Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Parenting & Productivity

Can you really keep your work and family life apart? While it is critical that we commit to meeting the bottomline "at all cost" but is it worth the price we pay?

  • Is it worth the price of a superficial marriage?
  • Is it worth the price of living with rebellious children?
  • Is it worth the price of continuous family conflicts?
Think about it - No amount of success at the work place can compensate for failure at home. Life to be lived successfully must be lived as a whole – that is the root meaning of the word “integrity” – a whole number – a certain wholeness and well being in a person.

What are we seeing in today’s environment? People living fragmented lives!

Instead of having a fundamental “core” to guide them, they are easily drawn by the allure of materialism and propelled by the need to own. It is time that we as responsible employees and parents start to take ownership of what is really important – those dear relationships at home.

It is a funny thing – when my own house is in order, I find that my work life gets right in line as well! When the organizational development efforts of a company start to enrich the family life of the employee, there is then real “asset” investment taking place. Think about it.

Click here to find out more about the PARENTING & PRODUCTIVITY seminar.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Overcrowded Class?

Compared with the class sizes of today, my class in Primary 1 (50 students) in 1975 and Primary 6 (49 students) in 1980 seemed like an over-crowded, unproductive learning environment. Right? Wrong. I was conducting a seminar in a private school today where the average size of the classroom does not exceed 28 students. Now, if the number of students have reduced, shouldn't misbehavior also be reduced by a certain percentage as well? The answer again is Wrong. The fact is - misbehavior and attitude issues have increased!

Cik Raja of Primary 1 has 50 students to teach and I don't recall any major disciplinary issues - yes, we were mischievous at times but she managed to teach (not parent!). This is because I came to the class all ready to learn (courtesy of my mother at home who already instill within me a fear of authority figures - especially women!). It was my responsibility to pay more attention to Cik Raja than the other way round. Today, students come to the class with the expectation to be entertained! A primary school teacher I spoke with two days ago, stated that even visual aids nowadays is not enough, children need animated presentations!

Yes, my class of yesteryear was over-crowded but we came already parented to learn. The class of today is ergonomically-designed but poorly led by teachers and parents who no longer lead the child on the same team. Folks, this is an issue of leadership - specifically, the lack of parenting leadership.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Peers : Pressure or Pleasure?

What we do with our children eventually defines the culture. It is interesting when we notice the youth of today, they hardly reflect the values and tradition of their parents. Why is this so? This is because the child is being "parented" more by peers than their own parents! In the absence a secured parental center, the child has no choice but to turn to their peers for guidance and direction.

How does one build that strong "parenting center"? You begin by reclaiming your position as a moral teacher at home! In the growing up years, the child lacks moral maturity and will be drawn to that which appeals to his want for immediate gratification. That's the reason why peer pressure is so attractive - friends say what the child wants to hear but as a moral teacher, the parent says what the child needs to hear. In your moral capacity at home, you have three roles :
  1. Set the boundaries. Love your child enough to protect. Be wary of what they watch and whom they admire. Freedom is to be given in responsible doses.
  2. Set the example. Nothing backfires a moral effort as a hypocritical life! Your consistent action creates a source of inspiration for the child that no parenting book can ever hope to produce.
  3. Set the standard. Morality is not a relative term. What is your standard of morality? Make sure that you can articulate it clearly to your child. As for my family, the Bible is my yardstick of what's right and wrong. You have to discover yours and then, stick to it. After all, that which is shifting can hardly be called a standard.
Click here to listen to a radio interview on BFM concerning this subject.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Comment : Unimaginative, Obedient Clones?

Ah!... the Asian obsession with discipline. Its only necessary because Asians have failed to be guides and mentors to their children. Instead they would rather force them into the mould "that has been proven and tested" to produce mindless, unimaginative, obedient and (supposedly) respectful clones - (comment from a listener).

