Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How to Really Affirm your Child

I smiled nervously at my 7-year-old son and held my breath, waiting for the answer to my question. The wait was always unnerving; especially since I never had a clue as to what answer he would give.
“How can I be a better Daddy?” I had ventured.
The little boy looked earnestly at me, and replied in a soft gentle voice, “You could play more games with me.”
“Anything else? Is there any other thing I could do to be a better Daddy?”
“No, that’s all.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. I had gotten off easy this time.
I had learnt this approach some years back. The question “How can I be a better Daddy?” provides an insight into how we can affirm our children in a love language they understand. This principle is derived from Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. Chapman describes the five love languages that we use to communicate, namely Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gift Giving, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.

Speaking My Child’s Love Language
Each of us communicates using a different language of love. For instance, my 7-year-old appreciates quality time, as evidenced from the conversation that I shared earlier. As such, he beams from ear to ear when I spend an entire evening playing games with him. It’s not so much the winning that he desires, but uninterrupted time with Daddy, especially after I spend so much time at work.
My 5-year-old’s love language is significantly different. I had a hint of it some years back when he would use me as a one-man obstacle course, climbing all over me, regardless of where we were. His love language is definitely that of physical touch, and the boy loves it when I treat him as my “pillow”, lying on him and massaging every inch of his body. It is true that I sometimes feel inadequate, given that I am not naturally inclined towards physical play, and am instead someone who relies more on my mind than on my hands to communicate and make a living. However I know that if I want to express love to my son, I have to communicate it in a way that he understands.
When we affirm our children, we need to do so in using methods they understand; and as I have shared at various parenting talks, this has to be communicated primarily through their love language. This is the first way we can really affirm our kids.
If I want to express love to my son, I have to communicate it in a way that he understands.
Being Intentional in Praise and Affirmation
The second way we can affirm our children is by being specific, using our words to empower our kids towards achieving greater success in their day-to-day accomplishments. This should not be generic, but purposeful and directed. For instance, when I first witnessed my son driving a car in Legoland, I made it a point to tell him that Daddy was proud of him. “Z, you drove very well. You are such a careful driver and you took time to make sure that no one was coming before you made your turns. Daddy is really proud of the way you drive!” And when you have two kids, it is crucial to ensure that you affirm both your kids. We may not be saying the same words for each child (because each one of them is different), but we can choose to affirm each of them commenting on a particular strength or on a specific positive behaviour.
When you have two kids, it is crucial that you affirm both based on their unique strengths.
It is far more meaningful for the child to learn the reason why he did well, rather than merely to hear a generic “Good boy!” or “Well done!” (For the record, we don’t use the words “good boy” or “naughty boy” as we want to encourage or discourage the behaviour, rather than make a comment on the inherent character of the child.)
So how do we really affirm our child? With a deep acceptance and appreciation of the developing person he or she is; and not for the behaviour that he or she exhibits. For our identity and personhood is largely nurtured from as far back as we can remember; and as young kids, it is our parents who help shape the foundations of what we feel about ourselves and how we deal with who we are as a person.
Be your child’s greatest cheerleader in 30 days! Find out how by joining the Race to PraiseThis post was first published by Focus on the Family Singapore and was republished with permission.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Savouring the Seasons

Our sons Z and E turned 7 and 5 during the last two weeks. It has been a wonderful time for all of us as we celebrated for a whole week and more, with numerous birthday parties and other festivities. And the boys chose what to do on their special days, with the 5-year-old electing to go MacDonald's for dinner as he only wanted to eat chicken nuggets and French fries. As for the 7-year-old, all he wanted to do was to stay at home to play card games and to enjoy his favourite dish of spaghetti bolognese. 
Our little sweethearts on their special day. It brings us such joy to see how much
they love each other. Yes they fight often; but they are also inseparable!
Outside of the home, it has been a crazy time for me. When someone asks how I have been, I show them my July schedule, which indicates that I have not had a single day of not doing anything; each day in my calendar has been filled either with adjunct teaching or a training workshop or a school consultation or a postgraduate class. And this has been the case before our vacation in June, and it will continue to be so for another couple of weeks until the end of August.
At a recent workshop to help students to learn about the importance of peer support and how they
can serve as the first line of defence for friends who encounter difficult issues.

