We all hope that our children will grow up to become sensible and patient, not spoilt brats or little bosses.
What can we do to build their patience and ability to think for others, while reducing their self-centred tendencies?
As parents, we need to think about what we hope our children to be instead of focusing on what we don’t want them to become.
One of the best ways to teach children is to model it for them. Children remember better when they are shown what to do, rather than when they are told.
Gratitude is best expressed in the small everyday things. This includes showing respect to our parents (the kids’ grandparents) or thanking the food court cleaner when they wipe our table.
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Get them involved in housework
Many Singaporean households have a live-in domestic helper. This makes it easy to sometimes slip into a “someone else will clear the mess” mentality.
However, it is still possible to let kids carry some of the housework load. For example, we can practice a routine of cleaning up before bedtime, so the kids clear up their toys or mess during this time.
Whenever our kids spill their drink or food, we can teach them to take a damp cloth and wipe the mess up. Children can also help with folding and putting away our clean laundry together.
Involving them in housework is often more tedious than doing it ourselves, but it is crucial for children to practice sharing the responsibility of housekeeping.
It teaches them the value of hard work, combats the “entitlement” mentality, and instills a sense of ownership and belonging.
Over the long run, it will also help them grow in maturity and equip them with important life skills.
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Teach delayed gratification
Do we give in to our kids’ whims and fancies, like a fairy godparent? If we have made a habit of doing so, let’s hit the brakes and turn around.
Research shows that children who learn to delay their gratifications and exercise patience in the face of something highly desirable, go on to do well academically as well as in life.
We can talk explicitly about patience and share examples of how we exercised it successfully and how rewarding it was in the end. Then give them small opportunities to practice waiting, be it for a snack treat or for a fun outing to the park or playground. For older kids, we can help them save their allowances every week for something that they really want, like a Lego toy. Be sure to affirm them each time they are able to place their desires on hold.
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Look for opportunities to serve as a family
As much as we can, we can get our children involved in opportunities to serve or give to those who are in need.
Charity organisations like the Boys’ Brigade regularly organise charity events involving public volunteers to help deliver grocery items to the poor.
When we get involved in giving projects, we help our children focus less on themselves and more on others. The end goal? They will learn the values of thanksgiving and contentment.
Give them control and responsibility
Every time our children make a mistake or a poor choice, it is a valuable learning opportunity — give them a chance to problem-solve, figure it out for themselves or make amends, instead of swooping in too early to rescue them from every comfortable situation.
One key example is homework. Let our children know from day one that it’s their responsibility to remember what they need to complete each day. However, we can support their learning by putting in a structure within the home, such as a conducive study area, visual cues to remind them what to do, and a designated homework hour.
Let’s trust in our children’s ability. The more we are able to let go, the quicker they will learn. Before we know it, we’ll discover that they have grown to be more independent and responsible.
Written by June Yong.
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