Friday, September 30, 2011

I will not teach violence

Something serious today.

I recently learned of a situation where a child scratched another child's face. The parents of the offending child were extremely apologetic and embarrassed at what their normally lovable, sweet child had done. They went home, discussed what to do, and decided that the solution was to spank their child, and they did. Now, these parents say that, for them, spanking is here to stay.

They inflicted hurt on their child in order to teach the lesson that the child should not inflict hurt on others. To me that is not just ironic, it is plain wrong.

Hitting another person, whether child or adult, is unacceptable, under any circumstances. Nothing justifies causing hurt to another human being. Nothing. And when you are talking about a bigger stronger adult hitting a smaller weaker child, I cannot, I absolutely cannot, see any possible justification.

Hurting a person, whether child or adult, in order that they will do what you want them to do is also known as torture. And no, it doesn’t sound cuter if you call it spanking or smacking or "beat beat". It is still violence. The intention is still the same - to cause them pain and hurt until they behave the way you want them to.

If an adult got hit, the police would be called in. Unfortunately, children are too young, too helpless and unable to take steps to complain or to stop the beating and in cases where the police do get involved, it's much too late.

Some parents don’t actually parent. They don’t teach, counsel or guide. Most of these parents actually have no idea how to parent. Instead, every situation is avoided, averted, diverted, bribed away. Then when a situation is inescapable – like their child scratching another child – these parents decide that there’s no alternative but to spank their child.

Spanking may work, but there are other ways to discipline your child. They just take more effort. Just like stealing can get you what you want, but it is wrong. You should work and earn the money to pay for what you want. Similarly, it takes time and effort to teach a child. Children are new. They are still learning and it takes time to do so. They may not always learn the first time around. They need time to learn to walk, to hold a spoon, to tie their shoelaces. Similarly, they need time to learn to socialise, to share, to be polite. There will be times that they don’t know how or that they don’t get it right. They shouldn’t be hurt when they try and they get it wrong.

Spanking a child is a shortcut for parents who don’t have the time or patience or the fortitude to go through repeated "talking-tos" or to patiently show the child, repeatedly if necessary, what the proper thing to do would be and the reasons why. Either that or they truly think that the child will never understand what is said to them unless it is driven in with pain. This is lazy, disrespectful parenting.

The purpose of using spanking for discipline is to instill the lesson that the direct consequence for bad behaviour is pain. Your child then “behaves”, not because she understands that it is the right thing to do, but because she fears the pain that would ensue otherwise. But that's the wrong lesson to learn.

What if somebody behaved badly towards your child? The response that your child has learned is to hurt that person until your child gets an apology or gets his way. Great job there.

This goes for parents who hit inanimate objects too – I’ve seen parents who hit the floor when the child falls down, or hit the chair when the child bumps against it. Apart from the fact that it is completely illogical, the lesson taught is, again, when someone/something hurts you, even if unintended, the response is to hit that person or thing in return.

I’ve heard all the exceptions that parents create to make it sound as if they’re doing the right thing – don’t spank when you’re angry, don’t spank in public, don’t hit the face, don’t over do it, always explain and give a hug afterwards, etc. They say that they otherwise lavish tender loving care on their children. I've even heard it said that, "the children still love you anyway".

Why on earth would any of that make hitting a child acceptable?

Sure, you can hug the hell out of your child after that and then treat her like a princess until she "misbehaves" again. Do you really think that makes things ok? Really? Would it make it better if somebody hit you and hit you and hit you until you cried and then explained that you deserved it? No? What if you got a nice hug after that? No? If I took you out for dinner everyday during the week, can I hit you on Sunday? I didn’t think so.

And yes, children have an amazing and beautiful capacity to forgive and forget. But please, that does not give parents a get-out-of-jail-free ticket to hurt them.

Sure, you can explain what the spanking is for and why your child "deserved" it. But if your child could understand your explanation, then your child doesn't need to be spanked. And conversely, if you think that your child can't understand the lesson without spanking, well, how does spanking help? Does spanking suddenly turn on a switch in your child that makes her understand and learn? Because if that's what it takes, then we should spank them anytime they need to learn anything, like their ABCs, or how to put on their shoes.

The lesson about the rightness/wrongness of the behaviour is lost when you place the focus on pain. The child may learn to behave when there is a threat of pain looming over her but the child also figures out that, if there is no possibility of getting caught and spanked, then it's all right to “misbehave”.

