How do you want to live your life?

Showing our children how to choose friends

I cannot even remember the last time I had something to write. The relocation back to Australia is still affecting me, and to be honest, I was surprised at how long it is actually taking me to get over it!

Lucky for me, I have a small group of great friends which I have gained over the last 40 odd years. No, I do not know them all for that long, some even as short as 4 years. That is the beauty of interpersonal chemistry; somehow you get one another and that’s that. You both have a wonderful synchrony that is cannot be simply put into words.

So, thankfully for these anchors, I am slowly gaining back my momentum to life. I also find that as I get older, I am more discerning about the time I spent with people. It is of utmost importance who they are and if they do not fulfil certain criteria,  I will reduce contact. I hear myself saying this a lot these days: ‘I’d rather be alone than be around people who does not make me feel good about myself.’ As you are reading this, I am sure there are a few people who came to mind. Whether or not you choose to keep that friendship is not the focal point of this post.

The purpose of this post is to teach our children how to make good choices in the friendship department. And how do we do that? Simply through examples. Our behaviour have such a huge impact on our children! If only more parents realise this. From what we choose to eat down to our mannerisms are passed down to our children via modelling. They copy what we do!

So, what did I do to pass on this important message to my kids? I tell them this:

Good friends :

  1. Will never put you down
  2. Will always be honest with you
  3. Will be happy for your success
  4. Makes you feel good when you are around them
  5. will always support one another
  6. will be there for each other no matter what happens
  7. brings out the best in each other
  8. will never say hurtful things to one another

Of course this is not an exhaustive list and different people will have different lists. But in a nutshell, great friends are people who truly knows you and yet still choose to hang around.  Most importantly, through mutual respect and acceptance, these friendships are so much fun. My kids have on various occasions witness my interactions with these friends and they have commented that I laugh a lot and seem to be having a great time whenever they come around. And my reply to this is, ‘That is the kind of people you want as your friends, you can laugh with them, you can share your secrets, and they bring out the best in you.’

So, the next time you have the chance to share some wisdom with your children, why not teach them how to increase the positivity in their lives by choosing great friends?



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Is technology really bringing people together?

In one of the chapters in my book, The Parenting Trap, I mentioned that it is unhealthy for children to be on their electronic devices all the time. It is much better for them to be out socialising with other children or even to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. I have been searching for more evidence to support my belief and I am glad to have found it!

In my recent study in Positive Psychology, I am glad to share with you that there are scientific evidence to support my claim. Research has shown that the less we use our social skills, the more we lose the ability to use them. Social connectivity is like our muscles, the less we use it, the more we lose it.

This is great news for people like me who loves company, good company of course. The more positive social connections we have with others, the more health benefits we reap. Extensive research in the field of Positive Psychology have strongly suggested that cultivating these positive connections is as powerful as starting a new health behaviour, such as quit smoking, healthy eating plans..etc. Isn’t this so exciting to know that we can all get healthier simply by staying connected with good friends and catching up for that coffee more frequently?

This also allows us to appreciate why solitary confinement has been used for as long as we know to punish prison inmates. It is one of the cruellest form of punishment to enforce onto anyone. If it can improve our health so much that it can be scientifically significant; then one only needs to imagine what will happen in the absence of human contact.

So, after all that, you ask me, what if my friends are busy or for that matter I am too busy to catch up on a regular basis, does that mean my health is going to suffer? Absolutely not! Lucky for us, Positive Social connections is not exclusive to interactions with people we already know. A simple hello and exchange of pleasantry with you local baker may be all you need to sustain you for longer than you know. So, it DOES NOT need to be someone you know. As long as the exchange is genuine and the experience is a positive one, it will work to elevate your wellbeing.

I can go on and on and run the risk of confusing you with too much technicalities and jargon. If you are interested to know more, please go to the link provided here.

All you need to remember is that you can influence your health by increasing positive connections with others. So, look up from your mobile devices the next time you are out, and take some time to connect with your fellow humans.



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Article in Today Paper

Hi there,

I understand that not everyone who visits my blog is from Singapore and even so, not everyone managed to get a copy of Today paper on the day that my article was published. So here it is, enjoy!


Raising children: Choosing the best of East and West


A reason I have embarked on a writing journey is the realisation of the distinct differences in parenting styles between Westerners and Asians. In my case, it is Australian versus Singaporean (I am a Chinese Singaporean and my husband is an Australian Caucasian).


