Parenting Matty: From competitive to collaborative.

Ah… Being a mumma Matty… Where to begin?

A very, very active boy who don’t sleep and eat well.

I received a lot of feedbacks that he is a super active kid. Even taxi drivers were amazed (or maybe irritated) at his energy level.

You know a good health and a good sleep is beneficial in brain development. But what to do when your son doesn’t eat well? A well-deserved body is ready to learn more things the next day. But what to do when he doesn’t sleep through the night since newborn?

Then, I asked myself “Why did I do wrong?”

A dancer who was chased out of a class

The days leading him to turning 3year-old was quite nightmarish.

He loves dancing and requested for a dance class. However during the third lesson, he was sooooo out-of-control. The teacher had to pull him out of the class so she could continue the lesson. She is a lovely teacher and Matty likes her till now. Is just he cannot control his behaviour and only follows instructions only at the first 10minutes.

To have your son being the ONLY kid in class to not follow instruction is pretty embarrassing. To have your son being led out by the teacher in front of other parents is heartbreaking. I was close to tears that moment. All I had in mind was “what can’t he be like the other kids?”

A preschooler who doesn’t know his ABC or colour within the lines

The boy, whose mumma was an ex-preschool curriculum specialist who went through three different phonics trainings, is unable to recognise more than 3 letters of the alphabet.

I know the seed to cultivate a good reader is to read to the child right from the start. Matty loves to look at books and listen to stories since he was a baby. He was able to sit through the whole story of Stickman before he turned 1 year old. Initially, we read every day and many times a day. I blamed myself for putting work before him. When I got busier at work, he stayed in front of the TV for hours. When I was halfway in my pregnancy, it was close to zero reading and interaction from me. Fortunately, his class teachers read a lot to him. Just that back home he chose TV over books, unlike the past.

When I see other kids of his age spelling and reading. I asked “Why can’t Matty do that?”

How to be happy when I keep thinking I’m doing something wrong?

Let’s face it, we all compare, and we always want our child to excel. No, not just meeting milestones, we do want our child to exceed the average social expectations. We want to hear positive feedbacks from others how outstanding our kids are.

Me too. But it never happened to me. The only time he is faster than the average is that he learned to walk at 8.5mo.

I’m pretty relax and I don’t demand much from him. However there is this tiger mom inside me that wishes he is a fast learner and can speak eloquently and behave well with other kids.

If you are, like me, feeling the stress that your child will lose out in school , here are some things I want to share:

1. You are not doing wrong. Parenting is just “that hard”

A friend shared with me about this article and the words that echoed till now was “it is just that hard”. So when I catch myself asking if I did anything wrong, or when I feel angry for not providing the best I can for his learning. I will always remember what this author shared that parenting is not easy.

So this is the first thing I want you to know if you ever had that loser-mom feeling.

2. Focus on what you want to teach, instead of what you want your child to achieve like the other kids.

Okay, the 3 year-old kid can read a book. Wait, what?!!! On his own? Oh gosh, an 15 month-old can speak in complete sentence and spell APPLE? Don’t get me started on a girl who can speak fluently and carry a conversation with an adult before the age of 2, in English and mandarin!

Slow down…

The social media is bombarding us with information what other kids can do.

Please follow the child’s cues. Educate yourself on the milestones first. If you are not sure, refer to the health booklet. If your child doesn’t meet any of the milestone you can bring it up to the doctor.

Ask the teachers the skill required for the next term and work on improving it. You will want to build the majestic castle of knowledge on a firm ground with good foundation. You don’t want it to crumble just before PSLE right?

A certain famous speaker said to make sure the kids are well-equipped with the knowledge that the teachers are going to teach months later. Please do that if your kid is certified genius, or you have zero worries, or if you have too much time in the world. If your kid is gifted, I don’t think you will even need to force yourself to teach months before the child actually learns it in school. The reason why I am against such practice is because the child will get bored in class at first and eventually lags behind because they don’t have the stamina and attitude to listen through and learn. They might seem like a fast learner at first but will struggle as the learning gets more complex. Remember your beautiful castle needs a firm foundation!

He can’t trace very well yet, using a dough to form the lines and strengthen his fine motor skills at the same time

3. Never ever forget the emotional aspect of development. A resilient child is more likely to have a successful future than the one who is forced to do things according to instructions.

Open-ended play brings problem-solving opportunities. When your child is unable to stack the tower after many tries, do they have the space and materials to try alternatives? Is someone there to guide through?
Do make sure your play area provides such opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong. I still make Matty focus on desk tasks but I make sure such activities that requires drilling do not last more than 10mins. That’s why I started to post learn-through-play or sensory activities that I do with Matty on my IG. Those are usually super quick set-ups for people who are like me; forever busy! I realised he remembers the play experiences when talk about word taughy and that is more important to me.

Matty needed a lot of guidance to match the upper and lowercase. It might seem he did not learn new letters, but he definitely felt happy completing it. Just keep repeating and we will get there:)

4. Let them enjoy childhood. Let yourself enjoy the playful moments too

The dishes can soak a little longer, the pile of clothes don’t really need to be folded (just take and wear 😂).

Join in and let your child know you are always there (phone aside!). Even if it is just 5-10mins of watching or playing with your child. Trust me, you will find this beneficial 10 years later. When they reach puberty, they will know they can always go to you for help!

What I like to do as a teacher or parent is to observe the kids playing and analyse what is going through in their mind. That’s the beauty of play, there is always something going on in those little minds.

I like to wonder what are the questions running through their minds as they rotate the bottle, imagine what scene they are portaying with the materials. I find it joyful to just visualise the images that are going through in his mind, as if I’m watching a video through the way he plays. From there, it opens doorways for communication and extension of learning.

Thinking about what the children are thinking…😂

From competitive to collaborative

All of the above points (except the first) is about being in-tuned with your child, being in-the-moment together, working together and understanding each other better.

I hope this post will help you to feel less stressful, and hopefully, join me in stepping away from the toxic competitive mindsets that we parents tend to have.

Play = fun = happy = a holistic achiever

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