Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Simple Pleasures

My wife Sue recently tagged me in one of the latest challenges that have been going around social media. It's called the "5 Days of Blessings" challenge, and the idea is to share 3 things that you are thankful for during the course of 5 days, and to tag 3 people to join you in the process. I'm on Day 2 of the challenge and this was my Facebook update:

Today I give thanks for the simple pleasures of life:

1) For the privilege of driving my wife Sue to her counselling sessions each week; enjoying the long drive in the car while listening to our newest favourite radio station Lite 94.6FM and partaking in some of the most meaningful conversations about life, love, marriage and parenting :)

2) For the simple joy of sitting at a coffee shop and tucking into my morning nourishment of a good book, enjoyed with a coney dog, hash brown and a glass of Kopi O Bing.

3) For the privilege of reflecting on life, on parenting; and being blessed with the gift of writing all of these on my heart and on my blog/Facebook/notepad.

I am indeed greatly blessed :)
My Facebook photo depicting the simple pleasures of my life.

There are indeed many simple pleasures to be thankful for. I was enjoying the scene from the coffee shop yesterday morning and gave thanks that I even have a job that allows me the flexibility to just sit still and reflect on life. (I wrote an earlier post about the importance and value of thinking and reflecting, and you can read that here.)
The location where I spend many waking moments reflecting on life.

Why do we need to appreciate the simple pleasures of life?

I think it's because life as we know it is already too complicated, and if we spend all our waking moments pondering about the complexities and mysteries of life, then we will allow ourselves no respite from an already busy life. And this, I believe, is the beginning of a long battle with the stress monster.
I thoroughly enjoy the moments when I spend my time writing over a hearty meal and a
good cup of coffee!

As a husband and a father, life is extremely hectic. The demands imposed on you by one kid is magnified manifold when you have a second child. And I believe this process is exponential if you have three or more children. How then do you cope with the pressures of parenthood? Well, you can totally escape from the situation and leave the home (I was talking recently to a mother in her mid-20s, and this is what her husband did). Or, you can take time out; a breather from the hurricane of everyday life, and enjoy some simple moments - before plunging back into life with all its hustle and bustle.
Special moments with my Dearie. Many precious words
have been exchanged over food.
In essence, enjoying the simple pleasures of life provide a brief respite from the stressors of everyday life; and they allow us to reflect on what's important, providing us with the opportunity to make adjustments to how we live our lives. This, I believe, is the secret to living a meaningful and fulfilling life!
I don't always look forward to walks with the boys after a long and
exhausting day, but I know I always enjoy those special times afterwards! 
I have been beginning to enjoy reading with the kids. It's not only a special "Daddy" thing, but the
teacher in me is always looking for new ways to help them learn.

Always thankful to the One who has all things possible.

"When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?"

-Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Contemplating Beauty

Quote of the Day:

Rachel Carson, the legendary environmentalist, was a naturalist long before she shocked the industrial scene with her expose on the ill effects of pesticides. Carson's book The Sense of Wonder presented an intimate account of the long walks with her nephew along the coasts of Maine, through dense forests and across open fields. She believed that every child was born with a deep sense of wonder; and for the child to keep this alive, he needed the companionship of at least one adult who could share it, and rediscover the "joy, excitement and mystery" of the world around him.

Since they were young, our two children have both developed a deep love of nature and the world around them. Some of their favourite moments have been spent taking a simple walk along the canal near our residence. We have recently started them going on a nature journal, for them to record their observations on any plants and animals that cross their paths. It was truly heartening to see our 4-year-old intently pasting the plant specimens in his book, and equally interesting to observe that his 2-year-old brother also wanted to join in.

Truly there is truth in the old adage urging us to "take time to smell the roses". While there may not be many physical roses outside our home, there are many metaphorical roses which we can imbibe with our senses, enabling us to learn and appreciate the world we call our own. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Five-Minute Fillers: Tongs and Pom Poms

We have been a little concerned about our second son's tendency to ask for electronic devices. Mark and I discussed this and realised he asks to watch TV because he is bored, and because he picks things up so quickly, we need to have a whole range of activities to keep him meaningfully engaged throughout the day.

