Archives for October 2011

Who needs initiative?

"If I don't raise my voice at you, you don't listen!"

"You cannot be looking at me everytime before you swing your club, you know what to do as you have learnt the process!"

"I don't shout at my students, you give me no choice. When I don't raise my voice, you don't listen."

"You have learnt this so many times, I find myself repeating the same things over and over but you are not correcting your mistakes. You just don't seem to care…sigh…"

I heard these remarks from Kyle's golf coach behind the doors of the classroom during his last lesson. However, it was not directed at Kyle but at another boy who was taking the golf classes together with Kyle. Each time the coach made a remark like that, I strained to hear whose name he was calling, since Kyle's classmate's name also starts with K. It was not Kyle that he was speaking to each time he raised his voice, as I will be certain that Kyle would have burst into tears and ran out of class if the teacher was so stern with him.

Yeah, Kyle is a softie and tends to cry very easily if he is reprimanded at home or in school, as his kindergarten teacher have fed back previously that Kyle cries very easily when he is being reprimanded for misbehaving blush

When the golf lesson ended, Kyle's coach gave his feedback to his classmate K's grandmother and maid who was sitting outside of the classroom. He said that classmate K lacked initiative, tends to be too dependent on him before he takes a swing, and seemed to be expecting specific instructions each time. When in fact, he has already learnt the techniques and knows the techniques that needs correction. Then the golf coach asked K classmate's grandma, "Is he like that at home? And is the caregiver always doing his things for him?" His grandma nodded her head to his question and replied, "Ah, his mother and father always want to give him the best," The coach was rather dumbfounded when he heard that response, but he added, "It will be good if he is not so sheltered. I am concerned that he is not taking the initiative to make improvements to the point that his classmate Kyle's skills has surpassed his, even though Kyle has joined much later." Then coach turned to me and said, "So far so good for Kyle, he is very confident in his swing, just that he tends to be a bit impatient at times."

I am not quoting this incident as I am brimming with pride that my child is better than his classmate, but rather, I am worried that if I don't make a conscious effort to build good habits in Kyle, he might one day lose his initiative and become an older child who will have little or no initiative in anything that he undertakes, as he will always expect that his mom or helper will help him along.

When a child grows in an environment when he has alot of help, he tends to develop an overdependency and then cease to make a conscious effort to take an initiative to do things for himself, and eventually lose that ability to do alot of things if there is no prompting or direction from others. I am already seeing some bad habits developing;

–  Not picking up his dirty clothing and putting it in the laundry basket

–  Shouting for the helper's help to search for something, when he hasn't even started looking

–  Asking the helper to throw away his used sweet/biscuit wrappers

I have taken all these bad habits very seriously and started berating him by asking him if he is a handicapp, always needing help to do simple things (I tend to be quite harsh, think I really need to manage what I say at timessad). Correcting the habit needs alot of patience; so as to guide him along towards the correct behaviour, I had to walk with him to the waste paper basket and watch him exhibit the correct behaviour and then praise him for it.

Some areas that that I have managed to train Kyle;

– Clearing up his toys after every play session

– Clearing his own used plate + cutlery after every meal and putting them in the sink

– Choosing his own clothes and wearing the clothes himself

– Putting on his socks and shoes

– Getting himself ready every morning for school or making sure he is dressed and ready before we go out.

The last point has been rather tough to achieve, as it came with alot of stern reprimands for weeks. It was only recently that it finally dawn on him that he is sick of being scolded while walking to school and starting the day with a bad mood.

Still work in progress :

– Learning to take his own bath, or clean himself after a poop

– Doing his homework (from school) every weekend without having to be reminded

– Taking his own food or snack and pouring his own drink.

– Making his own bed, tough to achieve since he is bunking in my room 80% of the time these days

– Getting him out of bed in the mornings

– Helping out in chores (it is quite hard to achieve especially with domestic help, but for a start, he cleans up his table and the brushes after a messy art session)

It gets alot more challenging to develop positive habits due to a presence of a domestic help at home. To ensure that habits training is followed through, I have to remind my helper not to lend a helping hand each time and then watch carefully that my instructions are being followed through.

