if he fails to do it, e.g. time out for throwing tantrum or refusing to bathe himself. (Doesn’t apply to bedwetting though, cos it’s normal to wet the bed once in a while, and it can be caused by many factors. To be dealt with gently. So far so good though!)

What are the rewards Kor Kor has received thus far? A Transformers toy which cost $19.90 for three days of good temper. A pair of walkie-talkies ($20+) for staying dry for 15 consecutive nights. (He also got smaller rewards when he stayed dry for shorter stretches, but I can’t recall what they were.)

At five years old, I think Kor Kor has the ability to think ahead for longer periods and to be more self-disciplined. How about Didi? He’s only 3.5 years old, and I don’t expect much of him yet. He’s still wearing diaper to bed at night though the diaper is actually dry most mornings. We asked him whether he wanted to stop wearing diaper and he said no, so we shall just wait for him to be ready.

However, there is one behaviour which I really cannot stand anymore! No, it’s not whining. Not that I like his whining, but I think that’s too huge an issue to tackle at his age. But recently, he has started screaming, as in those high-pitched AHHH..! I have promised him to buy him his chosen Transformers toy when he can stay scream-free for ten days. Since he’s so young and ten days probably feels like an impossible eternity to him, there is also a bait of a small piece of chocolate every night if he’s scream-free for the day. His progress? Urmm, maybe it is impossible to hit ten days?? He has eaten many pieces of chocolates, but after a few days, he loses it and goes back to zero again. But it’s still good. At least now when he screams, I just need to remind him, “you are screaming. Can you stop?” and he’s ok most of the time.

My favourite takeaway from this blatant bribery? When I see Kor Kor swallowing his tantrum when I remind him to be of good temper! 😛





He Likes Rockclimbing Now!

And so, Kor Kor has completed the eight sessions of the Pebbles programme at The Rock School. I am very happy to report that he no longer has any mental obstacles and is able to scale the walls without much difficulties. YAY! There is still a lot of room for improvement with regard to his skills, but I believe that is a small issue. Mind over body, all he needs is technical lessons and more practice.

I knew he could : )

I knew he could : )

Given the drama we had at the beginning, how did he manage to go from CANNOT to CAN in five lessons? I shall be very blunt and honest – yes, I bribed him, in addition to lots more scolding. There’s a Chinese idiom called , which literally translates into ‘drenched in dog’s blood’, meaning berate harshly. Yep, that’s what I did for the first three lessons – scold scold scold after each lesson, all throughout dinner and the way home.

Very luckily, some toys which I had ordered online arrived then and I decided to use them as bribes. I told Kor Kor that he would be allowed to choose one toy if he managed to climb to the top of the wall. After he succeeded, I told him that at the next lesson he would have to climb the wall twice during the class to get another toy.

By the sixth lesson, there was no need for any more bribes or scolding. Kor Kor looked forward to the lessons and would skip and dance on the way to class. He often said that he liked rockclimbing during the interval between the weekly lesson.

I guess the thing is, I KNEW he could do it, but he did not know it. He thought he could not, and the lack of confidence contributed to his fear and reluctance to try. Thus, once there was some external motivation spurring him on, he was more willing to put in effort and could do it without much difficulties. And once he knew he could, the problem was solved.

Hmmm.. perhaps bribery in itself is not such a good idea. Personally, I would not be willing to provide constant bribes. Huh, I would be mighty pissed off if Kor Kor had expected rewards for doing what he should be doing anyway at every lesson! I am glad Kor Kor did not even ask for any reward himself when I stopped offering him bribes. I think a bribe or two as a push is ok, much like the reward system for daily chores – once the boys got used to it, there is no longer a need for stars and they do what they are supposed to do as a habit.

I hope Kor Kor has learnt a life lesson here – that he has to TRY before he knows whether he can, or whether he likes it. Well, if he hasn’t learnt this lesson by now, at least I can remind him of his rockclimbing experience!

[I am also really happy that Kor Kor was very well-behaved throughout the course! (other than whining and crying and refusing to try la) He was able to understand instructions and obeyed the teachers, never getting too rowdy with the other students, always queued up and waited patiently for his turn. Allow me to show off and feel proud of him!]


SAHM Survival Tips: Voice-Controlled Kids And More!