This afternoon, his brother was out and I had him all to myself, so it was the perfect time to stretch his attention span and build his fine motor skills. We took out his favourite pom poms and I decided to add some tongs and a muffin pan to the picture. Here's what we did.
Materials needed:
- Pom poms
- Tongs (I used the kind we had from our sterilising bottle days)
- Tray/ shallow container
- Muffin pan
- Water bottle with drinking spout
- Whatever else that would catch your toddler's imagination!
Show your toddler how to use the tongs to pick the pom poms from the tray and release them into the compartments of the muffin pan. You can try asking him to sort the pom poms by colour or size, or he can just have fun seeing how many can fit into one section. When he is happily satisfied (mine took at least 20 minutes with this task), you can show him how to use the tongs to transfer the balls into the bottle and to squeeze them into the spout using one end of the tongs. The final result - a bottle full of colourful balls he can use as a shaker!

Possible Learning Explorations:
Fine motor skills: squeezing of the tongs, transferring and squeezing pom poms into the bottle
Sorting according to colour and size
Estimation of volume, counting

Feel free to vary the task depending on your toddler's developmental readiness. The type of tongs you use and the size of the pom pom balls is important. Using tongs that are too difficult to squeeze or pom poms which are too tiny can lead to frustration, but some level of challenge is good! 

E complained and was a little frustrated when he had difficulty ensuring the pom pom he was holding remained in the spout long enough in order for him to shift the tongs to one side and shove it in. 

I let him problem solve on his own, and he was very satisfied when he was able to complete the task. Emotional regulation is after all an essential part of building executive functioning skills! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Imagination comes ALIVE!

Parenting on Purpose recently had the opportunity to check out the Alive Museum, which opened in Singapore on the 21st of June this year. Located at SUNTEC, the trick art museum spans an area of more than 10,000 square feet, boasting more than 80 artworks. The concept is not a new one, originating in Jeju, Korea, when the then Trick Art Museum changed its name to Alive Museum in 2012. Since then, 15 branches have sprung up globally, Singapore being the latest. 
An evening of fun for the family.
As a family with young children, we were rather unsure of what to expect. We had already chanced upon the Alive Museum last year while on vacation to Jeju, but had not considered a visit as we had presumed that our children were too young to know how to pose for the photos - Jeju had so many other family-friendly attractions to offer, like Psyche World, an amazing insect kingdom, and even the Teddy Bear Museum, which proved a hit with our boys.

And so it was with some cautiousness that we made our way to the Museum at the end of a long day with the boys. We were all a little grumpy and I was actually wondering how on earth we were going to even smile for the photos!
The Alive Museum had a distinctively local flavour with scenes painted specially for Singapore.
Nevertheless, we entered into the first gallery, which consisted of what the Museum calls "Interactive and Media Art". As defined by the Museum's Korean webpage

Analogue, digital and trickery video clip enable us to experience a world of the unknown where we cannot go ourselves and to meet heroines of movies. 

Grammatical errors aside, we were told that the presence of so many digitally engineered illusions is what distinguishes the Alive Museum from its competitor, The Trick Eye Museum, which opened its doors in June.

Our boys' attention was captured by a few of these pieces, namely the one of two Mona Lisas blowing a scarf at each other, and especially the one where they could blow through a hole in the display and cause a series of pinwheels to turn, facilitating the fluttering of Marilyn Monroe's skirt. We were at once reminded of the occasional randomness and slap-stick nature of Korean humour at the get-go. 

After the series of interactive and digital illusions, we were taken through a maze where the larger section of exhibits were. 

Trick Art is an exhibition in which visitors can have a 3-dimentional experience as if a flat picture looks alive by using scientific techniques and special paints.

Trompel'oeil, which means 'trickery' in French, uses techniques of perspective, shading and shadows, to make 2-dimensional images appear 3-dimensional. Paints with high transparency are used to curve and reflect light. An aeroscopic technique is also used so that walls, floor and ceilings are deployed to create an overall surreal experience that truly assuages and confuses the senses. Talk about an out of the world experience! 

