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Survivng Fight Club (or ‘How to Handle Sibling Conflicts’)

November 5, 2013


I shared in an earlier post how the kids are fighting every day, and how it’s come to a point I am seeing blood.

So what does a mother do when the fighting start? How much conflict should she tolerate? When should a mother intervene, and how does she do that?

In this post, I share three principles Fatherkao and I abide by.

Rule #1 Don’t get involved

It is common for siblings to disagree, squabble and fight. I remember what Dr Kevin Leman says in his book Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours that when children fight, they are actually “cooperating with each other”:

“It seems odd to call fighting an act of cooperation, but that is exactly what is happening. It is extremely difficult to get a fight going with only one person.”

He goes on to say that the best way to handle this is to give the children what they want. If they want to fight, let them. Our right as parents is to say where and under what conditions they can fight – in a room elsewhere, at the backyard, away from everyone so that it does not interfere with the peace and welfare of others in the home. He also mentions one thing which I see happening when the kids fight.

“Their fighting, for the most part, was designed to get the parents needlessly involved in their hassles. The sooner parents learn to stay out of their children’s hassles the sooner they will teach their children greater responsibility and accountability.”

I couldn’t agree more. My job as a mother is not to eliminate conflict and rivalry between siblings. Conflict at home  is natural. My job is to help each child resolve his or her conflicts in a positive way and build psychological muscles for dealing with the realities of life. So when I see a fight starting, I usually order the kids to take it elsewhere, out of my sight. I shoo them into the room, close the door and say, “Resolve the matter. Come out when you’re done.”

And you know what? Most of the time, they immediately say, “We don’t want to fight anymore, Mama.”

Rule #2 Step in only when there’s a danger of physical harm

Following Rule #1 doesn’t mean that I encourage my kids to fight. I see it as an opportunity for them to resolve their conflicts without me as their audience. The problem with always intervening is that you risk creating other problems. The kids may start expecting help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own. One kid would also feel more “protected” than another, and that would inadvertently make the kid feel he or she can get away with things, while at the same time stirring up sentiments of resentment in the other kid who is not “rescued”.

But if there’s a threat of physical harm, there’s a need to call the shots. Sometimes one child may pick a fight with another who is totally outmatched in size and strength. Sometimes a child may be provoked so badly by name calling and taunting he loses control and smacks the one provoking him. Sometimes a child may use things to hurl at another as an act of retaliation. These have all happened (and more – pushing and shoving and biting and kicking, yes, all and more) and I have had to clean up the sometimes very bloody battlefield with a very broken heart. This is when all involved in the battle gets a time-out and a swipe of the cane on their bums. This is when I insist that nobody is right and everybody is wrong and they all kiss and make up. Fatherkao sometimes insists that they think of three things to do to show love to each other, especially to the one injured.

So no matter how bad they feel or how angry they are, when the adults intervene, it usually means that they will be forced to hug, kiss and say “I love you.”

Rule #3 Let reality be their teacher

This one is a little difficult to follow. I’m always more inclined to protect the kids and make excuses for their misbehaviour – he must be tired, she feels neglected, this only happened twice – but thankfully, my partner in parenting, i.e. the other parent, is someone who stands quite firm and is more principled than I am. This rule we have at home is inspired by Dr Kevin Leman, who coined the term “reality discipline” which basically means to let nature take its course. And when nature doesn’t take care of the problem, the parents help nature along. The fundamental idea is to not rescue your kids from the consequences of failed responsibility. You allow life lessons and experiences to teach your children while they are still at home under your loving authority. Parents should not hover (like helicopters) or rule autocratically but authoritatively guide and direct them in a loving relationship.

I’m still learning to do this, and am consciously looking out for ways to teach the children. Recently, a fight broke out between Ben and Nat. Nat was perceived to be attempting to destroy something Ben has built, when actually he was just ruled by curiosity and driven by the need to explore. Ben obviously doesn’t understand developmental milestones, got upset and swung a plastic bucket (the sandcastle type) at him. What he didn’t know was that that bucket had a crack and the broken piece which was jutting out cut Nat on the flesh just below his eye.

