Material Moms, The Mothership, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Balancing Act – Joan Leong

Motherhood – it is always such a balancing act with constantly shifting goal posts. And for Material Mom Joan Leong, it can feel like growing up for her all over again.

Lately, I have been thinking much more of what it means to be a mother. Maybe it is a spillover from Mother’s Day just past; maybe it is because my little girl is about to turn eight in a few months and it has suddenly struck me that the gears of motherhood are shifting for me.

No longer is it about basic abilities like her first word, first step or learning to say “please” and “thank you”. It extends to a much deeper level than that – guiding your child from the early childhood phase to the more independent primary-schooler. Not a toddler, not quite yet a teen. But rather, stuck right in the middle, possessing a curious mix of intrepid independence and childlike innocence.

It is at this stage that I, too, find myself juggling quite a few balancing acts.

holding child handTo Mollycoddle or To Drop Kick

Whenever my child is being picked up, someone would escort her up and down the lift, door-to-door. I find myself sometimes asking her to make her own way up, or to come down to the carpark on her own after tuition while I am waiting downstairs. It must be an odd transition for all, because her tuition teacher would walk her down when I tried implementing Clare’s state of independence; or her grandpa would ride the lift up with her instead of dropping her off at the driveway. We actually still implement the rule of ringing the dropping off party to let them know that Clare has arrived home safe and sound on the occasion that she does take the lift on her own.

Yes, I have to remind myself that independence is a good thing – and that it is needed in order for her to grow up.

Tiger Mum vs Relax Jack

When Clare was younger, we signed her up for various classes – violin, soccer, ballet, piano – to see which one would stick. She got bored at having to maintain the pose when playing the violin; she deemed running around in a field too hot. So she kept on with ballet and now, picked up piano.

When exam time rolled along for ballet, she wanted to quit. She said it was too hard and the teacher too strict. I struggled with the notion of having passion versus just sticking through it (like how I was raised). We did not want her to be a quitter but at the same time, wondered the value at making her stick it out if she did not enjoy it very much. We later realised that we have given her the run at different courses, and that perhaps teaching her the value of accomplishing something was equally as important as nurturing a prodigy. She was quite pleased that she got her certification in the end, and that itself was a lesson to be learnt for us.

ipadBooks or Play

The new millennium came along with a slew of technology that has brought much variety and entertainment to our lives. Used properly, they can be learning tools (e-books, online classrooms, learning apps). Used for leisure, they are an entertainment centre in your hands (a million gaming apps, movies, music).

My daughter inherited my old iPad. Being a dutiful mummy, I put in it educational games which she played with when younger. But with a deeper understanding of the Internet and technology (of course, she learnt some in school), she discovered web surfing, YouTube and and more sophisticated games like building worlds in Minecraft. She even takes it a step further and finds tutorials online and has built magnificent structures that I would never imagine my little girl creating.

I applaud her ingenuity and resourcefulness – pretty darn smart, I tell you. But I worry too that she does not read enough. It is always a battle getting her to open a book and let her imagination run free while absorbing the words. She has such a short attention span that if it does not animate, make some noise and has colour, she is not interested.

I have confiscated her iPad on many occasions. And to support that, I have had to stay off mine too – which was very hard.

To Curb One’s Tongue or To Speak Freely

I grew up in the generation where children are often seen, not heard. I never wanted that for my child; I wanted her to have a mind of her own and to speak up whenever she feels the need to; teaching her the balancing act of knowing when to speak up and when you are better off holding your tongue.

Clare has a strong opinion of her own. But because she is pitted against me, the blueprint of her genetic make-up, I often see right through her reasoning and can easily pick up when she is trying to pull wool over my eyes. I admit, sometimes I run out of patience pretty fast, especially when it comes to doing homework (which happens a lot), and I cut her off to reason with her to let her know that she is heading down the wrong track. Sometimes I know I have to let her speak up, just so she can develop her power of reasoning and have a mind of her own. Sometimes, I wish she would quietly do her homework without having to put up a battle.

To Rule with a Ruler or Honey

Clare was invited to go to the Night Safari with her out-of-town cousins last weekend. It was something she was looking forward to. I was equally supportive – I got to take the night off from a massive week of work and travelling. However, we had one of our showdowns over homework again (as she was showing much more interest in her Barbie dolls), so I had to punish her by grounding her for the night.

Needless to say, I felt rotten, like the Grinch who stole Night Safari. I felt sorry for her cousins, grandma, aunt and dad who were looking forward to her joining them. Part of me felt that I should have made an exception and allowed her to go out on that special outing, but I also felt that if I did that, my word would lose value in her eyes and it would make it even harder to implement discipline in the future (thankfully, I got the support of her dad too).

material-mum-joan-leongJoan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.

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Material Moms, The Mothership, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Own Time, Own Target – Deborah Giam

As a parent, you tend to think you know what’s best for your child. From the moment you find out you’re going to have a kid, out comes the books and websites and support groups that will tell you everything and anything you need to know … or so you think.

Mother-Daughter-Picture

I may be stating the obvious, and a lot of parents discover this little fact for themselves after their child arrives, but each and every child is different in their own way. I say this because I’m going to talk about how the Little Miss does things in her own time. I don’t mean those hurry-up-get-changed-we’re-late-for-school type of mornings, but the fact that when it comes to major milestones, she’ll only go at her own pace and do it when she’s well and ready.