I agree. Mentoring is a key parenting responsibility. However, it is the "cart" which should be placed only once the "horse" is in place. A truly mentoring relationship assumes the following :
  1. The mentoree (the one being mentored) is willing and committed to the mentoring process.
  2. The mentor acts from a position of confidence and authority (not frustration and anger).
  3. There is a framework by which consistent value-judgement decisions are made.
The above criteria can only be met if the child has been raised by parents who take an active leadership role in their lives (especially during the primary years of age 3-12). I do not believe in the tabula rasa philosophy where children are assumed to be fundamentally good. In fact, our instinctive experience shows otherwise i.e. more effort needs to be put in to train for good character while the default mode is one of deterioration. So, the early years of child rearing ought to be focused on building the right attitude of respect for authority. Think about it - the very basis of civilized living is based on respect. Respect for life. Respect for possession. Respect for property. Respect for teachers. The list goes on.

Does that mean the child then becomes unimaginative and mindless? On the contrary, an obedient child is a happy child. One who has been trained to live in right relationship with others will focus on a "responsibility" attitude rather than that of an "entitlement" mindset. However, we parents must be mindful not to equate authority with a show of force - abusive use of strength and threats are never justified.

What about creativity? Creativity works best when there is a strong value focus. Let's face it - even a bank robber needs creativity! But what distinguishes a robber from a donor? It is their value-judgement framework. This framework I believe is best built within a relationship of respect for authority structures. In other words, once the heart is in the right place, the skills of the hands find its rightful expression. Again, I cannot over-emphasize the need for a parent to be lovingly authoritative and authoritatively loving. To love without authority leads to permissiveness and to exercise authority without love leads to harshness.

In summary, the "cloning" process is vital if it is focused on building values and good character for this forms the foundation by which the exercise of the skills of creativity will find meaning, purpose and direction. Effective parenting at the end of the day is to set the heart of our child in the right place and when it is, then the mentoring experience becomes a pleasant one. To mentor well, we must first teach diligently. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Authority : Mindless Compliance?

"Authority" appears to be a stifling word in parenting. Aren't we supposed to give freedom of choice and exploration to our child as young as possible so that they can discover their potential and "place in the world"? If freedom of choice and expression brings about greater good - why is there an escalating trend of teenage rebelliousness and aimlessness? It has to do with the focus of the freedom.

True freedom is the power to do what we ought rather than what we want. How then does a child overcome the natural inclination of selfishness and disobedience? It is through the authoritative guidance of the parent. If we as parents do not exercise our authoritative role at home, that mantle of leadership will then be assumed by friends and peers - which then begins the journey where your child is gradually transformed to think and behave more like their peers than their parents. Please don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the child should dress and talk like you but that they should embrace your values and direction for life. Imitation is the highest form of respect. If my child consistently has a higher regard for the opinion of his friend than mine, I know I still have work to do. Here are 5 practical steps you can take to reclaim your role as the rightful authority figure at home :
  1. Communicate Expectations Clearly. A child that is not properly taught has no choice but to misbehave. Avoid generic commands like - "I want you to be good when we go to the store". Instead state it clearly, "I want you to walk next to me all the time when we are in the store and do not touch anything without my permission."
  2. Practice Situational Rehearsals. Avoid disciplining by the seat of your pants. Spend time to rehearse through with your child on the expected behavior before the actual event. Table manners, greeting others respectfully, safety considerations and not interrupting adult conversations are a few example of situations where prior training and instruction may be necessary.
  3. Mean What You Say. A child will test every rule that you set by attempting to get as close to breaking it as possible. This is exactly why you should not discipline a child in anger. Be in control of the enforcement of your verbal warning. Do it. Be consistent. Then your child knows that his parent's word is as good as law. A consistently enforced consequence is the best antitode to parenting by nagging!
  4. Do Not Argue. Children has a tendency to "invite" the parent to argue by asking "Why?" (in a defiant tone). Do not attempt to debate because the focus of that "Why" is already self-centered from the start! State your reasons once and then proceed to enforcement. If a child can be argued into good behavior, then we do not need the law, only lawyers would do!
  5. Relationship Before Correction. A parent who leads best, leads by love. The motivation for exercising our authoritative role at home is to bring order and harmony into the life of the child. Without a prior commitment to a loving relationship, I have no basis for exercising my authority. Without a firm commitment to authoritative guidance, I have no basis for commanding respect. So, really - love and authority are not opposite poles, rather they are both sides of the same coin.
A child who grows up in a family where the parents exercise benevolent leadership is going to be a "mind-ful" adult when he grows up. This is because he has been trained to consider the needs of others first before his own. In short, he knows what it means to show respect to others - isn't respect the key ingredient to what makes a society work? It is when respect is missing, that one grows to become a "mind-less" individual who is so full of himself that others are there just to serve his needs! When I exercise authority at home, I am actually training my child to be much better adjusted to society later on. Think about it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Parenting Seasons : Do You Know Yours?