This was the perfect opportunity to apply Rule #3. Fatherkao calmly took Ben to a corner, ordered for a time out and put on a blindfold for him. We thanked God that Nat was not wounded fatally but needed Ben to understand what it would be like if his eye was injured. So he went around not being able to see during dinnertime, all the way till it was almost bedtime. In fact, he ate his dinner blindfolded.

We didn’t lecture, didn’t scold, didn’t cane. In fact, credit goes to my husband who remained so calm it made me a little embarrassed (I had earlier gone hysterical but held my tongue from screaming at Ben).

Part of reality discipline: teaching Ben what it's like if he's lost his sight

Part of reality discipline: teaching Ben what it’s like if he’s lost his sight

There you have it. Three things that I try to remember when the fights begin at home. By the way, there’s gonna be Rule #4 come the day I can find boxing gloves their size. It’ll be “Make kids put on boxing gloves”. 

Family life as we know it Parenting 101 The Kao Kids

Grilles, at last!

October 25, 2013

We’ve finally succumbed. To the superior force otherwise also known as Nat-who-throw-things-out-of-the-window.

Yes, we’ve finally installed window grilles in the house.

We’ve never had grilles for the 9 years we’ve been living in this place. Our home without window grilles appear brighter and more spacious. When there’s a perceived abundance of spaciousness, the inhabitants are happier.

Or so we thought.

The older kids never had the problem. If they attempted to climb onto the ledge to see what’s outside the window, Mr Cane always fixed this problem. Then they quickly got the idea that foot on ledge equals pain and they quickly stopped. Whenever they wanted to look out, they looked out through the bottom glass window panes.

Then Nat came along and changed everything. No matter how we warned, spanked and caned, he doesn’t get it. He would bounce his balls so high they flew out of the window. He would volley his balloons and they would drift out one by one. He’s even thrown paper down, and I had to scamper downstairs with Ben and Becks to pick them all up. Worst of all, no matter how hard he was smacked, he would still put his foot on the ledge. I would have to write a post about him entering his Terrible Twos soon, because every day with him now is about him testing every boundary there is.

We figured we need to install grilles before I get arrested for killer litter.

So when we chanced upon Le Gate at the Baby Fair at the Expo, we quickly made arrangements for them to come. They specialise in “invisible grilles” which, in my opinion, are pretty affordable. We thought their grilles looked much better than those conventional gaudy ones, and so we hurried them to come and fix the grilles for us. We paid less than $500 to install  and mount these invisible grilles of 3″ gaps (made of stainless steel wire rods) for the living room, dining room and kids’ room.

So here is how the house looks like, before and after grilles:

No grilles




And now, the adults in this house can finally can take a vision break whenever the children are in the living room. To heck with the perceived spaciousness, I say. This certainly makes the inhabitants (namely me, Fatherkao and the helper) much happier.

No need to scamper downstairs to pick things up. Or to yell at the little one for foot on the ledge anymore.


Becks Kao Ben Kao Family life as we know it Parenting 101

The strangeness (and kindness) of strangers

October 9, 2013

My kids are well trained in Stranger Education. They are wary by nature, so it’s not difficult at all to teach them the basics. Never talk to strangers. Say hi only when Mom and Dad tell you to. Familiar faces around our estate are ok – you can wave or smile or say hi, but never tell them where you live or open the door to let them in. Never accept chocolates and candies from people you don’t know. Never follow anyone who tells you that he knows your mother or father. If anyone tries to take you by force, scream as loud as you can.

The kids still get waved at and Nat gets stroked and touched by random strangers a lot, especially when we are on board the bus on our way to and from school. I usually tell them to be polite and smile because it would make their day, especially the old folks that try to befriend them. But they usually go, Huh why… they are strangers what.

Today, on the way to school, an old man who was sitting opposite us on a single decker bus couldn’t stop waving at Becks. He was unkempt and had the most eerie toothless grin. Becks was, of course, beyond horrified and refused to look at him. I didn’t insist she smile or wave. I made her and Ben put on their sunglasses and look out of the window.

Very unfriendly mother here, I know.