"Busy is good", says everyone I talk to. And it is true from the perspective of an entrepreneur running his own company. I cannot emphasise how much I have been blessed with the many business contracts I have won during the past few months; not only with the offers that I had bid for and won, but also from other private sources which have sought out my company with the intention of engaging us for their various purposes.

The financial gains from my various work commitments have allowed me the flexibility of spending more time with the family - like how we spend more time enjoying outdoor pursuits such as daytime park visits and late night mangrove walks, as well as indoor activities such as visiting libraries and playing card games. And I do get longer holiday breaks with the family, with a regular vacation lasting at least two to three weeks or more. A recent media report highlighted some of the benefits that we have gained since I first left my full-time job three years ago. Although the article is incomplete in that it does not emphasise enough on the sacrifices that my wife had had to make in order for the current arrangement to be possible. 

As I shared in a previous post, life has not been easy since I ventured away from the beaten path. But I also know that I would not exchange the precious time I have with my family for anything else in the world.

A wise man was believed to have said many many years ago that "for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." This man, King Solomon, was the wisest person in the world. According to tradition, he wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. I know that it is planting season for me. 

Sowing is not an easy process, as any agriculturalist would tell you. There is first the work needed to plough the soil, loosening it and creating a nurturing environment for the seeds to grow. Then there is the actual sowing itself. You scatter many seeds, and only a few grow into seedlings. But these seedlings do not always grow into mature plants, with some of them being snuffed out by weeds or others being snapped up by hungry herbivores. But when the seedlings finally achieve their full potential, it is a joy to behold and a privilege to harvest!

I have found the sowing analogy to be very true with my company. Out of the numerous contracts that I have bid for, only a few have actualised into reality. But these are the few that have brought much joy, and when the time comes to harvest, it has indeed been a beautiful and bountiful harvest.
This is one of the most meaningful programmes which we run, a workshop to help parents manage
their children's social-emotional needs. 

Not that I have arrived yet (and I never ever want to be presumptuous about this); but just that I have been able to accomplish a small degree of success. And I am thankful!

The sowing analogy can definitely also be applied to my sons. Since they were young, Sue and I have read up on many books on parenting (or should I say that my dear wife would read the books and I would then ask her to give me a summary). We have also read up on numerous curricula to prepare us for homeschooling our kids (I kid you not when I say that we have bought a plethora of materials that would help us teach many more kids than only just 2)! This was the action of ploughing the soil, and when the time came for us to teach them, we did sow many seeds. Looking back I wonder how we could have had the time to do the things that we did - but we did them anyway, and I believe my sons have been blessed in the process. 

Taking stock of our kids at the age of 7 and 5, it is easy to focus on the things that they have not done or the things that they have not learnt. But when I look at the persons they have become, I cannot help but be in awe at how much God has nurtured and grown them; and while they are definitely far from mature, they exhibit traits which cause me to break out in joy.

My older son, Z, is fearless and brave. When I look at how he thrives in water playgrounds, I cannot help but give thanks and how much this young boy has grown - there was a time when Z expressed a deep fear of slides and other high adventure elements; but today he scrambles down these instruments without a care in the world. 

7yo Z is happiest in the outdoors. He thrives when exploring adventure playgrounds and when he
 goes for long walks in nature.

Z is also creative and he has an aesthetic flair that fills me with astonishment. Since as far back as I can remember, our little son has wanted to become an architect, and the Lego blocks that he builds these days have an intricacy and sophistication which I believe to be well beyond his years. He even uses words such as "bannisters" when he describes his structures - words which I have no idea where he had learnt them from. 