I had thought that I depended mostly on having a routine and sleep-trained kids to survive taking care of three young kids by myself. Then when Gingerbreadmum initiated a blog train on SAHM survival tips, I started observing the kids and myself more closely, and I realised I actually do have a few more tricks up my sleeve to share! Without these, routine and sleep training also cannot save me ah…

Voice-Controlled Kids

Despite their tantrums, I guess I do have well-behaved and obedient kids. (But I never say they are perfect hor.) I know this for a fact, because if they are not, I would not be able to do this. OK, so other than the usual parenting advice to be firm and consistent and fierce (personally, I say this is very important. Mummy is no pushover. Don’t even try me.), what else???

From very young, I used my voice to control the kids. Like, once they could actually control their own movements. ‘No, don’t touch that.’ ‘No, no bite bite.’ Don’t underestimate the babies, they can understand very well! (they just acting blur.) When Meimei started climbing up the stairs at the grandparents’ double-storeyed house, I remained on my chair (about 2 metres away) and told her sternly ‘No. Come down.’ She would turn to look at me (to see whether I mean business?), and I would repeat the instruction if she tries to continue climbing. If she took no heed, I would then walk over to remove her to the bottom of the stairs and repeat in a harsher tone.

It might not always work now that she is only 13 months old, but this is training in progress, and I do see it working most of the time. It might seem dangerous to leave her on the stairs, but actually she is only one or two steps up. Not likely to sustain any serious injuries if she were to fall down from that height, and I think the potential gains outweigh the risks.

A Safe Environment

In order to cook and do housework in peace (ok, strike that, it’s to do any housework at all, peace or no peace), and also because of my personal adversion toward always hovering over the kids, I choose to work on the environment. When Meimei started to climb onto the sofa, I barred her from the living room by setting up the playyard as a fence (the boys climbed over instead. The stool is to help Didi get over.)

No entry!

No entry!

When Meimei got older and more competent at climbing (sigh), I removed the playyard and put out more playmats instead. So far, she has only fallen down once, which is pretty good considering I am rarely free to sit around with the kids and guide/guard her. And hey, kids need to fall to learn how not to fall again!

The two brown playmats were from other parts of the house.

The two brown playmats were from other parts of the house. And see the legs on the arm of the sofa??? With this kind of role model for Meimei… !!!


The boys like to look outside, so I make sure they have sturdy (wooden) chairs at the windows.

The boys like to look outside, so I make sure they have sturdy (wooden) chairs at the windows.

Allowing Independence

Most parents say they want their child to be independent, and the key is providing accessibility to what the child needs to exercise his independence and emerging skills. For example, if you would like your child to use drawing/painting as a way to keep himself occupied while you are busy, you might need to place the materials where he can reach, without needing your help.

When I realised Kor Kor was capable of pouring drinks for himself, I cleared a bottom drawer for the kids’ utensils. Previously, I had to pass the cup to him even though he took the carton from the fridge himself. Now, he just takes the cup himself and even helps to pour for Didi!

But Meimei helps herself often to these 'toys', oops

But Meimei helps herself often to these ‘toys’, oops


With safe stools, the boys can wash their hands safely without any help from me. I even bought a stool for my mum's house so that they can also go to the toilet on their own there, hee hee.

With safe stools, the boys can wash their hands safely without any help from me. I even bought a stool for my mum’s house so that they can also go to the toilet on their own there, hee hee.

Impose Rules For The Older Kids

The boys often zoom around the house on their ride-on cars, which might seem rather dangerous for a toddling baby. But I have always told the boys that as the drivers, it’s their responsibility to be careful of the pedestrians. And to date, they have never bumped into Meimei.

Sometimes, while the boys are playing with something, they call for me to ‘take Meimei away’ as they do not want her to disrupt their play (or destroy their block tower or Lego building). I remind them that Meimei is still small and instead of removing her, they should play at the dining table or the study table where she can’t reach. Now they are used to it and do not bother me ask me to help carry Meimei away anymore : )

– – –

There are many variables in every situation. And since I do not wish to engage a maid or rely too much on extended family, I have to work on the other factors like the environment and the kids themselves. I have to say a big THANK YOU here to my three children, because I really cannot do this without them being well-behaved and forgiving kids.. Special mention to my eldest.. because the younger siblings take his lead and fortunately for me, he is a good role model. Mummy loves you all and Daddy deep deep!

The next mom on Survival Tips for SAHM blog train is Michelle. She is a former fashion model turned mompreneur to Lauren and another baby girl due in July this year. She sold her food business to spend more time with her daughter because she doesn’t want to miss any precious moments and milestones in her child’s life. She is currently writing an ebook, blogs at The Chill Mom and runs a maternity concierge business to help new mom cope with pregnancy and beyond. In tomorrow’s blog post, she has turned to Lauren to guest post for her. Check out what sort of tips her 19 months old toddler has to share!