Little Miss was a late walker. She started cruising and toddling around from about the age of 11 months, but it wasn’t until she was almost 16 months old that she well and truly started walking on her own. Before that, she always needed the safety of someone’s hand holding hers (usually in a death grip). We knew earlier on that she could probably walk by herself, but she wouldn’t hear of it and wouldn’t give it a try. Then one day, off she went! In the beginning it was a little shaky – she walked like a drunk zombie – but she did it, and she did it when she was ready.

Then came potty training. I tried in the beginning to see if I could get her started, or at least used to the idea, but it was pretty hard. We had a couple of accidents here and there, and she just kept asking for her diaper instead. Eventually, I thought, “I’m not going to push it. She’ll get upset and frustrated, and I’ll get upset and frustrated. What’s the point?” It wasn’t worth the negative energy. Lo and behold, one day she declared, “Mummy, I don’t want to wear a diaper anymore.” I was slightly skeptical, since she was right about to go to school, but I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. If she’s telling me that she doesn’t want to, then she probably knows what it’s going to entail. So I packed her school bag with extra underwear and a diaper, just in case, and told her teachers of the new development. Since then, she’s been diaper-free (except at nights), and we’ve had very few accidents.

The pacifiers that Little Miss threw away!

The pacifiers that Little Miss threw away!

The next milestone came when she stopped using her pacifier. She loved her pacifier. And by love I mean obsessed. She needed one at night to get to sleep, and would often be around the house with a pacifier in her mouth. From the time she got into the car going home from school she’d be asking for one. If it was up to her, it would be a crime punishable by death not to have one with you at all times. I was starting to get worried that she’d be one of those kids sucking on a pacifier even through primary school. I tried when she was three to get her to stop by offering rewards if she stayed pacifier-free. I think it worked for about two days, and then she went back to it. We constantly told her she was too old to have one, and that it was time to give it up. One day she said to me, “Mummy, next year I’ll be in K1. I’m a big girl. K1 no more pacifier.” I thought, okay, now this is interesting, so a deal was struck. When January 1 came about, and she was going to start with K1, she would throw her pacifiers in the trash. And she did. Every one of them. She gathered them all, took them in her hands and threw them into the bin. It felt like such a momentous day! As a backup, my mother suggested that I kept one or two on standby, but I didn’t because I felt this was a choice Little Miss made, and it was a choice she’d have to stick by. I did ask her what I could do if she was upset and wanted a pacifier. “Make a funny face, mummy”. That’s exactly what I did – all of two times.

So what comes next? Who knows, but I’m sure it will happen in its own way and its own time.

material-mum-deborah-giam

About the author: Deborah Giam is a full-time digital native, having worked and played in the online world for most of her life. Her second job is mother to a precocious four-year-old who loves dinosaurs, airplanes and Hello Kitty. Forget designer labels she’s happiest in an old-school world shooting with film, traveling the world and exploring new places. See more of her travels and photographs at www.livinglavidaholga.wordpress.com.

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Child's Play, Material Moms, The Mothership, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Children and Technology – Joan Leong

Are parents taking online safety for their kids to the extreme? How can you introduce your children to the Internet while ensuring they don’t fall victim to scams and other threats? Joan Leong shares her views. 

material-world-children-technology

I have seen articles floating on the Internet, expounding the argument about how children should remain anonymous online to protect their privacy. Call me ignorant, but I always crack a wry smile seeing how sensitive people are over others putting up pictures of said people’s kids, or even list their names. To each his own, I do not disagree.

This is not to say I do not understand nor care about how protected my child is on the Internet. I always feel that as long as we have the knowledge and know-how, we can take reasonable steps to being safe online and in real life. Interestingly enough, I do get messages from people, on the occasion, when they have spotted my child out with relatives or friends. If you ask me, that’s pretty good tracking for me!

However, let us talk about the measures we should be taking to ensure that our children are able to stay safe online.

Understand Technology

Cafe mothersMake time to understand the gadgets and apps of the world today. Take the time to learn how to use parental controls on the phone and computer. Keep your ears plugged in to the latest social networking thing and figure out the pros and cons of each one. You should always be in the know – latest developments in technology; the tricks that people get up to these days; and the good things that people can do online that betters the world, not worsen it.

When Foursquare first came about, I was quite obsessed over checking in to places to earn badges and be the Mayor. Each time I was ousted from being Mayor, I became more obsessed over redeeming the position again … until one day, I read an article about the safety of Foursquare – each time I checked in to a location, it was simply confirming to the world that I was not at home at the time. By checking in to Starbucks, it means I would be there for at least a while to enjoy that cup of coffee.

The occasional check-in to places on various apps, I understand. But I was literally allowing Foursquare to track my movements all day, which just serves as a guide to anyone who might be keen to either stalk me or break into my home.

When you understand the usage of these apps, you are in a better position to counsel and work through with your kids on what the acceptable boundaries are in the online world.

Which brings us to the next point.

Guidelines on Do’s and Don’ts

Do a set of guidelines on what your child should or should not be doing online. This starts with the basics of not putting every single detail online such as home addresses, our full names, passwords and other sensitive personal family data. You would not want someone to be able to easily answer that security question, “Which street did your mother grow up on?”

My personal rule is to never put up anything online that you do not want anyone to know about. You may set multiple levels of privacy on your apps, locking it to a particular audience only, always be prepared for it to be accidentally leaked (if not on purpose). If you cannot live with others finding out your deep dark secret, then do not put it online. Go out and meet your bestie for coffee or write it on a piece of paper, burn it and drink it with water after.

Educate Your Child

Discuss the pros and cons of the app du jour that the kids are into, like the ones below.

Facebook: While fantastic to keep in touch with friends, one should be mindful not to add strangers especially those who message to say they have randomly come across your profile and would like to be friends.