Our boys loved this exhibit with its play on lights and mirrors
Using Trompel'oeil to create illusory effects.
It would interesting to visit the museum when children are old enough to explore some of these techniques and perhaps study a few of the pieces in a more in-depth manner - while I must admit I did initially question the educational value and quality of the artwork (Homeschooling mums cannot help but think about what the kids can learn!), this would be a good place to visit when we are studying art techniques, or looking at shadows and perspectives. It would also be a place to study the different philosophies of aesthetics such as realism, hedonism or instrumentalism. I did notice a few school groups while we were there, and this educational dimension would certainly be something worth exploring.
Superman to save the day!

And Mark naturally had to take part in the Street Fighter contest given his martial arts prowess.
The Trick Art pieces are also combined with what they call Objet Art:

With scientific techniques and fun ideas, the new type of sculpture art works deceives our eyes. While touching and experiencing the objects, viewers can actively participate in the art story.

On a wing and a prayer!

I think that the kids had the most fun with the Objet Art installations, as they proved to be the most interactive and imaginative. There were plenty of objects to clamber around on and strike a pose for. We were amused that even our 2-year-old soon caught on and was posing with a pussy cat and trying to do plies on a bar next to a ballerina! 

Little E enjoyed himself thoroughly!

A precious Daddy-son moment.
The interesting thing about the Alive Museum is that it seems to cater to everyone. We had a group of "aunties" in front of us who took their posing for photos very seriously and even gave us advice on what to do. Of course, there were happy young couples who saw the backdrops as the perfect chance to do a photo shoot, and proud parents armed with cameras, directing their children.

For us, it ended up being a much-needed temporary escape from reality. We took a while to just let our hair down and be silly, but isn't it great for families to be silly with one another once in a while? It felt for those brief hours like we were on holiday, which in our family is always a welcome thing. Our gloomy spirits lifted, and the boys really got into the groove and were soon even directing us as to what kind of photos they wanted us to take. 
Taking turns to pat the "giraffe".
E.T. has come home!

Of course, I think we were the only family who had to stop at an exhibit and do a rendition of "The Lonely Goatherd" song from The Sound of Music while posing for a carnival-like photo. 
Our little performer in his element.

But I am sure the others there had their own fantasy stories to tell, for a moment conjured up in their heads, just like a paper origami boat floating away towards the other side of the sea. There is something for everyone at the Alive Museum, even for a skeptic like me. 
A journey to remember!

The entrance fees are not exactly cheap; although at the moment they are offering a 20% discount on tickets up until 31 Aug 2014 if you use the discount code aliveopen. However, I can see its potential for a birthday gathering or providing many ready-made backdrops for a photo shoot. Judging from the almost 20,000 likes on its Facebook page, it appears that Singaporeans are really taking to the concept.

Important considerations:

The initial few sections contain some nudity. I am sure we would have had more explaining to do if our boys were older - in this case, we skilfully whisked them off to another exhibit. 

There is also a "powder room booth" with a disclaimer that people under 18 are not allowed. Mark actually peered in to check it out and said it was an extremely frightening horror illusion. Parents should take note of this, as our boys easily slipped behind the curtain and  narrowly missed seeing it. Perhaps the museum should be more specific in its warning note outside the booth.

Come dressed comfortably - a lot of the exhibits require some crawling or lying down. Ladies should refrain from wearing skirts.

Give at least 2 hours for thorough coverage of the exhibits. We were told that the crowd comes in after 5 pm, so come earlier if you want to make the most of the displays.

Charge your camera or mobile phone before you come, or bring along a power bank. You don't want to run out of battery power before you reach the end!

Important Information (obtained from Alive Museum's Singapore website):

In Alive Museum Singapore, visitors may get up close and see 9 locally themed paintings in addition to the other interactive pieces on exhibit.
Free WiFi access inside the museum.
Location: Suntec City Mall #03-372 (Between Towers 3 and 4)
Ticket Prices: $25 (Adults), $20 (Children 3-12 yrs)
Operating Hours: 10am – 10pm Daily (Last Admission at 9pm)

As part of Alive Museum’s efforts to refresh and reinvigorate visitors’ experiences, 30% of paintings will be changed annually.
Special thanks to local family portal Little Day Out for the opportunity to review the museum.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Greatest Legacy

Quote of the Day:

One of my favorite actors, Robin Williams, has passed away at the age of 63. The news was particularly sad for me, as Williams died of an apparent suicide. 

