You may be curious about how 1502 kids spoke to us about what they really need. The number represents more than 1500 kids we have spoken to, taught, counselled and cared for in our previous careers as professional school teachers. The other two kids are our own little munchkins who are the world to us.
In our years as school teachers, we have taught children from 4 to 17 and they don't differ much in what they need from parents to be really happy. It breaks our heart to see so many children growing up really unhappy because their parents don't realise their unfulfilled needs. It breaks our hearts even more when these kids get into trouble, neglect their studies and become really jaded and bitter with life.
So what do kids really want?
1. Kids want undivided attention from their parents.
School teachers do speak one-on-one with individual students regularly to connect with them. In these sessions, we ask about their personal lives and academic journey. We try to guide them along and be a listening ear to their problems. The CHIEF COMPLAINT when we ask them or talk about family is "my parents don't have time for me". Kids tell us that they don't have anyone to talk to at home. There is a disconnection between parent and child.
It is paramount that we make time for our kids DAILY. It can be as simple as finding half an hour to sit together and enjoy a snack together. TALK to your kids. This is a time to feel emotionally connected between a human to another. Put your phones away! Talk about life. Talk about a tv show. Talk about anything interesting and laugh a lot. You'll be surprised how much kids thrive on just a little undivided attention from their parents.
Asking about their homework or nagging at them to do chores do not count as connecting/talking!
This undivided attention will help your child feel grounded, loved, secure and happy!
2. Kids want encouragement/praise
"What is the point of studying so hard?"....
"Cher, (our short-form name every kid calls us by)....nobody cares..."
I often ask myself, why do kids say these things? Why are they so unmotivated and jaded with life? They are only kids!
The reason came pretty clear to me when I praised a child for his effort and he teared. (He had been failing and managed to get 60% for that assignment). This is a little boy in elementary/primary school. He worked so much harder and felt a lot more motivated for the rest of the year. It was like magic.
Growing up in an asian society, praise and encouragement are hard to come by. Children are taught to face their tasks with discipline and responsibility because it is their duty. They feel discouraged when they don't do well. The sense of duty doesn't make much sense to them at a tender age.
Parents must see the power of encouraging words and praises. Words of affirmation is a love language and an emotional need. Praise your children for their effort. Thank them for trying. Encourage them when they struggle.
Say: "I'm proud of you for packing your bag on your own!", "You did a good job clearing the table after dinner!", "I like that you tried so hard to complete the math homework even though you didn't like it!", "If you keep going, you will succeed, don't give up!". It makes a world of a difference to them!
3. Kids want unconditional love
Kids should never be made to feel that they need to merit their parents' love. Being a parent of two, I realise that kids get bored with their toys and things very quickly. They never get sick of feeling wanted and loved.
Kids want to feel loved even if they have failed an exam. They want to feel loved and wanted even after they have made a mistake or done something to anger their parents. Parents can be upset. Parents can admonish and punish their children. However, the care, concern, attention and encouragement should never come with a condition. It should always be given freely and unconditionally.
"We work so hard so that we can afford to
Last week, we had a rare evening free on a weekday from work and actually had the energy to head out of the house. So on that rare occasion, we took the kids out for a walk at the iconic Marina Bay in Singapore. Debra and I realised that it was the first time we took a stroll along Marina Bay and in Marina Bay Sands together since we got married!
It was a little adventure for us because we rarely get time to visit a place just to stroll around with no agenda. We are always going somewhere to buy groceries, run errands, shop for supplies, have a family meal and visit someone. We had an awesome time and here are some tips that made our trip great:
HOW TO ENJOY YOUR TIME AT THE BAY
Dress comfortably! You'll soak your clothes with perspiration in the 80-100% humidity and hot 28-30°C evenings (82-86°F) as well as 35°C (95°F) afternoons! Wear shoes that support your feet if you are intending to explore the entire bay. Bring a stroller if you are taking the little ones! Bring along your camera or remember to charge your smart phone so that you can snap away at the picturesque bay. I took all the photos on this post using my Huawei P20 Pro mobile phone without a tripod.
1. The food options inside Marina Bay Sands can get quite expensive. If you are able, have your meals at nearby malls such as Marina Square or Suntec City!
2. Bring your own drinks/water bottles. The Marina Bay Area is a tourist/financial district. Naturally, the price tags are not that budget friendly.
3. Take the public transport. Take trains on the Circle Line & Downtown Line to Bayfront Station to directly access Marina Bay sands.
4. If you are driving, visit on a weekday evening. Park at Singapore Flyer after 6pm for only $2 per entry!
ROUTE WE TOOK
We started off at Singapore Flyer because Matthias loved looking at the giant Ferris wheel and parking was also cheap. The kids were amazing by the lights and sheer size of the wheel!