Let me ask the question another way - what if a teacher or an older student or even a stranger in a restaurant smacked your child for "misbehaving"? Would that be acceptable? No? What gives the parent the right to smack the child then? Because it's the parent's job to discipline the child? Well, that's only partially correct. Yes, it is primarily the parent's job to teach and guide the child. But that does not mean that the parent can use pain to do so.

Oh I don’t believe that those parents I mentioned at the start of this post actually abuse their child, certainly not. At most, I think they’re misguided. There are a lot of parents who think like they do. Still, that doesn't mean that hitting can be right. It only means that there are a lot of lazy, ignorant people out there who place their own interests above the child. They don't want to take the time to guide, they don't have the patience, they don't understand that children don't always get things right. They use spanking because it's straightforward and quick - it’s also so easy because the child is completely helpless. To these people, being a parent is all about how difficult/easy it is for the parent, never mind the child.

Scientifically speaking, there are many studies which say that spanking is wrong and damaging. There are also studies (fewer) which say that spanking does not have adverse effects. I’m not going to argue about which study is more reliable or better, it doesn’t matter to me. Hitting a child as a form of discipline is unacceptable to me. It is an act of bullying, of laziness and of ignorance. Ultimately, it is morally and ethically wrong, and I will not do it. I will not teach my son that some people "deserve" to be hurt. I will not teach my son that violence can be used to get your way. I will not teach him that it is acceptable, however limited the circumstances are, to hurt another person.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Ryan Wore

Top: Kidsplanet (12 months).
Pants: a hand-me-down from an old schoolmate of mine.
Shoes: See Kai Run.

Still on the topic of pre-lessons. Remember that there are four basic steps in pre-lessons:

1. calming oneself
2. deep and slow breathing
3. positive statements/suggestions
4. image training/image play

In the next few posts, I will talk about image training.

Image training is the most important thing in right brain education, because visualisation is fundamental to all aspects of right brain training, eg. Senses Play (ESP games), mental calculation, speed reading and photographic memory. Image training trains the children to visualise and to represent something mentally, and to capture and hold that image. A child or adult who can visualise with perfect representation an object from the physical environment and who can mentally change this image at will has perfected this function.

[Click here to read the rest of this post.]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's a Bird!

Ryan drew this last Thursday. He said the one on the left is a bird!

Monday, September 26, 2011

And we're back!

Lunch at A&W at IPC Shopping Centre
We drove back to Singapore this evening, re-fueled with love and happiness. It's always wonderful to be able to spend time with family and friends and we managed to do quite a bit of that on this trip. Ryan especially had lots of fun with his cousins - watching them play together was very entertaining!

We're already looking forward to our next trip back but, in the meantime, it's back to work!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Richard!

Yesterday was Richard's birthday and we celebrated it with a dinner at Chyniis Restaurant in SS2 Mall, with Richard's parents, Margaret, Ryan's cousins, my brother, Terri and Vincent.

Happy birthday Richard! We love you!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Notes on Shichida - Part 10: Pre-lessons

We are going to rewind. Before you do Senses Play, you should do the pre-lessons. In class, pre-lessons are done at the start of the class (after the greeting and introduction), before Senses Play. Pre-lessons should be done at home too, at the start of the home practice session.

Pre-lessons are very important. They help the child to relax, to switch over to alpha wave and to focus on the session. There is little point in having the session if the child is not relaxed and in a good mood. The pre-lessons comprise (1) the energy ball game; (2) blowing game; (3) making positive statements and suggestions; and (4) image training. I will explain the first three in this post and image training in the next post.

Let me explain the energy ball game first. When adults try to relax and focus themselves on the task at hand, they usually close their eyes, breathe deeply and slowly, get rid of negative thoughts and think positive thoughts to motivate themselves. We tell ourselves, "Close your eyes, get rid of negative distracting thoughts, focus and tell yourself you can do it!" However, the young ones may not understand how to do all that. In order to help them, we play this game.

The game has two parts. First, we rub our hands together and pretend to gather good energy into a big ball, lift it high and let it shower down on us to wash away all the bad energy. Then, we rub our hands together and make another energy ball, but this time we pretend to pack the good energy tightly into a ball and pretend to eat it so that we are filled with good energy.

Here's a Youtube video of Ryan and me playing the game.

After the energy ball game, we give our children a big hug and tell them, "I love you." Make other positive statements like, "You and mummy are one in our hearts" and positive suggestions like, "We are going to have a lot of fun!"

I have heard comments from parents that the energy ball game seems unorthodox or spiritual or supernatural. Actually, it's not at all. It's just a game for the children to play along, to put them in a good frame of mind for the class and to concentrate. Now that I have explained the purpose of the activity, you can even modify it or do something else at home, according to what is suitable for your child. If your child can understand what to do - to breathe deeply, relax, focus and put himself in a positive frame of mind, then that achieves the purpose. Just make sure to tag on positive statements/suggestions and then do image training - these two are very important.

