Category Archives: sunday school

It takes a village to raise a child

Kids should have good role models and parents who can walk the talk while being transparent in handling failure and success.  This morning I asked B “who do you want to be when you grow up?” and to my surprise, instead of “teacher, firefighter” (his usuals), he said “I want to be like mama” (yikes!)  While that stroked my ego as I’ve been trying to be more intentional about building faith and character with B, I’m painfully aware that as a flawed individual, I always fall short!  You don’t want to be like mama at all times B, really….

Kari Kampakis’ article “10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make”  resonated with me because – I confess – I’ve made most of them. Here’s one that I agree with wholeheartedly:

Mistake #1: Underestimating CHARACTER. If there’s one thing I hope to get right in my children, it’s their CORE. Character, moral fiber, an inner compass… these things lay the foundation for a happy, healthy future. They matter more than any report card or trophy ever will…. We know that what will matter at 25, 30 and 40 is [not what they achieved but] how they treat others and what they think of themselves.

If we want them to build character, confidence, strength and resilience, we need to let them face adversity and experience the pride … when they come out stronger on the other side. It’s hard to see our children fall, but sometimes we have to. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether intervening is in their best interest. There are a million ways to love a child, but in our quest to make them happy, let us stay mindful that sometimes it takes short-term pain to earn long-term gain.

It dawned on me at a recent church camp that my parenting journey is not meant to be walked alone, isolated from community. Furthermore, the best lessons are “caught not taught.” We all can and should help to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)

it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-childIn this case, our “village” is our local church which partners with parents to set a solid faith foundation for their marriages, families and the next generation.  I’m especially blessed by those serving in kids’ ministry who are super engaging and energetic, always ready to patiently manage restless kids and answer those tricky questions. As I occasionally help with our weekly cell group, I realise how tough it is to catch the interest and hold the attention of kids, especially between preschool and primary school ages!

Doing superman while singing “Jesus, You’re My Superhero!”

With me having less time with B and hubby still away a lot for work, I’m keen to better integrate B with our “spiritual family” here.  Besides family and casual friend interactions, we are trying to be more consistent with Sunday School.  B joined our church’s Sunbeam program at 18 months and then graduated to unaccompanied classes at 30 months. We sat in with him for the first two N1 sessions. The first time we dropped him off, he cried but was okay after a few minutes.  The second time this past weekend was better, no tears, although he still wanted a big hug and clung to mama as I left. B said afterwards that he likes Sunday School, sang many songs, and even quoted (and adapted) his memory verse to “I love and obey God!” and later at home “I love mama and daddy!” 🙂 To be honest, I was kinda stunned that he paid enough attention to recall and put it to practice. Me of little faith!

Jesus is a live craft for Easter
“Jesus is alive” craft for Easter
After he turns 3 and/or can tahan till 1030p, we may bring him along to our Friday cell group for a once-a-week late night out. After all, a village isn’t a village without fun, food and fellowship, right?
Linking up with:

MummyMOO

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World peace begins at home

What does it mean to live a peaceful life? IMHO, the key is to work towards peaceful relationships in your home – with your spouse, kid(s) and if you have any, your domestic helper. But how to do this when we’re struggling with being at peace in our own lives? As parents, we’re often busy, stressed, sleep-deprived, sick whenever the kids get sick, and lacking any personal time or space. Here are some thoughts:

With your spouse: Sometimes, a little time out gives much needed perspective when emotions are frayed. There are days when I still struggle with giving up a traditional corporate career and the (seemingly lack of) ROI on all my years of education – resulting in a rather bitter attitude towards my constantly away hardworking hubby. I’ve been trying to reflect and approach situations with a more peaceful and rested heart. Also, as parents, we should TRY not to let our issues (anger, disappointment, concern, etc.) with each other surface too frequently in front of the kids. The very young ones can pick up on the emotion but may not understand the context or even think it is about them, i.e. something they did wrong. For me – someone who often wears her heart on her sleeve – this is hard. Just as we teach our kids to use their “indoor voice”, I too need to remember that being peaceful means to talk and not shout, to smile and not frown.

