by Focus on the Family
Teenagers – don’t we sometimes wish we understood them a little better, or knew what they were thinking? Why are they always staring at their screens? Why do they keep talking about finding meaning in life? Today’s teenagers are growing up in a generation different from ours, facing more societal pressures and challenges than we ever did. We may not fully comprehend or agree with their thoughts or views, but knowing the differences between our generation’s thinking and theirs might help us understand them a little better.
Do you find that our young ones have shorter attention spans? Technology likely has a part to play in this. Being digital natives, they are adept at quickly and easily sourcing for new information at any place and point in time. Indeed, a webpage that took two minutes to load in the past now can load in two seconds! However, though they may find difficulty in focusing on something for extended periods of time, they are often better at multitasking and managing several activities at the same time.
Also, gone are the days when face-to-face interaction was the only way to communicate with someone at length. Our teens have communication at their fingertips, keeping in touch with their friends through various forms of instant messaging and social media. Due to this, they may be more comfortable communicating virtually as opposed to meeting face-to-face or making phone calls.
It is still good to make—and guard—face-to-face interaction with them as a family. For example, you can agree as a family to ensure that there’s no digital devices at the dinner table, so that everyone can focus on quality conversations. We should also model such behaviour for our teens by being intentional in not checking our phones or laptops constantly when spending time with them.
Engaging on Values
What was considered taboo in the past is now more widely accepted. Youth’s attitudes toward things like media consumption, dressing, and sex, among many other areas, have become more liberal. One of the reasons for this is that our culture has changed. For instance, today’s culture is markedly more accepting of sexually explicit content, where it can be found from product advertisements to music videos.
Someone once observed that the older generation seems to be the “What” generation: They know what is right and wrong, and they will do as they have been taught. But the younger generation seems to be the “Why” generation: They want to know why something is right or wrong, before they do it.
This mindset can be a productive one to engage with. The benefit is that youths want to know for themselves the compelling reasons behind something, rather than accept it blindly. And once they have thought or wrestled through it, they will likely have ownership over their own convictions.
Engaging with our youths in terms of values can also take the form of inviting them into a conversation about why they think the way they think. How did they come to such a view? Whom or what do they consider major influences in their lives? What do they cherish and what do they dislike? This also helps us to understand them as a person, and what their inner world is like.
The Bottom Line
Your teen may hold vastly different views from you – some may make you squirm or even recoil in horror. Before you start on a “You know in my time, this would never be allowed…” lecture, take some time to truly listen and evaluate your teen’s views. Opening up safe spaces for dialogue lets them feel valued because they are being heard, which allows them to express their views more openly. This then creates opportunities for you to learn from them, and also to help them to clarify—and when the need arises, to gently correct—their beliefs and attitudes. Ultimately, our aim in parenting is to teach them how to think, not what to think, and empowering them to make healthy decisions themselves.
In all honesty, youths today share many similarities with you when you were teenagers – they are still finding their way around the confusing world they are in, still desire to be accepted, heard and loved. You may not completely understand (or appreciate) their psyche, but you can be the present and loving parent to them, guiding them as they grow into adulthood. Dads and Mums, may you be your teen’s coach and cheerleader so that they can run the race of life well.
© 2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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by Greg Smalley / Focus on the Family
“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” – Khalil Gibran
There’s an art – an elusive, delicate, almost indescribable art – to forging the kind of marriage that not only enables the partners to spend enjoyable time with one another, but which actually nurtures and encourages real togetherness. As you may have already discovered, clinginess, control, and a demanding attitude that says, “I want you to spend time with me, and I want it now!” can put a damper on a relationship faster than almost anything else. So can a constant routine of “the same old same old” all the time. The way to stay excited about being together is to sprinkle in a judicious pinch of spice now and then. It’s all about “getting outside the box” every once in a while. In other words, it’s a question of achieving the right balance – like finding your rhythm in the dance and then improvising steps just for the fun of it.
Current research indicates that thriving husbands and wives draw strength, energy, and life from being in one another’s company. Ironically, this does not mean that they spend all of their time together. That’s because healthy, vibrant relationships require breathing space. They need the ebb and flow of independence and togetherness. You can infuse this kind of experience into your marriage by making room for novelty and variety and by working an element of the unexpected into your date night plans.
Actor Lucas Neff has been quoted as saying, “That honeymoon phase is so much fun in real life, when you meet and discover somebody new and fall in love and chase them – the pursuit, and that climactic final moment of ultimate togetherness.” Whether he knows it or not, in these few words Neff has summed up the essence of nearly all the world’s great romantic comedies. He’s given us Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in miniature – a quick snapshot of the push and pull, the advance and retreat, the playful tug and release that make love between the sexes such a hilariously stimulating and addictive game.
