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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Did You Weed Out His Good Traits?

I once made a mistake. My son pulled out "weeds" from my flower pots, which happened to be seedlings of vegetables that I had planted. I had even placed cards indicating the date & name of vegetable in each pot. So you can imagine my exasperation. They were obviously not empty pots, and whatever appeared were not necessarily weeds! I succumbed to my dismay and chided him.

After cooling down, I really regretted what I did and realized that I was the one who had done damage. No, I don't mean the plants. Yes, I mean my son. Needless to say, I quickly spent more than double the time (talking, explaining, sharing & hugging etc) to "repair the damage done".

This boy has always been proactive, taking initiative in helping out with housework etc. Yes, he even scrubs the toilet bowl out of his own accord. He would willingly volunteer his service or participation whether at home, in school, or at other social settings (Of course, at his age, enjoyment may be the main motivating factor, haha).

Furthermore, he has helped me with weeding before. To him, weeds were no good and have to be cleared as soon as possible before they multiply out of control. From his point of view, it was just another chore that he's trying to help out with. Upon analyzing the situation with a clear mind, I concluded that he was not purposefully causing harm, but rather had done it with good intentions.

Would I prefer to lose those seedlings or dampen my son's proactive nature? This valuable trait in him should not be destroyed. Of course he can be taught to be more careful next time round, and learn to differentiate plants we want from weeds we don't want. He can be taught to think of the consequences or gather more information before he act. But the act in itself should not be condemned.

I don't mean we cannot reprimand a child when he has done wrong. However what do we achieve by doing so? Many people find that if they venture to do something, they will be blamed for mistakes or failures. If they don't do anything, they don't get blamed because they won't make mistakes! Thus they slowly become apathetic or indifferent. Don't you find that many teens are not as enthusiastic or lively as younger kids? Maybe there's a reason.

Mistakes are valuable learning lessons. By scolding a child for every mistake he makes, especially unintentional ones, we are actually squashing his passion in life and his spirit of adventure. Aren't we pulling out the good "seedlings" in their hearts?

Planting a seed in the soil is easy. Planting a good "seed" in a child's heart takes much more effort. It is a pity to weed out seedlings by mistake, it is even more so if we inadvertently "weed" out the "good seedlings" in a child's heart.

I hope you don't make the same mistake. At least, don't react too fast :-) Look at the children's intentions and not just the results. There is only so much that we can teach them, and they will make mistakes no matter how much we protect them. But they will learn & grow well if we don't unduly discourage their every effort.

I guess that's life.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Improving Memory Skills

Recently heard some mothers discussing their children's memories, or rather, lamenting their lack of memory skills.

I understand the concern of these mothers as memory skill is very important in the children's studies. However, except for a few extreme cases, I think the majority of us (including children) have no problem remembering things of interest to us, be they facts, names, numbers or events etc. So the key issue here is to try to arouse our children's interest in the topics that they have to remember. If a child can concentrate well, it should also benefit his memory as well. I've some suggestions in the earlier article "How to improve on Concentration".

The brain is amazing. The more you "exercise" it, the better it works. To enhance my son's memory skills, one method I tried was to play games with him like reciting & memorizing rhymes, poetry & other interesting literature, starting with short ones (about 20 words), then proceeding to long ones (a few hundred words). I used mostly chinese poems, many of which are written beautifully & rhyme well. When he was just a baby learning to talk, he could give the last word of each line when prompted with the few words before. To-date at 9 years old, he can still recite from memory 满江红 (over 90 words) & 正气歌 (about 300 words).

As for my own experiences, I like numbers and used to memorize all my contacts' phone numbers (when we didn't have the luxury of high-tech gadgets like handphones with the convenience of address books). To me it was almost like a "hobby", memorizing all sorts of numbers. Once we waited in vain at a bus stop while in Hong Kong, and decided to get a cab instead. But we didn't bring out the taxi company's phone number and the trip back to our apartment was really far. Luckily I could recall the phone number as I've used it once :-) How did I manage to do it? Well, I memorized by the "relationship pattern" of a group of numbers. Or by the "sound" of them. Of course like I said, I don't bother to memorize so many phone numbers anymore as they're all conveniently stored in my handphone. So now my ability in this area has kind of gone downhill, haha.

Once a teacher taught us how to remember the year of an event, 1698, which sounded like "first class bar" when said in chinese (一流酒吧). Haha, until now I can still remember this year though I can't remember what event it was!

One relative who stayed in an overseas hostel while studying, told us that he and his group of friends in the choir were the fastest to finish their revisions. How did they mange to do it? While others were slogging it out trying to memorize for the exams, they sing! Everything that has to be remembered, they invented a song for it. Wow!

If we tend to forget certain things, another way to "jolt" our memory is to write it down. I didn't really teach my son to do this. But I was amused when once my son stuck a few reminder notes in his school bag to remind himself to submit a certain piece of paper to the school's general office. I even found notes at his bedside reminding himself to do something the next morning. As for learning of spellings, whether Chinese or English, he usually remembers better if he copies out the words at least once.

