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Back To Basics

For the longest time, I had been wondering how to get the boys to help out regularly with housework. Not that they were (too) unwilling to do…. but sometimes I forgot… sometimes we headed out very early (once they finished their milk). For instance, if the plan was to spend the whole day outdoors, I might feel that we might as well bring our breakfast out for a picnic or eat out, as the eating and cleaning up would take quite a while, especially for Meimei who was messy and un-threatenable.

It’s great to spend more time in the great outdoors. But eventually, the boys’ chorelessness got to me too much, and I decided that again, we had to make a choice – chores or outdoors? Chores won, cos we do not have to completely give up on outdoor time, just have to cut down (and say goodbye to our 1000 hours, boo hoo. Oh well, no pain no gain.)

‘Worse’, as I am trying to let the kids eat more homecooked food, and also because they are usually able to go to bed earlier if I come home and cook, we are further cutting down on outdoor time as we leave for home earlier. So…. go out later, come back earlier… oops..

Our current routine

730am Milk & breakfast

The boys have to finish by 830am, or else they don’t have to finish the food/milk and will lose a privilege for the day. Good thing is they usually do finish on time. (But how are they going to have one hour to eat when they start primary school?? Gloomy.)

After breakfast, it’s time for housework followed by wushu practice (just some simple exercises cos mummy is NOT a wushu exponent. Urmm, or wushu practitioner at all :P)

It’s a different chore everyday, something simple. The main purpose is to get the boys in the habit of doing housework, and to drill into them that they are supposed to do housework. (You are welcome, Future Daughters-in-Law.) I clean the house on my own too, so what the boys do are all extra. The house will not be any diritier if they don’t do their chores… this is so that I won’t get stressed about them doing the chore well (i.e. up to my standards) Previously, they helped when I was really cleaning the toilet. I would be rushing to finish the cleaning and feeling very stressed by time ticking by while the boys were either fooling around (not clean!) or very serious about their work (taking too long!)

One chore a day – dust the shelves & wipe the balcony, clean the playmat, mop the bedrooms (with Magiclean wipes), wash the toilet, wash the dishes for one meal, cook one dish each (with heaps of help from me).. Sunday is rest day!

They are done by 9am and run off to do their own thing. (read or Lego or random toys or just playing or run around the house) I continue with my chores if any (I vacuum the house daily at least. Monday is Housework Day and I wash the toilets and mop as well. It is also Child Neglect Day until lunchtime.)

I start lunch prep by 10.30am. So in-between I am free for about an hour to play with the kids or help them out if they need my help (crafts or Lego or they might request I read to them).

Depending on the dishes, we eat at 11am or latest 11.30am. After lunch and fruits and washing up, it’s around 12.15pm. I start dinner prep now especially if we are going out. Then, by right,12.30pm or thereabouts is Meimei’s naptime especially if we are going out for swim class or wushu class in the afternoon. When she goes for her nap, I spend 30 minutes one-to-one with each child. While I am with Didi, Kor Kor usually disappears into his bedroom (reading or doing Lego). Then Didi goes for his nap and I spend time with Kor Kor. After that, Kor Kor goes for one hour of quiet time (ya, no prize for guessing, he reads or plays with Lego). And it’s my rest time for about an hour! Well, I get to rest (i.e. check facebook!) once I finish up some (and there is always some!) miscellaneous tasks around the house.

BUT as the Princess Monster has not been sleeping well recently, I have to spend time coaxing her to sleep. (This traumatic event shall be documented once I survive it.) So one-to-one time with the boys is tentative for now.. depending on how long Meimei takes to KO.

Around 2-3pm (depending on which class we are heading to), the kids resurface and we go out. Reach home by 6pm after class, have dinner, shower and start bedtime routine.

If we do not have class that day, I prefer to bring them out in the morning, after breakfast, housework and wushu practice. Go out around 9am, lunch out, reach home 1pm+ for their naps and quiet time. I unpack from the morning outing and start dinner prep if necessary.

You might have noticed there is no reading time, no one-to-one time when we go out in the morning. I think it’s ok, because when we are outdoors, I am not so distracted by housework or cooking and can pay them more attention, which sorta make up for the one-to-one. As for reading.. back to basics, remember? And the fundamental is my sanity. Not gonna squeeze it in.. though we usually do end up reading unless I am really too tired or busy.