After the energy ball game and positive statements/suggestions, we do blowing games. As explained, adults can relax themselves by breathing slowly and deeply for a while and focusing their minds (meditating). For the younger children, they may not understand when you tell them to take slow and deep breaths or they may simply not know how. This activity helps the children to do deep breathing.

In class, we use blowing toys to play this game. I'll show you our homemade ones which are similar.

The first one is supposed to be an octopus! Just goes to show - don't worry that your handmade material looks unprofessional - it doesn't matter! Hahaha! Here, Ryan blows on the tentacles (the green tassels).

A jellyfish (don't worry, Ryan took some time to figure out what it was too). I wanted to re-do it but when I showed it to him, he started blowing on it, so I let it be. Heh heh.

A boat with a sail that you can blow on.

A bird on a perch. The bird swings when you blow on it. I cut the whole thing from one piece of paper.

Next one is a seal, spinning a ball on its nose. I made this by pasting two sides of the ball on a satay stick. The satay stick is inserted into part of a straw at the back of the seal. Hold the seal up, blow on the ball and watch it spin! This straw-stick model can be used for lots of things - an aeroplane with moving propellers, a sun/moon combination, a weather vane, etc.

This is what I did with the rest of that straw. I threaded a string through it and tied a button on one end to keep it in place. On the other end, I stuck a butterfly. Hold the straw, blow on the butterfly and watch it flutter! 

Again, this straw-string model can be used for anything - hang a small pom-pom, a kite, a bee, an aeroplane, a bird, etc. It can be a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional object. Anything that moves easily.

Here's a fly that you blow away from the watermelon slice. The fly is attached to a plastic strip that is also attached to the watermelon slice.

In the next example, I drew a book and cut a slot in the middle. I inserted a piece of paper into the slot to make a page and decorated the book with pictures of monsters which I cut from a piece of used gift wrap. Ryan has to blow the page upwards to see what's underneath!

Other examples - a dog with floppy ears that you can blow up, a helicopter with moving rotor blades, a house with a chimney or a train engine (use black strips of paper/plastic for smoke and blow on the strips), etc. You can even use something that doesn't move at all - like a picture of a hot apple pie. Actually, the examples are endless.

After the blowing game, we do image training (pretend play/imaginary story), then the "Which One?" games and then the "hot" card game.

At home, you must do the pre-lessons if your child is above three years old. If your child is under three years old, you can choose to skip the pre-lessons if your child is already happy and relaxed, as the right brain is usually still dominant at this age, although it is still better to do them. It depends on the situation and the individual child. If your child needs some help to focus, then the games will help. Also, some children may have already started receiving a lot of left brain input before they turn three (especially in Singapore) - these children may need more help to switch over. In class, we do the pre-lessons at all ages, even with the babies - some children may need it, some children may not but since we can't customise the class routine to fit the individual child, we just do it in every class. If your child attends the weekly class, it's also good to do the pre-lessons even if your child is under three, to maintain the routine.

Do blowing games at home if your child doesn't know how to do deep and slow breathing or if your child is particularly hyper. Please do not worry about making those little blowing toys that we use in class. In class we change the blowing toy every week but at home you can repeat the same thing in subsequent sessions. It's just something to help your child breathe deeply and relax himself. You can use a piece of tissue paper or a feather and blow it across the floor. You can use a handkerchief. You can even just hold up a picture of a hot cup of coffee and ask your child to blow on it. I would not suggest blowing bubbles or blowing a musical instrument or even a lighted candle - the child may get too excited and want to continue playing with the bubbles, etc.

After the pre-lessons (including image training which I will explain in the next post), you can proceed to Senses Play.

[This post also appears in our Learning at Home section.]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Having fun in KL

Arrived in KL in time for dinner with the family yesterday. Went home and Ryan fell asleep while we watched a video.

Here are some photos from today. We started with a fun bath.

Followed by lunch.

A quick trip into the city to do some banking and to check on our condo there, which is still vacant. Appointed a new agent to help us get it leased out.

After picking up some DVDs, we popped over to Richard's sister's house where we spent the rest of the evening till we went home about half-past eleven.

Ryan had a ball of a time playing with his cousins, and he fell asleep the moment we got home.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Travelling again!

We're off to Malaysia today! Looking forward to meeting up with the family and our friends and having lots of good food, long naps and fun times. Ryan's all packed up - sunnies and Elmo included!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A different point of view

Here are the usual goodies.

