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Becks Kao Happy days Milestones and growing up Re: learning and child training

This little girl of mine (and it’s got to do with nail polish again)

February 6, 2015

So you’ve read that I finally relented and relaxed my standards when it comes to nail polish for my little girl.

Last month, I did the unthinkable.

During one of our mother-and-daughter dates out, I brought Becks to a place that would satisfy her curiosity and gratify her desires.

I didn’t want to do the usual let’s go eat and walk around gig with her for our “Special Time”. I thought this would be a good opportunity to show her that Mama doesn’t go for a pedicure (or manicure) to ONLY put colour on her nails. I wanted her to see that sometimes, we pay the professionals to do some grooming for us, like scrubbing the calluses off our soles, trimming in-growns and scrubbing our elbows.

And so I let her experience that for herself.

Becks and Mama Date Night 1

The ladies there were shocked, of course. I don’t think any mom has ever brought a little girl this young to to do a full two-hour spa pedicure and manicure. They said moms bring their girls to get nail polish, and that’s it. Becks got a lot of attention that evening, since the place was located right smacked in a mall where human traffic was ongoing. People pointed, people squealed, and I am sure some moms who uphold moral perfection balked. I know I would, if it was me a month ago.

You didn’t want your daughter to be vain, and now you’re showing her how to be more vain?

No, I didn’t think I was teaching or showing her to embrace vanity more; on the contrary, besides telling her ever so often that beauty comes from a kind heart, I was teaching her on our date that we don’t just colour our nails with markers and highlighters or do nail art with stickers and stamps. We groom ourselves, and we do it right by taking care of every part with respect.

Becks and Mama Date Night 2

Becks and Mama Date Night 3

Becks and Mama Date Night 4

Becks and Mama Date Night 6

Becks and Mama Date Night 5

That night, she saw how the jie-jies cleaned and scrubbed and trim and cut, and even though she did eventually get nail polish on (which I removed the next day in time for school), she learned a precious lesson.

“Mama, we clean ourselves properly. Cannot anyhow draw on our nails.”

That’s one sensible girl, and one happy Mama.

Becks Kao Ben Kao Going Out! Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Re: learning and child training

What my kids caught which can never be taught when it poured

November 2, 2014

One of the perks of being a blogger, at least for me these days, besides getting the usual media invites for events and product samples for review, is to be invited to exercise.

Which by the way, is great, because I so need to do so.

We were invited by the good people at SPRG (the same good folks that invited me to participate in the Great Eastern Women’s Run as an influencer) to join in the inaugural Hello Kitty Run 2014 at Sentosa as part of the feline character’s 40th birthday celebration here in Singapore. Since Becks, my little girl, is such a fan, they say.

But it’s 5km! I say. Her royal highness is not going to be able to make a 5km-run, not when her mother hasn’t even done her maiden 5 clicks yet.

It’s a FUN run, they say. And it’s perfectly ok if we walked and enjoyed the scenery.

So we said ok. Because her royal highness is such a fan, and she got excited by the thought of being in a run with me. And with Hello Kitty, or so she thinks.

And so we joined 17, 000 other fans yesterday at Sentosa, to participate in the first run of our lives together – me, Becks and Ben.

Hello Kitty’s mega 40th birthday surprise comprised a bouquet of flowers presented by Dear Daniel, a 33 inch cupcake and a birthday song sung to her by all 17,000 race participants. (Image Credit: SPRG)

Hello Kitty’s mega 40th birthday surprise comprised a bouquet of flowers
presented by Dear Daniel, a 33 inch cupcake and a birthday song sung to her
by all 17,000 race participants. (Image Credit: SPRG)

It was a madding crowd, I tell you. Local and overseas fans turned up in full force – men, women, boys, girls alike – tattooed with red ribbons and donning everything that screamed Hello Kitty from headbands and spectacles to shoes and shimmering pink skirts.

Sandwiched all the the way at the back in the huge crowd - but first, a wefie! (Look at her royal highness' grumpy face - too hot and stuffy, she says)

Sandwiched all the the way at the back in the huge crowd – but first, a wefie! (Look at her royal highness’ grumpy face – too hot and stuffy, she says)

We had to be flagged off in waves because there was such a swelling human crowd. The jostling and heat, plus the threat of a stampede, were just too much to bear.

Just look at how crazily packed it was at the starting line.

17 thousand people, folks. This is how it looked like! (Image Credit: SPRG)

17 thousand people, folks. This was how it looked like! (Image Credit: SPRG)

And then the terrible happened.

This was how the sky looked when we finally got close enough to the starting line

This was how the sky looked when we finally got close enough to the starting line

And there were still a whole lot of people in front of us!