The birth of a new baby brings great joy .. but beware of centering your attention around the little one for too long! When the child reaches his 3rd birthday, you must be asking yourself the following "leadership litmus" questions :
  1. Do I spend a weekly "date" with the my spouse? Or are all the available time taken up by the child?
  2. Have I started assigning simple chores for the child to do at home? Or am I still serving him from head to toe?
  3. When I come home, who do I run to first? My spouse or my kid?
The first 2 years of a child's life is marked by a season of service. From the 3rd birthday on, parents must exercise a season of leadership. The first area of leadership is the strength of your marriage. Think about it, how are you both going to lead with authority, deserving respect if there is no unity, communication, love and respect between the husband and wife? It is no wonder that the child look to sources outside of the home for respect and leadership! The foremost thing you can do in your parenting is to give your marriage the space, time and effort that it deserves - then you will be parenting from a position of security. When you put your marriage relationship first, then you can parent confidently and work on training the child for respect, obedience and character because that is how you treat one another.

Fulfill this leadership role well for the next 10 years and once the child enters the teenage years, your parenting season while transit successfully from one of leadership to one of mentoring/friendship. My heart aches when I see parents start off by being a friend and best buddy with their kid when young and then later on, when they realize that respect and obedience is missing in the teen years, they start to act authoritatively - which inevitably leads to rebellioussness! This is doing the right thing at the wrong time. Parenting with authority is great but it works effectively only during the primary years of age 3-13. Beyond that, any display of authoritative intervention is only going to backfire. What's the moral of the story?

Take charge of your parenting when the child is still in their primary years. It may mean being mean - but I would rather have them "hate" me in the short term to reap the long term effect of character growth. Work hard during the primary years and be persistent in your "sowing", and if you do not give up, you will "reap" the fruits of respect and character during the teen years. I believe that the teen years can be the most productive period of a child's life if the parenting is done deliberately during the first 13 years of their lives.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Responsibility : It's About Duties & Accountability

My effectiveness in building responsibility in my child is demonstrated in two ways :
  1. Am I giving my child routine chores to do at home (without paying them for it)?
  2. Am I constantly helping my child in his homework and protecting him from the consequences of his own negligence?
Routine chores at home does more to build a sense of personal responsibility than co-curricular activities. Are you a parenting chauffeur that spends more time driving your child from one place to another - so much so, that the house ends up being more like a hotel than home to the child? When a child is given routine chores (appropriate to the age), it builds a sense of ownership and appreciation for the home and he would grow up having a "contributive" mindset rather than one of "entitlement". Isn't this what good citizenship is all about?

When your child is late in submitting his homework due to his own negligence, what do you do? If you step in too often and "chip in" and help, what message are you sending to the child? Personal accountability can only be learned if the child is left to experience the consequences of his actions (or lack of it). Certain things in life (especially character lessons) must be experienced and if we as parents step in constantly to "rescue" the child, we are doing them a disfavor! Effective parenting takes place when the child learns that lesson of cause and effect. Yes, it may mean a dip in their grades when you refuse to micro-manage but in the long term, you are parenting your child to stand on his own two feet rather than on yours. Isn't that what we desire in the long-term? So, make sure your daily actions do not contradict that long-term view!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Character : Are You a Far-Sighted Parent?