We took a 15 minute walk from the flyer across a small section of the F1 track towards the Youth Olympic park which connects Marina Bay Sands via the Helix Bridge (World’s first curved double helix bridge). Along they way, you'll get to see beautiful cityscapes and Singapore's icons such as the Art/Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands, The Merlion, Fullerton Hotel and the Esplanade. After enjoying the enchanting views of the bay, we spent the rest of our evening in Marina Bay Sands.
FUN THINGS TO DO
1. The kids will enjoy the Digital Light Canvas display! It is an interactive light canvas display where the screens on the floor respond to your footsteps and touch. The display is accompanied by music and a giant light sculpture above. Since its Christmas time soon, the light sculpture displays a crystal tree.
Do note they charge S$5 (free for children under 2 years old and FutureWorld: Where art Meets Science ticket holders)
2. Window shopping in a mall like The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is pretty intriguing for young and old. Its a luxury mall and the shops do put in a lot of effort in their shop displays. The kids were surprisingly quiet while we walked around. I guess they were feasting their eyes on all the shiny, glitzy glamour. Matthias the foodie was particularly interested in how the chefs were making dumplings at Ding Tai Fung Restaurant.
3. The highlight of the night was a light, music and water show at the event plaza along the promenade! It happens every evening and is free of charge! Do try to get to the event plaza 10 minutes before show time to get a seat because it can get quite crowded. Don't get too close to the front because you can get wet from the fountain spray and the music is pretty loud too.
Sunday to Thursday – 8:00pm and 9:00pm
Friday & Saturday – 8:00pm, 9:00pm and 10:00pm
WE ARE BACK! Haven't had the chance to blog because I was nursing a bad cough/fever and Debra had to run the business and care for the kids while I recovered.
We had a rare day off and took the opportunity to head across the causeway to Johor Bahru, Malaysia!
A short background write up for our overseas readers:
Singapore is an Island in South East Asia connected to southern tip of peninsula Malaysia by two bridges. The nearest state to Singapore is Johor. Singapore and Malaysia were British Colonies for more than 140 years. Singapore was briefly a state in Malaysia (1963-1965), was expelled and both countries have been independent nations ever since. However, both countries still have many things in common and one of them is the love for food!
We love heading across the border into Malaysia as a family. Johor Bahru, the city centre of the state of Johor offers many amazing tasty treats. Somehow in all the development, Malaysia has retained the old charm of street food feeling that Singapore has lost.
It is the first time since Gwyneth was born that we set out to have food outside of the malls. She now has some teeth and takes to adult food pretty well. We decided to try some Wonton Noodles!
Wonton/Wanton/Wantan Noodles are basically meat dumpling + noodles + Char Siew (roasted pork) and leafy vegetables in a tasty broth/sauce. The name wonton means dumpling in Cantonese.
You can find a long list of awesome Wonton noodle shops in Johor Bahru HERE
We decided on Restoran Yit Foh Wanton Mee because we were all really hungry and didn't want to drive for too long after crossing the border.
Address: 153, Jalan Harimau, Taman Century, 80250 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Opens: 830am to 4am daily
We ordered 3 plates of Wonton Noodles in large, medium and small portions. We also ordered a size dish of deep fried wontons (dumplings) and two drinks. It only cost us RM30 (S$10, USD7.20) for the entire meal! If you are visiting Malaysia, you must try street/shop house food away from the huge malls and touristy places! These are the real gems of local cuisine.
Noodles: Springy, bouncy noodles that were light and very delicious!
Char Siew (Roasted Pork): The meat was soft and tasty! It did however lack the deep roast flavours
Wonton: The dumpling skin and meat both tasted soft and succulent. Pair it with some pickled green chili to get that awesome flavour punch!
Fried Wonton: Crispy and tasted as good as the wonton in the soup! Pair it with the red chili sauce to get some spicy dumpling kick!
You can choose if you want the noodles spicy or not. South-East Asians typically love our food spicy! Our kids have not developed that love for spiciness in their food and so we got them the non-spicy version.
Matthias and Gwyneth thoroughly enjoyed their meal and that made us really happy too! It felt great to be away from usual crowded air-conditioned malls! No fancy stuff, just a simple hearty, tasty and affordable meal.
We are already looking forward to the next trip across the causeway!
Like what you read?
Read other amazing posts on:
The Odd Life
I find myself standing at the kitchen sink for extended periods throughout the day washing dirty dishes, bottles and cups. "What am I doing?" I often ask myself.