When we were preparing to alight, the man was still waving. He kept smiling and his toothless grin was now beyond eerie. It was annoying. We got down the bus, and boy, was I glad for sunglasses.

When we reached kindy, Ben exclaimed that he had lost his toy cow. He’s been taking one animal from his stash of animal toys to school every day to show his Chinese teacher because he’s learning about animals this term. I know it is a bad idea – to allow a four-year-old to be always bringing something to school – but I couldn’t deny him of that enthusiasm he suddenly found in learning Chinese. So I let him bring one out, provided he held on to it and not lose it.

We searched for the cow in his bag and couldn’t find it. He must have left it on the bus! I proceeded with a lecture on taking care of things and expressed my anger at his irresponsibility. So off to school he went, and in a huff I left, only to meet the same toothless, eerily-grinning old uncle as I crossed the road. He smiled at me and this time, he waved and spoke. He said he found the toy which we left behind and passed it to someone in the church. He asked me to hurry back to get it. I thanked him and asked if he had specially alighted and walked all the way back just to return Ben’s toy. He smiled and said in Mandarin, “It’s ok, I can wait for another bus.”

I ran back with the baby. There was no one in sight back at the kindy. I searched for the cleaners who usually sat at the pews facing the road – nope, no one around. Then from a distance, I saw Ben’s toy cow standing on a table, in the middle of nowhere. There it was, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.

When I left the kindy the second time, I walked past the uncle again who was still waiting for a bus. He had alighted, walked a bus stop back just to return a masak masak that belonged to a child he didn’t know (who has a mother that judged his appearance and sister who didn’t wave back). I apologised for his inconvenience and thanked him again. He said he found the toy after we alighted and thought my child would definitely want it back. And so he did what he did.

And I did what I had to do. I made Nat call him ‘Uncle’ and had the baby hi-five him to make his day. I hope it made his, because the kindness in his strangeness certainly made mine.


(Self) Examination Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training

Vicious cycle, virtuous cycle

May 28, 2013

I have been running kind of low on fuel lately, largely because I’m sort of stuck in this rut of a vicious cycle:

Vicious cycle

I can’t pinpoint how this all started. Probably at Point Tired Mother. I’m still nursing the youngest at 15 months at least twice a night, picking up the bolster for her royal highness in the middle of the night whenever it rolls off the bed (lest her fits become full blown bratty tantrums), and being awakened ever so often by long conversations Ben has with himself in his sleep. These days, his dreams are also in Chinese, which is totally amusing to listen to.

Actually, I’m also sleep-deprived because I have been catching up on drama serials and reading blogs, e-magazines and articles on my fb news feed because I feel like such a total loser being out of touch with this world after stopping work for three months. After a whole day of talking to kids and doing kids’ stuff, the urge to be back in the adult world couldn’t be greater and stronger.

And something awful happens every time I clock less than 6 hours of sleep. I start to grow alligator jaws.

Then I run the household the next day snapping at everyone that annoys me and going batshitcrazy, barking and hollering at the kids from breakfast to tuck-in.

Well, I did try going Orange Rhino on myself. There’s been good days. And then there were also MANY days I failed miserably.

So, as I feel utterly defeated in this mothering endeavour, I find myself having to deal with incessant mom guilt and wanting to escape. I start shutting myself off from the kids. It’s not rocket science to know what would follow: kids running on an empty (love) tank start seeking attention from Mama who’s not available emotionally, and sometimes even mentally and physically.

The poor kids start crying out for L.O.V.E. in their worst behaviour. Kids don’t put on their best when they are deprived.

There you have it. This is how I got stuck in this rut. Is this also a good time to say “FML”?


A few days ago, I had an epiphany. What if the starting point isn’t Tired Mother? What if the starting point had all along been the fact that I wasn’t convinced that everyday the kids need 100% of me?

What if I fixed that?

What if I quit looking at the phone and iPad, give them lots of eye contact and just be with them?

I’m thinking, perhaps, just perhaps, the bad behaviour, rowdiness, restlessness and attention-seeking antics would gradually diminish into non-existence, and that may just be my way out of this rut.

Into this virtuous cycle:

Virtuous cycle

I started giving more of myself today than yesterday with Ben, Becks and Nat at breakfast, at play, while homelearning, and at tuck-in.