This post is part of a blog train hosted by Gingerbreadmum where 31 stay-at-home mums share their survival tips. We hope that you’ll find our tips useful and remember that you’re not alone!



What Mummy Learnt From Rockclimbing

Kor Kor has completed three out of eight sessions of the rockclimbing course at Rock School, and I am quite taken aback by the flood of emotions that I have felt as a result of the lessons.

In short, the situation isn’t looking too rosy. I thought that he had proven at the trial class that he didn’t inherit my phobia of heights and that the following sessions would just get easier, though I did expect it would not be exactly smooth-sailing. (Which was why I signed him up anyway, no point if there was zero challenge, right?)

Kor Kor is very unwilling to climb the outdoor walls. He’s ok with the indoor walls, where they spend about half of the two-hour lesson. I do see his progress there – he’s now faster and more confident and quite his usual atheletic self. But those walls are only the height of a regular room, not exactly a challenge or worth the money and time and effort to attend the lesson, I think.

Then when they go outside, the problem starts. I see the other kids (all boys between five and seven years old) zooming up the walls. But Kor Kor has only gone up to half the wall and refuses to climb anymore. Worse, he flat out refuses to try again, while the other kids go up 2-3 times.

Basically, only two types of people can go up that wall – the ones who find it easy-peasy, and the ones who have some difficulties but continue trying until they succeed. No need to be humble here, I believe Kor Kor is fully capable of scaling the walls with a bit of effort. So, the problem must be he’s just not trying!! And that really pisses me off big time. I really cannot cannot CANNOT stand my children being lazy or giving up easily. No polite modesty again here, I think I am diligent and I definitely don’t give up easily. So my kids have a good role model (for these two traits at least) and the genes! Then it must be his ATTITUDE problem!

I get very upset and angry. Been giving him tongue-lashings after every lesson. Frankly speaking, I can’t even bring myself to look at him every time he whines and tells the instructor he doesn’t want to try anymore. While the class is still outside, I go back into the school. I feel so unhappy seeing the other boys going up the walls happily and easily, while mine is being so useless.

When I ask why, Kor Kor says he is really very tired. But what has he done to be tired?? On rockclimbing days, I don’t set up any play activities. He spends the whole day playing with his trains, reading books, fooling around with the siblings, resting, eating, watching some television… WHAT is he tired about???

Hubby says it’s because the other students are older. OK, it’s true that the next youngest boy is nine months older than Kor Kor. But hey, I am sure all of them go to school before the rockclimbing!!! While Kor Kor is basically doing nothing much at home.

Anyway, if Kor Kor obediently tries everytime, I am ok with him not reaching the peak. If he tries and fails, I will be disappointed but not frustrated. As long as he tries, I am quite sure I won’t be angry and so pissed off. But fact is, every lesson I have to deal with his unwillingness to try. I am really not liking myself much because of all the nasty emotions I feel and the nasty things I say to him. Sigh.

But neither does it mean I am hoping or going to try to be nice and sweet and understanding when he refuses to try. Nope, I definitely still want him to go up that wall. Because there are certain work ethics and values I want him to learn – perseverence, determination, never say die, try and try, tired also must do, cannot also must try, obedience towards teachers (instructors).

Actually, that’s why I signed him up for rockclimbing – for character building. I want to prepare him to have the correct attitude when he starts primary school. Unlike academic lessons, it doesn’t really matter if he hates rockclimbing for the rest of his life. I don’t want to scold him or force him with regards to academic learning, because I am scared of killing his inborn passion for learning. But with rockclimbing as the focal point here, I can impress on him the same values that are important for school.

The unexpected part is the learning which mummy also has to do – to curb my own sense of competitiveness, for one, but I think that is the easiest (yes, easiest despite how very competitive I do feel). The difficult parts – how to support my son when he fails. How to keep smiling and suppress my disappointment when he does try and still fails. How to encourage him to keep trying – encourage, not scold or force. How to react when he simply refuses to try and there’s no excuse for his poor attitude, because even if he is behaving badly, I still love him and I want him to know that. In a way, I am glad I am feeling all these unpleasant and undesirable emotions now, instead of finding out only when he starts primary school.

I am glad I have 1.5 years more, for both of us to learn together. *deep breaths*



Talkative Thursday: Parenting Dilemmas

Often I feel quite confused how I am supposed to handle certain parenting dilemmas. Just to name a few:

Should I help my child to do things to demonstrate helpfulness? Or insist he do it himself to encourage independence? Both are positive things, right?

