Archive for the ‘Parenting Books’ Category

On Motivation

September 1, 2014

To my great annoyance, my post disappeared after I retyped it a second time on the ipad. Anyway, as I was saying, I’ve been fervently perusing parenting books recently, especially those pertaining language learning, motivation and other behavioral related books. Perhaps I’ve been gripped by the frenzy of preparing Calvin for imminent formal education. Or maybe these are subject matters that have always interested me.

The one I’m reading now is about motivating children to love learning. The author talks about three factors that will help: competence, autonomy and relationship.


Humans enjoy feeling competent. You feel competent when you complete a challenge not when you finish an easy task. Children need to be encouraged to challenge themselves to help with feelings of competency. Help preschoolers gain competence by

– using rich language in everyday dialog

– listen attentively when they recount their experiences or a story

– write down make-believe stories

– explain vocabulary that he/ she hears

– teaching songs, rhymes, word play

– reading and asking questions, pointing out pictures, predicting story

– sorting, learning shapes, estimating, comparing, , measuring in everyday activities

– teaching children to feel competent by giving positive feedback, but also balance with costructive criticism that encourages improvement

– agree when he tells you a task is difficult and then give suggestions on how to tackle problem, help break down tasks



– Giving the freedom to choose among acceptable alternatives

– Do not nag or force them to do things. Use empowering language where they make the decision in the end. E.g. “You may want to try etc…”

– Discuss consequences with them but no negotiations after that.

– Use factual statements instead of commands E.g. I use the thesaurus to avoid repeating the same words.



– Acceptance: Your child knows you love him unconditionally

– Connection: Interested and involved in his life and understands his needs

–> Use ’emotional coaching’: instead of denying his negative feelings, acknowledge them but still set limits on behaviour (no hitting etc)

– Support: Respect him for who he is. Support his autonomy

– Teaching children value of trying hard in school, learning is important




A Good Mother is Better Than a Good Teacher – 好妈妈胜过好老师

November 10, 2013

I read this Chinese book that another mother recommended on her blog, <<好妈妈胜过好老师>>. It’s written by a Chinese teacher talking about her experiences in raising her own daughter and what she believes are good practices in bringing up a child with good attitude and character.

I agree with her philosophy though there are some things that I do not agree with of course, like when she recommends letting kids read 古文, an old form of written Chinese instead of modern Chinese. My Chinese is pretty decent but I never liked the 古文 that they made us memorize in secondary school in Malaysia. I guess this is mostly cultural because we don’t have need to have such scholarly proficiency in Chinese. To be honest, no one even writes that way anymore. That’s the equivalent of saying I should read Shakespeare to Calvin and hope he’ll learn how to use the words ‘thee’ and ‘thou’.

There were many things that I agree with though, like how she says studying should be kept fun and parents shouldn’t obsess over things like scores and ranking. What is more important is to focus on whether the child is learning. I think it is similar to the Western theory about giving praise to the process and not the outcome/ person. E.g. ‘You really worked hard to learn to ride the bike’ as opposed to ‘Good girl’, ‘Great job’. I’ve been working hard on that for a while and I’d like to think I’ve improved. I’ve been trying to point out how he has worked hard on putting on his socks and he’s much faster now because of the practice etc. I’m thinking of taking it one step further with a little notebook for all his good ‘deeds’. This is a suggestion from the book that I thought was worth trying out. She calls it the ‘记功簿‘, where you record the good things your child has done and also emphasize their efforts on things you hope they will improve on. I’m not sure if Calvin will take to it, but there’s no harm trying 😛 I started it today and he was interested in putting the little sticker stars in and he also remembered what I praised him for. I think maybe the biggest benefit of this is that I’m more focused on the positive side of what he does and helps me to be more zen, especially when I’m tired and grumpy.