MAY 23

A reason I have embarked on a writing journey is the realisation of the distinct differences in parenting styles between Westerners and Asians. In my case, it is Australian versus Singaporean (I am a Chinese Singaporean and my husband is an Australian Caucasian).

I have observed that the differences in parenting styles are strongly related to the values placed on education, work ethics and material possessions. I remember, during my early years living in Melbourne, no one would recognise the Louis Vuitton bag I was proudly carrying.

Soon, I realised that practicality, not luxury, was more important to people in that city.

Australians generally relish the idea of minimum work days and just “having enough”, while many in Singapore measure their success by what they own.




How does this relate to bringing up children? In Australia, parents do not rush to send their children for early education programmes or language and mathematics preparatory classes.

Instead, their children, some as young as toddlers, join playgroups. The aim is to help them develop their interpersonal skills and explore the world through play.

Unfortunately, some parents in Singapore think tuition is a must for their children, so they can do well in school and succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

The parents’ anxiety somehow gets embedded in their psyche: That success means being the best and having the best, and is solely measured by what can be observed outwardly.

But what is good for our children? I believe childhood is a special time. As parents, it is important we help our children maximise this crucial period, while giving them a proper education.

The difference in attitude towards education is only a modicum of what I have observed in a child’s development in both cultures.

Let me illustrate. In Australia, a Caucasian boy finds a table at a food court while his mum buys drinks; upon her return, she thanks the boy for getting a table.

In the same scenario in Singapore, a mother’s response when she sees a table found by her son tends to be: “Aiyah, this table is too near the toilet! Why can’t you find a better position?”

In the second scenario, instead of thanking her son for getting a table, the mum bemoans that his action is not good enough.

Has she considered how damaging her complaint is to the boy’s self-esteem? Both families need only a table for a meal. Is there any significance in having a better-positioned table?




In Asia, many parents unwittingly focus only on academic excellence. They reserve their praise exclusively for that purpose, dismissing non-academic qualities displayed by their children, such as consideration, charity and good manners.

Readers may argue that this is not the case and that I could have taken the illustration to the extreme. But ask yourself: When was the last time you complimented your child on a simple task, such as washing his plates?

I recently attended a workshop by Dr Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. A section of the workshop focused on the importance of parents’ validation and how this would help shape their children’s self-esteem.

When we compliment our children on completing a task well, we are telling them that they are growing up on the right track.

This helps build self-esteem in them and, in turn, encourage them to see the good in others.

Ultimately, it is not about whether the Western way of raising children is superior to the Asian one. Both have their pluses and minuses. In navigating and combining the best of the two cultures as I raise my two boys, I have learnt that there needs to be a balance.

Most of all, we should enjoy raising our children.

Karen Foote is a psychologist and author of the new book, The Parenting Trap: Raising Your Kids Confidently – Your Way, which is available at all major bookstores.


Book launch 56

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What kind of children are we raising?

This post was inspired by something that I encountered recently. Through this incident, it became very clear to me that our intentions for our children can greatly differ from society’s norms. But as parents, do we persist or do we give in to these norms that used to shackle us in our past? Here is how my story unfolds, there is no right or wrong, it is something that I hope as parents we will take seriously because ultimately, how we react will directly impact who our children will become in the future. Will they become doormats/ followers? Or will they become leaders or at the very least a fighter for their own rights?

My children attend a local school in Singapore, nothing wrong with that at all. I still believe that there are lots to learn. We just need to be able to moderate ourselves. Sometime during the first term of school this year, my older son came home really upset. He confided in me that his whole class got punished because some of them were misbehaving and his teacher concluded that it is ‘all for one and one for all’. Sure, I do get this concept, I even use it myself sometimes. In a way, it is to encourage students to become more actively involved in peer monitoring. So, I told him that although he felt that he was being unfairly punished, this is how it is like to be in a team, You take glory and heat together. Now, this incident did not just happen once, twice or even 3x, it was ongoing. And every time, I would try to find something positive that he could learn from it. The usual punishment given by the teacher is to write a personal reflection about what happened and how to improve it. Many times, my boy would get really upset because he said he does not know what to write because he did not misbehave, so what is he supposed to write? So, essentially, it is like a confession. One of these times, I told him to simply write how he felt about the situation, To my understanding, a reflection is meant to reflect how you feel. Guess what? He got into even bigger trouble for not complying with the topic!