I will always remember Williams in one of my favourite movies of all time - "Dead Poets' Society" where William plays the role of an inspirational teacher. I will always remember the scene when he stands on the desk and challenges his students to call him "O Captain, my Captain". This was a call for his students to stand up against the conformity of the world and to choose to lead their own lives as thinking individuals.

Then there was the epic movie "Good Will Hunting". I remember the movie most pointedly during the time I was studying for my course on Counselling Psychology. The protagonist Will Hunting was being sent to various counsellors because of his behavioural problems. And all of these sessions failed because the counsellors refused to listen to Will; each of them instead prescribing their own theoretical methods. In the film, Williams acted as a counsellor with a different approach. There was a very powerful scene during which Williams' counsellor character repeated the words "It's not your fault" several times, leading to an emotional awakening by Will. The personal empathy demonstrated by Williams' character led to Will finally coming to terms with his troubled past. 

Then there was the movie "Patch Adams", where Williams acted as a doctor whose perspective of life was to be happy so that his patients could be happy.

The list goes on.

As I remember the man whose movies shaped the perspectives of many people around the world, I cannot help but feel sad that he struggled with alcohol, drugs and severe depression during the final years of his life. I will never understand the pain that Williams must have dealt with towards the end of his life; however I cannot help but think of one other great man, the apostle Paul, who proclaimed towards the end of his life that he had "fought the good fight", "finished the race", and "kept the faith". At the end of my life that's something I aspire towards - that my legacy for my children will be one of character and faith.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Merlion - A National Day Walk in the Lion City

How do you teach a young child the meaning of "National Day"? How do you even begin to help them understand the concept of what makes a "nation" in the first place? Even concepts like "country", "history" and "culture" are alien to the mind of a 4-year-old. How then do we begin the mammoth task of helping our children develop a sense of national consciousness that eventually translates to some semblance of national belonging and identity?

As an educator, I've developed a technique of helping children learn by using tangible concepts they can identify with. We then take things one step further by introducing new elements, reinforcing these concepts through various pedagogical tools. 

To help 4-year-old Z learn about Singapore's National Day, we decided to teach him about one of the country's national icons - the Merlion. While the origins of this national symbol is shrouded in legend, at least it incorporates a tangible element that our son can identify with - the lion. We began the day with the screening of this delightful video:

"The great man Sang Nila Utama first saw a lion many many years ago," we told our son. "That's why we live in a place called "Singapore", which means Lion City." We then tell him that while there is really no such thing as a "Merlion", however many people in Singapore used to go fishing, and that's why the Merlion is a lion with a fish tail. For a child who knows the position of Singapore on the world map, I suppose this information is sufficient at this point in time.

Of course nothing helps a child learn better than a visit to the actual instruction site, and we had a delightful morning walking from the Esplanade to the Merlion Park.
Celebrating Singapore's 49th National Day.
Apa Khabar, Bang?
Morning picnic by the bay
Brothers at play.
Z reflects about the future of Singapore .
We truly wonder what Singapore would be like when the boys grow up.
A moment of laughter.
The iconic Merlion - half lion, half fish.
If we could see through the Merlion's eyes, what would we see about Singapore's past, present and future?
Drinking in the view.
Happy to be there!
Merlion mist.
Singapore is just one year shy of its 50th Birthday. When this time comes round again in 2015, what new stories will we be sharing with our children? Hopefully it will be one of reminiscence and hope, one that not only presents an account of the country's past, but also expresses strong wishes for the future.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reading Maketh A Boy

It started with a simple outing to our regular neighbourhood mall. Sue had a couple of errands to run, so I volunteered to take the boys to the small indoor playground there. About half an hour later, the situation in the playground started getting chaotic. A 5-year-old boy was running around wildly, and his actions prompted a reciprocal behaviour from the other children, including our older son Z. Things started to get slightly out of hand when the 5-year-old got into a minor altercation with another boy of his age. It was then that I decided that it was time to leave; I did not want our kids to get into a heightened emotional state and felt that by leaving, we would at least be able to regain some semblance of peace.