I also liked how she emphasizes the importance of reading. It’s a little contradictory to what she said about reading classics to your kid, because she also says it’s okay for children to read any kind of book as long as the writing is not trashy and the values are not dubious I would guess? As I said, I’ve always thought that children who read widely can’t do that poorly academically. And J is a good example of having good English despite reading mostly non-classic, popular science fiction/ fantasy books and those choose your own adventure books. I personally read a lot of popular fiction and trashy romance novels, albeit I also put in conscious effort to read classics and award winners. I think we’ll probably let him read whatever he likes unless it’s not age appropriate.


May 18, 2012

I’m reading this book called Quiet, the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. I’ve always found it strange that I had some extrovert traits especially when I was young and somehow become more and more introverted. And I would feel bad that I’m not as social as other people are. I would rather be at home reading a book and playing a game than to go out for a dinner engagement. I remember the times when I went for my primary school class gatherings and I just didn’t feel like I belong at all. I would sit in a corner and wonder why I was there. The strange thing is i was rather gregarious when I was young. I liked performing in front of an audience; I wanted to go to school and make friends etc.

Regardless, it seems I’ve become firmly in the introvert camp now. In retrospect, perhaps that why me and Johnny hit it off well. It was the resonance of two introverts who are able to enjoy long silent walks together.

It’s no surprise that Calvin seems to be exhibiting classic introvert behavior as well. He prefers to watch other children play than join in the fray immediately; he takes a while to warm up to new toys. But today, when we went to the new family picnic, he surprised us by enjoying himself a lot running around near the order children. He didn’t exactly play together with them, but at this age, parallel play is normal anyway. He had a really great time running around going ‘neenaw’ and even ventured around by himself boldly. Even though he’s still not confident about climbing and sliding and other physical playground activities, he can enjoy himself without clinging on to us, which is what he usually does. It’s funny but that really made me feel very glad and happy coz I was worried about how he will cope with being in school. At the end of the day, no matter his temperament, I just want him to be happy and will try my best to support him in what he wants to do. That is except when he throws a tantrum about random silly things…

Unconditional Parenting (Part I)

May 23, 2010

On Friday at the clinic, J witnessed some terrible parenting in motion again. A father was there with his toddler and the dad kept up this whole string of criticisms and nagging “Play properly”, “Stand straight”, “Keep quiet” and everything was punctuated with “Otherwise you’ll get it when we get home”.  While I know that me and J will never impose such extreme authoritarian rule over little Calvin, I decided it’s time to start reading parenting books for ideas nonetheless.

The first book I’m starting on now is called Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It advocates that we should look at the long term goal of who/what we want our kids to be rather than focusing on their short term behaviour. He contends that punishment and it’s converse – positive reinforcement relies too much on behaviorism — or what he calls conditional parenting. Conditional parenting makes kids feel that they are only loved if they fulfill certain conditions. While it may get you results quickly, it only teaches kids to follow certain rigid sets of conduct and not the moral philosophy behind what they do. They may learn to say ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ at the appropriate times but they might not learn to truly appreciate what others did for them or what they have done to others. And when the incentives or disincentives are removed, kids will not be interested in continuing the good behaviour. Some studies have also shown that not only are the kids less interested in what they do, they are less proficient in it as well.

One of the study was about how kids whose parents control their play by telling them what to do, correcting their ‘wrong’ behavior or even praising them, find the toys not as fun as those kids whose parents are less controlling.  Yes, even praise is bad because by praising them when they do the ‘right’ thing, it implicitly says that everything else they did was no good and motivates them to continue doing things just to please us rather than exploring and learning.

So far, I agree with his philosophy that we should teach our children how to think and reason through things, rather than ‘Just do it, because I say so’. Instinctively, we probably already knew this, but it’s definitely much harder to implement than I thought. There’s so much conventional wisdom about disciplining, especially the time out method of withdrawing privileges that I’m afraid we are already corrupted in the way we think about disciplining. I’m only about one third of the way through, so will hopefully pick up some useful tips in the later half of the book and put them into practice sooner rather than later.