Thursday, 11 April 2013

Parenting with lessons from childhood

Very often, I spend moments reflecting my parenting style on the kids. The more I ponder upon, the more I see the linkage of my styles being a result of the left over issues from my childhood. The environment, Asian parenting and ways my parents brought me up were reflective of what I would do or not with my own children in my Mothering life. 

1. Discipline
Js are my parents first grand kids, they dote them very much, and always intervene my disciplinary process, just to get them out of my 'merciless' punishments. But, when I recalled my childhood days, the day I started recording events in my memory, I faced the same punishments. My dad would raise the cane at us, more than my mum. We seldom use the cane on the kids, unless it's an extreme intolerable act. That Asian parenting culture instilled from olden days till today, still lingers in some families. We didn't even buy a cane since the days Jazz got me mad, it was a balloon stick we've been threatening with. Interesting object. Time out, thinking corners, thinking chairs weren't common in my childhood days.   

2. Words of Affirmation 
Positive reinforcements were rarely practiced in my household then. Those praises given by my elders and teachers made me a happy child. Academic was a great focus at home. When I was in primary school, my dad told us scoring below 90 is not acceptable between primary 1 to 3, and primary 4 to 6, 80 was the bottom line. I gradually had the fear of not doing well in tests and exams, spellings and mental sums. There was once, I failed a subject! And bingo, I was whacked really hard by his merciless cane. I never dared take school lightly, tried my best to score. And there was once, I topped the class in Maths. I told my dad, but with doubts he questioned, with disbelief he asked if a score of 79 really topped the class. "The Maths standard in your class must be bad", he said. That kinda broke my little heart, I was proud when I stood up for a moment of glory in class, and it didn't seem anything to my lovely dad. "Where is my encouragement and praise?!? I thought I did well." An effort recognised by my classmates, but not my family. This is how peer influence and acceptance can gradually become a great part of a child's growing up life, which can eventually overtake the family roles. 

I'm not smart by talent, I often make up with lots of hard work, take a longer path than others to success. Other than academics, I don't recall myself getting caned for other reasons. Academics trait is dominating in Asian or maybe just SG families. It's getting more competitive, and it's not surprising how parents get so tensed and worried over their child's grades. Parental roles in education are really important. Reward and Recognition are important. We know our child best, and should try not to be over or under protective, but understand their progress and emotions. We should constantly change and evolve to counter every challenge.

3. Focus on the goods
Trusting and believing in our little ones are important to us, as well as to them. Those words of affirmations doesn't cost much, say them sincerely and thankfully! As parents, we usually focus too much on the bad and talk too much about it to our children. I've since learned to end each night's prayer with the good acts they did for the day, surely there's at least one. It really did matter to Jazz, one night, she told me, "Mummy, can you tell God what are the good things I did today?" She likes to hear me talk about her good deeds too. But of course, as a praying parent, I was just focused about handling mischievous children with more grace.

4. Parents' choice with no regrets
Beyond academics, my Mum would pack my schedule with piano, ballet, swimming and art classes. Frankly, I really disliked them, I never saw through them, except for swimming. The thought of those piano lessons shivers me, my then teacher would smack my wrist each time I played a bad note. But what are those lessons to a child, I only wanted more free time for play. The only thing I enjoyed was probably doing ballet and scoring a distinction for an exam before I totally stopped. I had no idea why this wasn't continued. Today, I regret, Big regret of my gave ups. I wished my parents would have 'forced' me through them. They probably took the easy way out of coaxing, listened and acted on my plea for 'freedom'. If I were 'forced' through it, I would have been able to play a beautiful score on the piano or get paid to teach ballet. From this experience of mine, I can't help but to always think, "It's mummy and daddy's choice, not yours." "Simply because I don't want you to regret." And giving up is not an option. Or maybe, a right technique must be adopted to instill and encourage ongoing interests instead of pushing it too tough.

