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Focus on strengths

Children are hoping to find acceptance for their good qualities.

I HAVE two children, aged seven (boy) and four (girl). My son is in Year One in a Chinese school and my girl is in kindergarten. I find it hard coaching or guiding my son as he is very stubborn and extremely playful. I have even received complaints from his teacher about his playfulness in class.

Every time I lose patience with him, I would shout loudly and also use the cane on him. After that, I feel extremely bad. I have tried not to act this way but he just does not do things properly and will often refuse to do what he needs to (for example, his homework, eat his dinner, bathe) if I do not use force him.

He has complained to me, saying that I always scold him. I have explained to him why but it only worked for two days and then he went back to his bad behaviour. I tried talking gently to him but it does not work. Tell me what can I do. I need your guidance- Worried mother

Your seven-year-old is going through many changes in his life. He can do many things on his own and is going through rapid development of mental skills. This is a critical time for your son to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as making friends, doing schoolwork and playing sports. He can be quite independent if he wants to.

You need to shift your parenting gears to help him develop the skills needed in middle childhood. Start by showing him some respect for being a Year One pupil. Your tone of voice and behaviour towards him must be different to how you treat your younger child.

Work out a timetable with your son on how he should spend his time after school. If he keeps on schedule, he can get more playtime instead of extra coaching time. Children like to be rewarded for their effort. This reinforces their positive behaviour.

Children in their middle childhood years are more sensitive to how they are treated. Your constant scolding and punishment will only make matters worse. Your son resents your lack of patience with him. Instead of changing for the better, he may act badly just to spite you.

Spend more time focusing on what he is doing well. He needs to know his strengths and good qualities. What you say and do with him can boost his confidence in his skills.

I AM a mother of three children, aged eight, six and two. My second daughter will be be in Year One next year and my husband insists that she attends Chinesemedium school. I have heard a lot about the heavy homework load she would have to endure. My daughter is very active and cannot concentrate for long periods.

When asked to do homework from her kindergarten, she throws tantrums before she starts doing her work.

Sometimes she takes an hour to finish one page of mathematics or her colouring homework.

Sometimes I need to scream at her or threaten her with a cane. But then, she will start crying and take a really long time to finish her homework. She has enough time for play and TV. She is a smart girl and we always reward her for doing well in school by giving her what she wants.

Her teachers from school and other learning centres feel that she talks too much during class and does not concentrate. She is very loving to her little brother but not to my older girl, who has special needs. Some mothers think I pay too much attention to my other children. I am still breastfeeding my son.

My eldest daughter is in an international school and I have thought of putting my second girl in a private school. Should I just learn how to let go and allow her to learn at her own pace? She can’t read yet but if her teacher has read a storybook to her, she can actually memorise it.

I am trying to read storybooks with her every night to enhance her reading skill but there are times when I need to be with my other children. Should I just let my second girl be in private school where there is less homework or let her choose her school? – Mother of three

Before you decide on which school to send your middle child to, you should focus on her present situation. From your description, she sounds like a child who can easily adapt to different environments and can achieve good results in her work.

As for her lack of concentration when doing her homework, she will change as she matures. To get her ready for primary school, she needs your attention to guide her on the right path. Preparing for school takes more than just knowing the 3Rs. She needs to be emotionally prepared too.

Give her some personal oneon- one time and focus on her interests. Do not insist on her doing what you think is right but marvel at her little achievements that only she can do.

Middle children tend to struggle a great deal to get attention in the sibling cauldron. She is not the first born with the special needs nor can she compete with her breast-feeding toddler brother.

Your second daughter may constantly try to find acceptance for what she can do. Sometimes, this struggle may end up in negative behaviour. Find time to show her that she matters and tell her that you notice how hard she tries to do the right thing.


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