Couples who stay together tend to be couples who find ways to keep this kind of hilarity and fun alive at the heart of their relationship. The fabric of their marriages is strong because they know how to weave spaces into their times of togetherness and maintain threads of connection even when apart. They do this by developing meaningful traditions and rituals characterised by laughter and playfulness. They don’t just live under the same roof and sleep in the same bed. Instead, they’re intentional about building a blended life upon a firm foundation of common values, interests, and goals. What’s more, they keep their relationship vibrant by allowing it to breathe – and by celebrating the surprising and serendipitous side of life every chance they get.
Adapted from Outside the Box by Dr Greg Smalley © 2016 All rights reserved. Used by permission from Focus on the Family.
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by Focus on the Family / Simon Sim
I recently became a second-time grandfather. Grandchildren, as people say, are a reward for not killing your children! What advice would I give to my children about parenting? Perhaps I can recall the lessons my father taught me.
I was born in 1952, the year Queen Elizabeth II ascended the British throne. That is a very long time ago.
As such, are lessons from my father still relevant? Lessons are many, principles are few. Lessons will vary, principles never will.
My father was a very generous man. He was unselfish with his time and money.
My father had a soft spot for the underdogs. He would champion the less privileged and the less advantaged. One might say he was a ‘lesser man’. But in truth, because of this mantra, I saw in him a much bigger man. Of course, as a small boy then, he was a big man to me because he was a six footer. But now, as a mature man of 64, I realise that he was a big man not merely physically but because he had a big heart.
Father taught by example. He had such a big heart that there was always room in it to extend help to all and sundry. Mother would recount to us children a particular occasion when Father sought her permission to pawn some of the family jewellery so that some cash could be raised to help his younger brother who was in financial difficulties.
I saw in my father how he could handle his nine children – seven boys and two girls – firmly but fairly. All his children had equal opportunity in furthering our studies and all nine of us had an equal share of his inheritance.
Born in 1910, he was from the old school with some very Confucian ideals in child rearing, with a touch of Western influence from his education in the English medium. I saw Shakespearean humour when he named my two sisters Rosalind and Celia, an inspiration from ‘As You Like It’.
I saw in him a husband who always treated my mother with tender loving care. He was always there to protect and provide for her. My son once reminded me to treat my wife well, saying, “Be nice to your wife – she’s my mother, you know!” The lesson is being passed down through the generations. Truly, my father was a gentleman and a gentle man.
He lived by the principle “Correction does much, but connection does more”. I was quite good in Mathematics while in school. I attribute this to my father spending countless hours playing solitaire, gin rummy and numerous card games with me. Only later did I realise it was father’s unique way of bonding with his children. I began to apply this valuable lesson with my three children. They grew up acing their Math examinations. My bond with my children is ever strong because of card games!
In time to come, he became a very blessed grandfather of a small brood.
I am now a grandfather of a growing brood. My father first taught me how to be a good husband. Then he taught me how to be a great father. And he also taught me how to be a good and great grandfather. Amazing how good lessons taught by example and in truth always pass the test of time.
What people see in me now, I saw in my father then. My father may have left us for eternity in 1987, but his lessons remain in me even in 2016!
Simon Sim is the author of two books, The Family CEO 1 & 2. He is a father of 3 and with 2 grandkids, he is now elevated to being One BUG – One Busy Uber Granddad.
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by Gee Sany
Understanding your parenting style with your kids may help you recognise areas to improve and tweaking your methods to see what best suits them. It helps you to rediscover yourself and strengthen your bonds with your child. Raising happier kids and leading a quality family life is the ultimate goal we all should aim for.
The Authoritarian Parent
You set strict rules and you expect your child to follow your rules without a question. And of course, even a slight disagreement from your child will spur anger in you. Many times, you find yourself saying “Because I said so”, without even explaining the reasons behind your rules. While it is great that you have set high expectations for your child, you may not realise that your child may see you as inflexible and unreasonable in your approach. Worse, if at times, you hit power struggles with them.
If you realise that this may be your parenting style, ask yourself what your children are learning from your technique. “Are my children happy with me? Will they resent my inflexibility? How will they describe me? Is it acceptable that they don’t understand my reasoning?”
These questions will make you ponder and possibly relook at your style of parenting. You can decide if this is the style you want to continue in the long run.
The Laid Back Parent
Being a permissive parent only means that you set very little boundaries and demand for your children as you feel that they are not listening to you. You find yourself rarely disciplining them, having low expectation of self control for them. You may receive remarks from others as being a very lenient parent and even so, you find yourself avoiding confrontation. “What is the point anyways? They will do whatever they want no matter what I say.”
Children of this discipline may struggle with insecurity as they have nothing to conform to and challenge themselves. They follow instructions very slowly and may have problems listening to you. They may start to stir trouble just to get attention from you and push their limits to see how far they can go.