For people who are good at "visualizing", forming a picture in their mind may be a good method too. To remember a sequence of events (eg. a to-do list of errands etc), just "play" them in your mind like a movie.

Sometimes for a group of points to be remembered, I use the first alphabet of each keyword as a prompt, so that by just remembering the few alphabets, the key points will follow accordingly. If possible, arrange them in an easy to remember sequence. Many people like to use this method.

Anyway, just make a conscious effort to reduce incidents of forgetfulness, then keep practising, and memories will improve.

Monday, March 3, 2008

How to Improve on Concentration

Many relatives & friends have commented that their children cannot sit still, and on the difficulty in getting them to concentrate for a longer period of time. Though they compliment my son on his ability to sit still & concentrate since a very young age, as his mother I must confess that he's not *always* sitting still, I'd be terrified if he did, hahaha. So the issue is not just whether the children can sit still but whether they can do so when required of them.

I think the first step in approaching this subject is to have a realistic expectation. Every child is born with a different temperament. And age does matter. A young child may be busy learning through exploring his world, and is only able to concentrate on whatever is of enough interest to him. He naturally wanders away if he's not interested.

Next, I do believe a modification in his diet will be able to help to some extent. Try to limit consumption of foods & drinks that are highly processed, and those that contain colourings and chemical additives. As far as possible, give a variety of fresh fruits & vegetables, cooked lightly & simply (limit fried foods and foods with high sugar & salt content). Whether this measure would directly improve his concentration span is an unknown (though I believe it does), but it certainly will help to boost his immune system and general health, which in turn will make it easier for him to concentrate.

Then there is the modern world TV and electronic games which I believe is a culprit of robbing away the kids' ability to concentrate. They may appear to be able to sit still or "concentrate" on a TV program or an electronic game they're playing (whether on the computer, on X***, P**, in games arcade etc), but in actual fact they are highly stimulated. I think this is detrimental to their mental & physical development as well. My son will always end up with a hot head, flushed face, & cold hands & feet after playing electronic games (sometimes even *watching* other people playing would result in similar physical symptoms). I try to limit such "playing" times and encourage other "real" play activities instead.

So can concentration be taught? Well there ARE some games & activities which can enhance his ability to concentrate for a longer period. Tailor these to his age & interests. For example, jigsaw puzzles, board games, chess games & card games would encourage him to concentrate longer. Building blocks, moulding plasticine, making things from scratch, science experiments, , drawing, painting, handicrafts etc are all fun ways to let him learn how to do something for a longer period of time. However, try to do one activity at a time, and tidy up or keep it away after you're done before starting on another one. This encourages him to focus on one thing at a time, & not be distracted unnecessarily.

My favourite "concentration-enhancement" activity is reading & story-telling. If you borrow library books, the only "investment" you need is your love, time & imagination. Almost all children enjoy stories. Choose books that are appropriate for his age, or books that he likes. Read a chapter or for a period of time. While reading, allow him to ask questions, but sometimes tell him the answers later like: "let's see if they say why", "after this paragraph" or "after this page" to create suspense or encourage him to wait. Even when he's old enough to read independently, don't stop reading with him or telling him stories you made up. Telling him "family history" or other topics he's interested in would also keep him captivated and engrossed. Talking about his favourite stories & characters could grab his attention for a long time too. As a bonus you'd see his eyes sparkle & hear his non-stop ramblings. Who say they cannot concentrate? :-) It's a skill & trait that they can improve on.

I hope you find the above sharing beneficial to your kid :-)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'm Back! Announcement of 3rd Blog

The 15 days of Chinese New Year celebration has been a busy period, with lots of gatherings & visits, especially because we have many elder relatives in our family, and many friends too of course, haha. Well the busiest time is now over but I realized that while I was away from blogging, many people, even my son (who has just turned 9 years old) have been reading my blogs. That’s nice :-) It’s also a pleasant surprise to learn that more friends have started their own blogs. Wow!

For people who read my blogs, I do hope I can contribute in a positive way somehow. Some friends have excitedly shared with me that they tried my recipes on the cooking-simple-dishes blog. Though I'll try to include as many healthy & nutritious dishes as I can, I would still like to give a gentle reminder to my friends: remember to eat regular & balanced meals containing high nutrition value, and try to avoid (junk) foods that are highly processed, contain additives & colourings, and those that have high fat, sugar & salt content. Remember the food pyramid, and eat more vegetables & fruits, not just “more” in terms of quantity but “more” variety as well, with as many different colours as possible.

As for friends who link to the teach-my-child blog, I hope you are not disappointed as the contents will be mainly on sharing my personal experiences & views in the upbringing of my own child. Anyway I’ve only one child, and my son is still young. There’s a long way to go, and really too early to say if I’ve brought him up well. I’m no guru in child education or development, just a mother who records down her experiences & thoughts, which would invariably include my flaws & limitations as well. In that sense, it is not yet “教子有道”,but just only“育儿经验分享”, though I must say I’m very grateful to my friends for giving me such a high level of recognition. :-)

Today I’ve also started a third blog, with contents on my personal views & encounters in daily life. Do feel free to give me your comments.