I try not to encroach on my child’s developing initiative by trying to control every moment of his day, also allowing him to learn to invent his own games, without depending on me to amuse him. He is also given the freedom to add his personal touch to school work within my boundaries. This is a valid consideration since formal education seems to lean the other direction, 

“In their work, too, we are too apt to interfere with children. We all know the delight with which any scope for personal initiative is hailed, the pleasure children take in doing anything which they may do their own way; anything, in fact, which allows room for skill of hand, play of fancy, or development of thought. With our present theories of education it seems that we cannot give much scope for personal initiative. There is so much task-work to be done, so many things that must be, not learned, but learned about, that it is only now and then a child gets the chance to produce himself in his work. But let us use such opportunities as come in our way…and our non-success in education is a good deal due to the fact that we carry children through their school work and do not let them feel their feet” (Charlotte Mason Vol. 3, pp. 37, 38).

I really wonder how working moms/parents are able to develop good habits in their children when quality time is limited to after work hours / weekends. Is this achievable for a full time working parent? Can they instruct domestic help or grandparents to follow through, or all these are just neglected as being something that 'The child will eventually grow out of'?

Call me micro whatever, but I don't want to raise a boy like most asian men that I know, whose moms tend to smoother them while growing up and then become adults who hope to have wives or domestic help to clean after them all the time. So training of the habit of initiative in Kyle needs to start right now.

“The busy mother says she has no leisure to be that somebody [who informs and gives direction], and the child will run wild and get into bad habits; but we must not make a fetish of habit; education is a life as well as a discipline. Health, strength, and agility, bright eyes and alert movements, come of a free life, out-of-doors, if it may be; and as for habits, there is no habit or power so useful to man or woman as that of personal initiative” (Charlotte Mason Vol. 1, p. 192).

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Matters of the heart

I recently picked up this book 'Shepherding a Child's Heart' again from Ted Tripp after my first attempt of reading the book two years ago when Kyle was still a toddler.

There were so many truths in the book that I found so applicable especially since I have been hearing alot of this of late, "Kyle is so naughty, you have better start to discipline him!" from my mom about Kyle's behaviour these days. And out of my frustration of hearing this comment repeatedly like a broken recorder, my retort to her will be, "Keith and I always discipline him when he misbehaves, what do you expect us to do, whip him to shape?"

Hb and I are not laxed when it comes to disciplining Kyle each time he misbehaves. As Kyle is growing older and developing his own preferences and will, he is getting more defiant and will challenge and question our authority. Mr. Cane makes his appearance when Kyle is wilfully disobedient, and most of the time, we will choose to use the natural consequences of his misbehaviour for him to learn from. This  will be coupled with a stern reprimand, which never fails to reduce the boy to tears.

Most parents focus on the externals of behaviour and believe that having a quiet and well-behaved child is a worthy goal to achieve in parenting. I remembered an anecdote I heard from a friend many years ago who told me about a comment their primary school going child once made; "Teacher told me to stand at my seat to punish me for talking too loudly to my friend during class. I just did it since it is a punishment, but in my heart I am still sitting down comfortably at my seat."  indecision

The point is, like most parents, we are sidetracked by our child's behaviour and we neglect the heart.

Quoting excerpts from the book;

'Parents tend to focus on the externals of behaviour rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the "what" of behaviour than the "why". Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behaviour. To the degree and extent to which our focus is on behaviour, we miss the heart.'

"If the goal of parenting is no more profound than securing appropriate behaviour, we will never help our children understand the internal things, the heart issues, the push and pull behaviour. Those internal issues of: self, love. rebellion, anger, bitterness, envy, and pride of the heart show our chidlren how profoundly they need grace…When we miss the heart, we miss the glory of God."

I found myself agreeing with alot of points that Ted Tripp brought up in the book, here is another excerpt which I felt contained so much truth;

Some succumb to the pressue to raise well behaved kids…we know that these skills are necessary to be successful in our world. It pleases us to see social graces in our children…Yet, having well-behaved children is not a worthy goal. It is a great secondary benefit of biblical childrearing, but an unworthy goal in itself. You cannot respond to your children to please someone else. The temptations to do so are numerous…Stabbed by their daggers of disapproval, you felt the need to correct him for the sake of others. If you acquiesce, your parenting focus becomes behaviour. This obscures dealing biblical with Junior's heart. The burning issue becomes what others think rather than what God thinks.'

'Parents conclude that good shaping influences will automatically produce good children…they forget that the child is never determined solely by the shaping influences of life. Proverbs 4:23 instructs you that the heart is the fountain which life flows. Your child heart's determines how he responds to your parenting.'