The library was just nearby, so that's where we headed - straight to the children's section. It was then that the unexpected happened. Little Z, who had previously been shouting wildly with the other children, picked up a book left behind at the table, and started reading. His younger brother E followed suit, also choosing a book as he sat at the table. I couldn't believe my eyes! My two energetic and rambunctious boys were seated peacefully at the table reading books! (If you know my children personally you would understand why this is such an astonishment to me!)
A spot of peace.
The peaceful scene lasted for slightly less than five minutes (before the younger one decided to get up and start exploring the library). But I managed to grab a couple of books from the nearby shelves to read to Z who was listening attentively to every word. Little E also decided to listen to me read, and he too sat down subsequently. This was truly a remarkable achievement given his short attention span!

Our adventures in teaching the boys how to read have been a mixed bag. We have been trying to inculcate a love for reading in Z since an early age. Ever since he was a baby we would read to him from the large board books with the lovely pictures. And of course Z's eyes would be rapt in attention, especially since these pictures were attractive to him. He would then proceed to put the books in his mouth, a behaviour not uncommon to most infants. 

By the age of 2 we had expected Z to be interested in reading, especially since we had exposed him to books at such an early age. But this was not the case, with the little boy's attention span lasting not more than three to five minutes at a time. Then when Sue started her unofficial homeschooling sessions with him at the age of 2/1/2, we hoped that things would improve, but Z continued with his habit of rapidly flipping through one book, tossing it aside for another, and repeating this process till he would demolish a whole stack of books without actually taking the time read a single one of them. We were very discouraged.
Reading expands the world of a child to experience new things for himself.
As educators, we are intimately familiar with the body of educational research which points to a love for reading as a key indicator of a child's success in life. That's because children develop a strong sense of language by reading good books. More than that, young minds are transported to worlds that are magical and alluring; and the thirst to explore takes them on a voyage of a lifetime - one filed with awe and wonder and a deep desire to learn.

B. C. Forbes, the Scottish journalist who founded Forbes magazine once said:

"Tell me how a young man spends his evenings and I will tell you how far he is likely to go in the world. The popular notion is that a youth's progress depends upon how he acts during his working hours. It doesn't. It depends far more upon how he utilizes his leisure... If he spends it in harmless idleness, he is likely to be kept on the payroll, but that will be about all. If he diligently utilizes his own time... to fit himself for more responsible duties, then the greater responsibilities and greater rewards are almost certain to come to him."

When a child immerses himself in reading, he immerses himself in a culture of learning; this fuels a lifelong quest to find out more about the things that matter. In today's world, children are plunged into twaddle as young as they develop a sense of awareness. Television, streaming videos, mobile devices, all these permeate the world of our children, and they are flooded with fast-moving images even before the brain is adequately developed to deal with these multi-sensory inputs. Children need simple ideas communicated to them simply. Only then can they slowly (but surely) distill the essence of what is important from what is not; and this is the foundation principle with which learning is predicated upon.
Our younger son E reading with his favourite soft toys Doggy & Bear Bear.
Reflecting on my own reading journey brings me much joy. I remember the first thick book that I read on my own - one about the adventures of Mrs Pepperpot. I don't remember what the story was about, but I do remember being very pleased that I could finish it. And the sense of accomplishment at completing the book drove me to desire reading more. Not long after I was reading the works of Enid Blyton and the entire series of the Five Find Outers, The Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair. Those books instilled a love of reading - and of writing; I was soon writing my own poems and stories, modelling much of what I wrote on the books that I was reading. And I did not stop there. I developed a love of Chinese history and strategic warfare after reading The Romance of Three Kingdoms, even beginning my foray into Chinese literature and the wuxia or martial arts world of Louis Cha (better known as Jin Yong).