Instagram: While great to share cute photos of one’s pets online, one should be careful of what appears in the background of photos like bills or a parent sitting on the “throne” in the bathroom.

FaceTime: While great for video calls, one should be careful that mummy is not running around the bedroom, trying to get ready for the day.

Snapchat: If you think that the photos will disappear and be deleted after a certain time frame, think again. These things have a way to always come back like a boomerang, so even if you think you are in safe hands sending a picture of yourself flashing your small group of friends only, once that photos is out there, it IS out there.

Discuss Current Affairs

Highlight current cases of people actually getting conned on the Internet.

Someone wants to give you a million bucks? Nah, we’ll pass.

Someone tells you have won a free trip? Erm, when did we ever sign up for a lucky draw to win a holiday to Timbuktu in the first place?

Your best friend emailing you to say she is in Bangkok and that she has lost her phone and needs a few hundred bucks to tide her through the next few days? Well, is your best friend really that dense?

Stay Safe

With knowledge and know-how, you are giving your child the greatest gift in the world – in arming her with the appropriate skills to meander around the big world of bits and bytes, while still protecting herself.

Of course, this should also go hand-in-hand with other safety measures like having a system of checks in place, like the “stranger danger” rule; no swimming unsupervised; always getting to know their friends and; more importantly, staying in constant contact with the parent and keeping an open line of communication.

material-mum-joan-leongJoan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.

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Material Moms, The Mothership, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Preparing Your Kids For A New Baby – Selena Quah

Expecting another child and unsure about how your other child(ren) will adapt? Material Mom Selena Quah shares her tips on how to seamlessly introduce the baby into the family. 

The arrival of another kid is usually met with feelings of eager anticipation and some measure of trepidation. The two main questions asked would usually be, “How will I manage?” and “Will the kids get along?”

While the final outcome is really quite out of your control since it depends on the interaction of so many factors like personality, your post-partum state, the home environment, etc., I believe there are steps you can take to pre-empt the problem and ease into the situation better.

material world_pregnant mum 2For me, my main concern was to ensure the kids got along with their soon-to-arrive sibling. If that could be managed, it would go a long way towards making life a lot easier. I was fortunate that my first child formed a relationship with his brother even before the delivery date, and the good feelings continued even after his brother arrived. Though my eldest son is generally of a fairly sweet nature, I do think some of the steps we took did help. When I got pregnant with my third child, I followed some of the things we did previously, and it seems to be working again. Both boys are positive about the prospect of having another sibling, and I do think they genuinely look forward to her arrival. Many parents have said to me how wonderful it is that my boys seem to be very affectionate towards the baby, often hugging and giving her (well, my belly) kisses.

So I thought I’d share some of the steps we’ve taken so that you can see if it works for you too. These are by no means miracle steps, and the results may vary depending on the personality of your child and your unique circumstances. Still, there’s no harm trying. Some of these steps are advocated by many parenting books and websites, but we’ve also discovered some on our own.  A few websites have a long list of do’s and don’ts, but I’ve distilled it to the four main things you need to deal with in the lead up to your baby’s arrival.

First, relationships are the key element to manage prior to baby’s arrival. If this can be handled well, I think chances are you will experience much less sibling jealousy. 

Your children and baby

I wanted very much for my children to feel like they have a bond with their baby sibling even before the birth, and I did this by doing this the best way I know how – through play!

After letting your children know you’re having a baby, encourage your children to talk to the baby regularly about anything and everything. And allow yourself to get silly and let your imagination lead the way too. Pretend to be the baby and speak to them. I use a tiny, high-pitched voice when pretending to be the baby, to the point that when I forget and speak to them in my normal voice while acting as the baby I sometimes get told, “No, Mummy, I’m talking to baby, speak in a high voice!”, or “I’m not talking to you, Mummy!” Of course they know it’s all just pretend, but it really helps with relationship building.

material world_pregnant mumSometimes we will be having dinner and one of the boys will ask, “Mei Mei (little sister in Mandarin), do you like the food?”, or if we’re outdoors, “Mei Mei, did you see the aeroplane?” These are excellent times to stretch the conversation to teach your children that babies do not know as much as they do. For example, I’ll reply, “What’s an aeroplane, Gor Gor (big brother in Mandarin)?” The boys take great pleasure in trying to explain things to baby, and it’s something you can encourage them to do after baby comes too.

Let the “baby” initiate conversation sometimes too, and always try to inject a large dose of humour and silliness.  The main thing is to have fun.  Having pretend conversations between my children and baby happens daily, and I think it is the key reason why they are so affectionate towards her.

Of course, temper this with realism as well. Your children must know that babies can’t actually speak when they are born, and will do lots of crying as it’s their only way to communicate in the initial days 

Your children and you

This relationship is very, very important as well. While ensuring that the children form a bond with the baby, you must do everything possible to make sure the bond between you and your children remains strong. This means lots of hugs, kisses, quality time, and affirmation. The children must know that your love for them will not diminish at all with baby’s arrival. You can never say, “I love you” too much.

It is also important to talk to your children about how you will inevitably be tied up caring for baby, but tell them that you did the same for them. Read some books on what life will be like after baby arrives so they know that while it won’t always be easy, at the end of the day Mummy and Daddy loves them a lot.  Make them feel important by teaching them they can contribute in meaningful ways, whether it’s getting baby a fresh diaper or giving Mummy a big loving hug.

