Friday, July 15, 2016

Parenting with Love: Raising a Responsible Child

Suppose your kid forgot about some homework and you found out about it. Your kid is either asleep or is preparing to go to bed. Do you:

a) Get your child to do (either going to bed later or waking your child up earlier the next day)
b) Write a note to the teacher to explain
c) Let it be and let your child deal with it OR
d) Do the work for him/her

Some weeks back, the kiddo shared with me that a classmate was scolded because the teacher discovered that one of the classmate's parents did the child's homework for her. Needless to say, the teacher was livid and well, the class "heard" about the incident.

Since Primary One, I have reached out on my own accord, to set up a What'sapp chat group with the kiddo's classmates' parents. I have previously read an article where the parent's choice was not to be in such a group because she wants her child to be responsible for her own learning and homework. I understand and respect that.

For me, the Whatspp group has been useful in other ways - a mum has reached out to share with me that her daughter has shared Dumpling cried in class ("so is she ok?") where I did not even hear it from her or one of them emailed the teachers to ask about for e.g. test format (not elaborated in the schedule) where the information was really useful.

Of course the kiddo forgets her homework once in a while and what I'd do is to prompt her instead of just telling her that she left something out.

Now, for the quiz above, I have deployed (C) where she had to explain to the teacher on her own. Tough love.

This is also where I have realised that children these days are growing up with an "entitled" mindset (and yes, Dumpling too)! They do not see that they need to be responsible or take ownership of their work or live with the consequences of a bad decision as they have someone to fall back on. And being based in Singapore, I know that there are many family nucleus with working parents where we often turn to employing lived-in helpers to assist us mainly with household chores, meal preparation as well as care giving.

It's a double-edged sword. In my case, while having a helper allows me to have the time to spend with Dumpling and concentrate on things such as school work / play dates, etc., it has also led her to be dependent on having a helper to assist her with many things - e.g. packing of bag and clearing of laundry (when she was younger), help with household chores, etc.

In my journey to continue with my effort on raising a responsible child, here are some suggestions:

1) Baby steps
Start with age appropriate household chores where your child is able to succeed in and gradually work up from there. Here's a great chart which I saw on my FB feed:

Chores by Age from Thirty Handmade Days

While the kiddo does not sweep / vacuum, she clears her own laundry, packs her own bag (takes nagging), helps to clear the dishes and feed the pets. Additionally, the kiddo is also tasked with showering J, our Singapore Special. That was one of the conditions we raised when she wanted to adopt a dog and till now, she's been keeping to her end of the bargain.

2) Equipping them with the skills 
Besides starting small, children do need guidance in learning to be independent; often we need to equip them with the skills. For e.g. Dumpling is pretty much on her own when it comes to spelling and ting xie 听写, and also for Show and Tell. Of course she did not start out independent. What I did was to show her how she is to study and test herself is:

- read the sentence(s)
- look at the words to see / digest how it is written
- cover
- attempt &
- check

I have realised that by getting her to take ownership of her learning and testing herself, she recalls the words better as opposed to us pointing out the mistakes and highlighting where the mistakes are. We have the same experience with her Show and Tell too.

3) Let them make bad decisions 
Dumpling, during her P1 days, became close friends with a classmate, D. From the other mums and sometimes from Dumpling, it seems like the child has had many run-ins with their form teacher where she does not do her work, display some "attitude" issues like rolling her eyes, etc. and has displayed some work ethics issues too.

Frankly, I was concerned about her friendship with that girl but I bit held tongue.

A few months ago Dumpling called me from home and was in tears. Her name, along with the D's were written on the white board where they were said to be talking. Dumpling insisted that she did not but was reading a book instead. So D told Dumpling to erase away the name on the whiteboard which Dumpling did, in a moment of anger and retaliation. Interestingly, she did not erase her name but D's. She later realised her folly and wrote it back but of course, the form teacher did not take too kindly and punished the girls.

When the teacher asked D if she had told Dumpling to erase it, D said no. Dumpling was shocked and really hurt and I guess at her age, she has not faced any "politics" so she took it quite bad. It was a hard lesson learnt.

4) Let them live with the consequences
Following on from the quiz, Dumping has forgotten to submit her homework before and she has also forgotten to bring work back to complete.

As she was new to Primary school in P1, I helped her out once where I drove home and sent the book down for her. But I made it clear that was the only time and I would not do it again.So yes, despite that I know of some work that the kiddo has to do, I do not remind her all the time and there have been instances where she forgot and was reprimanded. She was naturally upset that I did not "bail" her out but I stuck to my guns and she has also learnt to be honest where she would tell the teachers she had forgotten and not lie about it too.

5) Modelling it and associating this to real life scenarios
Children learn through observations and even at this age, I am very mindful of what I say and how I handle things in front of her. E.g. I clear my own plates and bowls despite having a helper and she does the same thing too.

I also share my challenges at work and how I tackle them and work my way around them. For e.g. I sometimes vet copies numerous times and I will link this back to her checking of her school work. Despite the fact that I am bored up to my ears and how badly my toes would cringe after proof reading like 101 times, I still have to do it as that is my responsibility as an employee to the company. I find that after I have shared that even I face such "challenges", she is usually more receptive.

It is still a "work-in-progress" of course and yes, the kid does whine about some stuff has even commented that I am a "horrid mum", I stuck to my guns and still let her "fall" and make very obvious mistakes. My view on this is simple: sometimes lessons are meant to be lived through, so that they learn.
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