If this is your style, contemplate the benefits of it. “Do my children need me to lead them more than they need me as a friend? What am I teaching them with my leniency?”
The Uninvolved Parent
You may be taking care of your child’s daily needs like sending them to school, preparing their meals, helping them with school work. However, deep down you know that you are generally detached from your child’s life. This is just because you are tired and exhausted or without knowing, you are suffering from depression. You may find that due to this detachment, your child is losing focus, tend to lack self control and possibly suffer from low self esteem.
If your parenting style is strained due to your exhaustion or depression and you wish to do more for your child, seek help and advice. Get a clear picture of what you want your child to benefit from your parenting style. “How can I get more involved and interested in my child’s life? How can I have more fun with them?”
The Fair And Flexible Parent
This is possibly the parenting style and discipline that most of us should aim for. This parenting style means being clear about your expectations and always handling the same behaviour in the same way. Personally, this is my preferred style and the one I am learning to use with my children. It is to strike a balance of giving clear instructions and expectations while being flexible in your approach. This style allows room for your child to express their thoughts and emotions. It helps them to feel responsible over their actions and take control of their own behaviour.
With constant explanation and reasoning of your expectations, they understand that you are in charge and the consequences of going over the limit. With this style, your child will learn to reflect on their actions. You forgive them instead of giving them harsh punishments. By allowing them the room to make mistakes and grow from it, they will learn to self regulate their behaviour and be more co operative. Your parenting style is one that is firm, fair and flexible and most importantly, is constant.
by Gee Sany
Many children struggle or throw tantrums when asked to do something they don’t want to do. So it seems, getting them started is actually testing your creativity and flexibility as a parent and a teacher. In school, the curriculum is structured, repetitive and academic inclined. They learn to write, read and pronounce words as accurately as they can. Most of us are aware that this can be quite stressing on them.
Being kids, the first thing on their mind when returning home is, of course, PLAY. Because playing is intrinsically motivating for kids. It is very common to see our kids playing for 30 minutes but can’t sit still for even 5 minutes to write their names.
What can you do to manage this Short Attention Span?
1. Get Creative.
A little creativity can go a long way in turning something dull into something fun. Instead of sitting them down and asking them to start writing on the worksheets, let them have a chalkboard or white board. Play with playdoh and get ur child to form the letter he is learning in school. Currently, my son has his own ABC Book. I allow him to doodle on this book too. When reading, I ask him to point out the letters and at times, spell some simple words. Sometimes we use blocks to form some straight line letters. Once, I brought him to the beach and handed him a piece of twig. He was excited to write on the sand and even used his fingers! These simple activity helps improve what they have learnt in school and refine their motor skills. Take time to notice what attracts their attention the most and you can repeat the activity based on their interest. During walks, stop and point out what you think may interest them and get on to have a small conversation about it.
2. Give Attention.
Moms. We are all multi-taskers, aren’t we? I am guilty of being that multi-tasker Mom who shouts requests to her kids from the kitchen while doing the dishes. I realised it wasn’t effective. I knew I needed to change my approach. I discovered that being in close physical proximity and making eye contact while giving clear and concise instructions helps children focus better on what is being said. Once you have given them the instructions, ask them to repeat what they understand from your instructions. They are able to carry out their tasks more independently without much complaints.
3. Flexible Schedule.
If your child is mature enough, you can discuss with them what activity works best for them at what time of the day/week. When you let them feel responsible over their own life, they will focus and engage better in what they had planned to do. Keep a close watch on their schedule and give them gentle reminders to complete the tasks. On the other hand, if you have younger children, plan out their study time. Keep studying sessions short but with more frequency and have breaks in between to do something they like.
4. Limit Gadget Time.
In this current era, it is impossible not expose kids to gadgets. However, one of the main cause of very short attention span is the prolonged usage of gadgets such as ipads and mobile phone from a very young age. Too much exposure on the ‘virtual world’ with vibrant graphic colours and visuals will cause them to lose interest in our monochrome real world as it is visually less interesting. Some of the kids lose interest the moment they open up a dull black and white coloured textbook.
5. Minimise Usage of Mobile Phones.
The last tip applies to us, parents. I am one guilty parent, too. Recent studies shows that extended usage of mobile phones in the presence of our children affects their attention span. Just too many times, we witness a child calling out to their parents on trains and buses; only to be ignored or receive a very slow response rate. There is definitely something we can do as parents to ensure our children get the attention they want. Engage them during journeys. Talk to them. Make them feel connected to you.
There are many other ways to help your child manage their short attention span. These are some simple tips for a start. The key is to continuously practise these simple tips and let these be a norm in daily lives, and yours too.