Logistics: Before the arrival of the baby

Think ahead to identify any changes that need to be made to accommodate the baby, and implement those changes early.  For example, a change in sleeping arrangements such as having your children vacate the cot, need to be done months in advance so that the link between their shift in sleeping quarters and baby’s arrival is not so stark.  When kids are young, you can quite easily draw a smoke screen over this rather obvious fact. Make a grand affair of the move to a big bed so that your older child feels it’s his own special grown-up thing. Most kids tend to be excited about the move, or at the least can quite easily be convinced. Just be prepared for some nighttime escapes! But once that’s done with, you’re all set.

If you foresee that you’ll need more time with your newborn and need to stretch your older child’s stay in childcare from half to full day, do it early. Do not wait until the month before baby comes. It takes time for your child to adjust. Most certainly, do no wait until after baby comes as that could potentially be one big source of jealousy and anger – that Mummy doesn’t want me around now that baby is here

Any changes because of the baby that could potentially impact your children– from changing of car seats or even changing schools – should be done early!

When baby arrives

material world_siblingsYou have given thought to your birthing plan, but have you given thought to your childcare plan?  Once you’ve settled on a plan, make sure you inform your kids.  They really shouldn’t be the last to know.

Explain why you need to go to the hospital, who will be taking care of them, where they will be staying, when they will come for visits, and roughly when you will be back home again.  If they have never stayed anywhere else before, arrange several sleepovers at the alternate caregiver’s house prior to your due date so that it’s not a new experience that’s suddenly sprung onto the children.

And that’s basically it! Hopefully this will help in your own preparation for the arrival of number two, or three, or …

Even if it doesn’t work for you, just wing it!  After all, I’m sure you would have known from raising your first child, even the best laid plans can get derailed when children are involved.  Just relax, take a deep breath, and soldier on.

Selena Quah with Asher Selena Quah enjoys the little things in life and hopes her children will pick up this trait from her too. She thinks kids are an excellent excuse to indulge in things she likes such as strolling through parks, doing art and craft, and baking. A dancer from young, she hopes to get back to it when the kids are older, though for now she’ll have to make do with dancing around the house while her boys wonder why Mummy is mad. You can find Selena’s blog Unlikely Lady of Leisure here. 

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Material Moms, The Mothership, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Do Men Really Believe In Gender Equality? – Elisa Woodward

Our Material Mom Elisa Woodward says although many men don’t say it, their behavior indicates that they’d really rather women just stick to playing wives and mothers. Her piece, below.

My husband and I got into a mini-debate a couple of weeks ago – while watching Troy on TV – about whether women should just stick to looking pretty and playing supportive wives and mothers to men. Before you think I’m married to an MCP (male chauvinist pig), let me explain that my husband is anything but one. This is a man who has utmost respect for women in the workforce.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it: Do men still think the best place for a woman is at home, playing wife and mother? Even in this age where many women are offered the same opportunity at school and at work, do our men subconsciously believe the world would be a less complicated place if women didn’t go out to work?

So I started asking the men I knew – friends, colleagues, family – if they thought women are best only as mothers and wives. And you know what? So many of them tried to get out of giving me a straight answer! Many of them simply did not want to answer my question at all.

There’s Always Something Else
I’ve also noticed something many men do. Even if they begrudgingly admit that you are good at your job, that you are talented, they always have to add a caveat like, ” … but women and their PMS” or ” … women should still not be allowed on the road”. No matter how good or how successful we may be, men always think our “womenly” qualities work against us.

A Woman = ???
Of all the identities we women struggle to assert, those of “mother” and “wife” are the ones men are least likely to contest. If we said, “I’m a good driver”, a man would definitely go, “Yeah right! You don’t check your blind spots.” But if we said, “I’m a good mother”, more often than not, men are happy to let us take that honor. No man would go, “Yeah right! Your fridge is empty!”

Bear with me here, but I’m going to make this assumption: Is it because men feel that women have the monopoly in the roles “Mother” and “Wife”?

Women are Emotional Creatures?
Another argument that has been used to death by men to disprove our capabilities is that we are “emotional”. Recently, the Japanese forerunner was criticized by women voters for saying, in an interview with a men’s magazine, that women should not be allowed to lead the country because our menstrual cycles make us irrational. “Women are not normal when they are having their period … you can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their period],” he said.

One of the most stereotypical ways of viewing women bosses

One of the most stereotypical ways of viewing women bosses

It goes back to the tired, oft-used misconception that when we women flip out, we are being “crazy bitches”, but when a man loses his temper, he’s showing his aggression and showing who’s the boss.

Such gender stereotypes held by the men I have spoken to disappointed me because in Singapore, boys and girls are offered the same opportunity from very early on in their lives.

It’s No Point We Keep Insisting That We Are Not Inferior To Men
I think it’s time we pay more than just lip service to the issue of gender roles in today’s society. It’s no use if women keep saying we are as good, if not better, than men. It’s no use if men just silently, begrudgingly accept that they are going to have to deal with women as their bosses. People have got to want to see it happen. First, women can be good bosses, good with money, good at driving etc. Second, men can be mothers, men can be wives, men can play the role of a nurturer when it comes to bringing up the kids.

We should continue to blur the lines between what a man should do and what a woman should do. There are no fixed roles anymore. A woman can be the breadwinner while the man, a househusband. And if we want to bring up well-balanced children, it is time we accept these as the norm and not go, “Wow! That’s unheard of!” when things like this come to our attention.

Just as we women refuse to let men tell us where our business should be at, we as mothers should also try our best to not set down the boundaries of what is a “girl thing” and what is a “boy thing” on our children. If your daughter wants to be a construction worker when she grows up, don’t say, “It’s a job for the men!” If your son wants to be a ballet dancer, don’t say things like, “Real men don’t wear tights.”