"Shouldn't I be out there making big bucks?"
"Isn't this the woman's duty?"
"I'm doing my wife a favour by HELPING HER with the chores and kids!"
I am sure many men out there have such thoughts. Somehow many of us still have that 19th century mindset stuck in us. Even though men are generally more involved these days, there is still an expectation that domestic and child-rearing duties are primarily the woman's.
I've heard guys proudly declare that they "help" their wives with domestic chores and "help to take care of the child". While it may sound like these guys are being kind and understanding, it highlights a fundamental belief that domestic and child-rearing duties are not part of a man's core responsibilities.
"It is increasingly more difficult to make families work.
The old days where women care for kids/house and the men bring home the bacon are long gone. More than 61% of families in the United States and 65% in Singapore are dual income families. It is no longer feasible to expect one parent to assume all domestic and child-rearing duties. The immense pressure will breed depression, unhappiness and even result in broken families.
In this day and age, how can we make families work?
1. Both parents embrace the children's needs as their core responsibility
2. Both husband and wife embrace the domestic duties as their core responsibility
3. Being a working parent that understands the stay-home parent is not an employee and does not get any annual leave, sick leave or renumeration.
4. Embrace the fact that working does not excuse us from child-rearing/domestic duties.
Why does this work?
When all hands are on deck and everyone works as a team, the burden is shared. When both parents are involved, children grow better and stronger bonds form. It really isn't all gloom and doom being a responsible parent/spouse. I thoroughly enjoyed being personally involved and having first-hand experience of raising my children. These are experiences you'll never get again, so embrace responsibility today!
Different people will tell you a million different ways of how you SHOULD raise your child. When Debra and I first had Matthias our first born, we were often upset by how many conflicting "facts" everyone was throwing at us.
We decided it was too confusing and at times too illogical to listen to these "facts".
We went head with these CONTROVERSIAL parenting choices (and got a lot of stick for it)
#1 We chose to stop breastfeeding the child
Both our little ones were formula fed by the 5th day. We stopped entirely after one month of VERY VERY difficult breastfeeding. Insufficient supply and a very hungry baby meant that we had almost no sleep. Debra was at times in tears and visibly stressed. Don't let people make you feel less of a mom because you are unable to breastfeed for any reason. Both our children are neither sickly nor unintelligent despite being formula fed. They will be fine!
#2 We chose baby led weaning and toilet training
It is very common to hear people go on about how early they managed to get their children off diapers or start eating solids. Let us be reminded that every child is DIFFERENT. Every child grows differently. We allowed our boy to be on diapers through the night until he was close to 4 years old. We took our time and looked out for his readiness. There is no need to rush or feel inferior for nothing getting your child to achieve a milestone.
#3 We chose to let our kids watch tv at 8 months
Yes, we put our kids in front of the TV at 8 months old. We did our due diligence and only allowed them to watch Baby TV and other programmes that are AGE APPROPRIATE. TV time is controlled and determined by us. Our children have no issues with learning or focus. They do get a daily dose of TV but they are NOT given a phone or an iPad to watch whatever they want. You will have to determine what you are comfortable with giving your child. You will have to observe their behaviour and ensure they form healthy habits and relationships around screens/media.
We tried so hard to help him remember the letters and sounds using books and flashcards to no avail. Matthias learnt his phonics entirely from a song played on Baby TV. Good content and monitored usage of screens/media can lead to good outcomes!
#4 We chose to give our kids McDonald's
You can read our full article on giving your child McDonald's HERE
We got quite a bit of stick for giving our children "trash" and "unhealthy" food. We enjoy McDonalds together regularly and we hit the football field to work out the calories as well! It ultimately boils down to a balanced diet and personal choice. ALL of us enjoy a trip to McDonald's and it is an awesome bonding time for us!
#5 We chose to spank our children
Yes you read it right. We SPANK them with a cane. It isn't something we do on a daily basis but we felt that there are times when a child has to be spanked. A child has to learn that a time-out, a lecture, having things taken away, losing a privilege are all part of the discipline package. Spanking is reserved for extraordinarily rebellious "crimes".
Abuse happens when we lose control and want to "get back" at them. Spank responsibly out of love and not out of anger. We believe that spanking for a children between 2 and 6 is effective when used properly. The pain registers the message better than a lecture at that intellectual age. Any older, they should be able to understand a good lecture and learn from other forms of punishment.
We found that the best way to parent your child is to do your own research, trust your gut, experiment and learn from your mistakes!
At the end of the day, all parents want their children to be happy, safe and have a good attitude. As long as our choices are guiding our children towards that, we shouldn't be worried nor guilty!
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.