I still remember when my eldest daughter was in pre-school and I was looking to ask someone for parenting advice. Who better to ask than someone who’s had extensive experience in handling hundreds of children for the past 30 years?
I would try to catch a few minutes to talk to Teacher Liliian Tan Siy, the school directress and try to ask her about different parenting situations from handling temper tantrums at home, getting my kids to eat healthier food and advice on handling certain fears.
Teacher Lillian has been preparing toddlers for big school since 1986. I love getting advice from her. Sometimes I would peer into the window and see toddlers huddled together in their little chairs listening intently to their teacher. I wondered, how on earth do they make ten toddlers sit so still like that when I still struggle with keeping three children quiet at home.
I got her to spill that secret, but let me share with you some priceless nuggets of parenting wisdom which she gladly shared with me when I sat down with her.
- Teach them to be tough.
When children are faced with a challenge, she encourages parents not to be too quick to rescue. When children stumble, don’t rush to help them up. Wait and see if they can pick themselves up before you help. It will let them realize that they can do things on their own strength and capacity and foster independence.
- Help them realize the value of hard work.
Teach them to help while they are young. While growing up, allowing her children to see what she does at work and not shielding them from life’s not so sunny experiences gave them a glimpse of the sacrifices she and her husband made for the family. It made them resilient problem solvers. When children see how much you put in, they develop an appreciation for what you do and realize the value of hard work.
- Set rules and be persistent in following through.
Sometimes kids don’t know what’s best for them and we have to set boundaries to help shape them while they are younger. Teacher Lillian encouraged her kids to play the piano. There were times they wanted to quit when the lessons became difficult, but she set a rule that they had to learn it until a certain age before they could decide to stop. Today, her children are grown up and find joy in playing the piano at home.
- Raise kind children.
Choose to always be kind. The best way to raise kind children is to be kind yourself. When children are able to help out, sometimes a hug, a smile or a pat in the back is better than offering material rewards. It curbs entitlement and helps them develop an attitude of gratitude.
- Don’t reward every effort with material gain.
I devised a point system for my girls to be able to earn money for trips and gifts this holiday season, but I am cutting it immediately after the holidays.
I learned from Teacher Lillian that while it’s ok to do it for occasional tasks, not every effort should be rewarded. Sometimes a simple thank you or a hug should suffice. They should contribute to chores regardless of the rewards, in order to understand that they are part of a whole that helps contribute to the functioning of the home.
- Put God first.
Develop a habit of praying for your children everyday. We cannot be where they are all the time, and sometimes it takes a great deal of trust for a parent to let go of their child, but you know you have to. When you pray and put God first, you surround them with a supernatural protection that allows them to grow beyond measure.
- Save some space for the kids.
No matter how hard she worked, Teacher Lillian said she would try to clear her head and “save some space” for the kids no matter how many unfinished tasks there was in school. She would intentionally set aside anything work related and focus on her children when she got home.
In a day and age where work comes in at every hour through emails and mobiles, we need to learn when to shut off and listen to the needs of our kids.
- Know that everyone is different.
There is no cookie cutter formula on how to raise children. You have to listen to their needs and address them as an individual. Children learn differently too. Each one is gifted with their own special talents and skills.
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