And maybe, just maybe, our kids will grow up to be more enlightened than their parents are now.

About The Author: Elisa Woodward, a career-focused wife and a mom of two active boys, is a Jack of all trades, who enjoys flummoxing people. She likes getting her hands dirty (figuratively and literally), yet enjoys dressing up just enough to “look acceptable”. She embraces wholeheartedly the concept of getting older. In this post, Elisa candidly shares the fears she faces as a mother.

[If you like this story, you’ll love]

1. [Material Moms] My Untold Fears As A Mother

2. [Material Moms] What You Need To Know About Flexi-Work

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Child's Play, Contests, Material Moms, Young Minds

Something For The Young (And The Young At Heart) – Tan Lili

Just the other day, my colleague Vanessa amused me to no end when she asked if we had media passes to KidsFest, a three-week festival of theatrical performances for, well, kids.

“What? I really enjoyed reading the Horrible Histories series when I was a kid!” came her defence. “Fine, judge all you want; I’ll ask my mum if she wants to accompany my brother and me to the play.”

Vanessa's childhood was made of this.

Vanessa’s childhood was made of this.

Not judging at all, dear Vanessa (if there were a theatrical production adapted from the Goosebumps series, you’d probably spot me among the first few rows). I reckon that’s the great thing about KidsFest – its main audience may be children, but it also appeals to adults who wish to relive the past through their favourite children’s books.

ABA Productions’ KidsFest 2014, which made its debut two years ago, will be featuring nine international theatrical productions adapted from children’s books like The GruffaloHorrible Histories Terrible TudorsHorrible Histories Awful EgyptiansWhat The Lady Bird HeardThe Boy Who Cried Wolf, and more. Apart from the increase in the number of plays this year, KidsFest 2014 has also expanded to two performing venues – DBS Arts Centre and Drama Centre Theatre – as well as introduced KidsFest+, an exclusive meet-and-greet backstage experience where you can interact and take photos with the cast.

We spoke to three lucky mums who went for a sneak preview of KidsFest2014, as they share their experiences:

The Gruffalo's Child was a big hit among the kids during the preview!

The Gruffalo’s Child was a big hit among the kids during the preview!

Edlyn Giam
“For us, the highlight of KidsFest 2014 is being able to interact with the actress who plays The Gruffalo’s child. Usually when we see a performance, we don’t get to be so up close with the actors – let alone take photos with them! I definitely recommend parents bring their children to KidsFest. It’s so different reading a book and watching it come alive in a performance. More importantly, I think the experience would help children learn about communication, broaden their imagine, and pique their interest in reading more books.”

Debora Gifford
“We loved the new KidsFest+ segment. It really makes for a special experience for the kids to be able to meet the performers up close and interact with them. My children and I have been reading many of the popular children’s books since they were young, so it was wonderful to see their favourite books like We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo brought to life on stage and in songs.

Susan Koh
“Watching a performance together gives families a great chance to immerse themselves in a world of imagination filled with songs and dance. Plus, there’s something for everyone, what with shows like We’re Going On A Bear Hunt for the younger kids to Private Peaceful for the older ones.”

Tickets for KidsFest 2014 range from $35 to $62, and are available at Sistic. For more information, visit www.kidsfest.com.sg.

Win a KidsFest 2014 Family Package!

We have two KidsFest 2014 Family Packages, worth $556, to be won! Each package consists of four Category 1 tickets to Horrible Histories Terrible Tudors (February 7, 2014, 7.15pm at DBS Arts Centre) and a Nestle hamper.

Horrible Histories - Terrible Tudors, Redhill, Surrey, UK.

How to win:

1. In the Comments section, tell us the name of the new segment at KidsFest 2014 that lets you get up close and personal with some of the cast members.

2. Then Share this post with your friends on Facebook. Remember to tag “MaterialWorldSG” and “KidsFest” in your post. Set your post on Public so we can verify you have completed this step.

3. Send an email to general@materialworld.com.sg with the subject “KidsFest 2014”. Include your name, gender, NRIC number, mailing address, and age.

This contest is open only to Material World fans on Facebook. Contest ends Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

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Material Moms, Young Minds

[Material Moms] “How Was Your Day?” – Shiney Huang

shineyAbout The Author: Shiney Huang is the Founder of Learning Hands, a company that provides toy rental services with a focus on variety and cost-effectiveness. She has over ten years of experience working with children, and is passionate about her work with them although she doesn’t have kids of her own yet. When she’s not dealing with the little tikes, you can find her hard at work at boxing training, reading or listening to music. Here, she gives you some tips on how to get your child to open up to you.

 

 

While you are at work, your child is also experiencing a full day of his own at school. Be it three hours or six, time spent in a classroom every day can lead to life-changing experiences.

But how do you know or even keep up with what is going on in your child’s head and his life? Here’s the trick: Ask about things that are specific and open-ended. This way, you will get your child to describe his world to you, instead of giving you one-word answers like “yes”, “no”, “good” and “nothing”.

Asking the wrong questions could result in your child shutting down.

Asking the wrong questions could result in your child shutting down.

Before you start your CIA-approved interrogation of your child’s day at school, it is best to let him unwind first. Just like you need time to process your day without any disturbance, your child also needs time to process his day without being overwhelmed by questions the moment you see him. Another thing to take note is, regularly change the way you ask your questions. Asking the same questions will only lead to the same answers – and most importantly, it may lead to your child thinking you are just going through the motions.

