Tuesday, December 15, 2015

50 Life Lessons Every Parent Should Teach Their Children

Ever feel like parenting is the toughest job in the world?
Parenting involves plenty of hard work. What’s more, there are no guarantees.
No matter how much you love your children, no matter how much time you spend with them, no matter how “perfect” of a parent you are … you can’t guarantee that your children will become successful and happy.
Nonetheless, there are many valuable life lessons you can impart to your children.
As your children learn these lessons, they’re more likely to grow up to be confident, well-adjusted, contributing members of society.
I’ve come up with this list of 50 life lessons that every parent should teach their children.
It’s taken me my whole life to learn these lessons. So I’m passionate about sharing them with my son (and future children), as well as the students I work with.
1. Success is more about contribution than it is about achievement.
2. Don’t worry too much about what other people think of you. They think about you a lot less than you imagine.
3. Focus on progress, not perfection.
4. Run your own race, not the race that other people expect you to run.
5. You cannot always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude.
6. School isn’t the place you go to get an education; school is just one part of your education. Be proactive in becoming a truly educated person.
7. Successful people do what other people aren’t willing to. Success is a mindset, not a goal to be attained.
8. You can’t win every time. So when you lose, do it gracefully.
9. You can learn something from everyone, no matter how “important” or “unimportant” the person may be.
10. Don’t blame others for your frustrations and disappointments. If you blame others, it means you haven’t taken full responsibility for your life.
11. Be generous. At the heart of it, living is about giving.
12. Watch as little TV as possible – preferably none at all. You’ll lead a more productive life this way.
13. Don’t multi-task. Do one thing at a time and you’ll be far more efficient.
14. Write down everything: your to-do list, your reflections, your goals, your dreams. As David Allen once said, “Your brain is a thinking tool, not a storage device.”
15. Don’t live with regret. Instead, focus on creating a better future for yourself and others.
16. Be a caring person. Care about your loved ones; care about your community; care about the world around you. Do this and your life will be fulfilling.
17. Try new things. Read new books, take up new hobbies, and eat new foods. These experiences will enrich your life.
18. Dare to fail. As Seth Godin once said, “If failure isn’t an option, then neither is real success.”
19. Life will disappoint you. Don’t give up.
20. Be willing to change. Changing yourself is one of the hardest things to do, but you can’t grow as a person if you’re not willing to change.
21. Celebrate often. Celebrate both the small and big things, and your life will be filled with joy.
22. Be intentional about spending time with people you respect and admire. Over time, you’ll become more like them.
23. Become an organized person. Being disorganized is one of the biggest causes of stress.
24. Don’t ever stop learning. The more you learn, the more you’ll appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
25. Get outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis. That’s the only way to grow.
26. Your habits will either make you or break you. Start building healthy habits today.
27. Show respect to every single person you meet. As J. K. Rowling once said, “If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
28. Learn to appreciate both the good and the bad. After all, in life there will be plenty of both.
29. When you make a mistake, apologize. Humility is a rare but valuable trait.
30. Take care of your health, starting right now. Your future self will thank you.
31. Be kind to the people you care about the most. Many people do the opposite – they’re the least kind to the people they’re closest to.
32. You can’t be great at everything. Focus on doing a few things exceptionally well.
33. Invest in your most important relationships. This is an investment you’ll never regret.
34. Define success for yourself. Refuse to blindly accept society’s definition of success.
35. Be kind to yourself. Show yourself respect, and don’t beat yourself up over your imperfections.
36. Develop a positive attitude. Your attitude is the most important factor that leads to success and happiness.
37. Be thankful. No matter what you’re going through, there’s always something to be grateful for.
38. Lead a balanced life. Reflect on your life every few months. Ask yourself what changes you need to make in order to find more balance.
39. Be resourceful. When faced with a problem, remember that there’s always a website, a book, a course, or a friend you can turn to for help.
40. Become a person of integrity. Do what you say you’ll do, and people will trust you. Without trust, it’s impossible to build strong relationships.
41. Learn to manage your thoughts and emotions. How you respond to frustrations and disappointments will largely determine your success.
42. Set big goals, but break them down into small steps. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed. It’s also more likely that you’ll take action.
43. Your character is more important than your accomplishments.
44. Focus on the process rather than the end result. If you do this, the end result will take care of itself.
45. Your decisions determine your destiny. Whatever life choices you’re faced with, choose wisely.
46. Passion isn’t found. It’s cultivated.
47. As a follow-up to #46, find a problem in the world that needs solving. Acquire the skills and knowledge required to solve that problem, then get to work. This is how passion is cultivated.
48. Money won’t make you happy, but without money you’ll be unhappy. Learn to spend wisely so that you can achieve financial independence as soon as possible.
49. Listen to your parents more than you feel like. Most of the time, they really do know better than you.
50. Happiness is a choice more than it is a feeling.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Top PSLE scorers, take a bow

