Saturday, January 21, 2017


* She hates this picture because of the hair. I love it because of the hair. She's probably going to make me replace it and I'll try to convince her otherwise but I'll probably end up changing it... that's how we roll.

Different child, different needs.

I was motivated to get out of bed and attend a parenting course one Saturday morning. (while KK was queueing, I was going to “school”!)

Because I don’t know how to parent Jo in a way that would retain both of our sanity and allow her to thrive. Yes, I find her remarkable, I couldn’t be more proud of all that she is and does, and I love her with all my heart, but if my parenting journey was a graph, and Day’s and Lu’s are rather straight lines, hers is all peaks and troughs. I blog about the peaks but I'm most concerned with the troughs.

She is very different from me, and her values and fundamental outlook are so at odds with mine we sometimes end up in screaming matches.

There is a pattern. I find her behavior disagreeable, she talks back, I feel the lava rising, I talk and reason nicely, she talks back some more with a point which I completely disagree with, I start to shout, the volcano erupts, I launch into a screaming tirade which starts with the issue at hand and overflows into all the other things which I deem she has done wrong in the past.

Some volcanic issues which keep cropping up are the way she unduly punishes Lu when Lu makes one of her silly mistakes (perhaps Lu was happily fluffing about and bumped into Jo while she was doing her work, causing her to make a little blot, and Jo full-on roars and hits Lu), how she takes so long to do things (eight hours over two days to wrap an exercise book, tearing off the original cover she made when it was a millimeter off), her refusal or inability to listen to me (especially when I tell her to get going but she doesn't, resulting in her getting only six or seven hours of sleep a night), and her tendency to put herself before others.

The bad phrases I inadvertently lapse into in my anger, and which I keep hearing myself say (I know, they’re quite awful or funny, depending on how you see it):
  • ·         I don’t know how to help you, Jo.
  • ·         I give up, Jo, I can’t make you bath or brush teeth or sleep on time or practice your piano and erhu, I just can’t get you to commit to a timetable, I’m just going to focus on David and Lulu, you deal with it.
  • ·         Relax, Jo, it’s OK. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (she whines and wails, I give up)
  • ·         You’re not my mother, Jo.
  • ·         I’m your mother, Jo, you should respect your parents.
  • ·         Don’t you dare bully me, Jo.
  • ·         You are not to scold or punish your siblings, Jo. Only Mama and Papa can judge and inflict punishment, not you.
  • ·         Don’t say I’m being unfair, Jo, I’m not.

Honestly, I try. But I have realized, it’s not possible when I am not like her. The reasons and arguments I use to try and parent her are shaped by my life philosophies, which she doesn’t necessarily agree with. Every time we finish a bout, I’m exhausted and completely drained.

It’s like I’m in some sort of bad relationship, and I always feel like I’m not a good enough mother to her. Day and Lu, from the sidelines, know to leave us both alone when we’re licking our wounds.

Fundamentally, I cannot be trying to raise a replica of myself (easy-going, spontaneous, happy-go-lucky, bo chup, always putting others first, being adaptable and changing with the situation) and parenting her using these values. It’s no good telling her “It’s OK” and “never mind” - my favourite phrases - when it’s not, to her.

I have to raise her differently because she is different, and in that regard, I have finally accepted that there is no such thing as every child being treated the same way. I think I did use to think that way (another stupid ideal!). I have to be unfair, giving Jo leeway in some areas, Day and Lu in others, depending on their needs and personalities. Of course, the one who always points out the “unfairness” when she’s not benefiting would be Jo herself…

So what did I learn?

The trainer showed us a model of personality types, DISC, its fairly old and well-known but in this context I saw it with new eyes and it puts a name on what I already know.

I saw that Jo and I are diametrically opposed. I’m the fast-paced people-oriented I (Influence), flitting from one thing to another with nary a care in the world and unfortunately being somewhat permissive and accommodating and impractical, while Jo is the slow-paced task-oriented C (Conscientiousness). She likes rules, predictability and everything perfect, safe and solid.

I’m the balloon and she’s the brick.

Incredibly, the trainer happened to be the same type as Jo. He understood her completely.

He told me, that as an I mother parenting a C child, I have to bear in mind that:
  • ·         It will be very draining for me, but I have to guide her slowly
  • ·         I have to watch what I say
  • ·         I should not rush her, or criticize her, because she’s already so hard on herself
  • ·         I should set clear limits and follow through (I find this SO hard, I am SO bad at rules and follow-through, I suspect she punishes her siblings because she sees how I completely forget to punish)
  • ·         I should talk less and listen more
  • ·         Arguments must be based on fact and logic, not emotion or ideals (urgh, SO hard)
He also told me that C people are generally not strong in languages, but love Maths and Science. That’s Jo. She has epic struggles with anything that encourages free thinking with no clear answers, like compositions and I fear, in future, General Paper.

Will his advice work? I don’t know. It’s overly simplistic for sure. People in the world certainly don’t fit into just four categories. But for a start, he’s given me some suggestions on her biggest challenge at the moment: how to get her to manage her time better (Do it fast, do it once, do it right, and not do it perfect), using facts and logic to hammer home the necessity of her doing so.