Sue also underwent a similar reading journey during her childhood. We were therefore saddened that our then 3-year-old Z did not seem as interested in reading as us. However the incident at the library began an entire reading revolution for our family. It resulted in a major shift in the way we approach the subject of helping our children to read - and also in how we teach them how to learn.
Bedtime reading.
Not long after that incident, Sue and I went to a fair organised by the homeschooling community. At the event, we met a lady who is passionate about history. When we asked her how she helped her children develop a love for the subject, she shared that she would gather a whole stack of books for her children, each on a different subject. She would then place the books on her coffee table and allow her children to choose a book that they liked. This eventually resulted in her kids developing a love for reading about different subjects. Her actions formed the basis of interest-driven education. We have discussed how we are also adopting this approach in a previous blog post.
Our "Learning Wall" to emphasise the importance of early literacy.
These days, we have included a visit to the library as part of our regular family routine if we need to go to the mall. Once at the library, I will find a quiet table and choose a variety of books for Z to read. I will then select one of the books of his choice, and read to him. There are times when he has taken over the role of reading, picking up the book and "reading" it to me, asking me questions about the pictures on each page. After I provide an answer to him, he would then repeat my words, nodding his head emphatically as if he was the teacher and I was the student. An apparent reversal of roles; but one that works just as well as getting him to read the book.
Discovering the love of science.
Our son's appetite in reading books has increased substantially. Sue observed that just this morning alone, that he was reading his own books for at least 15 minutes independently; and that was just after Sue had finished reading a series of books on the sun and shadows as part of our homeschooling curriculum! We are truly thankful that our son has grown so much in his reading journey, and with a new love for reading, we know that he is ready to conquer the world!

"Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man."
- Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman and author.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers: A Book Review