5. Make time for meals
My parents were very hands off when it comes to rearing my 2 brothers and myself. I'm a middle child. My mum doesn't much bother about what we eat or do all day long, and my dad was away for business most time. They were just results oriented, not bothering much about the processes. We had a maid to cook and care for us and those were the days when we spent most time with our maid than parents! My parents were always out and busy, and we get really excited when we could even sit in or out for a family meal. Which is why it really is important to make frequent time for family meals, you never know what difference it makes to each child. Js are also the first pair of great-grand kids on my paternal family, we would meet regularly for a 4 generations meal, and I would always try not to miss even one of it. The love and respect we give for our elders, is observed and learned by our little ones too.

6. Quality Time vs Toys
My dad was a total opposite of my Mum, he was never thrift when it comes to buying our wants, perhaps to make up for his absences. He bought us whatever toys we wanted and once, he bought us a Rough Collie with much of our begging, without thinking about our abilities to care for it. In the end, we gave it up for adoption. Today, as I flash back, I wished for less toys, in exchange for more bonding moments with them. Or many toys, but more pretend plays with them. The good memories that are truly memorable, are moments when dad and mum spent quality time with us - They brought us to rocket fireworks in China, place where Dad worked, and go on vacations around the World, and going to the zoo or gardens.

7. Heart-to-heart talk
Parenting might get better but more challenging as our little ones grow, from being totally dependent on us to gradually losing that dependency, either for the good or bad. But much can be influenced by how we handle them now. Surely we know what's going on in their everyday life since they're still on dependency. The more dependent they are, the more you know. I fear the day that they gradually step out of that little bubble, take complete control of their own minds, and waver between the good and bad choices. It's good to have their own decisions, good to even sometimes fall and pick themselves up. But, what if it's a wayward road that might give no turning back. It sure aches the parents. While situations are sometimes still controllable, it's good to be in the know of their lives as they turn to adolescences. Heart to heart talk was never practiced in my growing up days, or maybe another trait of the Asian culture that doesn't inculcate this habit. Which is why we say it's not just important being a Mum or Dad, but sometimes, a friend. Such that there's no fear or barrier to pouring out feelings and thoughts to each other.

8. Physical touch
I have a very vivid scene of my neighbour when I played in her house some decades ago. Her Dad would get back from work, go to her to hug and kiss her. I was watching with envy. A 12 year old still getting hugs and kisses from Daddy. Obviously, we've stopped such affections at some unknown age. Hugs and kisses don't seem common in most Asian families, I'm talking about physical touch beyond those adorable ages. Kissing our kids goodbye, and saying, "I Love you" everyday outside their preschool's classroom is easy. They feel loved and happy. It's a routine. But doing this in upper primary or even when they enter primary school at 7, I'm not sure if they're gonna start telling me, "Mummy, lets not do this at the school gate, I'm embarrassed." So hmm... as long as we can, or as much as this routine allows, it would be nice. Physical touch contributes to positive attachment relationship between our child and us.

 photo DSC03440_zps759f66d9.jpg
Found this scenic picture to describe my feel

Today's parenting, with much cross cultural benefits and globalization, parenting have been refined for the better. Most of my friends are great mums who are very hands on and doing much more than what olden parents gave in the early days. It's the same amount of love with different kind of sacrifices, I guess. The day I got promoted to a Mum, I was really excited, I thought of the many instances my childhood had left me unsatisfied, and hope not to replicate those unhappiness in my own family. Times have changed, mums all around are getting more involved with their kids and are more educated. As much as a career mum is concern about her work, I'm sure she has great priority over her family. Even that sense of guilt for not being around gives great responsibility. 

A long train of thoughts with good and bad lessons from my childhood. Having them laid out gives me a clearer picture or reminder of what to and what not to miss in parenting, for as long as I Mother the kids. I've never felt bad about my parents, I love them in the past and in the present. There are much more good lessons than bad lessons I've learned. Not that we have significant successes or achievements, but at least my brothers and I grew up fine and decent, leading a mediocre life, in hope for a better future to come though.   

Time is in our hands and parenting is a lifelong journey, once you start, you can't return. I hope to do the best out of my time with the kids, before everything gets too late. I may not have the best choices for them all the time, I may err, under or overlook, and perhaps they can make better choices than me as they grow. They need to really convince me though, if our thoughts differ. Whatever the multiple choices are, my choices for them are always out of unconditional love and wanting the best for them. No idea what lies ahead, but doing my utmost best to give them a happy childhood, hopefully.



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