Look at the dark clouds covering the skies. And there were still a whole lot of people in front of us!

The moment the fourth wave was flagged off (and that was us), the rain started pelting heavily on us.

It was like all the Chinese compositions we’ve ever written in school that always read “突然间下了倾盆大雨… 我们都像落汤鸡一样” came to life (loosely translated: suddenly, it rained cats and dogs and we looked bedraggled like drowned rats).

And I was torn between running back to seek shelter and hailing a cab home from Vivocity or continue walking in the rain with my five-year-old and four-year-old. So many people with young children were walking past us with their kids and babies strapped in carriers and strollers in the opposite direction anyway. Nobody would blame us for not being able to continue the race.

I was also very worried about the kids catching a cold. They have never, ever been drenched like this in their lives, and if they ever got wet because they were at water playgrounds, we always made sure that there was a warm shower facility and fresh change of clothes available. I didn’t have a brolly or poncho in my bag. I had packed light for the run – there was only a water bottle, two hand towels and two singlets to change out in my bag, plus keys and some money.

I stopped with the kids to hide under some bushes near Sentosa Gateway and asked the kids a few questions to gather information about their state so I could make a more informed decision:

Me: The rain doesn’t look like it would stop. It may get heavier and we would soon be wet to our socks, shoes and underwear. Shall we run back?

Ben and Becks: *silence*

Me: If we run back now, we can make our way home. Then we won’t be so wet.

Ben: But you said if we start a race, we finish it. That’s what people do when they race?

Me: Yep, I did say that whether we are comfortable or uncomfortable, wet or dry, we don’t give up once we start. But it’s a long way ahead. Sure you want to continue in this?

Becks: I don’t want to go home. I want to continue.

Me: Ben?

Ben: Yes, continue. We don’t give up.

Me: Alright, let’s press on to get our medals.

Ben & Becks: Continue! *with a glint in their eyes and smile on their face*

And so the decision was made. We continued to have a similar conversation in the rain at the 800m mark, the 1.6m water point and the 2.4km toilet break, and every time I would ask, “Shall we seek shelter? Can we take a break? Shall we wait till the rain becomes a lighter drizzle?” and the answer from my two determined children would still be the same.

“Let’s continue,” they would say. “Let’s not give up.”

And never did we stop once in our 5-km walk to hide from the rain or to rest our tired legs or to whine. Ben and Becks saw it as a chance of a lifetime to be indulging in free flow water play, and I saw that they were considerably cheerier as compared to the looks on their faces while we waited in the heat for the race to start.

They were happy to be skipping in the rain, wringing out water from their shirts and splashing in puddles.

Playing with raindrops at our toilet break near Palawan Beach

Playing with raindrops at our toilet break near Palawan Beach

My bag was soaked through and there would be no more dry clothes and towels, but was so glad I had a ziploc bag for my phone - hence this photo!

My bag was soaked through and there would be no more dry clothes and towels, but was so glad I had a ziploc bag for my phone – hence this photo!

The rain made being in the race uncomfortable physically for all of us but it lifted the spirits of these children.

Around the 1km slope uphill we also experienced kindness. A lady walked past us as we chanted “Never give up!” and swiftly removed the towel Ben had on his head with a beret she was wearing. Without saying a word, she waved goodbye and we were left to savour the act of kindness speechless in the rain.

What an awesome moment. Which I am sure would be remembered by Ben for a long time.

We also experienced kindness at the Sapphire Pavillion after the finish line from three lovely ladies who helped me protect my kids from the squashing and mayhem that was unfolding before our eyes as everyone pushed and shoved to collect their medals. Because it was still pouring and the only way to exchange our race bibs for our medals was in leylong style (the organisers should have thought of a more systematic way to queue, or maybe they did but everyone was in such dire need of shelter that they just kept packing the space resulting in the human jam), the kids and I were compressed by the people all around us till it got difficult to breathe. It was then we meet three friends who helped us out. Two of them formed a human cordon around my children and the last one grabbed our race bibs and edged forward to exchange for the medals on our behalf.

For that I remain forever grateful to the good Samaritans I met last morning.

Last morning, I was reminded of Philippians 3:14. We were literally pressing on towards the goal to reach for the prize.

Last morning, my children learned something that can never be taught by words nor bought by attending an enrichment class.

And we finished the race!

And we finished the race!

Last morning, they walked all 5km of a race from start to finish on their own. No strollers. No carrying. No breaks.

Last morning, they learned what it meant to never give up, and that the medal was every bit the prize they had worked hard for that they deserved.

It would have been otherwise difficult to learn this precious lesson had it not been for Hello Kitty and the rain that fell on us.