Today, I connected with the kids a wee bit more, instead of performing routine tasks.

Today, I held my tongue from barking and judging, and listened a little more than what I used to.

Today, I decided I will be present in their lives. To give them my 100%.

I think I should make this decision every day.

(Self) Examination Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training

Taking the Orange Rhino Challenge, well, sort of…

May 15, 2013

These days I’m yelling considerably lesser than before, and I think I have the Orange Rhino  to thank. She’s a mother of four who initiated the Orange Rhino Challenge and made a commitment to going 365 days without yelling. I think she’s already at her 461st day as I am writing this.

When I first heard about it, I said to myself, “This is not for me. I’m never going to make it past Day 1.”

I had meant to brush this impossible challenge aside like a silly joke but the image of an orange rhinoceros keeps coming back to bug me. Every day.

Then I would hear a voice in my head, saying, “Take the challenge. Surprise yourself.”

I know deep down, I want to manage the anger. I want to NOT yell. I want to be a cool, composed mother. But how is it possible not to yell? I’ve been yelling to be heard. Yelling so the kids know I mean business. Yelling to get them to do my bidding.

Now I know it’s hard to believe that a mother who loves her kids would yell on a daily basis, but trust me, when you’re with them 24/7, some snapping and verbal whacking is bound to take place.

If there’s a way out, can the orange rhino really show me the way?

So I checked out more details of the challenge online and have been very enlightened by the Orange Rhino “Yelling Meter” and inspired by the stories of mothers who have successfully stopped yelling.

And thanks to the detailed definition of yelling by the Orange Rhino, ever since a week ago, I have been consciously attempting to stay at Levels 0 to 4 everyday, using the everyday voice (0), the whisper (1), the re-direct voice (2), the firm voice (3) and if need be, the sharp, “oopsie snap” voice (4).

I’ve not actually committed to the challenge yet, with the signing up on facebook and all. I don’t even have a target. I’m not so ambitious to go yell-free for 30 days, much less for 365 days straight.

For starters, I just want to go through every day not letting myself get to Levels 5, 6 and 7, which is when things get unpleasant with the nasty snap, the yell, the raging scream.

And this is what I’ve been doing to help myself reduce yelling occurrences. Whenever I’m on the verge of getting to the nasty snap or the murderous screaming, I force myself to take a three minute time-out. While on time-out (usually in the bathroom), this is what I think about:

Timeout reflections

And when I really breathe and take a step back to think about it, most of the time, I’m the one with the problem, not the kids. Not enough sleep resulting in extreme irritability, utter lack of patience, unreasonable expectations, not scaffolding enough for learning to take place, being too much of a perfectionist and sweating the small stuff, having the raging PMS hormones and being too overwhelmed  –  these are all the real reasons why I snap. These are my triggers for yelling.

What’s amazing is, the more I tell myself these three things, the more I find myself feeling ridiculously stupid for even getting angry with my kids for whatever reasons I got angry about. The more I found myself in a state of feeling ridiculously stupid for being angry, the more I want to stop yelling. And now, whenever I find myself fuming from Level 4 to 5 to 6 to 7, I take a deep breath and say some of these things to myself:

“Hey, Motherkao. Build the relationship first before you wanna be a stickler about the rules.”

“Remember, they are children. Children think this way. Children need to be taught and trained.”

“You need to let children be children.”

“These are my kids.”

“I am here for them. I am here to help them. If I don’t, no one else would.”

I’m not quite ready to be an orange rhino yet, and there’s a lot of practising to do, but I’m taking these baby steps to staying calm and composed in these maddeningly crazy days. What I really, really want to be is to be a great mom to my kids. And I know yelling at them will never help me achieve that.

So I’ll try to yell less, one day at a time. Today’s been looking good, so far.

Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training

“You born number what huh?” – Birth Order 101

May 8, 2013

I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the Birth Order Guy, but he’s one expert that I’ve been consulting a lot these days.