So what kind of questions should you ask to get your child to open up? Try these:

1. What was your favourite part of the day?
2. Was any of your classmates absent from school today? (Follow up with: Why wasn’t she in school?)
3. Who did you play with today? (Follow up with: What did you play?)
4. Tell me about what you read in class today.
5. Who did you sit with during recess?
6. What were some of the difficult things you did today?
7. Tell me one new thing you learned at school today.
8. What did your teacher assign for English class today?
9. I used to get really scared before my Chinese test. How did you feel during your Chinese test today?
10. What can we do differently next time so you can get a better grade?

Notice that the questions above require some thinking and more in-depth response. Do not forget that a conversation is a two-way street. If you want to know about your child’s world, share with him what went on during your day first – this will help prompt your child to open up more and even lead to him initiating conversations in future.

This isn’t to say it’s all gloom and doom whenever your child refuses to talk to you. Sometimes, he doesn’t want to share his day – and it is okay. Let him be; like us adults, children also need privacy and the space to mull over things in their own way. Good luck!

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Material Moms, Young Minds

[Material Moms] A Letter From a Two-Year-Old On Her Birthday – Shiney Huang

shineyAbout The Author: Shiney Huang is the Founder of Learning Hands, a company that provides toy rental services with a focus on variety and cost-effectiveness. She has over ten years of experience working with children, and is passionate about her work with them although she doesn’t have kids of her own yet. When she’s not dealing with the little tikes, you can find her hard at work at boxing training, reading or listening to music. Here, she talks about what it’s like for a child going through the terrible twos.

Dear Mummy & Daddy,

I am writing to you to let you know that I am about to enter into the first important and difficult phase of my life. I am not trying to be difficult, nor do I really want to start a war with the two of you. I’m just trying to get you to see the positive side of it all and, yes, believe it or not, there is one!

Right now, I am pretty much able to move freely on my own, which means I will attempt to climb on anything and everything that I see. So that baby safety gate you’re installing? Completely useless. I will climb over it if I am determined enough to get to the other side.

I am in the midst of learning how to communicate with you to let you know what I really want or need. My skills will improve over time so right now just be patient with me as I build on my vocabulary.

I will be going through a major motor, cognitive, social and emotional changes and sometimes, these may be really hard for me to deal with but trust me … I will make it through this difficult phase of life.

I want to be independent but I am still very afraid of the unknown. Because of this, it will seem like I’m trying to go against everything you tell me. I will be trying to break every single rule you set for me; this is my way of testing those limits.

Also, I’ll soon be learning all about the power that comes with saying the word “NO”. It will anger and annoy you because I’ll be using it quite often. Strangely enough, I’ll say it even when I actually mean “yes”.  It would be better for both of us if you gave me more options to choose from instead of simple yes/no questions. This will empower me with the ability to think things through carefully for myself.

Blond Boy Crying

People don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing. Yes, I will start throwing those infamous temper tantrums. Probably every day. And as many times as I think I can get away with it. Believe it or not, I do this not to deliberately annoy you; I’m still learning how to cope with my feeling and emotions. Though I don’t always pick the most opportune times to throw them, know that they are a way of expressing myself.

I will also be grabbing any opportunity available to express my fearless and adventurous spirit by climbing and getting on all the tables, cabinets, counters and anything that I can get myself on. It’s all part of my journey of self-discovery and, along the way, I’ll learn what my physical limitations, strengths and weaknesses are. Your first instincts would most likely be to protect me from hurting myself, but you don’t have to be over-protective. How else will I be able to learn if I don’t make mistakes on my own?

Lastly, expect that I’ll be telling quite often, “I can do it myself”. I ask you to be patient with me and do let me try even though I’ll need a lot more time than you do to get it done. That’s what learning to be independent is all about. Sometimes, I will be overly ambitious in what I set out to achieve. If you know that I’ll fail, gently offer me some suggestions as to how I can go about doing it, instead of taking control right away. Otherwise, consider yourself warned that you’ll again meet my old friend, Temper Tantrum.

That’s it, really. It sounds like a lot to take in but this phase will pass in due time. As they say, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I’ll be heading out to play now!

Hugs & Kisses,

Your little toddler

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Material Moms, Young Minds

[Material Moms] Motivate With Love – Joan Leong

material-mum-joan-leong

Joan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.

Earlier this year, I found myself halfway across the world in a completely different time zone, on the phone with my seven-year-old and working through a couple of issues with her.

My daughter Clare was struggling with a school bully and, upon further investigation, I realised she was not innocent either. I spent the next 20 minutes standing by the side of some road in Brazil giving her a lecture about behaving herself and coping with life’s lessons.

That was when I realised you never stop being a mum, no matter where you are or what time zone you’re in. Tough as it feels sometimes, let’s celebrate that! Here are a few fun ways to motivate and discipline your child, while keeping yourself sane at the same time.

A Special Day

Unplug yourself from the Internet, television and phone. Dedicate the day to your child. Ask him what he wants to do, stick to it and pay 100-percent attention to him.

Once in a while, I will declare “Clare Day” and do whatever my daughter wants to do. For instance, she recently took charge of the day’s itinerary – from lunch (she wanted chicken rice) to activities (she took me on a tour around the Aquarium because she had been there three times but it was my first). It was a simple day but, because she felt important, her love tank was filled a long way. Bonus: Getting her to do her homework after that was easier than before!

