The Pocket Money Challenge

I expected that K’s first encounter with managing his pocket money, will likely be not having enough of it to buy food at recess. Or that consumerism will overtake good sense, and he might end up spending most of his pocket money on knick knacks from the bookshop. 

I was surprised that the first challenge that he encountered with his pocket money was quite different from what I expected. 

“My P.5 buddy asked me to help him buy a glue stick yesterday. He showed me his wallet, he only had 20 cents left.”

“So did u buy it for him?”

“He needed it for class after recess but he didn’t have enough money to buy. He was hungry and bought what he liked to eat, so little money left after that.”

“What did you do?”

“I bought the glue stick for him. He needed it, it was only 60 cents.”

“Why didn’t he ask his parents for the money to buy the glue the day before, since he needed it for class?”

“He forgot, and he was afraid that the teacher might scold him, so I helped him. Anyhow it’s cheap, it’s 60 cents only. He only gets $1.50 a day (while Kyle gets $2.00).”

“He was not the only one that asked his P.1 buddy, my classmates also helped the other boys in his class. I heard one of my classmates saying ‘No’ really loudly to his buddy who asked him. I think my classmate is really selfish.”

“So then, when happens if he starts asking you again another day to help him buy something else from the bookshop. Will u still help him?”

“Yes I will, if he needs help.”

“What if he starts asking everyday?”

“Of course not.”

“What do you think happens if he starts asking you to buy stuff for him all the time?”

“I will just say ‘No’, as it is not right. It will be almost like stealing, using my money.” 

Now hearing all of what K said, he believes that he is helping a friend, and it doesn’t sound like he plans to get the money back. 

I don’t intend to give him the answers directly, as I want him to think about it for himself. And this is a good opportunity to put his values to the test. 

Discernment can be learnt over time through experience but I don’t think it profits my child now to teach him that it is important to get his money back. Knowing how to manage his pocket money is important, but this time round I want to focus on the values that I will be imparting to my child. What values will I be emphasizing, if I tell him this instead, “It’s not the value of the money, but the principle, you need to ask him to return the money back to you.”

Like any parent, the thought of “What if this P.5 boy continue to do this, with the intention of taking advantage of him?” crossed my mind. But I brushed it away and decided that we will deal with that when it happens. We prefer to think of the good in his P.5 friend and believe that he truly needed help and I was glad that K readily helped him with the money and didn’t need to think twice about helping a friend in need.

I praised K for being a generous friend. 

The best way for a child to learn how to manage himself through life is through a real-life, practical experiences. I am heartened that there will be plenty of opportunities that will present themselves from school. Besides knowing how to say ‘No’ doesn’t seem to be an issue for him, so I am less concerned about new challenges that will come. I am glad that his first response was not of selfishness, and he did not cling on so tightly to his pocket money stash.  

What will you do if your child encounters this in school? 



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Primary One, The First Two Days

Firstday5I chose the school because the students get to wear black shoes and socks.

Black is a great color as I don’t have to be concerned about the shoes turning filthily grey at the end of the school day. He can even wear the same pair of black socks for 5 days in a row. Just that he will not be too popular amongst his classmates and teacher, with the stench coming from the worn socks.


Actually, I wasn’t too excited about the black shoes, shorts, and the school uniform didn’t rank too high on being the most smartest-looking school uniform around.

And for sure he has to change his socks daily.

Nonetheless, me-thinks he still looks rather cute in his uniform. After all, I am his mom, even when everyone else do not think he is cute anymore, he is cute.

The morning of the first day of school started out fairly well, since K was rather excited about starting new school and meeting new friends. When I first dropped him off at his classroom, he gestured for me to quickly leave, and initiated a conversation with a new classmate.


Then, hb and I excitedly spotted him in the canteen during recess-time with his quiet, responsible and slightly blur Primary 5 ‘buddy’, who was still getting used to his new role that morning.

The buddy-system is helpful for orienting new children to recess time and we found it rather humorous how K interacted with his P.5 ‘buddy’. K was doing the talking most of the time, while the older primary 5 boy kept relatively silent. And hb and I watched at the distance and giggled when the P.5 boy lost K in the canteen for about 3 minutes, and frantically searched around for him. While K stood at another corner of the canteen, looking around for his ‘buddy’ and wondered where he went to.