Ask yourself this question - "How would I desire to describe my child when he or she reaches 30 years old?" Would you want your child to be rich, powerful, well-connected and intelligent? Why, of course! But if given a choice between riches and reputation - which would you rather have? Here's the paradox of parenting :

We say we want to develop our child to be a person of character (in the long term) and yet our day to day actions only reflect our commitment to parent them to their next report card! What we do in the short term contradicts our goal for them in the future! Here's the wake-up call : If we do not parent them differently on a day-to-day basis, do not be surprised if they "suddenly" become rebellious, uncorporative, self-centered and stubborn!

It is not enough just to model good character for your kids. We need to take time to diligently teach character at home. A child has no choice but to misbehave if they are not properly taught. Here are a few practical steps you can take to teach character at home :
  1. Have family meals together everyday. Don't just eat but take it as an opportunity to share the happenings of the day, the stories of your past and lessons learnt. Meal times are a fantastic opportunity for you to connect values with the next generation. Somehow, when there is food, the heart is more receptive!
  2. Have the habit of reading aloud to your kids. There is something magical about gathering together on the sofa and reading a good story. Add in role-playing and dramatic intonation - you will be creating memories for years to come!
  3. Give character definitions. What does patience mean? How does one practice determination? By defining what these character qualities mean, your child will be able to demonstrate it more precisely. Character Training Institute provides a comprehensive list of 49 character qualities for reference.
  4. Relate real life stories with character implications. Show them newspaper articles, incidences, stories of success (and failure) - you will be amazed how many of these outcome is due not to a lack of skill, rather it is due to a lack of character. Acquaint your child with the cause-and-effect of a life with and without character and "connect the dots" for them. In this way, you will be developing their conscience to do what is right (especially when you are not around!)
Click here to listen to a live radio interview on BFM on this subject.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Respect : It's Not About Self-Esteem!

Social scientist Roy Baumeister has spent more than a decade studying people who possess high self-esteem. He has discovered, for example, that people with high self-esteem tend to have low self-control, especially when they aren't getting their way. They don't handle defeat or disappointment very well. Most stupefying, Baumeister discovered that hard-core criminals - people locked up in maximum-security prisons - score higher on self-esteem assessments than any other group. (reference - John Rosemond, Parenting by the Book).

The opposite of self-esteem is not low self-confidence. The opposite to self-esteem is humility and modesty. Aren't these the qualities that parents 50 years ago would espoused? I propose a simple test to assess the levelof self-esteem in a family - just observe how birthday parties are conducted. In fact, there is a website set up which gives practical advice to parents so that you do not over-inflate your child's sense of self-centeredness when organizing birthday parties! Think about it.

Self-esteem breeds an entitlement attitude - "I am the center of attention". Self-respect on the other hands considers my obligation to others, putting the interest of others above my own. Respect is what holds a community together and the best place to teach and practice respect is right at home.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Discipline : It's About Communication & Consistency

To discipline someone is to disciple that someone. It is about bringing someone to a way of life that has been proven and tested. Often, the word consequence comes to mind when we talk about the subject of discipline - bringing with it a punitive element. Sure, we may bring the child into compliance through consequence but have we communicated clearly enough so that the child is not left interpreting our instructions to his own convenience? One sign of incomplete communication is - constant nagging. If you find yourself nagging your child regularly, it is time to take stock of your Communication-Consistency-Quotient (CCQ) :
  1. I do not need to repeat my instruction. First time obedience is what I get.
  2. I do not end my instruction with "OK?". Doing this means I need permission for compliance!
  3. I say what I mean. I actually carry out what I said I would do because I am willing to put up with short-term childish displeasure for long-term adult responsibility.
  4. I do not believe in reasoning for change. The child is fundamentally selfish. Action speaks louder.
  5. My child pays more attention to me than I to him.
How is your score? If you say "No" to any of the above, then you may be in danger of raising a child-centered family (as opposed to a parent-centered family).

For a live radio interview on this topic of discipline, click on this link for the BFM radio broadcast.