But what makes me the most proud of Z is his heart for the poor. He has expressed on numerous occasions that he wants the homeless children to come to our house. He would then cook for them and house them, and provide them with a sense of security and comfort.
Z is kind and gentle; and he has a big heart for all those around him.  He is the responsible
elder brother, often taking care of his younger brother. We are so very proud of him! 
Our younger son, E, is a passionate soul. He is highly intense in all that he does (perhaps a little too much like me in that respect)! E would hang on to an argument, and ensure that he gets the last word - and that has been the case even at a young age, when he scolded a taxi driver for falsely accusing him of jumping on the back seat and dirtying the vehicle. His passion extends to animals, and our little one delights in every single creature he sees on the beach, often taking the time to study and talk to each and every one of them. I would not be surprised at all if E becomes a marine biologist one day in the future!
5yo E is most at home in nature; playing with the sea creatures and examining every
animal he can find. It is almost as though he was born to be a marine biologist!
E also has the most loving heart. He never fails to hug us deeply and provide humour to our day through his cheeky words and warm touches. And just as his brother has a desire to help the poor and the homeless, E has a deep sense of justice. He cannot understand why some parents can choose to be mean to their children; and I know that if he had his way, he would be an advocate for the downtrodden and the lost!
E lives life with a passion. Woe to the person who gets to the wrong side of him!
This also makes him fiercely loyal, and he will protect his family whatever the cost!
Solomon truly was the wisest man in the world. Often we worry about our kids, hoping that they would grow up quickly, and become independent children who can take care of themselves and give us less stress. Solomon thought otherwise, believing it best for us parents to enjoy every season under heaven. 

It is after all about savouring each season of our lives; for there is a time to sow and a time to reap. And this is the season to sow deep into the lives of our children, for one day I know we can expect a most bountiful and joyous harvest!
At the end of the day, the only things that matter are those closest to you. We sow; we plant; and we
know that the harvest will be abundant and bountiful!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Insecurities of a Homeschooling Dad

Social media can be very deceiving. We scroll through the news feeds of people we know (or of celebrity bloggers and content experts), and assume that they are living perfect lives. With every holiday photo they post, every food picture presented, or every insightful article they write, we slip into social media envy and assume that our friends are enjoying the time of their lives. And many people assume that of me as well. They seem to think that I am living the dream life with a wonderful job and wonderful kids. And when I meet people at my various engagements, I seem to get the nod that I am the model citizen of social media society. 
A recent holiday in Disneyland. After long queues under the hot sun, we were quite the "model" family!
There is some truth to this. At this moment, I can say that there is no other job I would rather do; to be my own boss and to conduct training workshops for others, sometimes with my wife; what more could a man ask for? And my kids? They are the cutest ever; with their witty quips and tender spirits, they are a delight to behold. 

But I am far from perfect; and indeed far from being immune to the disease of insecurity. There was a recent discussion in a homeschooling forum regarding how fathers feel, and this was my response:
For me it's not the decision to homeschool or not to homeschool. It's the fear that somehow I would not be able to provide for my family. Doing your own business is very scary and anything can happen. Will there be enough food on the table if anything happens? Will I be so tired working that I don't have the time to support my wife in the day to day tasks? Will I have the energy to play with my kids and not just brush them off with a tired grunt? Is my parenting style too strict such that they are too scared of me and don't dare to approach me for anything? Am I a good enough husband and father? I struggle with all these and more...
What is the parenting journey all about? As a father am I doing the right thing?
Homeschooling Dads are similar to other fathers. To borrow a quote from Shakespeare, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

It has honestly been a difficult few years since I started my own company. The uncertainty which stems from the lack of a fixed income has been a predominant worry: What happens if I don't do well and am not able to provide for my family financially? Would my wife have to return to full-time employment; and would we have to abandon our plans of homeschooling our kids?

Then there is the worry that I am spending so much time working that I neglect my kids. Unlike many dads, I have to use my computer very often; even in the presence of my kids. As such, there have been times when they have playfully come up to me with a story to tell or some exciting news to report. Regretfully, I have brushed them aside on numerous instances, telling them that Daddy needs to work. What if all they remember of their father is one who is typing at the computer, and neglecting their emotional needs? That would make me the very father I am trying not to be!