With kids: Give our kids the foundation to develop and learn to be a child of God – peaceful, cheerful and contented. As B adjusts to nursery drop off and soon, taking his mid-day nap there as well, we’re trying to re-establish a routine that provides comfort yet fosters independent growth. Kids thrive in a secure environment with familiar surroundings, playmates and caregivers, regular healthy meals, designated quiet times with spaces to play/read on their own, unique yet diverse experiences AND perhaps most importantly, adequate sleep – ideally by 9p. I’ve ALWAYS been asked about B’s early bedtime, as in “why can’t he come out, stay later, wake up later instead” To me, sleep is sacred. When kids sleep well, we all sleep well, so why change what ain’t broke?

With the helper: Let’s face it. We are lucky, spoilt even, in Asia to have foreign domestic workers who assist us in chores and if you need, babysitters and nannies at a reasonable rate, be it part time or live in. Yet too often I find employers who do not treat their helper in a way that leads to a peaceful living and working relationship, while they maintain high expectations on their deliverables and attitude. B asked me once: “mama, daddy, ama, kong kong is family. What about aunty (our helper’s name)?” I told him “We live together in this house, we should treat her like family too.” I wonder if he understood that, but he does now include her in his prayer requests at night and asks where she is when we go out on our own or on her days off.

The more centered we are on Christ and not self, the more we’ll be at peace with others and ourselves.

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I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

I’m trying to be more intentional about faith with B this year as he’s developing his own childlike understanding from observing people and situations. At our nightly prayers before bed, he started making his own requests (e.g. “pray for dada working, tired,” “Jesus loves ama and kong kong”). So I decided to reinforce the lessons around fruits of the spirit from Sunbeam, our church’s kids programme, with simple activities and practical applications at home.

Here’s what we learnt and applied:

  1. Joyful parenting doesn’t come naturally. It’s not a product of the flesh but the spirit at work, bearing fruit in us. We need to cultivate thankfulness, remember that our child’s identity is in Christ, and look ahead with hope and faith for the fruit God promises to bring through our efforts.
  2. A joyful heart is about attitude, a contagious attitude from having a positive outlook in life. We talked about being joyful and strong even when we’re afraid and upset. I encouraged him to use words, laugh or sing instead of crying and screaming… and it’s been working! In fact, he’s been a trooper during his separation at school and this recent bout of coughing; and he’s also cheered my ailing mom who was hospitalised earlier this month with his singing, dancing and funny antics.
  3. To be joyful is to be thankful. I’m glad that B’s gotten into a habit of saying “thank you” or “谢谢” (if you’re lucky). At one point, he’d even say “thank you” when giving you things 😉 At nights, when we pray together, we also first thank God for each other and the day’s events – no matter how challenging the day has been, e.g. we’ve been sick, tired, angry. I’m still working on teaching him to say family grace before meals to reinforce gratefulness and obedience to God, although this one’s tougher as our family is of mixed beliefs and/or rarely eating together.

Since I’m on a quest to improve both our Chinese lately, I’ll end with these Chinese characters: When you’re happy (开心 kai xin), your heart is open but when you’re sad (伤心 shang xin), your heart is wounded. I’m glad that our son is learning how to turn to God and rejoice in the midst of his terrible two years; and that he is also opening the hearts of those around him.

Nehemiah 8:10 “The joy of the Lord makes me strong!”

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How deep and how wide is your love?

Besides his own name, another word B likes to spontaneously spell is “L-O-V-E … Love!” So I figured Valentines Day was a good reason to look at LOVE as we apply fruits of the spirit at home. Here’s B’s “Thumbody loves you” V-day craft to kick off the theme 🙂

1) Say and show it often. We always wish each other “晚安,我爱你,明天见” (“Good night, I love you, see you tomorrow”) every night. When dad is away for long, we record him a video that usually ends with a flying kiss! Although I wasn’t raised like this with my typical Asian parents, I don’t hesitate kissing, hugging and praising B and find that he soaks it up like a sponge. Rather than being spoiled (as some of the older generation may caution), I find that he becomes more assured and affectionate in return, which has helped during his frequent separation anxiety phases. In the book “The Five Love Languages of Children” the authors encourage parents to keep your child’s emotional tank full, use all five languages (physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service), and pay attention to their behaviour as it often tells you which one speaks the loudest to them. Usually these preferences emerge around 3-4 years on.

2) Love obeys and forgives. We shouldn’t continue doing wrong things and we shouldn’t stay angry with others. Whenever B acts up, I make it a point to look him in the eye and state “Stop. That hurt mama/your friend, made us feel angry/sad”. I’ll then ask him “Was that wrong or right?” When he sees that this is serious and acknowledges “B is wrong. I am sorry,” I’ll say “It’s OK. But don’t do it again!” Of course, sometimes he gets rather cheeky and says “B is wrong, right?” What you say or do must match what’s in your heart. The Chinese character for forgiveness – 恕 (shu) incorporates a heart below a woman and a mouth. When we forgive others with words from our heart, we learn to put others before ourselves, practicing love and “human-heartedness.”