You see, this guy (God bless you richly, Dr Leman!) is a psychologist, award-winning author and seasoned counselor with years of research experience on birth order, and how birth order affects personality, marriage, relationships, parenting style and children. He’ll tell you that your birth order can play a significant part in your success and your personality, and generally the direction of your life; that your birth order affects the way you parent your child; and even go as far to offer insight as to which birth order pairs make the perfect pairing in marriage. (Fatherkao, if you’re reading this, do you know Dr Leman says “first born plus first born equals power struggle”? That explains a lot of things huh! Haha.)

So I’ve been in this situation lately where it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that all three of my children are distinctively and remarkably different, and I badly need to know how to parent my three kids effectively, and meaningfully, according to their bents.

Kao Kids_Personality traits by birth order

Very clearly, these kids need to be parented in different ways, and understood accordingly. I need to break out of a one-size-fits-all mother mould.

Parenting The Firstborn

If Ben didn’t have siblings, he’d be the firstborn and only child. He had fatherkao and I all to himself for the first 18 months of his life and our undivided attention. Probably explains a lot about the whining, complaining and comparing. Deep down, I know he still wishes to be the only baby in the family.

#1 : With Ben, I must try not to be an “Improver”. As the firstborn, he already feels the need to be perfect in every way. He is eager to please and keen on making things right so we can be happy. I must learn not to add pressure and unreasonable expectations to feed that perfectionistic streak he might already have.

This is what Dr Leman gives as an example:

“For instance, let’s say you ask your oldest son to make his bed. Being a firstborn he will, of course, seek your approval and want you to see the finished task. If you tell him it looks good but then proceed to fluff the pillow and straighten out wrinkles in the bedspread, you send the message that he could have done better.”

#2 : Take Two-On-One Time:  Firstborns often feel that parents don’t pay much attention to them because they’re always concentrating on the younger ones in the family. They often enjoy adult company more than any other child in the family, and respond to adult company better. One tip for parenting the firstborn is to make a special effort to get the firstborn to go out with dad and mum alone; this means we must try to make time to be with Ben exclusively – just the three of us.

Parenting The Middle Child

This is a tricky one, and the trickiest bit in parenting, in my opinion. I’ve never had an easy time with my middle child, and because the difference between the middle child and the firstborn can manifest in so many ways, even the experts will tell you it’s a whole new level altogether to parent the middle one. I guess if I never had the last kid, Becks would never experience the middle child syndrome; but since we have three and I can’t change this fact, it’s important that I learn (even if it’s for an entire lifetime) how to handle her.

#1 : Middle children tend to avoid sharing how they really feel. And Becks is less direct in expressing her thoughts. She uses crying and tantrums a lot, and calms down only when attention is given. Even then, she doesn’t share much. The Birth Order Guy has this to say:

“Although it’s important to set aside time to talk to all of your children, it’s particularly important to make this happen with the middle child because he is least likely to insist on his fair share of time.

#2 : Empowerment is important for the middle child so she can feel special. This will help alleviate feelings of always being overshadowed by older and younger siblings. Becks likes to feel important (and I’m sure we all do!), and we need to let her make some decisions for the family so she can feel a sense of significance. I’m going to start with letting her decide what the family would eat for dessert and what fruit she and her brother would bring to school for Tuesday’s Fruit Day.

Parenting The Lastborn

My littlest knows he is the baby of the family. He acts like it and at 15 months, is showing signs of using this knowledge to his advantage to get away with things. He plays well with his siblings but expects (yes, you’re right, he expects) all of us to give in to him. And yes, he often gets his way.

#1 : With the lastborn, I need to stick to the rules because the older ones are watching me closely. The same rules for discipline apply to him as to the older ones, age appropriate, of course.

#2 : When he gets older, he needs to be given responsibilities, as well as be duly applauded for his accomplishments. Lastborns often wind up with less to do around the house and are well known for feeling that nothing they do is important. They are the happy-go-lucky sort, so it’s important to instill a sense of responsibility to help them establish significance.

Someone once said that the deeper the understanding of the nuances of personality, the better a teacher, guardian or parent can specifically guide, respond and support our children towards the fulfillment of the purpose for which they were conceived. I want to do just that, so that everyday, I can be a better mum.

