Who doesn’t want resilient kids?

March 26, 2016, 0 Comments



“The greatest insurance policy parents can “buy” to ensure their children grow up to be healthy and resilient is to forge and maintain strong emotional connections.”  This single parenting adage seems to be a non-brainer and is touted in almost all parenting books. Yet, in Singapore, many are seen over scheduling our children for various activities. On weekdays, children attend school, then it is tuition and endless homework. On weekends we rush our children from one enrichment to another. All for good reasons to give our children a well-rounded education.

My primary level children are getting busier these days with their varied interest and school committments. Even as we homeschool, I see the looming Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) casting its dark clouds over us from time time. I find asking myself this question helpful, “why are we here for?”  We are not here to get ahead in life, we are here to live one. Resilence is not taught in a one off motivational workshops, nor is it to live a bubble-wrapped life, free from failures and bruises, it is found in emotional connectedness.  Free from an agenda, free from a program, free from rushing.

Time. Can we afford that? More importantly, can we afford NOT to have time?

What does emotional connectedness look like for us? Here’re some ideas that we are working on.

  • Play a boardgame or chess together
  • Give the child a back rub
  • Play lego together
  • Enjoy “Star wars” played by Piano Guys together
  • Pay attention to their ideas and inventions
  • Go hiking, swimming, cycling together
  • Chit chat while going grocery shopping
  • Cook or bake together
  • Celebrate each other’s birthday away from gadgets and mobile phones
  • Have a meal together everyday and intentionally talk about things that matter to each child
  • Spend one to one time with each child on a regular basis so they know we can be counted on in times of need
How much time do we spend with out children each day?
Psychologist Gordon Newfeld shared his model for attachment in this book.

Proximity – Children and adolescents need parents who will remain committed and trusted advisors and stewards.

Sameness – Children seeks commonality with parents. We excuse our teens who hang around their friends when they prefer to spend time with their peers instead of us. They seek sameness when they talk or dress alike. Parents need to find ways to reach out to their teens by doing something they both like together. (Tip: sit and write a list of things that the kids and you have in common. Some gifts run in the family. For example, I love arranging and decorating the house. My eldest son loved doing it with me. We often do it for festive seasons, a family member’s birthday or any special occasions. Recently we are also trying to revive our plan to celebrate Jewish culture and festivals in our home.

The husband and the boys love watching movie, so we have our weekend movie nights some times. They also love outdoors and hiking and we find time to seek out nature together. Father and sons also take turn to pair up to cook family dinner on Sundays. Our Sundays are very fruitful , yet relaxed.

Belonging or Loyalty – Children needs parents who have their back. When children sense that their parents are not on their side, the retreat to become angry, aggressive or withdrawn. they are looking for a rock-solid trust , a unconditional loyalty that sticks despite what circumstance they are in.

Significance – Children wants to be the apple of their parents eye, warts and all. Social media often gives a false sense of significance when friends ‘likes’ a post or an image.

Love – Children need to feel simple affection from parents. A simple touch or a hug. It is resisting the urge to ask if he’s tidied up the room or pick up the clothes.  As Singaporean parents, we run on the efficiency mode, often wanting to make sure that this and that is done. This is such a important reminder for us to STOP doing and START caring!

Being Known – Children desires to be known for who they really are. It does not mean a teen will confided in you in every single thing , but he will consider our input and influence in things that really matter.

Neck up / Neck down approach – A child speaks ” I hate my brother” . We often reply from neck up , “How can you say that? He adores you!” This was exactly how we have said it. Susan mentioned this interaction stemming from mere logic and focuses exclusively on the content and ignoring the emotions underneath the words.  When the children’s words trouble us, it is easy for us to focus on the words and end up arguing with them. Our job is to “help them express what they are feeling (Neck down) with words that reflect the truth of what they are experiencing.”

Connection – How do we connect with our children? When the children are much younger, it seemed so easy to have a conversation about anything. Most of the time, we point out to them how the world is and how things work. We ask them about what they like and if they feel okay. When the children are much older, it seemed that they are more independent, conversation topics shrink and reduce to mere logistics. This is especially so when both parents are preoccupied with work or have endless deadlines.  Connection tips according to Susan;

  1. Stop and reflect on what they have said, demonstrating your sincere interest to understand life from their vantage point.
  2. Show them you really want to know what they think about a piece of music or an action or why they think chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla.
  3. Be hungry to discover more of who they are and let them know what a delight it is to get to know them as they blossom into their true selves.
  4. Ask  What was the most challenging thing you did this week? What grown up do you think will make a fantastic teacher? What did you daydreamed about today? Instead of close-ended questions like, “How was school?”

Connect then direct

If we would only sit beside our children and being interested in what they are building, reading or watching, we’ll get a more favorable response if we ask him to help us with the laundry or have dinner.

Helping children deal with frustrations

“Every life and every childhood is filled with frustrations we cannot imagine it otherwise. For even the best mother cannot satisfy all her child’s wishes and needs. it is not the suffering caused by frustration, however, that leads to emotional illness, but rather the fact that the child is forbidden by the parents to experience and articulate this suffering – the pain felt at being wounded” by Alice Miller

When children are frustrated, we should learn how to let a child hit the wall of futility either on their own or lead them there gently. This reminded me of a really good movie that we watched together as a family, entitled, “Inside out”. The movie talks about how sadness is an important emotion to have before happiness, yet many parents would do all we can to keep their children out of it.

“It’s only when we find our tears, when we hit the Wall of Futility and begin to grieve our loss, that we can accept and carry on.”Whether it is relationship, a promotion, or a million other circumstances that don’t unfold as we had hoped. Our ability to live joyful and successful lives depend on our ability to adapt.

Our job is to help our children find tears when they are frustrated, only then they are able to find solutions and adapt. Of course then, as Christians, we want to help them find hope in the one who holds their future in whatever circumstance they are in.

When the child is frustrated, it is not the time to lecture or teach. When they are frustrated, his left brain shuts down while his right brain rages with emotions. It is better to let him go through his emotions and come back to him later or another day. When a child is upset, alot of adrenaline is running through his body, it is best to wait until he welcomes our presence before we speak with him. Our response in being calm and in control is important. Give the child a chance to express himself, but don’t expect him to logically explain why he behaved the way he did. We can condemn the behaviour, but not the child.  We say, “This impulsive behaviour is not acceptable” and not “You are an impulsive boy!”

Being on their side – Being on their side when the child is feeling frustrated means constantly assuring that you understand how he feels without trying to sneak in a lecture on how things should be.  Susan gave examples like, “What was that like for you?”, “It sounds like that was pretty tough to take …” , “That’s a very big feeling…”.It’s hard when you can’t have what you want…”, ”I know what it is like to want to watch the movie till the end…” Do not sneak in a lecture.

“Children who are joyful and authentic catch glimpses of their mother or father looking at them with wonder and love, not because they’ve just accomplished something or done what they were told, but simply because they exist.”

Parenting without Power Struggle is available on amazon and retails for US$11.72 for paperback and US$11.13 for kindle version. Grab your affiliate link here


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