3) Love is selfless. Kids learn by imitation so take every opportunity to demonstrate selflessness. Evidently, tots do a lot of proto-sharing – i.e. they may be willing to show what they hold to others but won’t quite let go (sound familiar?). It’s a big step, so reinforce and reward the act. When B’s friends come by, it’s also quite common to see ALL the boys want the exact same double decker bus (or train) that one of them develops a liking for. When potential tantrums/fights come up, try to offer duplicates or alternatives, and if that doesn’t work, keep the item-in-question and engage them in a fun group project. It’s key to NOT punish your tot at this age for not sharing. Let him know your feelings but don’t make a big deal out of it. They’ll get there and may surprise you one day! Case in point: I’ve been feeling quite down and worn out as everyone was sick or away again, on top of our ongoing failure to conceive #2 despite trying everything we can think of. There’s also been days when I’ve lost my temper and somehow, B knows the best way to diffuse it – by kissing, hugging me and saying “Mama, be happy… So happy” Toddlers may be the most self-centered beings at times, yet their empathy and ability to love others amazes me. They DO listen, share and care!

4) Love and forgive others just as God loves and has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32, 1 Colossians 13). Some of our favourite songs to reinforce:
– “Jesus Loves Me”: Our first bible song together, B used to fall asleep to this
– “Whisper”: A lovely song that teaches kids to say “I love you” to parents and to Jesus in a soft voice 🙂 I couldn’t find a video but the lyrics are included below

– “Deep and Wide”: God’s love is like the ocean, never-ending, always forgiving
– Barney’s “I Love You” original and this adapted version: I forgive you, you forgive me. We forgive each other, can’t you see? With a great big hug, and a kiss from me to you, won’t you join us, and forgive too?

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Tidings of comfort and joy

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This advent season, I wanted to impress on B the true meaning of Jesus’ birth and how it is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and God’s ultimate gift of life. Although it was hard to break free from all the commercialism, we found a few simple ways to reflect this while still doing our fair share of Christmas mall hopping 🙂

We made an advent calendar from B’s artwork with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days, which was December 1 to 24 this year. I liked how this simple template could be re-used many times for things like learning numbers, letters, words, days and months, etc. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit — which B coincidentally learned in Sunbeam (Sunday School) year. On Christmas morning, we visited a single mother of 5 kids as part of our church’s community blessing project before joining our cell group for food and carols. I look forward to more fun, faith-based activities as he grows up. For 2014, we could try this weekly series based on proverbs, more on the fruits or even try working through this catechism as our church’s awesome new Devotional Journal weekly family section doesn’t quite work for young tots.

Of course, we also covered the usual Christmas craft and books. Between work, colds, family visits, playdates, parties and our year end holiday to Hong Kong, we couldn’t complete a nativity project or join many church events. After reading some books and our toddler bible, B recalls the nativity story by acting out a pregnant mama (Mary), old hunched men with presents (three wise men) and a wailing baby (Jesus)…. It’s a start I guess 😉

As for craft, this time around I let him try cutting, gluing, threading (punched holes around the art), and letter tracing (glued glitter on words).  We started with a Christmas star for the tree, stockings and poinsettas. We used the remaining painted rolls to make a turkey for a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Wreath with holly, berries and gingerbread men
(Grandma made those cute origami mini-Santa Clauses)

Sticking ornaments on a car track painted Christmas card for his cousin

Home-made watercoloured ornaments 🙂

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

 
B in a snow globe
Collage art of peace, love and joy – the last 3 days in our advent calendar
Turning 2 has been a tipping point with some of the worst and best developments to date. B started shrieking for attention, tipping over his bowl/plate/cup when almost done (sooo annoying!), had bouts of skipped naps, early waking and general crankiness throughout the day. On the plus side, his interest in print (numbers and letters) keeps growing. He correctly spells out most words in big letters, is getting better at small letters, loves counting as well as spotting numerals. To my delight, soon after his birthday, he finally started singing. In tune! All the time! What was previously a monotone rap transformed into spontaneous singing and dancing to favourite songs and those he hears often (i.e. Jingle Bells). I even caught him singing nursery songs that I used to hum to him as a baby. Quite amazing what our kids retain at this age!