Our well-deserved medal!

Our well-deserved medal!

Disclosure: We were give media slots to participate in the Hello Kitty Run 2014. All opinions here are ours, including the lesson we learned and the exercise opportunity we gained. We endured wet clothes, shoes, socks and underwear to bring you this post. 

Ben Kao Milestones and growing up Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training

Diaper-FREE, totally!

September 20, 2014

I’m celebrating a huge, huge milestone today.

Ben, my five-and-a-half-year-old firstborn, has gone without diapers at night for 2 weeks successfully now. That meant that the last time he wore one was, well, really his last time.

I know in terms of milestones, my boy’s hitting it a little late. I’ve got close friends and fellow moms I know whose sons and daughters have gone without their diapers since three or four years old. Their kids, I hear, would just magically shed their diapers and not pass a drop of wee at night. Either that or possess this amazing ability to sleepwalk to the toilet, do their business, and go back to bed without waking a single soul.

As a mom, these stories inspire me, and tempts me to pressure my son into performing to my expectations. And then I read somewhere that pressure might totally backfire on me, and I decided to take a more nurturing approach to this.

So, when it came to toilet training at night, I embraced only ONE principle. I tell my son, “Only when you’re ready, kid.”

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to get him ready. Since a year ago, I switched those night velcro diapers to pull-up pants and attempted to brainwash Ben to think they were underwear. Every night when I put on those pants diapers for him, I would nag him to remember and imagine that he was still wearing his underwear, and he could wake up, pull these “underwear” down and do a wee like he did in the day.

Who was I kidding? The brainwashing wasn’t successful a single bit. And every night he would still pee in those “underwear”.

Then I came up with a reward system. For every dry diaper I get in the morning, he would get a ‘good-job’ sticker. I told him if he could get 3 within a month, he would be found at the toy store to pick a reward for himself.

Epic fail again there, that one. Every morning, his diaper was so wet and full you could ball it up and use it to strike 10 bowling pins in an alley.

I’ve also tried waking him up to do a wee at midnight. That usually meant he would have had three hours of rest before being awakened. Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t wish to subject myself to such a torture, because he would get so upset he would start crying.

Which meant that the other two would have their sleep disturbed as well if Ben started crying. If Nat was disturbed, I ended up having to nurse him again to calm him. If Becks got rudely awakened in her sleep, oh, God help us all. She would be even more difficult to placate because she would scream the house down and get started with those unstoppable leg-kicking.

Goddamit. I was the one who got no sleep with this midnight-do-a-pee business.

So for a while, I forgot about the whole night toilet training business, and it was, forget it, let’s not stress it. 

I still encourage him to try going without his night diaper once in a while. And whenever I got resistance from him, I’d say, “It’s ok, son. Don’t worry. Try when you want to try.”

And them suddenly, five months shy of his 6th birthday, Ben says he doesn’t want to wear those pull-ups anymore. Suddenly, his stomach had the capacity to take in more food during dinner – which meant he didn’t need to drink milk before he slept. Suddenly, he was able to exercise self-control in not drinking water after 8pm. And just so suddenly, he was mature enough to shake off those emotions that came along with discomfort and wake up at midnight to do a wee without a whine.

And he was ready.

Ready in every sense of the word. Ready to take on this challenge like a big boy. Ready to show the world that he’s a champ.

I’m so glad we didn’t pressure him or make demands. And now he gets to share this pride and sense of accomplishment which would otherwise be lost if we hurried him.

So proud of you, my son. Tis’ a big, big milestone for a big, big boy!

Ben at Five

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training The Kao Kids What to Expect... As a Mother

Parenting at 5, 3-half and 2 (Part 2)

June 9, 2014

It’s incredible what parenting does to you. You can feel a host of extreme emotions – like that of guilt and elation, anger and love, and fatigue and enthusiasm – all on the same day, and sometimes, almost at the same time.

That’s what parenting my 5-year-old Ben, 3-turning-4 Becks and 2-year-old Nat is doing to me.

My littlest exasperates every single day. Without fail. With his mischief and antics. Like sticking the Yakult straw in his ear and wailing non stop for ten minutes in shock and pain. Or aiming his p-part at me to do a wee on me like a rain shower while I bathe him. Or picking things up from the garbage and stuffing his mouth silly with whatever he thinks is edible and having me chase him around the house to stop him. I always feel I have a combo Speedy Gonazales, Tazmanian Devil and Bart Simpson on the loose with him.

Some people whom I recently met commented I’ve lost quite a lot of weight. I think I lost them all by sighing a hundred times a day and chasing after Nat who is thinking up mischief every waking minute of his life.