Over the past couple of months, I have been enjoying a lovely book as part of my time of reflection and refreshment. I normally take time to sink my teeth into good books, reading only one chapter at a time, and then allowing the essence of the writing to permeate into my being. Sometimes I take notes; and sometimes I try to see how I can apply the insights to areas of my life. Ken Canfield's The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers is one such good book which I savoured in my favourite neighbourhood coffee shop over a sumptuous breakfast of roti prata and kopi bing over several fruitful mornings. 
Morning sustenance at my favourite coffee shop.
Written after 10,000 fathers were surveyed by the US-based Center for Fathering, Canfield shared seven distinctive things that effective fathers do differently from other dads. These, he shared, are the secrets of effective fathering - commitment, knowing your child, consistency, protecting and providing, loving their mother, active listening and spiritual equipping.
Canfield notes that commitment to the family is key to effective fathering. A man must make a conscious decision to commit to his wife and children. He has to resolve to act as the child's father and make this commitment daily. Canfield shared that if dads do not commit to acting as their child's father, society will readily take on that role - this not only includes the TV and social media, but even the public school system. It's all about the inculcation of values and helping children to be secure in their identity. What struck me particularly was the emphasis on the word "daily". In my current busy work environment, it has been especially easy to allow my kids to run around me when I get back from work, responding in a monosyllabic manner to their excited narrations of how the day was for them. What I was reminded about was to actively decide to be present with my children despite how tired I am. Easier said than done. But nobody said the parenting journey was easy!
Choosing to be "present" with our children. This is our
first selfie taken while Mummy was away at a seminar.
By knowing your child, Canfield refers to an understanding of the developmental phases of childhood as well as the specific needs of the child. I admit that while I have some knowledge about a toddler's world, there is still so much that I need to learn before I can say that I know them. What I am trying to discern is each of my two boys' specific needs. I wrote in a previous post that my younger son loves to cook, and it's easy for me to bond with him as this is an area that I'm also interested in. As for my older son, his specific needs are evolving as he grows from a 3-year-old to the 4-year-old that he will be in just a very short while. In the past I had a special bond with him playing blocks. And I suppose that is still something that we still share, but I know that as little Z grows older, his interests will change and perhaps diversify; and I know that I need to be there with him every step of the way.
Taking our younger son E for a baking class on his birthday.
Our older son Z loves the outdoors and I am learning
to seek out new ways to connect with him.
Consistent fathers are an essential cornerstone of effective fathering. Canfield narrates the analogy of a geometrical compass used in the drawing of a circle. The fixed leg of the compass is analogous to the father. He is the reference point from which the child (depicted as the pencil drawing the circle) can explore from. As long as the compass leg remains fixed, the pencil will be able to draw a lovely perfect circle. But if the compass leg constantly shifts its position, the pencil will be unable to complete its task, and the result will be several unfinished circle arcs. Fathering is like that. As fathers, we have to always maintain consistency in our moods, in our keeping of promises, our morality and ethics; we have to be a consistent presence in the family that our children can count on at all times. Without any reference points to draw from, children develop inadequacies that have a severe impact on their self worth and identity. I can particularly identify with this as I never had a father who was consistently present in my life; and this has had a negative impact on my own sense of self worth during my growing up years, and even till today.
Learning to be a consistent presence in my children's lives. One who will
be there for them during moments both happy and sad.
Protecting and providing for our children are the often considered to be the traditional roles of fathers. Canfield maintains that fathers need to provide a secure environment for their kids, and also provide them with a roof over their heads. He re-tells the story written in a poem, about a 13-year-old boy who saved his brother's life by driving to the hospital despite never having driven a car before. When asked how he did that, the boy replied "I just did what I saw my father do." This emphasises the importance of fathers being role models for their children so that they would know the right thing to do in times of crisis.
The role of the father - to protect and to provide.
By loving the mother of your child, Canfield argues that a strong marital relationship deepens the father-child bond. In fact, he even goes so far as to warn readers to be suspicious of any fathering books that neglect to mention the importance of the husband-wife bond. Husbands not only have to make an extra effort to love their wives, but they also have to be comfortable with showing affection in front of their children. This would help their kids to feel secure and also teach them how to relate to their significant others in the future.
Daddy and Mummy make it a point to go away during their
wedding anniversary to rekindle the marital relationship.
Time away from the kids is crucial towards helping us preserve our sanity!
Active listening refers to the act of being physically and mentally present for your children. It's not just about being around your kids as they share with you first-hand the happenings in their day. It also refers to giving your children undivided attention as you listen to their stories. As I shared earlier, I have recently been very busy with my work, sometimes going to my Mac the moment I reach home; even as my 4-year-old son starts narrating the almost unending account of his day. I can see the unsaid sadness in his eyes as I vaguely respond to him and provide non-commital answers to his questions. I know that my busyness is only for a season, but yet it tears at me from the inside to hear the poor child's enthusiastic voice diminish to an almost complete silence as he shifts his attention from me and proceeds to play with his toys independently. We need to learn to listen to the hearts of our children; for I know that these moments, once lost, can never be reclaimed.

The final secret towards becoming an effective father is that of spiritual equipping - both in terms of equipping ourselves as well as equipping our children. In the study conducted by the Center for Fathering, it was observed that spiritual equipping was the second most prevalent trait that effective fathers had, just slightly less practiced than that of commitment. Despite such research findings, Canfield laments that secular media has chosen to blatantly ignore this information, negating the impact of spiritual equipping on the lives of children. On the contrary, fathers were encouraged to seek spiritual equipping alongside other dads. They were also advised to team up with mothers, working as a spiritual team to equip the children.
Sharing communion with the boys as part of our learning on Good Friday and Easter.
In closing, The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers shares one last secret - the eighth. Canfield paints a beautiful analogy of a farmer growing his crops, likening the process to that of effective fathering. He observes that if no seeds are sown, then any farmer will be able to tell you that there is no way that crops will grow in that field. Conversely, even the most astute farmer would not be able to predict how a field, carefully sown, watered and weeded, can produce a gleaming crop at harvest time. There is always a mysterious unknown which governs the entire process. Fathering is like that. If we don't even try to become an effective father, it is a given that we will never become one. However, even if we try our best and incorporate all seven secrets of effective fathering, there is still no guarantee that our children will grow up in the exact way that we desire them to. The mysterious unknown in life is what makes the entire process of fathering so special and so unique for each individual child.
What seeds are we sowing?