Chua Mui Hoong

Opinion Editor

Yes, we should broaden our definition of merit but there's no reason to downplay academic achievement

I don't remember the PSLE score I got as a 12-year-old. But I know it was good enough to get me into Raffles Girls' School which, then and now, is a school that strives for academic achievement - and may it never be ashamed to say so.
I was happy to get into RGS to follow in the footsteps of my big sister. But I wasn't particularly chuffed one way or another about my score or that I had topped my neighbourhood school.
In those days, no one boasted about his or her scores, but no one was ashamed of doing well either.
In secondary school, we more or less knew where each other stood academically, competed in a friendly fashion and got on with the important things in life, like playing netball and volleyball, and going window-shopping in the nearby Scotts Road shopping centres after school.
RGS then was a school with very bright kids, many from humble backgrounds like myself. Thrown together with such bright sparks, I bumbled along, eschewing the tougher science streams for the much easier "sub-science" stream once I knew I was more drawn to the humanities than the hard science. I graduated from RGS with significantly fewer A1s in my O levels than many of my friends. I also went on to get fewer As than my classmates at junior college, but won a scholarship to study literature at Cambridge, on the strength of good grades in that subject.
This litany of my quite-good- but-not-stellar academic achievements is just by way of saying that I don't understand the current reticence when it comes to PSLE results, when the Ministry of Education (MOE), schools and mainstream media all seem so shy about releasing information and stories about children who aced the Primary School Leaving Examination.