Hunky Nat

But he is also, at two years of age, the most endearing child of the three. He cries for you, laughs with you, hugs you with no restraints, and tries with all he has to bring a smile across your face. You can ask for a hug or ten kisses and you get them, with no questions asked. His clingy-ness is unbearable on days when I am exhausted but incredibly heartwarming despite that tiredness.

Sporty Nat

This is my boy at two.


His brother, on the other hand, is growing up a little faster than I had prepared myself for. But who am I kidding? I don’t think any mother is prepared for her child to grow up.

Ben is now often immersed in his own little world, talking and pretend playing with himself, his animal figurines, his Transformers and Lego people. His vocabulary is extensive, often a close imitation and mish mash of what he hears the adults say. He is sensitive and shows his emotions freely, and is now more a person who is eager to please and to be accepted.

It’s all about solving his own problems, working things out by himself and trying his best with him now.

Yea, that’s my eldest. My firstborn. My big darling that’s going through this phase of self-discovery right now.

Sporty Ben


The little girl. Ah, my princess. The one who is getting more girly as days pass. She now wants long hair. She loves dresses. She adores having hair clips and hair ties on her hair and pesters me to comb her hair every day. She has ‘babies’ and loves to play mommy. She even hides in a corner to nurse them, feed them and talk to them.

Yes, this little girl. I don’t know what happened to that tomboy.

Princess Becks

Becks is turning 4 next month and is looking quite the stunner with those pretty big eyes and icy smile. Every day, she’s discovering a whole new world and learning what it means to be her own person in it; complete with learning how to handle – and control – her emotions and tantrums. She’s learning that she’s not two anymore, and we’re not going to be accepting bratty hissy fits like we used to put up with when she was in her Terrible Twos. As she begins to understand what is expected of her as she grows up, my darling girl is also blossoming beautifully – both inside and outside.

My little girl Becks


We’re not so much done with growing pains and this is very much the beginning. I’m learning too that my life, as a mother and a person, must not and should not stop as I parent these children, and that I too, must grow, learn, unlearn and relearn to always be appropriate – as opposed to being redundant – in their lives.

The Kao Kids

Close encounters with the maid kind Family life as we know it Milestones and growing up Re: learning and child training The Kao Kids The real supermom Thunderstorm days

An unexpected trickle of happiness (nope, not because the new maid is here)

May 2, 2014

I’m bone tired and beyond exhausted, but you know what?

I’m actually very, very happy.

I’ll tell you why I’m happy. First reason.

My kids. It’s beginning to look like they are going to be well-trained.

The new helper was sent back a few days ago, and other than witnessing on the same day their mother morphing into a monster and militant ready for combat right before their eyes – complete with aggressive hollering, arms flailing and the crazy quivering; oh yes, and the often sung refrain at 140 decibels equivalent to a jet plane take-off “I AM ONLY ONE PERSON, THERE’S NO MORE AUNTY OK!”, the kids are pretty much well-adjusted to the fact that there’s only one pair of adult hands, eyes and feet in the day, at least before their father returns.

I think that seeing me react so violently under the stress of suddenly needing to handle everything alone from the moment we wake till the minute everyone hits the sack made Ben and Becks realise that things can’t be what they used to be any more.

The afternoon the helper left, we came home and I started putting things in order. I tidied up, I bathed them, I gave instructions clearly and I prepared dinner. Then we had dinner – and they had to eat every single thing I cooked with no complaints, I washed the dishes, prepped everything ready for school the next day, cleaned them up and tucked them in bed. Things didn’t go smoothly, of course. Nat stuck a Yakult straw in his ear. Someone left the tap running while I got busy. Becks left some pee on the toilet seat. Ben splashed water everywhere showering himself. They made faces at the meal I cooked. Crayons were strewn all over the living room floor. My legs were hugged while I was stir-frying. Nat begged to be nursed while kitchen fumes filled the house. Becks whined for an apple while I was chopping garlic. Nat tried to reach for knives. I could list 50 more things that happened but I don’t want to bore. Basically just three words: the kids happened.

But in the midst of the chaos, the kids happened! Ben took on his role as big brother readily and (sometimes) helped me watch and distract the mischievous littlest. They asked how they could help and by the end of the day we were all at the sink, with me doing the washing and the kids drying the plates and cutlery. All three of them, yes! They promised to help more. They offered to make less of a mess when they played or coloured or drew. They agreed to respond quickly to my commands so that I don’t have to turn into something ugly and start yelling.