Since the kids were young, I have always been doing it the independence way. For example, when they left their cups on the table, I would remind them to bring them to the sink. When they refused, I would insist. Which sometimes led to tantrums and timeouts and general unhappiness. And I am good at being consistent, so we might go through this scenario a few times daily, but there are still a million other things to remind them about. And I realised that the boys seemed to be less helpful the more I expected them to do it themselves.

Then I thought, maybe I should be helpful instead. (This was a change of parenting tactic, not swaying from one way to another inconsistently.) But alas, they took advantage of my helpfulness! Like, when they were reading on the sofa in the living room and I was preparing food in the kitchen, they would call out to me to help them put their books on the coffee table! The sofa was less than a metre away from the coffee table!!

Should I be conscientious about time and punctuality? (Punctuality is my virtue!) But that would mean hurrying the kids and rush, rush, rush.

As it is, Kor Kor has already picked up my habit of watching the clock. I always tell the boys our plans in advance so that they will be prepared. When I was hosting a gathering for my friends, he asked me what time they would be coming. Then at the stated time, he kept asking me why they were not here yet. Dear Son, how do I explain to you the concept of rubber time???

Another example – when his godpa came to play with him and he was playing happily, he suddenly asked him ‘what time are you leaving?’ I cringed, cos it sounded like he couldn’t wait for godpa to go! But I knew he just wanted to know… so like me!

But I really don’t want my children to have the bad habit of latecoming. I believe it’s an expression of respect to be punctual when meeting someone. But well, especially with three kids in tow, being on time usually involves lots of rushing.

Should I give in to him when he’s being unreasonable, to demonstrate being nice? Or should I stand my ground and be consistent, so that he won’t have a pushover as a role model? And so that he won’t expect his future spouse to be a pushover or everyone to give in to him?

Because I saw Kor Kor being strict and unyielding towards his younger siblings (mainly Didi for now) when they were being naughty, just like how I treated him. But I want him to be nice and kind even when Didi is annoying the heck out of him! (Kor Kor is a loving brother most of the time, just like I am a loving mother most of the time, hee hee. But I am referring to when Didi is being unreasonably unlovable, you know?)

I don’t have any answers yet. But a recent experience gave me some insight for a possible solution.

Kor Kor was throwing a tantrum. I didn’t know what to do, partly because I was still in a dilemma about this nice vs consistent thing, and partly because I knew Kor Kor had been behaving out of sorts these two days. So I just held him while he was crying and yelling.

THEN I saw Didi come over to comfort Kor Kor, and Meimei also sorta looking at Kor Kor and patting his head. That gave me an idea. Regardless of whether being nice is the right thing to do for the tantruming child, it is definitely the right thing to do for the siblings. Because they see Mummy being nice to Kor Kor, they will follow suit and be nice to Kor Kor! Yay!

Let me go and ponder some more about the original question though.

Linking up with SANses

SANses.com's Talkative Thursdays


My Big Bang Theory of Parenting

I have been reading parenting books for four years, and occasionally I would find certain books to be very sound and meaningful. I would then try to incorporate it into my interactions with my children. But I guess that was too piecemeal, so I could never keep to a specific method for long. This was also partly because other things got in the way – for instance, no method could possibly work when I was losing my temper numerous times a day. It was the implementation that went wrong wrong wrong. If the instructions for a miracle pill said to consume it everyday, but I only managed to consume one every three days, I couldn’t blame the pill for being ineffective!

Recently, I am very lucky to have consecutively read quite a few books which gave me more insight and great advice and thus helped me to change my parenting method. Not least to be a calmer parent and yell less. It might be one small step for the mother, but such a big difference to the children (ok, not so small step). But seriously, it’s no joke to be trying to stifle those yells when the kids are seemingly determined to drive us to the limit of our patience. It might be very well for those parenting experts to tell us to be calm, to remind us of the importance of keeping calm, to warn us of the perils of yelling at and/or spanking the kids… but in the reality of life, HOW TO???

I think I reached the peak of my yelling a few months ago. Was it because I had three children then, instead of one or two? Or was it the four-year accumulation of frustration that finally pushed me to lose it and scream at my kids so much, so loudly? My bet is that it was because the boys were older and getting better at talking back, and it was very clear they learnt it from me. They were saying the same things I said to scold them! It really didn’t feel good to hear my own words coming from my sons’ mouths…  Anyway, the cause doesn’t really matter – I knew I had to change and be a better example to my children.