It was the second half of the day that got a little more challenging, when Kyle was expected to sit down from 9.30pm – 1.30pm (except for toilet breaks in between). Especially when the first two days did not include formal teaching and the lengthy stretches of time were spent completing the worksheets given by the form teacher.

I suppose the worksheets are needed to assess the level of learning, but how about spending a little time to one to two active games to get to know your teacher, or to allow children some opportunities to get to know one another on the first day of school?

There was no activity planned for on the first two days of school, which will help the children to assimilate with their new classmates or manage the short attention spans of nervous and antsy 6 year old children, fundamentally boys.

Why is the school is in such a hurry? The hurry to assess capabilities, to segregate and to ensure efficiencies in the system?

So K’s verdict of first day of school?

I met with a lethargic and grumpy-faced him, who told me at the end of the first day of school, even before we could step out of the school gate. “Let’s get out of here, I am sick of this place.”

Uh oh.

So he got a so-called pep talk from mom after that. I shared with him that “Life isn’t all about doing things that will make you happy. There are things we are expected to do, especially when we grow up that will not give us joy, but we still have to do it anyway. Growing up have its responsibilities.”

Translated in my language : “Life can sometimes suck, but we have to make the best out of it anyway.”

Now that’s really helpful mom.

Should I not be serving a spoonful of reality to my 6 year old who will have to deal with the imperfection of a system for the next 12 years of his schooling life?

I believe in serving a smorgasbord of true realities, not neglecting dessert platters of dreams, also scoping ladles of hope thrown in.

Well, there is such a thing known as healthy cynicism.

A healthy cynic walks into the darkness, looks up from the negativity, drink in some light. Then plunge back into darkness with the light, then work on building a ladder for someone else to walk out of it. In this case, I am building a ladder for my own child, who will eventually find himself on the journey through his schooling life, will largely consist of a frequent movements up and down the ladder.

We can’t change reality, so we manage our expectations and our attitudes towards it. And when our dependence is on God, help will always come on time.

We read this timely word from K’s bible devotion the end of the 1st day of school.

Firstday 3

And these bible verses,

Screen Shot 2014 01 03 at 4 49 54 PM

We will take it a step at a time.

I told Kyle, “Our hope is in our Lord, not in the school, our results, our talents or achievements. As any of that will fail us one time or another. We will face challenges as they come, bravely, even when they are difficult, as He has made us to be able to overcome difficult things. It doesn’t matter even if there are many times that we feel weak and helpless, as our strength comes from God alone. We can do it with God’s help.”

The next day, his grandaunt asked him, “Do you love school?” His response, “Not really, but it is ok.”

All this mom plans to do for K moving forward, is to set 1 hour or 2 if needed after school, for homework or revision, and throw in a 1.5 hour session of Chinese enrichment weekly.

And he will spend the rest of the day in the late afternoon to evenings, in play and more play.



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Primary 1 Orientation – What to Expect

We didn’t have the luxury to sleep in the Saturday morning of K’s Primary 1 Orientation, and crawled out of bed at 7.30am for a quick breakfast and made our way to K’s new ‘regular’ primary school at 8.30am to attend the Primary 1 Orientation session.

Definition of a Regular Singapore Primary School? 1. A school that is located within a HDB estate. 2. Do not have requirements for the parents to participate in the Parent Volunteer Programme, to be given priority for the child’s registration at the school (since, there are sometimes slots leftover after Phase 2C). And, 3. A school that is NOT listed in this list of Top 21 primary schools.

Here’s sharing my 1st hand experience from a first-time parent of a soon-to-be Primary 1 child, from a Primary 1 Orientation programme of a regular Singapore Primary school:

1. What to bring

Your spouse, or your child’s other guardian. As you will need someone to join the long queues while you take care of other matters, like filling in and handing in the forms. Also do bring a pen and remember your bank account details.

2. Parents Briefing

I received in the mail, about 1 month before, of K’s class details and where to gather for the orientation briefing. So the first thing that caught my attention before entering the school hall was a white board with list of registered students and class allocations.

We made our way to the school hall, where the entrances were flanked with tables labelled with the class names and were manned by the teachers. We collected a file from the teachers, filled with forms that we had to complete and key information to read.