By the second day, they were offering help in every way – from folding the clothes to picking up eraser dust and handing me the clothes pegs. They moved quickly when I called, got ready for school without needing help with socks and shoes. They carried their bags and heavy water bottles with no whining, and brought everything back to the sink whenever they were done with drinking and eating. We cleaned up in record time – Lego blocks were picked up and sorted, books were returned to the shelves and crayons back in the basket on the easel.

A mountain to conquer!

We conquered mountains (of clothes) together

When we headed out, they held hands and told me not to worry.

The car was at the mechanic and we were bus-ing to school - and this happened!

The car was at the mechanic and we were bus-ing to school – and this happened!

Can somebody first give me a pat on the back before applauding for these kids?

I’ll tell you the second reason why I’m happy.

The maid’s departure gave me a chance to be my totally OCD self. She came, whirled through my kitchen and made a big mess with my children’s wardrobe. Now that she’s gone, I singlehandedly sorted and organised my children’s clothes – sleepwear, underwear, home wear, going out wear, swimwear – and even managed to categorise everything according to clothes type, colour and size. I turned every single spoon, fork and chopstick in the cutlery tray in the same direction, bundled bedsheets by sets, cleaned out the fridge for expired items and hung out the laundry the way my OCD self would be happy doing. I’m a strange person to be feeling merry just rolling socks the way I want them paired and scrubbing toilets with just one toothbrush, but yes, I am merrily, merrily doing all these.

Now, this is what I’ve been dreaming about, albeit with much muscle ache and terribly wrinkled hands – a house in order at last.

Just proves one point: who’s the BEST maid for my house?


But that doesn’t mean I am not going to decide against hiring a helper. I’m bone tired and beyond exhausted, remember?

I think this absence of a domestic helper is doing the kids who have been taking many things for granted a whole lot of good. We’ve got two weeks to shape up before a new one comes and I have a feeling we’ll be doing even better by then – to the point that we’ll have a relationship with her that’s interdependent and not dependent, and that is the third reason why I’m happy.

(Self) Examination Re: learning and child training Thunderstorm days

A wreck, that’s what I am

January 28, 2014

A wreck that's what I am

January has been a month of nonsense, noise and a whole bull-load of no-no-nos.

Almost every day, I live to fight a thousand and one fires. No kidding. I’m sure if I counted them, they would add up to a thousand and one more than a thousand and one.

That plus having to deal with so much nonsense from every single kid in the house that comes with the fighting, bickering, squabbling, crying; on top of my yellling, hollering and hyperventilating, in addition to the youngest in his Terrible Two stage saying ‘no’ to every-friggin’-possible-thing to say no to, making a mess of any-friggin’-possible-thing to make a mess of (just lately: our Waldo books and graded readers have been torn, the Immunped on the kitchen top has been shattered to pieces with one swift throw, the toilet paper in the bathrooms have been shredded and stuffed in the toilet bowls, just to mention a few) and the middle child regressing to join the youngest in his Terrible Two phase, thinking it must be the cleverest way to also get some attention.

Almost every day, walls and body parts get colour-markered, paper of all sorts from receipts to tissues and kitchen towels get shredded, and everything from books to toy cars to pillows and spoons litter the house. The middle child recently taught the youngest how to cut up rubber bands to make ‘pasta’ and the littlest has discovered the flush of the toilet bowl. The oldest is facing quite a bit of pressure from me to do more learning than playing and there have been far too many days of meltdowns and tantrums that also happen on his end (and I thought we were over that stage). The youngest is dishing out mischief every waking minute it’s becoming unbearable: think taking out poop filled diapers and running round the house butt naked, rummaging my wardrobe to wear ten panties and a bra over his head and smearing the dining table with the ketchup you give him to dip his sotong balls in and then his own face and his hands and legs, and then you. The three are also fighting so much they would mortally wound each other, literally with swords, clubs and Nerf guns. They absolutely love to bicker and pull the na-na-nee-boo-boo stunt on one another it would often result in a shouting match and lots of tears. During bath times (and because I bathe them together) they would spit water at one another, fight for the shower head only to drench me silly and eat soap.

Every day at meal times, the middle kid has regressed to a point of neediness that she demands to be fed or else. And the or else comes in the form of hell I get at 2am, 4am and 6am when she wakes up, screams her way for milk in a bottle and I go FML at her throughout the night. The youngest is giving me so many problems at meal times not wanting to sit still to eat and behaving like the brattiest person of his age on Planet Earth and goes “Mama milk…Mama milk!” with every single toss and turn while he sleeps. I am still nursing this 23 month old big baby with such an absolute sense of helplessness every night so that he shuts up and stops waking the family. I feel so sorry for my overworked boobs. The only saving grace is my eldest who’s taken on the role of the moral policeman, policing his brother and sister when they misbehave and going to the store room to take Mr Cane out (for me) so I can mete out punishment. His enthusiasm to end the craziness at meal times is commendable, which also means only one out of three does well during breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It’s an understatement to say that I am exhausted.