Remember to pop by Richard's tumblr for more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's a Whale!

This, according to Ryan, is a whale. He drew this on Saturday.

Ryan is a prolific artist and he has produced many beautiful pieces of abstract art, which render Richard and me deep in thought and contemplation. Their meaning is always a mystery and a secret, known only to their creator. Hence the significance of this piece - this was the first time that Ryan gave us a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind and revealed what his work represented.

In other news, I've put up a book review of the adorable Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann in our Learning at Home section.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life of a Model

Ryan updated his agency photo a few weeks back.

As usual, it was quite a nightmare putting together a selection of outfits for the shoot. That was the period when we were fairly strapped for time - we had a guest staying with us and I had just come out of the pregnancy. We cobbled together clothes from Ryan's existing wardrobe but our photographer was not happy - he said everything was too big! Ryan is coming to 32 months now but he fits into clothes for 12 to 18 months, or 18 to 24 months. Sometimes even 9 to 12 months. We've been buying clothes for his age, not his size, thinking that he'd grow into them soon but that hasn't happened yet. Also, since his last shoot, he has grown slimmer although a little taller, so even his old clothes hang loose on him.

Our photographer settled, unwillingly, on one outfit, but when we put Ryan in front of the camera, Ryan didn't respond (he was having the sniffles) so our photographer told us that we might as well try another day. With a new wardrobe!

The following Monday, when Richard and I were on leave, we went shopping for Ryan. Bright colours, no whites, no greys, no logos, no cartoons - not easy! We scoured all sources but it was tough going. To make things more difficult, the US/European labels were stocking their autumn collections, which meant a lot of long-sleeves and warm (dull) colours. After a long day, we managed to pick up some tops. The following day, which was a public holiday, we brought Ryan out with us to pick up some pants.

All our efforts paid off - the shoot on 1 September went perfectly. All's well that ends well. Here's the new shot! I like it a lot!

The top is new, from Mothercare (Richard spotted it). It's for 9-12 months! The pants are from Fox, from Ryan's existing wardrobe.

The last round, Ryan got called up twice for auditions with clients, so that was a pretty good result. We couldn't make it for the first audition because we were out of town. The second one was for McDonald's! Unfortunately we didn't do too well at the audition - they asked Ryan to sit on a chair for the photographer to snap a shot but he kept climbing off the chair to be with Richard and me. Oh well. Every shoot/audition is a learning experience and I'm sure things will get smoother as Ryan grows older.

This shot will last us for a bit longer than the last one - the next update was supposed to be in December, but our photographer said he'll schedule it in February next year so that Ryan can grow up a little more. If you compare the last shot with this one, you'll see that, apart from the hair, there's not a lot of difference between the two, so there's not a lot of point doing an update too soon.

A few more shots to share with you here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Ryan started a new term at Edudrama today. This will be his last term at Julia Gabriel as we are not keen on moving to Forum (for the English classes) or to Rochester Mall (for the Mandarin classes). He was very happy in class today, prancing about, making lots of comments and laughing out loud.

We spent the afternoon at home. In the evening, the weather was quite cool so we hopped in the car and popped over to Punggol Park for a little playground time.

We remembered to bring Ryan's little car this time, which rescued me from some calorie-busting weight-lifting.

It must have rained earlier because there were puddles in some of the slides. Richard had to lift Ryan off the slides once he got halfway down. Ryan decided to focus on climbing instead.

Plus some number-tracing on the hopscotch.

We had dinner at Wild Oats. This was Ryan's pre-dinner entertainment - matching the upper-case and lower-case letters.

A quiet, relaxing Saturday. Just the type we like.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Matching letters to objects

Here's a Youtube video (about 7.5 minutes) of a game that Richard and Ryan have been playing.

The game is simple  - Richard shows a card with a picture of an object and Ryan selects the card with the letter corresponding to the first letter of the object's name. So, for a picture of a cat, Ryan selects the card with the letter "C". He connects the two cards (they are like jigsaw pieces) and arranges them neatly on the floor.

On the back of the cards is a set of capital and small letters (upper and lower case), eg. the capital "B" links up to the small "b". When we started playing with these cards, Ryan used them to match up the capital and small letters. It was only recently that Richard came up with the game in the video - this is the third or fourth time they are playing it. Ryan could match up all the cards the very first time they played this game.

[This post also appears in our Learning at Home section.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A different point of view

Hop over to Richard's tumblr to check out his "phonetography".

Still here? Ok, I've got some goodies from Richard's phone here too. Enjoy!

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