Fast forward to 3 days ago. Again he came home really upset. And needless to say, it was the same issue. But this time something about his reaction changed. He asked me,” Mum, if my teacher is going to punish me whether I behaved or not? Then what is the point of trying so hard to be good?” Well, that’s it! All my years of instilling confidence and self-esteem is getting very close to being destroyed by a teacher who does not care about building up someone’s self-esteem. To her, it is all about compliance. In our household, even when my kids are caught red-handed, they are still given the opportunity to defend themselves. Because sometimes, people make poor decisions. It is our job as the adult to guide our children. I was really upset by the whole incident but I wanted to know if my sentiments was only an emotional reaction as a mother. So, I asked a few friends and their answers shocked me! They simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “Yea, that was how it was like when we were growing up. It’s very normal.” The only different answer I got was from a teacher who is teaching in a school that takes in students who failed their Primary school leaving exams. She understands and values the importance of instilling self-esteem in children at a very young age.

I had to spend a lot of time trying to undo the damage that she had created. To me, raising children is not about making them do everything you ask them to do. Sometimes, it is okay for them to question. Because if you changed the person asking them to do stuff, your view will change. For example, teach them to question friends who ask them to try drugs. Teach them that it is okay to stand their ground when it is something they believe in. We have so much responsibility as parents to ensure that we instill as much positive values and outlooks in life in our children. And personally, I feel that being a teacher is such a special calling. Even up til now, I meet teachers who continue to touch my life. So, thank you to all dedicated teachers out there. The world would not be the same without you! And parents, like I said earlier, there is no right or wrong reaction to this post. But surely this is something that all parents should consider. Are you raising someone with self-esteem or self-doubt. And the choice is in the action you take this very day!

‘I choose…

to live by choice, not by chances;

to make changes, not excuses;

to be motivated, not manipulated;

to be useful, not used;

to excel, not to compete;

I choose self-esteem, not self-pity;

I choose to listen to my inner voice,

Not the random opinion of others.

I choose to be ME.


I choose


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Dealing with challenging times

I cannot even remember the last time I posted something. It was so long ago and if we are all honest with ourselves; time slip us by if we are not careful. We tend to the more immediate and seemingly more urgent matters and forget to take care of our souls. What do I mean by taking care of our souls? To me, it means to always remember to do things that we love and more importantly stay true to who we are. In the past few months, I have learnt many things and I will share them with you in time to come. Today, I would like to draw your attention to something that a good friend shared with me:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness. What we choose to emphasis in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.” – Howard Zinn

As we all know, life is not a bed of roses and we face challenges more often than we prefer. Some of us see closed doors as a dead-end whilst the rest of us see it as an opportunity to practise our creativity. Which category do you belong to? Do you give up when things do not go your way? Or do you push on because you believe that you will reach your goal eventually? I find that in such pivotal moments, the most important question you should ask yourself is this: “Do I really want this? Am I prepared to keep pushing?” I noticed that people fail to achieve their goals because their answer is no to the above 2 questions. They simply stop trying and therefore do not get to where they want.

Then how does the rest of us reach our goal? Here is where the quote by Howard Zinn comes in. We keep the hope alive, we hold on to the believe that it will happen. Yes, I can see you roll your eyes. Like yeah….as if it is that easy. It can be because all you need to do is to choose to hold on to your dream. But I must also add that our parents and the people we meet in our lives also play a very important part. Lucky for me, I grew up with a mother who believes in all possibilities. And in the years after her passing, I was blessed to meet people who continue to share my values and nurtured it with me. So, to the parents who are reading this post, besides giving your children all the love and gadgets you can afford; give them the power of hope and believe. Armed with these 2 values, they will have endless possibilities.

So, what really inspired this post today? I am currently at the crossroad of my life. It seemed that I am lost in a desert where all I can see is an endless span of sand, but I know that this desert has an end. I just need to push forward, one step at a time. I hope to encourage those who are lost in their own desert to not give up hope. It may seem endless what you are facing and everything seemed to be telling you that it is time to throw in the towel. But if it is what you really want then focus on what your heart is telling you and ignore the noises around you that is distracting you. It is never foolish to hope. The very basis of human resilience is to have hope, without it life would be frightening and meaningless.


to be hopeful in bad times

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Give it to your children

I recently read a very interesting piece of article that I would like to share with everyone. Before I taint your mind by giving you my take on this topic; I am going to let you read this piece first and have a think about it yourself. Here goes:

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair-Get used to it!