Something Unhealthymaterial-moms-gummi-bears

I am lucky that Clare doesn’t like chocolates. She isn’t that big a fan of soft drinks either. But offer her some gummies and she would finish her Chinese homework in a flash. To reward her, I usually give her three pieces of gummies. Sometimes when she has heaps of work to do, I will give her a mini break and a gummy to perk her up (sugar rush; don’t judge!), and give her that little bit of a boost to finish up her work.

All About Your Child

Even when disciplining your child, do not let the message of love get lost. Your child needs to know and remember that you are doing this out of love and concern for him. He needs to know all these are life lessons you are trying to instil in him.

material-moms-balletClare was not a fan of her first ballet examination. She was even considering quitting ballet at one time, but she pressed on. When she received her certificate, she was proud as punch. I reminded her of the merits of hanging in there and completing a task.

Her next exam is around the corner; she is not looking forward to it again. I constantly encourage her by reminding her of the pride and satisfaction she felt when she received her certificate, making her aware that this is not something she does for me, but for herself.

Confidence and Independence

Instil in your child the independence to make some decisions. If your daughter wants to wear a polka dot-print shirt with a striped skirt, so be it! If your son wants to wear mismatched socks, why not? Unless, of course, your child wants to don a swimsuit to a nice restaurant – which Clare has attempted to a couple of times.

Write A Love Note

Clare loves it when I write her a little note and leave it on her pillow. She doesn’t tire of me telling her how much I love her. Often, she reciprocates; she always seems to write me a note when I need it most. Similarly, when I discipline her, she understands that I do so only because she needs it, not because I don’t love her.

It’s important to be aware that parenting is not always rainbows and candy canes. It breaks my heart whenever I go tough on my child, but as long as she grows up knowing right from wrong, I know it’s all worth it. 

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3. Let’s Talk About Play

4. Choosing The Right OBGYN

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Character & Soul, Material Moms, Self-Improvement, Young Minds

3 Things Your Bully Would Not Expect You To Become – Deborah Tan

I caught an interesting programme on the BBC World Service this morning. It was about bullying and I found one of the points brought up in the show very interesting. The interviewer and his guest, Dr. Helene Guldberg, basically talked about how parents these days are more likely to misdiagnose the dynamics between children and that they can sometimes step in too early, calling out any behaviour they disapprove of as bullying.

Who's bullying who?

Who’s bullying who?

While their concerns for their child’s wellbeing and safety are valid, Dr. Guldberg explained that this intervention could lead to a child being unable to cope with social situations and deprive him of a chance to negotiate Life’s many power dynamics on his own. Of course, she did say that if you do notice that something is wrong with your child and you know that he’s being bullied in school, do step in and take action.

But let’s back-track a bit and look at the part about parents intervening too early.

From the stories I hear from my friends who have kids in school, the mothers of today are definitely a lot more outspoken and protective than the mothers of yesteryear. I have heard of mothers keeping track of their kids’ Facebook activities to ensure they are not victims of cyber-bullying, I have heard of mothers of kids in the same class starting Whatsapp group so they can immediately bring everyone’s attention to “sticky” issues like a child being too aggressive in class or a teacher’s inability to control her students.

There have been times I wished our parents had the whole social media thing going when we were kids, but most days, I am glad they didn’t. They sent me to school, they trusted that the teacher was going to be able to do her job, and no news was good news.

In my time, if a parent called up your folks, if your teacher wanted to see your dad … it was often time to get ready for a good hiding. The only times our parents saw each other were during birthday parties and at school plays. Unless the bullying got out of hand like you returning home with a visible bruise on your face, our parents generally assumed (at least on the surface) things were fine.

Of course bullies existed back in the 80s. Of course some of us had it bad. And, looking back, I’m kinda glad that I went through it all by myself.

“Did you ever tell your parents when you were bullied?” Vanessa asked when I told her about the programme.

“No!” I said, with a scandalised look on my face.

“Why?”

“Because I felt it was my battle to fight. Also, I knew if I survived it, I would be a stronger person for it.”

Here are three valuable lessons I learnt from my years of trying to overcome bullying on my own – things I am sure I would not have picked up if my parents or teachers had intervened in my predicament:

Now I'm stronger than yesterday

Now I’m stronger than yesterday

1. You learn to count on yourself
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if figures of authority could see the bullying that is happening and do something about it? Often, they don’t, because they are either too busy or too absent to care. Instead of wishing someone would rescue me, I decided to just count on myself and find my own ways of coping with the bullying.

2. You learn to read people a lot better
Whether you’ll be liked, whether you’ll be accepted … you learn to see, in every new social situation, how you can fit in. Some of my friends in later years have told me that I am super “adaptable” and that I adjust easily to new environments. I think it’s just that, somehow, as a bullied kid, you learn to never quite stick out until you’re very sure of the situation and the people that operate within it. Once you establish who your friends are, it’s easier to expand your circle of influence from there.

3. You learn to manipulate your words
Ever heard of the Chinese saying, “Jian ren shuo ren hua, jian gui shuo gui hua”? The direct translation is, “See a human, talk like a human. See a ghost, talk like a ghost”. While the image of a duplicitous person who manipulates her words may not be a flattering one, you need to know that how you say or write something can have an impact on how you are perceived by others. “I think you are wrong” versus “I believe you might have misunderstood what I was trying to say” is a good example of how you can be perceived as less harsh if you used the latter line when in a conflict with a friend or colleague.

I think as parents and as adults, we want to ensure our kids don’t grow up in the same shitty environment that we did. Somehow we believe that we could have been happier if we had been Mr. or Miss Popular in school. But this instinct to protect will deprive our young of a chance to build the strength and skills needed to navigate the harsh realities of adult life. We don’t want them to go through the hurt and the humiliation we did as teenagers, but we forget that we are also not giving them a chance to prove themselves, to fight their own battles.