K was first acquainted with his classmates and sat with them for the 1st 15 minutes of the briefing and were ushered with together with the other children, to their respective classrooms. While the parents sat through another 45 mins – 1 hour of a talk by the principal and vice principal, who gave a thorough introduction to the school programmes, practical tips on how to prepare your child (not academic btw), and things to take note of for the 1st day of school on 2nd January 2014.

For parents with children with high separation anxiety, pre-empt your child before the session that he/she will be going to classroom with the teachers and his new friends to do some interesting activities (i.e., worksheets, but you need not to be so explicit about it), while you will be sitting there to listen to a ‘boring’ adult discussion, so you will not be far from him/her.

Now, at this moment when the children are being led to their classrooms, it will be highly embarrassing to be that parent with the child who is wailing in tears and clinging onto you, refusing to join his/her classmates.

In case you are wondering. That didn’t happened to K, of course, as he couldn’t wait to make new friends and explore his new school with his classmates.

Photo 8

All the kids at the orientation seemed to be comfortably adjusted to the new environment, as I hardly saw any reluctant child being led away in pairs to their classrooms by the teachers and the prefect volunteers.

At the parents’ briefing, the principal highlighted 2 programmes that were unique to the school that made learning fun for the children; Drama was added to the curriculum for English and Chinese language learning. And there were 2 sessions of Mass Brain Activities weekly, where the children will get to play with various types of board games which will enhance their :

– Intrinsic motivation to achieve

– Facilitate cross training of the brain

– improve level of concentration and

– It is a reliable method for acquiring mental abilities and memory capacity

3. Forms to Fill

Do bring a pen along with you, to start filling in the forms, while waiting for the parents’ briefing to start. The forms that is needed to be completed include a Giro form, child and parent personal details form, school dental services form, feedback forms, Parent Support Group Form, etc.

Parents were led to the upper primary classrooms to complete these forms and hand the completed forms to the teachers.


4. What to buy

Uniforms, shoes, socks (if it is not the regular white shoes sold at the Bata shops) and school books. Do bring up to $300 to purchase these items, so that you do not have to make a second trip to the school, before school starts to get these things.

5. What else to do

a) Arrange for School transport

b) Recce the Canteen

Have brunch at the canteen while waiting for your child. Hb and I had early lunch at the canteen just to taste the food and find out the prices of the items. From there you can gauge how much will be enough in pocket money to be given to your child. Usually $1.50 – $2.50 will be adequate.

If your child hasn’t been trained how to order his own food independently, it will be a good opportunity to guide him along a practical life experience to use money and count exact change.

This will also be a good time to tell your child what to expect on the 1st day of school. This helps to build the anticipation that school is going to be liberating experience to be able to do things independently like a big boy / girl.

Also you can communicate and demonstrate what is expected, like washing hands before eating and after eating, also clearing own plates after the meal.

c) Explore the school premises


6. Optional. But not necessary.

No harm setting up first positive impressions as the enthusiastic and friendly parent, if you get to meet the form teacher, principal or vice principal.

Hb incidentally borrowed a pen from the Vice Head principal when he was in the queue to buy books, and then introduced me to the principal when I went to look for him in the canteen. Apart from saying ‘Hi, nice to meet you…’, it might be too lame to say, “My son is in 1B class and his teacher is Miss YY.” That will be too much information, really.

So instead of an awkward silence after the initial pleasanteries , I added that I have joined the parent volunteer group, to offer my ‘services’ of being the photographer if needed, so I will be seeing him around in the future.

It is a plus NOT to be a shy parent, remember, enthusiastic and friendly is always good.

7. What else your child needs to know before starting school in January:

a) Independent toileting skills

b) Pack their own bags

c) Transact

d) Tell Time

e) Understand the importance of adhering to school rules (especially for the free-spirited ones)


We walked away 3 hours later with a box of new books, new uniforms and all $250 poorer. But with good first impressions of the school and its teachers, as the orientation programme was well-organised with hassle-free.

The boy then remarked as we left the school, “I made new friends and I like my new school!” Sounds like a promising start to a new year of school very soon…

Photo 9

*All photos taken with my nifty iphone




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