A few schools' websites list photos and names of their top scorers - but in alphabetical order. A website, kiasuparents.com, has crowdsourced a list of PSLE top scores in some schools - to the scorn of others.
Some well-known people have come forward with the humble brag that they didn't do well in the PSLE but went on to do well in life, to encourage students who might have done badly, to push ahead and continue their learning journey.
This is all very laudable.
But whatever happened to the old-fashioned virtue of celebrating success?
Instead of schools, parents and communities openly celebrating academic achievement, I find an awkward shroud of silence surrounding top scorers.
It has been this way since MOE decided to stop publishing the names of top scorers in the 2012 PSLE. I hope Singapore has not acquired a bad dose of the tall poppy syndrome, where people look askance at other people's achievements and want to tear them down, and where high achievers then feel the need to keep their heads down for fear of drawing unwanted envious attention.
I am sympathetic to the views of those who argue that the past laser-like focus on top scorers has created a culture where parents, children and society look at merit in purely academic terms.
I agree with those who say it is far better and healthier to celebrate success in different dimensions. As MOE explained in a parliamentary reply to questions on the policy in January 2013: "The change is aimed at recognising students for their holistic development and all-round excellence, and not just their academic performance only."
So for the PSLE, the media featured stories of children who overcame illness or grief to score well.
But recognising students' holistic excellence should not be coupled with downplaying academic achievement. So I would have liked to see the stories of the top scorers, and the schools that produced them, and the teachers who helped them get there.
Are there children who went from a fail grade to a stellar grade? A migrant child, new to the Singapore school system, who struggled to cope? A cleaner's child who topped the Maths paper? A teacher who refused to give up, to help a child overcome her dyslexia to do well enough in Mother Tongue to secure her place in the top league?
Let's not forget that it also takes discipline, grit and perseverance - the qualities we want our children to cultivate as part of their "holistic development" - to ace the PSLE. While we give a pat on the back to those who did better than expected, and encourage median students to strive for more, we shouldn't be shy about celebrating those who topped the league tables in exams either.
Otherwise, it would be like celebrating Singapore's achievement in the SEA Games without reference to the number of gold medals won, or reporting on a football game by focusing on missed passes and the valiant efforts of a few injured players, and failing to report on the high points in the game and refusing to name the strikers who scored the goals.
If we are proud of our nation's sporting achievements, and aspire to the Olympic gold by dangling a $1 million cash award, why should we dim the lustre of our 12-year-olds' academic achievements in a national exam?
A win in the sporting field, the artistic field or the academic field should be celebrated by the community, not played down and hushed up. We should teach our children to feel both pride and gratitude in their achievements; and to feel both admiration and aspiration in the face of others'.
Nor should we as a society pretend to be as modest and humble about our achievements as we seem to want our PSLE graduands to think we are. As a country, Singapore is not shy about trumpeting its successes.
We are not shy to boast on the Economic Development Board website that we are the No. 1 city with the best investment potential, have a workforce that tops Beri's labour force evaluation, and Singapore is the world's easiest place to do business.
Government websites aren't shy either about boasting about Singapore students' stellar performance in global education rankings, whether at the Pisa tests or OECD education rankings.
Government ministers routinely trot out tables and charts to show Singapore's achievements in governance, administration, tackling of corruption, or median income.
The truth is that Singapore is an intense, competitive society. We can and should learn to appreciate different types of success beyond the academic and the materialistic, and we should broaden our definition of merit. We should also beware of placing excessively high expectations on our children.
But we should not swing too much the other way, to become a society afraid to celebrate success and achievement. We should certainly not deny 12-year-olds, who have worked hard in their studies, the recognition they deserve for their hard work.
So, top PSLE scorer of 2015, whether from Rulang Primary as fingered by kiasuparents.com, or elsewhere. Top scorer in Maths/ English/ Science/ Chinese/ Malay/ Tamil/ Hindi/ Punjabi. Top scorer in each school. Top scorer in the merged streams. Top scorer among migrant children who transferred into the Singapore school system mid-stream. Top scorer with special needs who needed extra time or physical assistance in the exam.
To each and every one of you: Take a bow. Well done.
The PSLE result won't define the rest of your life. But at this moment, your achievement is something you should feel proud of, not something you feel you should hide from others.
I hope, even if the rest of Singapore don't know it, that your parents, your siblings, your aunties and uncles, your teachers, your friends and people around you know of your achievement and are celebrating it with you. Openly, with pride. Because you deserve it.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'Top PSLE scorers, take a bow'. Print Edition | Subscribe

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Japanese dad teaches daughter how to handle alcohol, has Twitter in tears

This guy should teach Good Parenting 101.
If there’s one universal cultural constant, it’s fathers being overprotective of their daughters.
Unfortunately there’s one other universal constant too: dads being bad at being overprotective. The usual “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” will at best elicit little more than a smile and nod with fingers crossed behind her back, at worst turn into endless frustrating arguments.
But one Japanese dad seems to have figured it out.
In a tweet that has racked up over 40,000 likes from Japanese netizens so far, this father explains how he went about showing his daughter how to stay safe in an unsafe world.
Here’s the tweet that introduced the story to the internet. (Translation below.)
▼ “I think good parents are the ones who teach their kids how to stay safe, rather than overprotective parents who just forbid their kids from doing things.”
こんなお父さんがいいな 夜遊びいくな!タバコ吸うな! 変な友達と遊ぶな!つって 束縛して縛る親よりは 夜遊びに行ってもちゃんと 自分で帰ってこられる範囲で 遊べ、とかこういうことしたら こうなるんだぞ、とかを 教えてくれる親がいい