Before I end, I do want to make it clear that every bullying case is different. If you or your child is going through a particularly harrowing experience, please know that you don’t have to suffer alone and that you should get the attention of someone who can help.

Learn to kick some ass

Learn to kick some ass

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and ignores her now-friendly former bullies whenever she runs into them on the streets. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Material Moms, Young Minds

[Material Moms] “Why Is School So Bossy?” – Elisa Woodward

About The Author: Elisa Woodward, a career-focused wife and a mom of 2 active boys, is a Jack of all trades, who enjoys flummoxing people. She likes getting her hands dirty (figuratively and literally), yet enjoys dressing up just enough to “look acceptable”. She embraces wholeheartedly the concept of getting older. In her first story for Material World, she talks about why – after seeing her son’s first year in a local school – it’s so hard for the Singapore education system to evolve.

With sons Lleyton and Lliam

With sons Lleyton and Lliam

“Mommy, why is school so bossy?”

After his first week at a Singaporean school, my 6-year-old son finally decided that this was the appropriate reply to our daily routine of asking him, “How’s your day at school?”

Whilst trying to hide our laughter, and trying to behave like sensible parents, our subsequent investigation into why he would ask such a question led to an unraveling of rules: “Well…. The school tells us how to stand, how to sit, where to stand, where to play, where not to play……….”.

And, the first thing that popped into my head, “Dear son, welcome to the Singapore education system.”

New Kid In Town
Before going further, let me set the background. My family had been in Victoria, Australia for the past 3 years, before moving back to Singapore. In Victoria, parents can elect for their children to attend kindergarten/preschool before starting primary school, which is approximately 8-12 hours a week.

Coming back to Singapore, my husband and I chose to send our older son to a local school, because we felt that this would be the fastest way for him to immerse into the Singaporean culture and, more importantly, pick up Mandarin.

We met with the teachers and the principal of the school and, when I learnt that Primary 1 and Primary 2 were not subjected to exams, boy was I ecstatic –times have certainly changed since I was in school! I was told the children would be assessed in a holistic manner, which I took to mean minimal written homework and more learning through life and cultural experiences.

Maybe not quite …

First Day
Local school turned out to be a shock for my son. Even I, as the parent, was surprised at the regiment instituted in the children from the very first day.

Once we stepped into the school’s compound, we (parents and children) were ushered into different classes, and the children had to sit/stand in a line (or 2 lines) to prepare for morning assembly. For those who do not know, morning assembly comprises of singing the national anthem, maybe the school song, and announcements.

No time was wasted. The children were taught how to stand for the school assembly (feet shoulder width apart, hands placed on side et cetera). Then they were taught how to sit, with folded knees and hands on lap, and of course, how to keep silent.

Us parents were ushered to another location to LINE UP (behind stands bearing labels stating our child’s class) for briefing and meet parents of children in the same class.

Then we were brought “two by two” (or ones) around the school for a tour; and we were told that our children would be well-taken care of and would go to class. We were also told that if we wanted to meet our children, the kids would be down during the morning recess, and they would be brought to the designated location to meet up with us.

The orderliness was making my head spin. Being the rebel that I am, instead of hanging around for my kid to be released for recess, I left. Many of the other parents hung around waiting for the “Meet-my-child-at-a-designated-corner-for-10-minutes” session.

School life had officially begun.

homeworkfrustrationA Mountain Of Work
Until the end of the first quarter of the school term, and schoolwork was occasional. I thought to myself, “Hmm, not too bad after all”.

THEN, the 2nd half of the year started and the homework quadrupled. Every week, a Chinese test, every other week, spelling. Things hasn’t really changed.

What’s more, my husband and I – both working adults –believe in learning through play, rather than enforcing sit-down “tuition sessions”. It was a good thing our son was self-motivated to get homework done, and his grandmother, a good help when required.

While it’s true changes have been introduced to help expose primary school children in Singapore to a more “holistic learning environment”, one needs to understand that the cultural background and value system of the child’s parents and teachers also contribute to how “holistic” his education actually is.

breakoutbox1Parents complain incessantly about the pressures the Singapore education system exerts on them and their children. But yet, they still cave in and end up sending their kids to tuition classes ON A SUNDAY!

First To Hit The Wall? No Way!
If we, as parents, only have our sights set on making sure our kids come out tops in school, of course the Singapore education system cannot evolve significantly and effectively.

One local teacher, whom I managed to query about the need to drive the young children so hard academically, mentioned that it is not that teachers want to push all their students to be the best (as all of us know that each child has different learning standards in a class), but rather if teachers stick to the curriculum, and students go home with “easy” homework, the teachers get questioned by parents, demanding an explanation why the syllabus is so simple, and why their children are not being pushed harder.

So what do we, parents, want? Currently, the choices are limited – for those of us who choose life experiences over academic performance, as my family has, we choose to take our children overseas. For others who have reasons to remain in Singapore, they join in the race to ensure their child does not lose out, albeit grudgingly.

And when you encourage aforementioned parents to be different, to stand up to the system, the response you get is, “If my child comes in last in class, how?” No one wants their child to be the first one through the wall. So we end up where we started, in a system no one is happy with but are all too afraid to stand up and make a difference. We just want to stand in line and be told how to stand, how to sit, where to go, and where to play.

Are you a mother of a young child studying in a Singapore school? What are your thoughts about Elisa’s view of the local school system? Share your views either in the Comments section below or via the form here. We look forward to hearing from you.

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