I am really proud of how well my children are growing up and would like to share with my friends some of the things that have made me smile recently. My daughter has been noticing the books I have written over the years and stares curiously as I type up the manuscript for my next book (due out in 2 months). “How come you can write so many books?” she asked. I said, ‘You can write books to if you want!”

Ever since then, she has been taking A4 paper and writing her own very very very short books (4 pages) with pictures that illustrate her story. Of course, what she writes is not original. Basically, she is plagiarizing ideas from the many children’s books she has read (e.g. Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood etc…). She mixes and meshes the stories together. She may or may not become a writer in the future, but it makes me proud to see her having a passion for something and taking action towards. It is this attitude that I have always wished for my children.

However, what makes me the most proud is not their intellectual development but their character development. They have grown up to be extremely caring, loving, appreciative and polite children. Whatever my wife serves for dinner, they would say, ‘thank you mummy for cooking dinner for us’. They thank her and thank me for fetching them around, buying things for them and cooking for them.

Every few days, they would draw cards for us telling us how much they love us and thanking us for what we do for them. This are some of the cards and paintings they have made for me.

I was very touched when my eldest daughter Kelly drew a card for my maid to thank her and to say ‘I love you’ to her. She had tears in her eyes when my daughter hugged her and gave her the card. This is the card my daughter made for our maid ‘Jagung’.

My two kids have also become very independent and self-disciplined. Whenever they come home from school, they will start to finish their homework automatically without being told. Before dinner, they will help to setup the utensils and the carry the food. After dinner, they will carry their plates back to the kitchen.

However, I must point out that all these attitudes and behaviours did not happen by chance. It is the result of their mother spending countless hours to guide them and shaping their character. I am really lucky to have a wife like her. It is not uncommon nowadays to see children and teens acting in a selfish and ungrateful manner. Some of them take their parents love for granted, even shouting back at them at times. One of my friend’s wife was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. She had to stop work and has been resting at home for the last 3 months. The sad thing is that her teenage children have not volunteered to help their mother at all. Even though the oldest son can drive, he is too busy with his hobbies to fetch his mother for dialysis treatment. The poor old women has to take a bus by herself. They would rather spend the time going out with their friends and even resent the fact that they get less pocket money now that mum can no longer work.

It is not uncommon to see some children and teens acting in a selfish manner and taking the things they have for granted. While we often blame them, my wife believes that their parents have just as much to blame as well. Respectful, grateful and kind children do not come about my accident. It is up the parents to teach them good values and to shape their behaviours from the time they are young- when they are easily moulded. Children may not always listen to what we say, but they will always learn by observing our behaviours. I also believe that our children learn to treat us by observing the way we treat OUR OWN parents. If we shout at our parents, disrespect them and don’t bother to visit them, our children will do the same things to US when we grow old. It is a kind of ‘Karma’ that comes full circle.

” There is no such thing as a bad student. Only bad teacher”- Mr. Miyagi (from the Karate Kid Movie)

Let me share some of the things that my wife has done over the years to mould my children’s character and to teach them the right values.

1) Teaching Respect for Elders
Many mums will serve their children the first piece of cake on their birthday. They believe that this is the way to show their love. We believe that by serving the first piece of cake to the kid, it may be cultivating the wrong values and mindsets. By treating the child like a ‘prince’ or ‘princess’, they will grow up thinking that the world owes them a living and think only of themselves, and not for others.
In our family, we teach our children to serve cake to all the elders first before eating their share.

2) Teaching them Gratitude
Many parents complain that their children are ungrateful. That no matter what they do for their kids, their kids only complain. What my wife and I believe is that we need to teach them to be grateful. We teach our children to thank their teachers, the maids, their grandparents and their parents (us). When I am away working overseas, my wife will tell them how I must work to earn the money to pay for the house, their school fees and their food. Every time I come home, I get a big hug from them. They then say ‘thank you for working for us.’

We also use the Internet as a resource to show them and teach them how the millions of children in poor countries are suffering without food, shelter and a proper family. We then tell them how lucky they are to have a chance to live in Singapore and be able to go to school. THis is why my kids never complain about going to school camp or doing homework.

3) Teaching them Self-Discipline
Whenever my kids come home from school, mum will always ask them to check the homework they have and to finish it as soon as possible without delay. When they make mistakes on tests, she will go through each one with them to make sure they learn from it. After her ‘coaching’, they have now formed the habit of doing it themselves.

If my own mother was like my wife, then I would never have got kicked out of school in primary three and never have become the lazy, unmotivated underachiever that I was in the past. That is why I think my kids are so lucky to have a full time mum. It does make a big difference. Then again, if I was a disciplined, motivated child to begin with, maybe I could not have become such a success story and have written by book ‘I Am Gifted, So Are You!’ So I guess everything happens for a reason.

4) Teaching them Responsibility and Self-Confidence
Although we have maids in my house, my wife tells my children to set the table and help to carry dishes from the kitchen to the dining table. When they are finished, they carry their plates to the sink. If they spill something on the floor, they are the ones to clean it up and not the maids. When we go out, they carry their own water bottles and bags. Our maids do not do it. This may seem to some like cruel child labour, but we believe that it teaches them to be independent and responsible. It also builds in them the self confidence that they can do things themselves. The best part is that they find it fun to do!

If you are a parent of young children yourself, I do hope you find my sharings useful.