This Thursday, B will start half-day nursery, with mommy joining for a few hours/days before transitioning to a complete drop-off. I got him a personalised preschooler book, and also printed out photos of his new school to add to our scrap book to get him familiar with the concept.  It’s encouraging that the school also focuses on being global citizens, i.e. donating for charity and recycling for art.  Here’s hoping B’s new journey with Odyssey will be even more rewarding and fun than it’s been with mommy and me so far.

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Same same but different?

Time to reflect on what we’ve tried, what’s worked, what’s not – one month into our revised schedule. Basically, our weekday “homeschool” time has become a bit more intentional.  It’s been mostly fun, often stretching both our discipline and creativity, but I trust there’s positive returns from all this!

Weekdays:  “Homeschool” with mom, plus Chinese, music, swim, playdates
Saturday:  Daddy bonding @ Gymnademics, family time
Sunday: Sunday School @ Sunbeam, family time
As/when: Outings at Macritchie Reservoir, Botanic Gardens, theatres, museums, etc

Routine: Besides the usual bilingual words, math and puzzles, I added right brain activity books and printed worksheets this month.  IMO, these are still quite hard for his age, but I’m trying to introduce matching and memorising as a game and build his competence in tracing and controlled colouring.

Themes and special project(s) were around:
(1) Food – new.  Building on B’s fascination with our kitchen and groceries (he enjoys role playing cooking!) supplemented by Gymnademics home material
(2) Colours – reinforce. B correctly identifies primary colours, though he can’t say them all clearly yet.  Colours also translate into teaching other stuff like shapes, numbers, music et al.  To expand on later

Books: Courage of The Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (great excuse to dig B’s torn and tattered copy out!)
Learning thru play: Rather than buy new toys, we made colour sorters and counters using recycled caps and straws. He likes this though finishing them all in one go is the toughest task 😉 He enjoys it even more when we mix it up i.e. figuring out how smaller straws fit into the bigger ones, grouping the same colours, counting with sound effects as he puts them in…

 

Music:  Inspired by Schoenhut pianos, I added coloured stickers to  help draw attention to the actual keys on the electronic keyboard, as he would be drawn to the buttons and lights more (downside of not having just a piano). He’s learning to play specific notes based on colour prompts and maybe one day soon, I’ll colour code simple songs to help him play by sight!

Art and craft:  We do this almost every day (crayons, markers, stamps, pens, playdough, paint on paper/easel/canvas/etc).  But once in a while when mommy is motivated, we collaborate on something bigger. This month we made a food pyramid using pictures relating to the new words in his vocab, coloured different segments per food group, added dots to indicate number of servings, etc.  When we were done he said “Yum!” A few days later, while eating his pumpkin/carrot risotto, he even pointed to the pumpkin and said “dot dot dot dot” (i.e. there are 4 dots associated with the “green” segment).

Outing: Culture heaven for B!  We attended FOUR delightful toddler events @ Singapore Art MuseumEsplanade PLAYtimeCircus Minimus and the Gymnademics Big Day Out.

Character: B is unofficially in his terrible twos, and it’s time to actively focus on character building.  As his personality and preferences emerge, we need to also model and enforce the right behaviours.
– He now says more words each day (finally!). No surprise, a popular phrase is “no no no” even if he means “yes.”  How do we constructively encourage him otherwise?  Also should we consciously avoid using “NO!” in our own speech, esp. with him?
– His sleep has also regressed slightly. From consistent 11+ hours overnight and ~2 hours mid-day to occasionally waking up in the wee hours and/or crashing earlier for his nap. His 18-month brain must be on overdrive!  How can I be sensitive to this, adjusting and accommodating as needed?
– Mealtimes have also become more challenging.  Our eat-anything-yum boy could self feed with a fork and spoon at 16-17 months BUT now struggles to complete meals on his own and even rejects foods he used to like (e.g. tomatoes!).  How to keep trying though it’s frustrating, messy and sooo inefficient?

This past Sunday School gave us some food for thought. They taught that gentleness is touching others gently, moderating your strength, helping others, obeying your parents.  This is part of the series for 18-29 month olds based on Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Which brings me to the final lesson this month: No matter how much I plan, accomplish or wish I did more or less of, ultimately I need to lean on Him and trust that all will be well. God is the BOSS!  Not B.  Definitely not me.

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