I am beyond exhausted. Why is it so exhausting to stay home with these kids?

When I was teaching in a school, I felt bad leaving my kids in childcare and have them taught and “raised” by their childcare minders while I teach and “raise” the kids at school like my own. Now that I am home with them, I’m often left to fend off the thought of wanting to go back to the old routine. At least I am getting paid and won’t be living in fear everyday of losing my sanity.

These days, I yell so much I think I’m going mad.

On days like these, I also snap at my husband and blame him for the fact that we did three kids in four years. What the hell were we thinking? What was I thinking? How is it that my life is so crazy? Why did he even think I can survive staying home? This is so batshitstressful it’s all his fault. Poor guy, I know he has your sympathy already. This man has to work so hard in the day and comes home to a wife with flailing arms and incessant complaining about how tough her job is.

How do people with more than three kids do it? I’m about to just worship the ground you walk if you have three kids back to back and more. Or if you have triplets or quadruplets or two pairs or more pairs of twins. Sometimes I wish Ben, Becks and Nat were triplets and perhaps life might be easier than this. At least they are of the same age and would go through their developmental milestones at the same time and this birth order thing wouldn’t be such a big thing in influencing their temperaments.

I’m not going to end this post with a revelation that I should Carpe Diem! and that I have realised that despite all the challenges, these are small things if I look at the big picture and come to a realisation that some day they wouldn’t need me / they would grow up / they would remember their childhood / they would appreciate that their mother stayed home. I have none of these epiphanies yet. Yes, yes, I know I must count my blessings and that I do have three beautiful lovely children – but I ain’t gonna end this post with a conclusion that I’ve had it all made when actually I’m:

a) really crumbling

b) finding myself a wreck on most days

c) completely exhausted by this mothering gig at this stage of my children’s life

d) all of the above

It’s tough.

It’s crazy.

Life’s a bitch sometimes.


I don’t know how I make it through each day.

BUT in all these, His strength will be made perfect in my weakness.

Parenting 101 Re: learning and child training The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids Thunderstorm days What to Expect... As a Mother

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”. 

(Self) Examination Ben Kao Mommy guilt Re: learning and child training

Four is a tricky number

August 29, 2013

The fourth birthday brings with it a whole new set of challenges to parenting. Raising a four-year-old is tiring business in motherhood.

The tantrums and meltdowns have returned, but unlike those tantrums that we’ve seen and heard during the Terrible Twos – they are now “emo” tantrums, which are much much more easily triggered by small, insignificant things.

Ben has become the resident “emo” guy in the house. When things don’t go his way, when he perceived that he’s being bullied, when he feels a sense of unfairness – he goes to a corner of the house, folds his arms, and sulks. Sometimes in his sulking, he mumbles gibberish to himself. When I check on him and ask what he’s saying, he tells me with resentment in his face, “Nothing.”

When he is disciplined – and usually for disobedience and bullying his siblings – he becomes ten times more “emo”. I hardly use the cane to discipline him; usually a time-out would suffice. And while at time-out, he does the you-don’t-love-me-anymore and pulls the wailing nobody-cares-about-me stunt on me. He whimpers and sobs in his most pathetic, and I have to admit, it sounds so pitiful that it breaks my heart. For him, the physical separation of needing to sit apart from everyone in solitude drives him nuts and he gets very emotional about it.

I have a very sensitive firstborn, I tell you.

Then there’s the incessant questioning and the unwillingness to listen. Every minute he’s thinking of questions to ask and he’s asking even while you’re answering the first question. He’s not listening to your answers; he just wants to keep asking all the questions popping in his head. I sometimes get very annoyed because he keeps asking questions for the sake of asking, and I turn Tiger Mom on him and make him repeat all my answers to all his questions just so that he would listen and not irritate the hell of out me for questioning for questioning’s sake. There are also days when I go “I don’t know” on him, and unfortunately for me, I’m now reaping what I sowed because lately, he’s been using “I don’t know” on me whenever I quiz him about what he learned in school, how he slept the night before, and all the other questions parked under the mothering-my-child category.


Four years old is an age of contradictions.

He waffles between insecurity and wanting to exert his independence. He talks about conquering the world, yet, shies away socially and loses that bravado at times. He makes up lots of stories, and stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the difference between fact and fiction – which becomes really tricky when I’m trying to teach him academically. I find it very hard to teach him Science stuff cos’ he’ll insist what he imagines to be right – and this again frustrates me a lot. He can be very demanding (how come you don’t know all the answers, Mama?) but also eagerly cooperative and helpful, rude one moment but also very sorry and sweet the next , and incredibly selfish, yet sensitive and sympathetic at times.