I have been very busy with my work; and people say that "busy is good". For a businessman that is true in that the busier you are, the more you are supposed to be better off financially. But in reality, I don't always want to be busy. I want to be able to have the time to spend with my wife and kids, and being busy with work robs me of precious time with them; yet I know that if I don't work hard, that I would not be able to keep up financially with the high cost of living here in Singapore. It is a financial tightrope that I have had to walk; and the balance is not always easy to achieve.
One of the workshops that I conduct with my wife. But if we spend so much time on work,
how much do we have with our kids?
Am I "good enough" as a husband and a father? This has been the question that has always been at the back of my mind. Somehow I worry that I do not support my wife enough in the day-to-day running of the house. I fear that my business at work drains me both physically and emotionally, and that I am as such not able to simply "be there" for her. As a father I am worried that my parenting style is too strict; and that all my children see is a father who is stern with them. I am also concerned that I lack the physical energy to be "present" with them at the end of a long day of work. Sometimes all a child needs is for the father to be physically and emotionally present; and I fear that I sometimes forget to "be there" for them.

And then there is the educational front. What if our kids end up doing badly in their academics and that our homeschooling is deemed to be unsatisfactory? What if we make the wrong decisions regarding our children's educational paths? It seems that all eyes are on us following our counter-cultural decision to homeschool our kids. As such, we are often asked why we do so, as well as whether our kids are socialised; and while we have the answers to these very standard questions, there is always something at the back of our minds as to whether we have made the right decision. And this is something we will never be able to answer until after our kids have grown up.
"Educating" the kids on Daddy's favourite movie Star Wars.
How then have I been able to deal with all these uncertainties? Just like any other father, I know that I will never have the answer to these questions. I am just thankful that at the end of it all, I have a Heavenly Father who has taken care of me all my life; and I have the faith that He will also be there for my children. 

For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And sometimes, the best we can do is to parent with the knowledge that God our Heavenly Father will be there for our children, even in the midst of all our insecurities.
When all has been said, the heart of the matter is to fear God and keep His commands.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Run with a Purpose: Singapore Kindness Run 2017 and a Giveaway

We are not parents who generally exercise, unfortunately. The only running I seem to do is the kind that involves keeping up with the kids, who are super fast on their scooters these days! Our two boys, however, love to run, in particular our older one. He exclaims very proudly, "I can run as fast as a cheetah!" before doing another dash.

When we told him he'd be participating in the upcoming Kindness Run on May 14, 2017, Z got really excited and starting practising immediately. "Watch me run, Mummy!" The 800 metre Kid's Dash is a perfect start for children who have not raced before, like mine. There will be two categories - Ages 7 to 9, and 10 to 12 years. 

The Kid's Dash is at 9.30 am in the peaceful and picturesque Pasir Ris Park, and follows the 10 kilometre Men's and Women's Competitive Run, which flags off earlier at 7 am. The whole Kindness Run aims to be a family affair, with its emphasis on kind acts and good running etiquette encouraged during the race. There will be experiential learning stations along the way with race etiquette tips.

The mascot for the race is our good ol' Singa the lion, a symbol of kindness (in my generation), but whom the kids have become quite familiar with since they collected the different versions of our friendly national lion during National Day a few years back. The children can even look forward to photo-ops with Singa himself on the race day!

Kids who sign up for the Kid's Dash will be entitled to an exciting race pack, which includes a Kid's Runners Tee, Racing Bib, Finisher Medal, and a Drawstring bag.The top three finishers will win an NDP Singa Box Set. Imagine - a complete collection of every single Singa there is!

Kid's Running Tee

Finisher Medal
The Grand Prize for the Top Three Finishers!

Interested families can sign up now at the Flying Cape link here and get a free Flying Cape class! Flying Cape is an online booking platform for tuition and enrichment classes.  Check out their website for their special All-You-Can-Learn Class Buffet, and find the perfect class for your child.

Parenting on Purpose is thrilled to be partnering them to offer one ticket to the Kid's Dash worth $30 to one of our readers! 

How to qualify for the giveaway:

1) Like the Parenting on Purpose Facebook page.

2) Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends (not including the friend who had tagged you. Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to "Public".)

For an extra chance to win:

Comment on this post (not on the Facebook page) and share what you and your family love doing together. Please leave your email so that we will be able to contact you should you win the contest!

*The giveaway will end on Friday 5 May, and entries must be submitted by 5pm.