P.S: Of course, nobody likes to hear that something that’s beyond our control (our birth order, that is) can somewhat determine so many aspects of our lives, but understanding general personality traits both of myself and my children by birth order can greatly speed up this process of figuring them out, and how to be appropriate. I am never one to subscribe to stereotypes, and will always look out for exceptions in my kids as I parent them.

Parenting 101

Motherkao’s three DO NOTs

April 18, 2013

I’ve come up with three ‘DO NOTs’ for the kids.

Three golden rules

I’ve had enough of being annoyed and vexed everyday, and sounding like the naggiest nagger of the century. I’m frustrated that I’m always yelling. So today, I looked Ben and Becks in the eye and said, “From now on, every time I give instructions, you must remember the three ‘DO NOTs’.

1) Do not ask why

Both Ben and Becks have this habit of asking why for everything now, and they usually ask for the sake of asking, and not because they genuinely want to find out about things. I’m training them to ask more intelligent questions, and also throwing each ‘why’ back at them if I feel they are fully capable of giving me the answer. And I have officially declared that when it comes to instructions, they are not allowed to ask why. On a daily basis, this is what they sometimes do to me:

Me: It’s 10 o’clock. Get changed to go to school.

Ben: Why?


Me: Come here and brush your teeth now.

Becks: Why?


In these two instances, there is no ‘because’. I often make the mistake of explaining to the children why they need to do what they need to do, but that, I realized, is not training them. I mean, why should I explain the reason for holding my hand when we cross the road, or why they need to take my word for what it is and follow my instructions in times of danger? The Nazi mum in me says they need to follow without questioning. I need instant obedience.

2) Do not say no

The other bad, bad habit is their reflex response of saying no to every single thing they are asked to do. In true militant style, I’m making them learn to say ‘Yes, Mama’ and not ‘No’.

I can say, “Come and drink some barley”, and they can go, “No, I don’t want”. I mean, did I give them an option? If they don’t learn to say yes to me, how are they going to learn submission and obedience to other forms of authority later in life? Imagine the primary school teacher go, “Draw a two-finger spacing margin” and my son says “I don’t want”. Epic fail in parenting.

3) Do not make me wait

Sometimes, they don’t ask why and they don’t say no. They simply ignore an instruction or disregard what I say. And I repeat it. And I repeat it. And I repeat it. And I repeat it. THEN I HOLLER. THEN I BLOW MY TOP!! This is such a stupid trap I fall into, so I’ve given them the order not to wait to respond to me. When I count to three, things must happen. They must come if I call. They must say ‘Yes, Mama’.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Onward with more child training this week with my three golden rules!

Bento Attempts Parenting 101 The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids

A nugget of junk

January 21, 2013

I’m not sure if I’m winning or losing the mealtime battle. It’s getting a little complicated.

Although portions still go unfinished and I end up spoonfeeding almost 99% of all their meals at home, the kids have shown me some things that have shocked me:

They would choose Cheerios over Honey Stars, anytime. (For the uninitiated, Cheerios have no taste. It’s just bland multigrain cereal. Honey Stars are sweet, and taste like, erm, honey.)

They finish cherry tomatoes by the tens in seconds.

They love broccoli, cauliflower and edamame.

They’ve tried curry and like it.

They’ll eat fries, yes they would, but would automatically stop at the tenth or eleventh fry handed to them.

Just last weekend, I thought I’d prepare something special and indulge them a little. I made angelhair aglio olio with salted butter, ham, bacon and tomatoes. I baked salmon with some rosemary and olive oil. I reheated a ready-made pack of clam chowder. I toasted some chicken nuggets and even made a guacamole dip for that.

Dinner epic fail

I’d thought they would gun for the nuggets and ask for more. To my surprise, the cheddar cheese on the pasta was finished first, followed by the cherry tomatoes. The salmon was overcooked so it wasn’t too popular. The clam chowder was slurped in a jiffy. Ben tried the dip and declared he wasn’t a fan. They struggled to finish their portion of the angelhair pasta and they did manage to finish their carbs with the ham and bacon after almost forty-five minutes of spoonfeeding. But what was most surprising was that both of them refused to bite into the chicken nugget. They’ve tried nuggets before and the last was at the Christmas party at their school. But this time round, they were gagging and saying no vehemently. Jamie Oliver would be proud.