I’ve been very much a ferocious Tiger Mom these days when it comes to my four-year-old. He seems to have this innate ability to push me to the outer edge of my patience. I turn into a growling and critical mother who over-reacts every time he does what he does best – being a four-year-old. I’m frustrated, angry and drained almost every day.


But I didn’t write this post to only detail the challenges of raising a four-year-old. More than that, I’m writing to remind myself to look beyond the challenges that come with raising children at every stage that I am blessed with a four-year-old who’s curious about the world, enthusiastic about life, brimming with energy and experiencing all sorts of emotions that’s part of growing up. I’m writing to remind myself that beyond wishing that this too shall pass, to remember the now – the now that I may never get to see after the fifth birthday is celebrated and the candles are blown out – and not get too caught up in the daily grind and seeing mothering my four-year-old as a big task to accomplish.

I’m writing this to remind myself because Ben feels that I don’t love him anymore. He just told me that on the bus on our way to kindergarten. He says,”I don’t know” when I asked him if he knew that I loved him very much. That broke my heart. What he feels matter, and I have, in a bid to parent him with all the challenges that come, managed to work him like a big task to accomplish and forgotten that this boy has feelings too. When I blow it, holler at him and overreact, I push him away; I forget that he’s just being four.

I have busied myself with trying to cope with him being four (and his sister being three, and the impending Terrible Two that’s approaching with Nat) for too long that I’ve forgotten to love. To love him for who he is. Just like I’ve done when he was one year old, two, and three. And to roll with life’s punches and adapt as motherhood presents new challenges. Not react all the time and alienate the ones I wish to be firmly attached to for the rest of our lives.

Six more months before he blows out five candles. Six more month to love him while he is still four.

Re: learning and child training What to Expect... As a Mother

Pressing on at 6 months

August 22, 2013


It’s been half a year since I’ve traded those beautifully tailored shift dresses (languishing now with dust in the walk-in) for t-shirts and shorts, and pretty heels (which must be growing mould right now in the shoe cabinet) for flip flops. I no longer get salary credited to my bank account the 12th of every month and am existing at a state of subsisting.

It has been helluva six exhausting months. I still have meltdowns once a month on the average. The learning curve’s been steep. I didn’t stay home with one kid, then went on to have my second and third. I stayed home with all three at their most whiny, sticky, wimpy and needy. I had to learn to be patient, do everything myself (with the helper), learn to teach each child, differentiate their learning and deal with those horrible feelings that come with lack. The lack that is of energy, time, money, space and sometimes, love – on my end.

I have to learn to bite the bullet. Every day.

Recently, a friend casually asked me if I’ve been doing well staying home and if I was ready to throw in the towel and return back to work. “So, is it rewarding?” my friend asked.

I’m not experiencing the rewarding feeling yet, and I don’t see any tangible rewards for now; all I can say is that it’s been very challenging.

As the kids grow and move from milestone to milestone, they change. They have different needs. Different emotional needs, social needs, physical needs and learning needs. At the beginning of the year, Becks was still in her Terrible Two stage, Ben was a boy with truckloads of unanswered questions in his head, and Nat was still very much a baby. Six months on, the little girl is throwing fewer tantrums and the eldest is asking more sensible and intelligent questions. But they are also now joining forces to fire questions at me and squabbling non-stop and quarrelling over the pettiest thing. They sing this stupid na-na-nee-boo-boo song and verbally fight over who’s first / taller / bigger / stronger / better / faster every single day. The littlest is also joining in when he can by screaming his head off at them. He’s now at the worst of his separation anxiety and is up to mischief I’ve never witnessed in Ben and Becks. He is everywhere and cheekily naughty every waking minute it takes at least two adults to keep him out of trouble. Think stealing food from bowls not his, throwing things out of the window, graffitising our walls and hiding Lego pieces in crevices and corners of the house.