Don’t get me wrong, I did yell at them sometimes in the past and still do now, but that period a few months ago was… It was so bad that I knew I had to do something about it before my relationship with my children really suffered permanent damage.  I mean, everyone knows we shouldn’t yell at children, and I had made numerous feeble attempts, albeit half-heartedly. So, I am lucky that the bad situation provided me with enough impetus to really make an effort.  What is my theory then? Here goes:

First of all, I firmly believe that many tantrums can be avoided if the parent pays due attention to the basic needs – is the child getting enough sleep? Enough downtime (awake and resting/playing quietly)? Hungry/thirsty? Enough attention and affection from parents &/or other caregivers?

Secondly, is there a framework of discipline in place? When there are problems in interaction, one party has to change first. Not much chance of the kid changing first ya? Yet, if the child keeps misbehaving, it will be very difficult for the parent to maintain his cool.

In my case, it was easy as I used to be quite authoritarian. The kids were already used to having to follow my instructions. The problem was the way I dictated my instructions. Here, I recommend parents to try the 1-2-3 Magic, which really works wonders for me. (Do note that there is a significant difference between this and simple timeout.) I am able to still effectively discipline the kids while maintaining a calm mannerism.

But what if the parenting style had always been more on the permissive side? Perhaps the parent had always been giving in to the child and the child had become the one in charge of the household, dictating his wants and preferences? Perhaps the parent had always been very loving and never yelled at the child, until the child was older and the parent couldn’t take it anymore?

Hmm, I do wonder, for a child who grew up in such love, perhaps he would be a very calm and well-behaved child who hardly had tantrums? I really do not know, for this parenting style has never been attainable for me. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume this child became unreasonable and hard to handle. I would then suggest the parents come down hard on him and be firm and strict, until the child got used to obeying them. (I see obedience as an important Chinese value, not so much the emphasis on self-esteem in Western cultures.) Yes, there is likely to be much yelling and tears from all parties, but I see it as a necessary transition. Then, the parents can move on to 1-2-3 Magic for a calmer disciplinary method.

When the child is more manageable and responsive to discipline, it is much easier for the parent to be calm even when the child at times misbehaves.

How to be a calm and loving parent? Patience does not come naturally to me. So when I first started, or even now on days when I don’t feel so good, my mantra is “If I don’t have anything good to say, just keep quiet.” This means that when the boys are being defiant and I feel like scolding them upside-down, I choose to remain silent instead. Well, silent except for utterances of “one”, “two”, and “three, go for timeout”. There is really no point arguing with young children anyway – it would have been just a parental tantrum.

With the above changes, my motivation to keep going is the difference in behaviour I see in my boys. It didn’t take long – just a week or so of a calmer mummy and the boys have become calmer too. I can see that they are happier and more well-behaved. And the best part? There is no doubt that I am still very much The Authority to them, and I haven’t lost the slightest bit of control over them. My word is their command.

Disclaimer: Of course they still misbehave at times… I don’t claim to have produced two angels (only Meimei, maybe. Haha.) They are children after all : )

Disclaimer 2: Of course the best is to effectively teach and discipline the children calmly and lovingly without resorting to any authoritarian method at all!


The Difference Between 1-2-3 Magic and Simple Timeout

Example: Child keeps knocking his cutlery on the dining table during mealtime.

Simple timeout: If you knock one more time, you go to timeout.

Child of course can’t resist the urge to do it again.

Parent carries a screaming child to timeout >> Big consequence for a small infringement.

OR If you knock one more time, you REALLY go to timeout ok. >> Parent fails to carry out his “promise”.

1-2-3 Magic: That’s one.

Child knocks again.

That’s two.

From experience, the child usually stops by then. And if the child does do it again, he goes to timeout not just for the one-time infringement, but for ignoring two reminders.

Yes, it means that the child is given two get-out-of-jail-free cards. But it also means the parent can use 1-2-3 for any minor infringement. No kidding, I really use it for any small little thing that irritates me.

Kicking your brother’s chair to disturb him? One.

Swept that book from the table to the floor? One. Pick it up. No? Two. Done.

Dropped that toy a bit too heavily for my liking? One.

Yay I use it for everything! No need to shout, no need to nag, no need to lecture. On the other hand, if I were to use simple timeout, do I really want to send him to timeout for little acts of mischief? If not, HOW do I deal with those irritating misbehaviours??

See the magic? : )