10 Suggestions for Strangers Regarding my Boys...
Bringing my boys up in Singapore is absolutely brilliant. They are safe, there’s so much to do, they are exposed to all of the wonderful cultural differences within the human diaspora, and they are loved by strangers as Asia is a place where children are still honoured – it’s special. However, there are a couple of aspects regarding bringing up my boys in Asia that I’d like to discuss, and it would be really great if people who don’t know my children, or my parenting ideas, could take note. This applies to every country I’ve ever visited in Asia, but it is also relevant elsewhere, as some of these things are universal.
- Under no circumstances give my children candy! Anytime you feel an inclination towards offering them candy, at least check with me first to see if it is OK? I really do appreciate the genuine motivation of offering my boys a treat, BUT I don’t want my boys eating candy because I want them to have amazing teeth. As a general rule, avoiding candy is impossible, but I work hard to minimize their exposure to it and would appreciate your support in this regard. In addition, colourings send my boys nuts but you don’t have to suffer the consequences of this because we will be long gone before it kicks in. So please, no candy unless I say it’s OK?
- Rule one also goes for the times when my magnificent helper Vick is out with my boys. While you would never argue with me after I say no, please do not argue with Vick. I trust her implicitly with my boys safety and health and if she says no, it is of equal value to my no
- I am trying to raise my boys without any fear in their lives. I don’t threaten them with any dire consequences if they do not eat their dinner or do as they’re told. I just think that raising my children with fear as a motivator isn’t right for us, so I would appreciate it if you never threatened the boys with comments like “the police will come and take you away if you are naughty” for example. On one level, I don’t want the boys to grow up fearing the police, and will instead instil in them a healthy respect for the law. I also don’t want them to think that anything they do could result in them being dragged off facing some unknowable punishment away from their safety net. I just don’t think this is good for their psyche
- Additionally, threatening that Santa or the Easter Bunny won’t come if they’re naughty is off the table too. This was used on me as a child and it’s a devastating threat. It’s also inappropriate, because the idea that you are rewarded for being good and punished for being bad, when you’re just being a kid learning to control your desires within the context of what is appropriate socially, doesn’t really help my children to grow in a healthy way. I just want my boys to be as well behaved as they are capable of being, so threatening them with lack for being themselves is something I don’t do. I’m trying to teach my boys to behave because it feels good not because they get rewarded! I’d appreciate your support on this one too
- If they are being rude, disrespectful, naughty, or just rowdy, please don’t lash out at them in an aggressive manner. It really upsets little ones to be the target of an adult’s anger. I really do believe that attacking a four year old verbally (for essentially being a four year old), is very confusing to a little person. If something happens, please just tell me and I will talk to them. If an apology is appropriate, I will make sure they give you one. I’m bringing my boys up to be respectful and to not react aggressively in situations. When an adult reacts aggressively, it’s a bit counterproductive to the lessons I’m trying to teach them and makes it difficult to absorb the lesson of try to be kind and operate from your heart first, as opposed to a place of anger. By the way, if you bitch slap Jax, don't expect him to be submissive - he's a fighter that boy and will always stand up for himself
- If my boys are being pains in the arse of your premises I absolutely encourage you to bring them into line and tell them that what is and what is not OK. But please do it firmly, yet with kindness and a gentle heart. No one appreciates being verbally attacked, and as a stranger laying down the law, you have a very good chance of being heard . Of course, if they do not listen to you, that’s what I’m there for. As with point five, please just try not to be aggressive – it has a very big impact on little minds
- Please please don’t tell my kids that monsters or ghosts or anything really frightening will come and take them off if they are being naughty. I have to deal with the consequences of these chats, and following six months of having my nights’ interrupted by a four year old who is very scared right now, I’d appreciate if you didn’t add to this fear. Little kids hear and understand everything, plus their imagination is very very big, so try to be aware of what you are saying to them as their context and your context of an idea are very different indeed
- I am happy for you to share your food with the boys, and this is one of those wonderful things I’ve experienced right across Asia. However, even though I accept I will never be able to control everything they eat, I work hard to avoid giving my boys any food with additives and preservatives in it. Therefore I beg you not to give them biscuits, soft drinks, or anything with MSG, HFCS, salt, refined sugar, or anything else with E numbers if possible. Homemade food is perfect, but anything from a packet, please just think about it. The crap in the food chain sends my boys nuts (well it sends me nuts too) so I just want them to avoid it whenever possible, and I sure would appreciate you helping me out here
- When you see my boys and say “so cute, so cute ah,” which is typically followed up with a lot of giggling, would you mind making sure you actually speak to the boys and engage with them? I am very happy for my boys to speak with anyone who wants to do so, but when you giggle and walk off my little lad Jax (who’s now four and a half) thinks you’re laughing at him. Unfortunately this makes him very upset. I tell him you just thought he was cute, but he’s pretty convinced you’re laughing at him. I promise you I am always happy for people to talk to my boys, so don’t let my presence scare you off OK?
- From a safety perspective, if I am there, watching my boys, there is no need to get involved with what they’re doing. I really really appreciate that my son Lex freaks you out. He is a monkey and if I lived in a town with a Circus in the school, he would definitely attend this school. However, I’ve watched him evolve into this amazing climber when the desire first started at 10 months old. It freaked me out then, but I quickly realized that I could not control the desire in him unless I killed off some of his spirit at the same time. So I stood back, always in a position to catch him, and let him explore his body. As a result, he has a solid five years of experience behind him, has excellent judgement about what he can and cannot do, his balance is impeccable, he rarely falls, and I love watching him reach new heights – literally – and continue to refine his skills. In fact, I think Lex was a Pacific Islander in a recent life – you should see him scale light poles. Now I really do understand that he makes you uncomfortable, but if I am there with him, watching him, in a position to catch him if he does fall, please just let me focus on him and not on your need for reassurance that he is safe OK? Cheers, I’d sure appreciate that
There are many other things I could include in my list, but this is a good start. I know that my boys aren't perfect, I also know they're bloody rowdy, but they've both got good hearts and I'm trying to build on that. Looking for your support in helping me be the parent I want to be.
Yours, without the bollocks