Ultimately, it is your child's heart that matters when it comes to parenting

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

This book highlights the importance that parents need to understand what is going on in a child's heart. As the bible says that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, we must engage our child to understand what is going on inside. Thus a rich and full communication is needed, coupled with the rod for discipline. Even if you are a parent that does not agree with using the method of spanking to discipline your young child, try not to dismiss the wealth of wisdom that this book offers in terms of biblical parenting.

God's ways of shaping and nurturing a child is really not the world's ways and this book really makes it clear how different it is. It is mportant for a Christian parent/family to 'walk the talk', as in, it is not the church or sunday school's job to lead your child to Christ, but a Christian parent's role and conviction. The book is so insightful and offers practical tips on how parents can shepherd their child, and it might inspire some of us to become a different kind of parent that God wants us to be.

'Shepherding a Child's Heart' is one of the best parenting books I have come across and it is a must-read for any Christian parent.

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Is Self feeding a good habit?

My status update on Facebook this morning sparked off a small debate on differing opinions about the topic of self-feeding amongst children.

It started off when I saw a grandmother feeding her 6 year old grandson in a local cafe spoonful by spoonful, from the time I sat down on my table for almost 20 minutes until the family left the cafe. I then posed this question on my status 'Shouldn't self-feeding be encouraged before the kid turns 4 year old? Makes me wonder if the grandmother will be present at the canteen during recess time when the kid goes to primary school…'

I had differing responses from friends. Which varied from pet peeves of seeing maids chasing the kids in their care around in the foodcourt just to feed them, primary school kids still fed by maids, moms getting irate each time the grandparent feed their child to moms who are feeding their 5 year olds and don't plan to stop feeding them till they are able to eat neatly.

A couple of years back I have even heard of one mom who will chase her kid around the playground while feeding the child, and will give the kid a piece of chocolate to tempt the child to eat if he/she refused. Now that is plain wierd, since the chocolate kind of negates whatever good nutrition is being offered in that accompanied meal.

All these just reflect the varied parenting styles that one chooses to adopt for their child.

For domestic help. all they want is to get their job done in the fastest and most efficient way, so teaching a child good habits is least of their priorities. While a grandparent tend to indulgent and pampering, so feeding is perceived as loving and caring for their grandchild. Beside most grandparents are afraid that the child doesn't eat enough or eats too slowly. A busy mum on the other hand, chooses feeding as the best solution to prevent mess and having to chore to clean up.

My take on this?

Hb and I thinks that a child needs to be taught to eat independently, and it has to start at a young age.  We both agree that feeding a child does address some short term conveniences, but it does create some habits that are hard to correct in the long run. We are pretty much stern taskmasters when it comes to developing desirable eating habits.

Kyle has learnt to;

– feed himself from 2 years of age. There were still times when he had to be fed below the age of 3, but feeding is a major no no since he has turned 4 years old

– He has to sit at the table at every mealtime, no bringing of food in front of the tv or playing concurrently. There is some flexibility when it comes to watching of tv during mealtimes. He can watch tv, however when he starts eating too slowly or stops when eyes are glued to the tv, the tv will be turned off. So he has since learnt how to multitask. Maybe the solution is to turn off the tv altogether, but it is hard to incorporate a rule like that at home when mom and dad are both dinner time tv watchers :S

– eat with less mess (this takes a bit more time, as it is dependent on the child's fine motor skills development)

– finish all the food given in his plate.

The last point is still a challenge since he is a fussy eater. Until we started taking away the food, and told him that he can go hungry whenever he starts nitpicking on the food. The thought of going hungry makes him rather upset, so he musters up the motivation to go on eating.

It helped when we gave him 0.50 each time he finishes everything on his plate and imposes a fine when he doesn't. These days we have stopped giving him 0.50 cents each time he finishes his food, unless it is a real challenge or it is something that he really doesn't like. He has also started to make excuses like, "I have a stomachache, too-full kind of stomachache not the pass- motion kind." So the fine system remains and the fine is hefty enough for him to want to finish up his food.

It does take effort and discipline on my end to follow through, I tend to want to take the easy way out and go with whatever that is more convenient or more efficient. There is still so much to do when it comes to developing good habits in my child (which I will address in another post soon), however this quote from Charlotte Mason really encourages me to persevere in the area of building good habits. 

The habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by-and-by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend” (Vol. 1, p. 118).

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