In the meantime, apparently I need to be a little bit more strict with Day and Lu. With such a carefree mother, and with such carefree personalities themselves, they could potentially float their way to a happy but direction-less life of poverty.

If I may say it again, this parenting gig is so damn hard.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, shermaine. A good reminder for myself as my little one grows up.. Just a thought, how does KK feature in all this? Would he have an easier time w the parenting? Does he have a similar character/temperament as Jo? On another note, your girl is growing up to be a beautiful one, love her smile!
- long time reader

Sher said...

what a wonderful question. yes he's similar to her. when they disagree (best if i'm not around because otherwise she orders me to champion her cause) she knows she wont get her way.

he doesnt go for all this new age parenting stuff either. ye'll never attending a parenting course. he just does what he feels like which isn't always the best way but i'm so accommodating i just live with it and try to compensate.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader here. I can understand your frustration, although my kids are nothing like Jo. I don't think I will have the patience to work with a child with such personality. But of course as parents, we will always have unconditional love for our children.

The thing is, Jo's need for perfection (there are many types of perfectionist but I will say she is rather extreme) and her sensitive personality is going to make life really hard for herself. She will have her fair share of failures in life which we all do and it will be very hard for her to deal with that. The only fear is, she will never be happy because, well, we don't live in a perfect world. All the best Sher. Hope Jo will one day get to understand things from your perspective too.


phantominecat said...

I have a C to a T at home. And sometimes or most of the time, he frustrates me. Trying to convince him to try something new or do something from what he had in mind is so so so hard. My record time is talking and discussing and convincing him for 2 days and still amounts to nothing. I would end off with "I gave go and do whatever you want...and just dun come and complain to me after that..." a lot of times.

Sometimes i find giving him facts/logic and statistics helps, but sometimes, he is so stubborn that he said they can be wrong. How to convince him in this mood ? I have got no idea !

I also try to explain to him on the fly how his ideal views or perfectionist behavior would have a hard time in the real world. I also let him knock on the walls himself cos I am so tired of trying to let him understand the rational why.

Come to slow-pace-ness. I gave him a estimated time of how fast he has to get it done. In the beginning, he would protest and gave me lots of excuses why he cannot get it done in the time given. I just ignored him and walked away. I am mean, but I do not want to get into another lengthy argument with him over this. It is very tiring. When it is time-up and it is still not done, he will have some sort of opportunity cost (like no gadgets for the day..).

But i think that these little Cs will understand better as they grow more matured. At least for my boy, sometimes, i dun have to go to lengthy convincing speech to make him understand.

This is the battle of mental strength and I hope that both you and your girl come out of it better than me and my son.:P

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'll just share what I do as a mom. Perhaps it'll help?

I can be quite the task master for important stuff like academics and character but my expectations are within my kid's age group and personality. I give her stretch goals and the necessary support but not the claustrophobic, set in stone, micro managing type of goals.

On the other hand, I am relaxed about household tidiness or choice of clothing for instance. I have been asked about my 10-year-old's choice of clothing in contrast to my style. I just shrugs it off. She decides what she wants to wear.

If I have a kid like Jo, or any kid really, I will show her I am in charge and she will achieve great things if she follows. Basically leadership and structure. Balance it with free play and freedom for a few hours a day. We play A LOT of silly games.

Talking about social situations and voicing out how you try to be considerate to others may help her to put others first. Sometimes they need to hear what's going on in your head and how you came to make those decisions. It's better to do this as part of chatting about the day and not during a heated debate. It's also not wrong to put yourself first either. It really depends.

I expect to be respected just as I try to respect her opinion. I point out bad behaviour, ask for explanation, talk it through and all that. But if it still doesn't work like for three to five times (when she was younger nine times la), she will get such a massive scolding. I make sure I win (cue evil laugh). Although I am a friendly mom, I am not her friend. I am her mom. She knows I am the boss and I think she feels secure and loved this way. Think of a big tree under which you shelter, on which you can see a far horizon and around which you have the freedom within age appropriate limits to run free. Sounds a bit cheesy doesn't it? But basically that's how I work as a mom.

I guess I function in the middle ground between Jo's rigidity and your free style. Maybe it'll work for you?

Anonymous said...

Also to add on more specifically, I will communicate differently in these examples you raised:

I don’t know how to help you, Jo.
--> try not to say this right away because it's scary for kids when their parents don't know what to do. Offer some options maybe?
· I give up, Jo, I can’t make you bath or brush teeth or sleep on time or practice your piano and erhu, I just can’t get you to commit to a timetable, I’m just going to focus on David and Lulu, you deal with it.
--> I can understand the frustration but do not say I give up (signals weakness, a strong-willed child will bully you), I can't (giving up your authority to child), I am focusing on others not you (lost of control). Say "I will, you have to... Unless..." Set your terms and conditions.