Rule 2 : The world does not care about your self-esteem. The world expects you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait til you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they call it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parent’s fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rainforest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give away as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

So, how many of these points can you relate to and agree on? I must say I really agree with what he said! Sometimes, we do have to give our children a dose of reality. True, they may or may not ‘get’ it but we can at least try. In this way, they will not get a nasty shock when they begin their work life. Like I always said, we do underestimate what our children can understand. They are more IT savvy these days, so why can’t we assume that they will be able to understand these concepts as well?

Take a few moments and think about this now, are you really doing the younger generation a favour by not teaching them everything they need to know about their future? Preparing them for their work life through education is only one aspect of preparing them for the future. There are so much more we can impart to them. Everything takes time and patience. If I may present it to you in a different angle; imparting our wisdom to them is one of the reasons why we experience them. In this way, we can help them avoid certain roadblocks in life that we came across ourselves. Make sense? I hope that I have not confused you too much. But you know what? As long as you have your children’s interests in mind; you can never go wrong.

Happy parenting!


reality check

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Easier to build them from young

I have just began working at an organisation that works closely with at-risk adolescents. At-risk by their definition means that they have slipped through the cracks in Singapore’s education system either caused by family issues or various learning barriers. These 3 weeks have taught me a great deal. It has opened my eyes so clearly how much family support and influence can affect the future development of a child.

I daresay this to the parents out there; take the time to grow your children, it will be worth it! Everything you do can affect them in so many ways! Laziness and permissiveness is simply not an option! If you are a frequent visitor to my webpage, you should be well acquainted to my writing style. I usually allow my readers to think and make choices for themselves. But these 3 weeks have changed me. I am not saying that these children are beyond repair. I only meant to point out that it would be much easier to do the right thing by them right from the beginning. If you feel that you are not cut out to be a fabulous parent, you are wrong. All it takes is a little bit more effort on your side. The very least you can do is to find a role model for your child.

Take the time, it will be worth it. And remember, always do the right thing by them. It is not about how your friends view you as a parent. It is about making the best decision for your child. Of course I am not condemning parents who needs to be at work and have limited time with their children. You will be surprised how little it takes to maintain a child. Not with toys or branded goods. Think in terms of a child, not as an adult. Spend quality time with them whenever you can, take time to teach them moral values. Like I said, if you feel that you are unable to do a good job, then look around for a role model other than your domestic helper. Every ounce of effort you put in now will count towards that adult in the future. Whether or not he will respect himself and others depends so much on the actions you take today!

I apologise for being so pushy in this post. I cannot help but feel pain for these children. They did not ask to be brought into this world. For whatever reason they were, they were not taken care of as well as they should have been. But it is never too late. I met many people who contributed to who I am today. If not for what I had to go through when I was younger, I would not be who I am today. There is always 2 sides to a coin. I am just hoping to pass on this message, some of us are lucky enough to meet people who will inspire us and change our lives. But what about the ones who are not as lucky? Maybe….just maybe, it could have been avoided if proper loving guidance have been given while they were younger?

In case you don’t know where to start, begin here:

What children need most…Love, Respect, to have fun, to be seen, to be listened to, your presence, a hero, a fostered sense of wonder, lots of hugs, to play, the chance to make mistakes; encouragement to try again, room to grow dreams, to be told YES! to be trusted, affection, guidance.”


what children need

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I was inspired to write today’s post when I was watching the movie ‘unbreakable’; but the key is not the storyline but a little detail within it. There are 2 main characters in the movie; the supposed hero played by Bruce Willis and the villain played by Samuel L. Jackson.

You must be wondering what connects this movie and today’s theme about gratefulness? At the beginning of the movie; the scene showed the delivery of Samuel’s character who was born with broken limbs and the devastation experienced by his mother. It made me realised how lucky I am that my children are healthy! Just earlier in the day, I had to go to their school to attend a parent-teacher’s conference. For those of you who do not know what this is; twice a year, parents have a meeting with teachers so that both parties can have a discussion about the child and their progress in school and how to help them do better.

We place a lot of emphasis on achievements because that is the reality of life. In order to live a reasonably comfortable life, everyone, well almost everyone has to work hard. As parents, it is our duty to ensure that our children acquire the necessary skills to live the kind of life they desire in the future.