I don’t believe it, my kids rejected nuggets.

So tell me, is this battle won or lost? They aren’t eating the variety and the portions I would like them to, but hey, they’re rejecting junk. That should be good news eh?

Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training Reading fun

Good reads #2: How to Really Love Your Child

January 18, 2013

Our copy of this book is pretty dog-eared and crumpled. It’s also been tagged much, with a fair bit of highlighting. Since Ben was born, fatherkao and I have been reading and rereading this book, which was given to us by a dear friend who was blessed by it.

Layout 1This book is loaded with plenty of useful and practical information on how to genuinely love and discipline our children so that we can establish a love-bond relationship with them.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the book:

1) On the foundation of all parent-child relationships: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – real love is unconditional and must be our guiding light in child rearing.

2) How to put feelings of love into action #1 – showing love through eye contact. Eye contact is one of the main sources of a child’s emotional nurturing. Use eye contact to convey unconditional love.

3) How to put feelings of love into action #2 – showing love through physical contact. Don’t touch your children only when necessity demands it. Physical contact goes also beyond hugs and kisses. It’s in simple everyday things like gently poking the ribs, tousling their hair and patting their shoulders. These are ways to assure a child’s emotional security. Dr Campbell says we need to “incorporate physical and eye contact in all our everyday dealings with children” and this can be done naturally and comfortably. Children growing up in a home where parents use eye and physical contact will be comfortable with themselves and other people. These two gifts of love are the most effective ways to fill a child’s emotional tank and enable the child to be the best he or she can be.

3)  How to put feelings of love into action #3 – showing love through focused attention. Focused attention is giving a child full, undivided attention in such a way that the child feels without doubt completely loved; that the child is valuable enough in his or her own right to warrant parents’ undistracted watchfulness, appreciation and uncompromsing regard. In short, focused attention makes a child feel like the most important person in the world in his or her parent’s eyes. How can we do that? Prioritise, watch for unexpected opportunities, schedule and plan. These moments are “investment in the future, especially the years of adolescence” and is the “most powerful means of keeping a child’s emotional tank full”.

4) On discipline: Discipline is done in love and it’s about training the child in the way he should go. How well a child responds to discipline depends primarily on how much the child feels loved and accepted.

5) On loving discipline: When our child misbehaves, we must ask ourselves, “What does this child need?” The tendency is for us to ask, “What can I do to correct this child’s behaviour?” Only when we we ask ourselves the first question can we proceed logically from there. Only then can we take care of the misbehaviour, give what the child needs and permit the child to feel genuinely loved. The next step is to ask ourselves, “Does the child need eye contact? Physical contact? Focused attention?” In short, does the emotional tank need filling? We must first need these needs and should not continue to correct a child’s behaviour until we have met these emotional needs.

Here’s what I caught from the heart of the author:

There’s a lot to digest and understand from the nuggets of truth and advice shared in this book – and they all have to be understood at the heart level and not the head level. I know a million and one things what to do and what not to do in my mind; but this book cannot be read with the mind alone.

Three things from the book really stuck with me. Number one, the marriage must be ok. The “prerequisite of good child rearing” is the most important relationship in the family, which is the marital relationship. “Both the quality of the parent-child bond and the child’s security largely depend on the quality of the marital bond.” So often, this bond gets weaker as the demands of child rearing intensify through the child’s growing years. Yet, it is this very bond that provides the most effective setting for raising a child.

Number two, children are much more emotional than cognitive. They, therefore, remember feelings much more readily than facts. They remember how they felt in a particular situation much more easily than they can remember the details of what went on.

Number three, seize moments of opportunity to love. If you’ve missed one, you’ve missed one. So always be on the look out for more and try not to miss any!

Learning all these have helped an often guilt-ridden, frustrated, task-focused and controlling mother like me to transfer the heartfelt love in my heart to little seemingly insignificant actions to love my children. I’m still learning, and there’s so much more to learn. May this year be a year of greater learning to really love them all.