‘When I was younger I was a bit of a rebel. I hung out with some “bad” kids and did some stupid things, but nothing that could get me in trouble. When I hit the drinking age, I think my parents were worried about me but didn’t know what to do. They knew that no matter what they said I’d just do what I wanted anyway, so they were stuck.
Finally, one day my dad said this to me:
“Hey Reiko, let’s go out drinking together sometime! I’ll take you wherever you want and you can order whatever you want. We can go to some fancy places, it’ll be great.”
As any young person who gets invited out to drink with their dad would probably feel, I didn’t really want to do. But, at the same time, back then I was interested in seeing what nightlife was like. I’d only just barely gotten a taste of it.
So, we went out, just me and my dad. Once we were on the town, he said this:
“All right! Drink all you want, Reiko. Drink until you can’t anymore. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure we get home. You feel free to go crazy.”
It felt really weird being told my dad to “drink all I wanted.” Wouldn’t Mom still be mad at me if I came home drunk? But, I didn’t worry about it too much. I’d already come this far, and Dad said he’d treat me to whatever I wanted, so I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity.
The first stop: a meat-grilling restaurant. The hostess thought I was Dad’s new girlfriend, which he was happy to play right along with.
The second stop: a nightclub. I had some drinks, and the people there saw through Dad’s ruse of pretending I was his girlfriend. But that just made him even happier. He jokingly blamed them figuring it out on my eyes, which he claimed looked just like his.
The third stop: a sushi bar. The chef was nice and had a hint of jealousy in his voice when he talked to my dad. He said that for parents,hanging out with their kid like he was doing with me was a dream come true. My dad was thrilled and encouraged me to keep eating and drinking, since this was a rare opportunity for the two of us to be out.
The fourth stop: a pub. I don’t remember much at that point. I don’t really remember what I drank… what we talked about….
The fifth stop: a “snack” bar. Don’t remember a thing. Pretty sure I just collapsed on the counter.
After that, Dad called a taxi and helped carry me home. I remember briefly regaining consciousness during that time:
“Oh wow. Hey, sorry, Dad. I got kinda drunk.”
“It’s okay. You just go to sleep.”
The next morning when I woke up in bed I felt awful. Not only from the hangover, but also the embarrassment of having drunk so much last night in front of my dad. I didn’t really want to face him after my drunken display last night.
But when I went to the living room, Dad was already gone. My mom gave me a note he’d written for me on the back of some advertisement. It read:
“To Reiko. Last night was fun. We should do it again sometime. Also, Reiko, do you know how much you drank last night to get in that groggy state? You had two beers and five chuhai (shochu high-ball). That’s your ‘limit.’ So from now on, when you go out drinking with friends, be sure to stop before you reach that limit. The world has some bad people in it, and some of them may want to take advantage of you. I can’t be around to protect you, so that’s why we did this, so you can know your own limit and protect yourself. I know you can do it. Love, Dad.”
And I proceeded to eat my breakfast in tears.
Mom told me that she and Dad had been worried for a long time how to best tell me all this. Rather than forbid me from doing things they knew I’d do anyway, Dad decided to show me how to take care of myself.
And for that I thank you, Dad. Because of what you did, I never went past my “limit.” I never had any problems with alcohol. I had fun out drinking with friends and never get hurt, thanks to what you taught me.
Now, years later, my dad isn’t as cool as he used to be. He’s an old man. The guy who took me around town drinking is gone. Instead he just spends the days in his garden, growing vegetables for me and his grandchildren to eat.
I am who I am today because of you, Dad. And I can’t think you enough.’
The story is quite straightforward and a little on the nose, but at the same time, it’s one that perhaps many parents could learn something from. It’s so easy to see your child as the same little kid whose diapers you used to change and would yell at when they stuck their fingers in the electric socket.
But once they get older, the same yelling and forbidding tactics don’t work. There comes a time to treat them like adults, no matter how hard that may be, and let them make their own choices. By then all you can do as a parent is help them make good choices, not forbid them from making bad ones, and this story lays out one way of going about it.
The story seemed to have a profound impact on Japanese net users, many of whom were moved to tears. Here’s what they had to say:
“Well, now I’m crying over my breakfast too.”
“I cried, then my friend asked what was wrong, and now she’s crying too.”
“I wish my dad did this. I’ve made so many alcohol-related mistakes….”
“What a cool dad.”
“As a father I worry about my daughter too. I hope I can do the same for her.”
Remember all you parents and might-someday-become-parents out there: if you truly love something, set it free. Or, in this case, set it free after a wild night on the town together.