很感谢朋友们链接到我的博客,希望我的拙作能起到抛砖引玉之效。不过有一点需要澄清的:teach-my-child blog 只是我在陪孩子成长的过程中,一些个人的看法、经验与体会,因此必然包括我本身的局限;而且我只有一个儿子,年纪尚幼,是否教养得好还言之过早,他日若能成才,也必然是由许多因素促成,绝对不只是我的功劳。朋友们厚爱,把它取名“教子有道”,令我诚惶诚恐,也鞭策我要朝这个方向去努力。

至于cooking-simple-dishes blog, 主要分享平常煮来糊口的小菜,当然没有专业水平,虽然尽量收录比较营养可口的食谱,但由于主要是煮给不太挑食的儿子,因此口味不一定适合所有人,欢迎大家给我一些指点或建议。无论如何,都希望对“吃”有兴趣的朋友们,要注意健康,虽说“病从口入”,幸好“营养”也是“从口入”,要尽量选择营养含量高的食物,多吃不同种类的蔬菜水果,避免高盐高糖高脂肪及“加料”(如颜料及化学成分)的食物。另外还要早睡早起,做适量的运动。



Monday, January 14, 2008

Taking A Break Before CNY

Dear friends, if you've been reading my blogs, you'd have noticed that I've not been updating them recently. Reason being this is the last month before CNY (Chinese New Year, 7 Feb this year), and I've been channelling my concentration & efforts towards getting my house etc ready for it.

Though there's so much that I want to write & share about, this period I'm shifting top priority to my CNY project. So you'll likely hear from me again after CNY. Hope everyone enjoys a healthy, prosperous & fulfilling new year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Baby Trusts Me

The previous post talks about teaching my baby some etiquettes & attitudes which I hoped would set the stage for future education & discipline. (Of course there're more which I'll share in the near future.)

Well, did that result in him resenting our code of expected behaviours? Did that make him an unhappy baby who felt restricted in everything he did? Did he become rebellious? On the contrary, a baby naturally trusts & relies on his care-provider. We never used a cane to discipline him. In fact, we never bought one.

I hoped he would learn positively and not be frightened or threatened into doing "correct" things. I reckoned I wouldn't need to punish him severely just for harmless mistakes (who doesn't make mistakes?). Of course I have no qualms about punishing him if he made a grave mistake or was purposefully defiant. The bottomline? The act of punishment is to convey the message that he is wrong, not to vent my anger or frustrations.

What do I do if I really become angry? As much as possible, I try to refrain from talking or taking any action until I'm calm enough to handle the situation. After the incidence I would reflect on why I was angry. Was I overly protective? Was I unduly worried? Was my expectation unrealistic? Did I feel helpless? It usually boils down to the fact that I love him. This is sufficient to reassure me that no matter what happened, my intention was good though the results might not have turned out favourable. Next I ask myself: Can I do it better next time? So even though both of us made mistakes on the way, they strengthened our mother-and-child bond and left fond memories of us growing up *together* in the process.

I believe loving him means giving him what he needs, not what he wants. My child has to learn to trust me and accept that he is part of our family. He has to behave accordingly and not just copy the behaviours of other people. Of course, he was encouraged for good behaviours. But the key was not in punishing him *after* he did wrong, but in avoiding possible undesirable behaviours *before* they happened, thus reducing the possibility of conflict & clashes. (Prevention is better than cure.) This required an understanding of my baby's nature & his stage of development, and believe me, most of a young baby's actions can be anticipated & accidents prevented.

For instance, I kept all dangerous objects out of sight. To a young baby, out of sight means out of mind. I also kept things which I didn't want him to touch out of his reach. His play area & surroundings have to be carefully planned & scrutinized for safety. If I failed to notice in advance and something unsuitable caught his eyes & interest, what could I expect? If I were to remove it by force, resistance and tantrums were likely to follow right? However a young baby is easily distracted. So instead of just telling him "no", I quickly substituted it with some other toys or activities. Whew! No wrestling, no crying. Happy baby, happy mummy.

However there were still "accidents". For example, once I caught him climbing up onto the window grilles by first climbing up on the sofa then using that as a "stepping stone". Of course I warned him sternly against doing that in future. There was no danger of him falling out of that window because the grilles were locked all the time. Nonetheless it's dangerous to climb so high and definitely not a "proper" or acceptable behaviour. I have no intention of training him to be a spiderman either. But whose mistake was it? Mine! I had not prevented this incidence because I lacked the foresight that he was going to climb at his age & stage of development. Did he ever do that again? No. Not because he understood the danger & my worries of him getting hurt (though I do believe he understood somewhat). Why? Because I moved the sofa away from the window!

On hindsight, I think I developed a sense of authority & confidence which evolved from my natural love for him as a mother. I love him. I do what's best for him. I believe he could sense it. So even when there were times that I had to stop him from doing something he liked, it was acceptable to him. Or when there were times that I wanted him to do something he wasn't comfortable with, he obliged. He trusts me.

What more can I ask for? What should I do next? The answer inevitably lies in improving myself. That is the first step towards bringing up a child who is strong & upright. I have to make sure I deserve this immense trust from a tiny being, whose life is so fully dependent on me.

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