So now, our priorities are, ample sleep for the kids, mummy’s sanity, routine, chores, free play, outdoors, reading, other engagements, roughly in that order. We used to play board games together almost every afternoon, as the kids got to choose the activity for their time with mummy. (They often chose to do two-to-one as they wanted to play board games together.) But I realised that meant they wouldn’t get much readalouds for the day, only two bedtime stories at night. Frankly speaking, I admit that the daddy and I were not too keen to read loooong stories or explain things properly to them at that time of the day. So, prioritize readalouds over board games! The best part? The boys have been playing board games by themselves quite a lot! We have a board game night once a week, with Daddy too, when we play the more challenging ones which Didi can’t manage yet. Sometimes we play simple games too, just for fun and laughs! 😀

By 8.30pm, the boys are in bed. Meimei goes to bed earlier, timing depends on how fast I finish the dinner wash up.

“When you have the choice, choose outdoors.”

That is still our mantra – we choose outdoors over other outings (museums, indoor playgrounds, Science Centre, watching plays, etc). Beaches, parks, water playgrounds, cycling, hiking, yes!

 

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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! 😛

 

 

 

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Kids Put To Work!

I used to read mostly blogs from other countries, but once I started following local blogs, I have been hooked. Our circumstances are more similar, so it’s much easier for me to ‘copy’ if I feel inspired. And inspired was what I felt when I read Our Everyday Things about training kids to be independent, specifically helping out with housework.

Thus, about two weeks ago, I started getting the boys to help out in the daily chores around the house. This also coincided with a update of our routine, so things have been working out nicely. I used to randomly ask them to help, but now I want to make it a regular part of our lives, with the goal of them eventually (soon??!!) doing the work on their own without me supervising or guiding. (Only Kor Kor gets to cook at the stove for now.)

Hmm, yes it does take longer to complete the chores with the boys’ involvement. But I have already seen improvements in their work performance! They have definitely got used to helping out, and no longer drag their feet when they have to stop playing/reading at Housework Time.

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In Defence of Cry-It-Out

Quite often, I come across articles condemning the CIO method of sleep training, usually links posted on facebook. Seriously, with three kids and a firm confidence that CIO is the right thing for my children (in hindsight!), I can’t be bothered to even comment on those links anymore. One man’s meat is another’s poison, to each his own, and all that.

Sure, I have no doubt that non-CIO methods can be just as good, if not better than CIO. How can letting a baby cry and cry be good anyway? Who cares about a baby being independent anyway. I am just quite sick of those articles implying that mothers who do CIO are lousy mothers.

And what’s not mentioned in those articles is the opportunity cost for the rest of the family. And I don’t mean the mother. It is obvious that the welfare of the mother is of little importance in comparison to the baby, not going to argue with that. And ya, it’s not just about the baby and the mother.

The other children

So, when the mother is doing her best to soothe the baby to sleep, what happens to the older siblings? I guess they will either be playing on their own… or being taken care of by another adult (maid?)…. or maybe the TV or smartphone is babysitting them. Baby gets mummy’s loving attention and time – good for him, perhaps not so good for his siblings.

Or what happens if the older sibling is still young enough to need a nap? And to need the mother to soothe him to sleep as well? I don’t know how the mother is going to juggle that. Maybe end up neither child get to nap at the time that he should nap? Or get the amount of sleep they need?

The baby’s father

Baby sharing the matrimonial bed. Hmm. Or perhaps the husband doesn’t even get to sleep in the bed anymore.

The mother

OK, even though nobody cares about the mother’s well-being, I still must mention this. It might not matter that the mother is exhausted and stressed – that’s the price for having a baby what, how can let the baby cry just so that the mother can rest, no way. But the quality of her relationships with the whole family will probably be adversely affected when her fatigue makes her impatient, or just no energy to play with the other kids, ya?

– – –

I know there are mothers out there who seem to be able to do it all – multiple kids, homeschool, outings, fun activites, no maid, cooks, does all the housework, takes care of all the kids herself, and does NOT use CIO. But but but, I am sure there’s some compromise somewhere. It is just not possible to really do it all.

If not for CIO, I would not able to homeschool my children. I would not be able to manage taking care of my three kids without a helper, be it family or hired help. Since I really want to homeschool, I would really really hate it if I had to send the older kids off to school just so I could take care of the baby, and I would feel it was really really unfair to them.