We often overlook or take for granted a very important point, especially when our children are born ‘normal”. We want them to be exceptional! Normal is not good enough. Take a moment to consider this; they are healthy!! We should be so grateful for that!But we are not!

My humble suggestion for today is this: for today, be grateful that our children is normal, even if their school results are not great. Be thankful that they can run up and down and annoy us. It is a gift but we find it annoying but they are on their feet, aren’t they? Instead of a wheelchair? Change your perspective, and you will see that we are so lucky to have seemingly normal children.


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Tips for mums

Today’s post is dedicated to a new friend I met recently; I suppose it was serendipity that we became friends because I’m sure her intention at that point was just to engage in small talk with me so that I do not feel out-of-place. We soon realised that we had a lot in common and yesterday’ she posted a message on Facebook because it was her mum’s death anniversary. The content of this post is not about death and all that; it is about how to make your life easier as a mum. I read the following tips somewhere and thought it might lighten your day. Here goes:

Tips for being a Happy Mum:

1. Admit that you don’t know everything.

2. Believe you know everything you need to know.

3. Surrender to the fact that you will eventually  repeat every mum cliché ever spoken.

4. Play

5. Forget “right’ and “wrong”, and aim for the happy and sane medium.

6. Remember, this too shall pass.

7. Listen more than you talk.

8. Find some perspective and hang on to it.

9. Have a drink and relax.

10. You are entitled to hate being a mum once in a while.

Thought this is not the exact list that I read; I have amended and added a few of my own. I had a laugh when I read the original list because it is so true. Don’t get fixated with what is the right thing and the worse thing you can do is to criticise other parents because you will never know when your child is going to play up and you end up suffering their fate!

I only have a mere 10 years of parenting experience but from what I have learnt and what I have observed so far; this is how I see it. Parenting is a very personal and experiential journey; every day is different and everyone does it differently. There is definitely no right or wrong way to get things done. The keynote here is: Love your children and show them in ways so that there is no doubt in their hearts that you love them. And because you love them, make sure that you have raised them in such a way that after you are gone; your legacy lives on with them.

To end this in the light note that I intended: I leave you with this e-card message; read it, believe in it, and commit it to your memory so that on the days when you feel tired or defeated; you can call upon this quote and see the lighter side of things! Enjoy your children; not everyone was given the privilege of having them.

“You can’t scare me; I’m a mum! Seen it, Smelled it, Heard it, Changed it, Cleaned it!”


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One to one bonding time

I had the pleasure of spending time alone with my younger son today. We are so used to rushing around getting things done that we often forget the important things in life; the people we love and care about. That seemed to happen more often when we have more than one child and they get along with each other. It is just so much easier to let them amuse each other.

The only time that I felt really guilty about not spending time alone with my older son was when my younger boy was born. I was painfully aware that he used to have me all to himself and all of a sudden, he had to share me with his little brother. I remember trying really hard to make time so that we could resume some normality; well, that was until fatigue and lack of sleep got the better of me and survival was of utmost importance.

And as the boys grew older, they really got along with each other despite the 3 years difference; it just seemed to me that they prefer each other’s company and did not seem to mind whether we had alone time or not. In one of previous post (they grow up really fast), I mentioned that I am suddenly aware that my babies are growing up rapidly into big boys! This realisation jerked me into action! I do not have that much time left with them before they spread their wings and leave the nest. If I want to connect and remain connected to my children; I have to start making some serious effort!

What I also noticed was that when the two siblings are together; they are often talking over each other in a hurry to share some piece of information with me. It can be frustrating at times but I see it as good news! Well at least they are still interested to talk to me! I admit that it is much easier to let the 2 brothers amuse each other but after the few outings that I had spent time alone with each of them; I really appreciate the alone bonding time. I often preach about treating children as individuals; then aren’t they worth their own ‘bonding time’ with their parents? Trust me, they really enjoy having your undivided attention. It can be an outing with either both parents or just with mum or dad.

You will be richly rewarded for this gesture because through your actions; it shows that you see them as an individual and takes a personal interest in them.  Imagine how loved they will feel! What a great boost to their self-esteem!

If you haven’t had the time to spend one to one time with your children; try to make time to do so. It might surprise you how good it feels to reach out and feel connected to your children again!



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