Then there’s their learning that I find the most challenging. If I had one kid – oh gosh, easy peasy! There’s the world to explore with the child and I can do so many things with him – prep loads of activity sheets, tell endless stories, join in the play. C’mon bring it on! Now, even doing meaningful learning at home is getting tougher. Someone’s perpetually stuck to my left hip or needs to sit on my lap. Someone’s bored doing three-year-old things and someone’s feeling overwhelmed learning with a four-year-old. One-to-one time with me is always interrupted and disturbed. Sometimes I don’t even know if time spent learning with me is fruitful or not, with me feeling exasperated all the time. I join the dots with Ben to practise our counting and I find Becks and Nat tearing tissue paper in the room. I read to Nat and the kids are all around screaming the story in his ear and answering the questions I rhetorically ask to get him interested. I teach Becks the letters of the alphabet and Ben hovers around, with Nat monkeying in the background. I know I should have better crowd control and I don’t really know how to do it without hollering my lungs out. That, is the real challenge – to train them to be engaged, to help them learn when to be appropriate and to teach them to be focused.

It’s been half a year and I’m still finding my groove to this stay-home gig. I’m not about to put on a dusty dress and mouldy shoes for now and return to work yet. I’m hoping that staying home, with its unending challenges, can be more rewarding sooner.

Now, to continue biting the bullet.

Ben Kao Homelearning fun Learning fun! Milestones and growing up Re: learning and child training

Learning hiccups at four half: selective memory?

July 23, 2013

Lately, it’s been quite frustrating teaching Ben. He seems unfocused and is having trouble learning how to read. His memory also seems to fail him at times, and all these has gotten me pretty worried.

I’ve always known him to be someone with excellent memory. I mean, are you kidding me? This boy can rattle off the names of the characters in Mike the Knight just by watching one episode, can remember all the promises you made him and which day he gets his privileges. When he was in childcare, he knows everyone’s names in his class (English, Chinese and first names) and is the only in school who could at three years old.

I seriously don’t think he’s got bad memory.

What I think is the problem? Selective memory, methinks, especially when it comes to what he wishes to remember in academic learning.

For example, he can be writing a simple word 15 times in his jotter book and still not be able to spell the word immediately after. Every day, after kindy, when I ask him to tell me one thing he’s learned at school, he would have problems recalling. Sometimes, he would even make it up. But I am his mother, and I know the look in his eyes whenever he’s not telling me the truth. So I’d call his bluff, game’s over, and he would have to try harder to recall at least one thing he’s learned. It’s a brain exercise I make him do every day without fail on the bus. I just don’t get it – he remembers what he had for lunch in school but just can’t tell me ONE thing he’s been taught! Perhaps he wasn’t paying attention in class. Which could also explain why he doesn’t remember.

It gets even more frustrating when I try to get him to read. He’s already learned to blend words using the phonics way and has also learned to read some words by sight. Sight word reading has also been quite frustrating to teach so far. And far too often, when left on his own to read a book, he gives up quickly, closes the book in haste, and declares he doesn’t know how to read it. We’re talking about graded readers here, not some encyclopedic collection explaining the workings of the universe and the properties of matter. Some of these graders have been read and reread to him over months! I know he’s just hoping that when he says ‘I don’t know’ that I’ll read it (again) to him. Which I do. I never passed on an opportunity to read to my children. In fact, I have explored the 50 ways to help a child learn to read! Oh trust me, I have done them most and more!

Just last week, Ben brought a book (a graded reader for his level) home from the school library and we read it together, just like any new book we get our hands on. I taught him the new words in the story (about a family wanting a new dog) and he attempted reading it several times. All was good except that he just couldn’t remember that the boy in the story was called ‘Kipper’. We tried all sorts of ways to make him remember – blending the word, repeating it (almost) a hundred times – in the end, everyone, even Becks knew the boy’s name. Everyone but Ben. Whenever we asked him for the boy’s name, he would say ‘Kim’ or ‘Kimper’. By the third day, I was yelling, “KIPPER!!! HIS NAME IS KIPPER!!!” every time we came to that word.

The new word in the book was ‘Kipper’ but he couldn’t seem to remember it. I think I was more frustrated than he was.

I know it’s all in the training and I am teaching him to have a positive attitude about learning so as to overcome his selective memory. I also try to make learning as fun as possible, but sometimes it’s hard to get by without telling him harshly the importance of being serious and focused. And I definitely need to work harder in my patience department, that’s for sure! If you have any comments on how I can help my child, I’d be glad to hear from you.

Till then, I’m going back to good old simple readers to be read consistently and frequently, and have ordered what I know that has helped thousands of children, me included, all over the world:

Peter&Jane Ladybird Readers

Good ol’ Peter and Jane. He’s going to have to start with Key Words with Peter and Jane, the classical way of learning how to read and write. No more fanciful ‘Kipper’ readers for now.

I am glad to be able to stay home and observe the way my children learn, and discover their strengths and weaknesses. If I were to continue working full-time, these little things would probably go unnoticed. I’m glad for this opportunity (thank you, fatherkao), and am praying for wisdom every day to help the kids learn and realize the fullest of their potential.