I did CIO for my first child even though I only had to take care of one then, because I knew there would soon be a younger sibling (before I got pregnant). We had planned to have a second child soon, and I needed to think for the near future. (I started calling Kor Kor ‘Kor Kor’ when he was three months old.) I did CIO for my third child even though there would be no more younger ones, because I was already taking care of three young children then. (In all my plans, a maid was never in the picture.)

Not everyone want to homeschool, so most people won’t be bothered about sending the older kids to school. There is nothing wrong with not homeschooling anyway. My point is, other than whether it’s good for the new baby, there are many many other factors to consider. Is it good for the old(er) baby? Is it good for the father? Is it good for the mother? Different priorities for everyone, just remember to consider the whole family!

By the way, I don’t mean to say I first tried CIO because I only considered the welfare of my husband and children. I wasn’t so noble. I tried it because back then, I was feeling so tired and frustrated and stressed and helpless. Other than knowing I must not start co-sleeping if I wanted to take care of my second child on my own in future, the other sleep training methods we tried had failed, namely by schedule and pick up put down.

Frankly speaking, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for mothers to do CIO just so they can have more rest. Even if it’s the only reason for you wanting to sleep train your baby. No need to feel guilty. Happy mother, happy baby. Happy mother, happy family. Happy wife, happy husband. So go ahead, no need to justify your decision!

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After Sleep Training…

What is it like after sleep training? Does the child cry herself to sleep EVERY night???

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Took the photo after I put her in her cot and said ‘night night’

 

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She just looks at me close the door, wide awake

Most of the time, she hardly cries at all when I bring her to her cot for her nap or at bedtime at night. When she does cry, like last night, I go in and ask her what she wants. Usually she’s OK after drinking some water, then I put her back in the cot and say ‘night night’ again. If it’s the middle of the night, she usually can’t wait for me to put her back down, and starts to wriggle downwards once she has had enough water. Come to think of it, there has not been a single time that a hug or water fail to stop her crying. Very, very occasionally, if she wakes up too early in the morning (6am+), I give her her water bottle and let her play alone in her room, while I continue sleeping on the floor.

Very obvious that I am an advocate for sleep training hor? 😛

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How To Teach Your Baby To Walk

I don’t mean the physical part of it. I am referring to the mental/psychological/emotional part!

Many friends have expressed amazement at how much my boys can walk. I hardly carried them anymore once I found out I was pregnant again, ie when Kor Kor was nine months old and Didi was 15 months old (ya, somehow I always knew about my pregnancy at four weeks). Can’t recall when I stopped bringing the stroller out either, but by two years old, it was definitely no more stroller for Didi. Cos by then Meimei had arrived and she was the one who got to use the stroller when we did bring it out.

Now, the boys walk when we spend the whole day at the zoo. They walk when I lug them along to buy things. They walk when we go for strolls at the beach or park. They walk without complaints.. they skip and they run!

I guess it was forced by circumstances for the boys, so for Meimei I decided to take note of what was making her a happy walker as well.

Firstly, and most importantly, follow the child’s timing. When the child first learns to walk, he loves walking and enjoys walking. No such thing as tired, cos children have boundless energy! But, they tend to be very slow and often stumble and trip. Thus, for convenience and speed, and also due to concern for the child’s safety, adults might prefer to carry them instead, ignoring the child’s demands to walk by himself.

Then, over time, the child is ‘trained’ to be carried. So when he goes out, he now demands to be carried instead of demanding to walk. The problem is, it’s now a much more assertive and louder child making the demands! And heavier! Instead of being as malleable as the one-year-old new walker, he is likely to be a stubborn and unreasonable two-year-old who is getting too heavy for the parents to carry with ease. Then the question comes… Why my kid refuses to walk huh?

Secondly, if you are expecting or have a younger child, I suggest not letting the two share one stroller. Sometimes I do bring the stroller out for Meimei, especially when she was younger. But when I carried her or let her walk, I would rather let the stroller be empty than to let one of the boys use it, even though it would increase our speed (greatly!). Otherwise, how would the older child know when he could use the stroller? Since he doesn’t know, I guess he would have to keep testing and trying his luck by repeatedly asking demanding! Each failed demand is likely to end up in a tantrum. No, thank you.

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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!]