CONGRATULATIONS TO SIEW SIEW WONG, you are the winner! We will be contacting you to pick up your race pack. :)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Making Magic: A Review of I Theatre's Poultry Tales

Lights! Camera! Action!

Every eye is riveted on the glitzy actors and actresses in their fancy costumes. And every effort is made in order to transform an ordinary theatre stage into a magical wonderland. After all, didn't the great bard once remark that "All the world is a stage and that men and women are merely actors and actresses with their own entrances and exits"?

But William Shakespeare did not tell the full tale. Behind every successful actor is not only his or her performance, but also the numerous hidden men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes, the "unseen but always present" invisible hands that keep the theatre production going like a clock in perpetual motion. 
Ever wondered who are behind the "invisible hands" that make each musical production work?
I Theatre's Poultry Tales is a show within a show. The production centres on the work of four stage crew as they make preparations for an upcoming performance. The crew tell three stories, Chicken-Licken, The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs, and The Little Red Hen
Chicken-Licken. A masked play where every face represents a different character.
Travel back to the Wild Wild West in The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs with its
period costumes and swashbuckling action.
The Little Red Hen is a musical extravaganza with "magic" in the air!
Each of the stories is separate, but I Theatre neatly strings them together through the actions of the stage crew, who take the opportunity to also share about how a theatre production is put together. For instance, the audience learns that a "hand prop" is not a "prop that is carried on the hand", but an item that is the "personal property of an actor". Similarly, the audience is also taught theatrical terms such what is a "flybar" and what are "legs". 

I believe this is the first children's theatre performance that provides kids with an idea of what a production is all about. I Theatre says that in its 16 years on stage, there are many children who are keen to explore and understand what theatre is all about; and Poultry Tales chooses to answer these questions in a fun and entertaining manner.
Halt who goes there! Behind every successful show is an outstanding set of stage crew.
Educational aspects notwithstanding, Poultry Tales is not unlike many of the outstanding I Theatre productions we have seen. Scenery, script, music and dance all come together to create an eclectic and memorable musical sensation. For instance, the background scenery is beautiful, with houses that move and hills that roll. The actors are a familiar group, with Elizabeth Loh, Isabella Chiam, Daphne Ong and Darren Guo all regular names in the I Theatre circuit. As for the songs, the dynamic coupling of Bang Wenfu and Cathy Kee result in musical numbers that bring the production to life. 
Sizzling action from the cast of Poultry Tales!
At the heart of every I Theatre production is the visionary leadership of Artistic Director Brian Seward, who believes in stories with strong moral values. For Poultry Tales, Seward has embarked upon an ambitious project with a different genre for each of the three tales. The production is also put together with sensory-friendly considerations for children who might otherwise find the theatre to be a scary place, details such as lighting that is not too dark or sound volumes that are not too loud. These elements result in the creation of a project that is a great hit with the children, and also rich with many theatrical elements that the kids can appreciate and enjoy.
One for the road!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Fowl Play! A Giveaway for I Theatre's Poultry Tales

Cluck Cluck!

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the Golden Eggs of course!

Wait a minute. That doesn't sound right.

Of course. 

She crossed the road because the sky was falling!

Oops. I meant she actually had some delicious bread to bake, but no one was there to help her!

Oh no. I got it all wrong.

But did i?

I Theatre presents a new and interactive musical production that tells the story of not one, not two, but three feathered friends!

There's The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, The Little Red Hen, and Chicken-Licken!

And the trio band together to hatch a tale which stitches together a whole host of well-known folk stories.

And it's no fowl play. The chickies will be sharing with the audience how a musical is made, and will share about the themes and morals of the stories.

As I Theatre promises, the show is "guaranteed to engage young and old alike", and is "specially designed with excitement, humour and learning points."

Coming to the Drama Centre Theatre from 27 April to 14 May!

Parenting on Purpose is pleased to partner with I Theatre to host an exciting giveaway of 2 sets of 4 tickets each. This will be for the 10.30 am show on Sunday, 30 April 2017.

How to qualify for the giveaway:

1) Like the Parenting on Purpose Facebook page.

2) Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends (not including the friend who had tagged you. Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to "Public".)

For an extra chance to win:

Comment on this post (not on the Facebook page) and share with us one thing you like about fowl. Please leave your email so that we will be able to contact you should you win the contest!

The giveaway will end on Monday 24 April and entries must be submitted by 5pm.

And the winners of the giveaway goes to....

Sophia Ong and Catherine Soon!

Winners can collect the tickets from the I Theatre office at 27 Kerbau Rd, Singapore 219163 during office hours from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. Please call 6341 5960 before collection.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Meet My New Korean Diaper Bag! (Or What's In a Homeschool Mom's Bag)

Yes, I know. It's not a new tall, dark and handsome Korean movie star in our home, but the prospect of my new Korean backpack arriving by courier filled me with much anticipation last week. 

I have been searching for quite a while for a new "Mommy" bag for myself, ever since my kids grew out of diapers. Something practical and still convenient to tote around, yet presentable and functional, which I could still wear out on most occasions, like going to church, without me looking like I was out for a trek with my boys (which happens to be my usual sort of OOTD, accompanied by a comfortable pair of shoes.) 

As a homeschool mom, my bag often serves lots of purposes, from carrying picnic food for a park outing to holding homeschool resources for our weekly Classical Conversations class. When TLO, or Thelittleonesinmylife, distributor for some of the household brands of baby products, such as Haenim and Bellamom, offered the chance to review their new range of bags, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Don't you love the sweet animal prints?
The perfect occasion for testing the new bag out came soon after I received it, because we had a family wedding to attend. I already appreciated the muted tones and sweet Korean prints - not too obviously for children, and still suitable for a mum to carry around regardless of the outfit she is wearing.

Don't you think that the whimsical designs are so pretty? And they match my wedding outfit!
I always find it a challenge keeping the kids occupied during wedding ceremonies. We've had several narrow escapes with my toddler attempting to crawl down the aisle towards the bride, and my older one trying to tie the handbag of the lady in front of us in knots. I decided on that day to maximise the space my new backpack afforded, and to pack an arsenal of supplies to keep them peacefully engaged during the wedding.

My arsenal of supplies for the kids to occupy them during the wedding!
The BlessingForYou bag is extremely spacious, as you can tell. I managed to get two Mercy Watson books (my sons' favourite series), one Star Wars pencil case, one coloured pencils set, one notebook, and two zip lock packs of Lego and foam stickers into the main compartment, with room to spare for my wallet. Impressive, no?

I love the spacious fit of the bag. The zip is easy to access.
The inside compartment also includes two separate sections for food/ water, as well as some zippered sections for more storage division. Have I told you how much I love bags with pockets? I managed to get two mineral water bottles and a pack of cheezels in as well, for good measure! The bag is also insulated and perfect for keeping milk bottles or cold drinks.

Our snacks. The bag would be great for packing picnic food or keeping milk warm!
There is also a sizeable outer pocket for small items.
The bag can be opened from both the wide zip in front, as well as a zip along the lining on top. This makes it extremely practical for us moms to reach in for whatever we might need to retrieve without having to rummage around in search of it.

The top zip for easy access.
There are side pockets for stashing stuff last minute!
The inner zip pocket! I love all these pockets.
The bag can be carried three ways - the backpack straps can be slipped out of the zipped compartment, and attached with the clasps. The straps can also be looped onto a stroller. The bag also comes with a longer strap so it can be slung over the shoulders.

The bag straps can be slipped out and attached.
All in all, I love this bag for its functionality and style! It has a perfect balance of both. There are so many uses for it and there are so many pretty designs that I feel like getting a tote bag from them as well. Can't wait to use our backpack again on our next homeschool outing!

TLO's new range of BlessingForYou bags from Korea is to be launched at the upcoming Baby Market fair this weekend from 7-9 April at the Singapore EXPO. They will subsequently be releasing the new designs fortnightly on their store website in limited quantities. Please do visit their booth at the Expo to check more of the designs! 

*Parenting on Purpose received one Roy backpack and one Mummy pouch for the purposes of this review. All opinions are proudly our own!