· Relax, Jo, it’s OK. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (she whines and wails, I give up)
--> By saying relax, it's ok, she will feel what she's doing is unimportant to you. That's why she wails. I do not tolerate wailing from the time my kid is a toddler so she doesn't do it at all. I am very firm about this.
· You’re not my mother, Jo.
--> sometimes I say this for fun.

· I’m your mother, Jo, you should respect your parents.
--> I will say home is where children learn to function in society. Will you disrespect your boss next time? Then I will point out cases like Amos yee.

· Don’t you dare bully me, Jo.
--> The most my daughter will do is to be in one of those -ve moods. Btw, 11 year olds are hormonal. They are transitioning into teens. My daughter knows all hell will break lose if she tries to bully me. I don't scold often but when I do, oh my.

· You are not to scold or punish your siblings, Jo. Only Mama and Papa can judge and inflict punishment, not you.
--> offer alternatives for conflict management, violence is not allowed.

· Don’t say I’m being unfair, Jo, I’m not.
--> Instead of emphasizing "I'm being unfair", point out instances when you are fair "see, mommy scolded x but not you right? Wasn't I fair? Why didn't I scold you? Kid will respond she was being good in such and such.

Anyway hugs, sometimes I say things I regret. I think all mothers do. Don't be too hard on yourself or on each other.

Ashley said...

Its so so tough. I have 3 kids and I can start to see their different personalities! Parenting! I need to learn. Do you mind to share where this workshop is for understanding of the kids and myself's personality test?

Dee said...

Thanks for sharing what you learnt from the parenting expert. I think we should always attend parenting workshop because we shouldn't rely on our experiences to parent them, i/e how one is treated as a child when they were young and hence, do the same. Also, the same goes to marriage workshop too. We don't think that our marriage is perfect and don't bother with it. Always revise on how to be a better spouse, how to go back to the days whereby we exhibit that unconditional love .
My daughter is similar to Jo but different. She tries to perfect some things, like tidying her bed especially before her sleep and gets really upset. She spends half an hour folding and tidying her bed!! Siao! After a while, I realised her compulsive behaviour is because she is tired and not thinking right.
I find that i have higher tolerant towards my younger boy and my husband has higher tolerant to my girl than my boy. I think this is favourtism la . I try different method and see what sticks and work on that technique for that type situation. So, no hard and fast rules. Kids are unpredictable anyway.
All the best. Nobody can tell you what to do exactly because each child is different and we have different parenting style for that child. Always have wisdom, not just knowledge. So, couple what you learnt from the parenting workshop and apply it with wisdom. We don't have to teach our child everything we want them to know. We just be that someone we want them to be. Behave and act that person you want them to be and they will be. They will be like us in future. We just have to walk that talk. They watch and hopefully, they follow. We can't always whip them to shape. It is a marathon with kids.

Sher said...

so many shared experiences, so much advice, thanks so much!

Anon (with a lot of advice): Sometimes I do suspect I'm too friendly and loose with her, and I should have been a lot more firm from young. There are respect issues, for sure. And its perhaps not always clear to her when she's crossed the line and I'm no longer amused. She doesn't fear me in the least, I don't even think she fears her father. That results in outright defiance.

Ashley: the workshop was actually offered through the kids' primary school, under the family matters programme where we get to attend free parenting talks. we sign up for whatever interests us. its really great, but the funny thing is that its not always well-attended. People don't want to give up Saturday morning, or aren't interested even though its free.

Anonymous said...

OMG this completely strikes a chord with me. I used to have HUGE fights with my mum on a daily basis - our tempers are alike but our perceptions differ starkly (worst combination). We simply did not know what to do with each other throughout my teenage years and often got so tired of arguing. Guess the good thing was (still is) that communicating aggressively still beat zero communication. Now that I'm in my 20s, we've kind of tuned in a little to each other and even when we don't agree completely, it's nice having your perception challenged by someone you trust. It forces you to see things in a different light, though we largely still do our own way (stubborn, what to do?)! Once in a while, though, I surprise myself when I'm about to make a decision/say something brash and her voice of disapproval chimes in in my head - causing me to stop in my tracks.

Sher said...

first thing i thought reading your comment was, what if Jo says that about me when she's an adult?! gosh!!

Anonymous said...

Well, the huge fights are a reality (you're more mild tempered than me and mum). But the (tough) love is a reality too. I would rather have been guided and accept that I'm wrong sometimes than grow up deluded. Learning to re-evaluate one's thoughts/actions is an important life skill sadly...

Don't worry! All will be well!

Ashley Ng said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thanks! Pleasantly surprise that its for free. I shall look out for it :)


Jo said...

Hey! Haven't stopped by for a while. The DISC is far too simplistic, try the MBTI, or this gem of a book called " Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent "
see this website:
Jody is still very young, and her personality will change. I think in adolescence especially you might see big swings. So don't worry too much. Our personalities (dominant traits) solidifies around 25-26 y.o. (the same time when our neurological development is finally complete)
You still have lots of opportunities to help her learn to embrace imperfection.