It is easy to forget how difficult being a new parent is. Not only are you moving through parenthood with barely any prior experiences to go off of, you also have to work with your partner to figure out your parenting style. The feeling of not knowing what you are doing and that your first child is one big experiment can be scary. Mother of 2, Zoe Wong, shares with us how she navigates raising her firstborn, Leia, and her big takeaways as a new parent.

From the moment Leia entered our lives, she has brought so much joy to us. Arya joined us as the 4th member of the family just as Leia turned 2 years old. As with many older kids, Leia has conflicting feelings of love and a little jealousy (which is often beyond her comprehension) for her sister. To make it worse, she is also going through her “terrific” twos, relying on us on one hand but having a burgeoning desire for independence on the other hand!

As new parents, many of us often mirror how our parents have brought us up. This style of parenting might not be ideal, but it becomes our default reference point as we parent our own kids. Beyond that, our parenting style is also influenced by our firstborn. I always say, being a new parent is just like a science project – conducting ‘experiments’ or tests on the test subject, analysing findings and implementing the results with the subsequent subjects! However, our little test subject, Leia, was more erratic than we thought!

The experiment

Initially, when we were faced with Leia’s meltdowns, my husband and I were stern and often strict with her, and as a result of this dynamic, could not connect with Leia. All too often we would also lose our cool with her if she did not comply with our rules. Unfortunately for us, this ‘traditional’ parenting style which is based on rules and discipline did not work in the least on our toddler. 

We faced the bulk of her temper tantrums during mealtimes, potty training and home-based learning during the stay home measures in Singapore. I found it even more challenging during this period, with both me and my husband having to balance the parent-employee-teacher trifecta at the same time. 

It was during this period that we made the decision to embark on the aforementioned science project on Leia, with us testing out using the more empathetic approach, trying our best to see things from her point of view and establishing open communication with her with regards to her behaviour to help her understand our perspective. On top of this, we used a reward system to reinforce Leia’s good behaviour.

The results?

Adopting a more empathetic approach with Leia had its pros and cons. The shortcoming is, of course, the length of time taken to see this approach through with Leia, with a 9-month-old daughter in tow. Establishing boundaries and doing it quickly requires a lot of time, and the empathetic approach only lasts for as long as the baby girl does not need tending to. However, the best part of this approach is that it empowered Leia with the ability to better understand the situation and her own decision-making payoffs. 

When it came to rewarding her good behaviour, I noticed it worked really well when we first implemented the rewards system. However, as time went by, Leia started to be more and more extrinsically motivated and pushed for bigger rewards each time she felt that she felt that she displayed good behaviour!

Parenting during a pandemic – A new opportunity

For me, this stay home period was a golden opportunity to spend quality time with our girls and to understand them better. This also pushed us to be a little more introspective and to reflect on our parenting styles. 

During this period, I also decided to embark on an online course on parenting with my husband. My biggest takeaway was that the parent-child dynamic is never one-sided. The toddler is one half of the equation and we, as parents, are the other half. When dealing with our children’s meltdowns, half of the battle is first calming ourselves down!

The course also sheds light on how a toddler brain functions. Interestingly, I learned that it is their flight or fight reflex which informs how they respond to certain situations. Their responses should enable us to find the balance between an empathetic and stern approach. It is of course easier said than done but understanding how her brain functions helps us speed up the process of enabling us to figure out where she is coming from and to prevent our meltdowns!

We also learnt about the importance of not jumping to conclusions when it when it comes to understanding our children’s behaviour. What do I mean by this?

During the stay home period, we also turned to online-based learning lessons for Leia. These lessons covered everything from alphabets and numbers to music and sounds. The big challenge with this was getting her to pay attention. Both my husband and I actually thought that her short attention span meant that she was not learning anything and was not interested in the lessons at all! However, as we soon found out, we could not be more wrong about this.

After the lessons, even when not probed, we noticed Leia going into random bouts of ‘regurgitating’ whatever she had learnt! That was the moment I realised how amazing a toddler’s brain is. They have a sponge-like quality to them and are able to absorb so many things they are exposed to! It was also the moment when I understood the importance of not jumping to conclusions. If your child is not paying attention during a lesson, rather than doing away with the lesson completely, try to figure out why they seem uninterested. More often than not, it is not the content of the lessons, but the way that it is delivered that is not attractive to your child. Fix the ‘medium’ and go forth with a ‘try anything and everything as long it is safe’ mentality!

Parents are not always right

For me, this was my biggest takeaway during this period. Even though we are the adults in the equation, we may not necessarily have all the answers, all the time. This is especially true when it comes to your firstborn. The only way to improve is to unlearn whatever you think is not working for you and your child and strive to keep improving. Do not be afraid to try new methods of parenting especially with your firstborn and do not be afraid to fail even if they do not work.

Indeed, working hand in hand with your spouse as a team takes empathy and sacrifice. Arguments are inevitable but having clear objectives helps to prevent the arguments from becoming personal.

This stay home period forced us to slow down as parents, understand that it is okay to not set too many goals and expectations for ourselves and to appreciate even the smallest of accomplishments together. Before this, I did not realize how fast we (myself, my husband and our girls) were moving with our super-hectic, jam packed work and school schedules. It was a rat race. The pandemic taught me to appreciate raising my kids at a slower pace, focusing more on connecting and communicating with them. 

Indeed, sometimes doing less gets more done.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Plano. Any content provided by our guest bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

Hello everyone! I am Michelle and I am a single mum to a 3 and 4-year old daughter. Besides being a mother, which is one of my most fulfilling roles, like most other parents, I wear many hats in my everyday life; I am a Catwalk & Public Speaking Coach, Babywearing Fitting Specialist, Marketing Executive, Emcee and Mrs Singapore Worldwide 2016 Winner. 

I am very passionate about everything that I do in life and I must admit, I can be a little bit of a perfectionist at times. However, having these multiple roles means that I have to be constantly on top of compartmentalising my time and doing that well!

The challenges of being a mum 

When it comes to parenting, there are a couple of challenges I need to tackle on a daily basis: Time (or lack thereof) and fulfilling my role as a double parent.

Time is a scarce resource

A lot of my time is spent juggling my full-time job, taking 3 different online courses and of course, being a mummy. Because my attention is split in multiple directions, I do sometimes feel that I am missing out on so much of my children’s lives. In those moments, I always remind myself that I am doing my best to bring home the bread to keep my family healthy and happy!

So, when I do have free time with my precious babies, I choose quality over quantity. This means, putting away all our devices and making sure that I focus on them and them only. We do anything from pretend play, to cooking together or even building a fort!

Double parenthood

Being a double parent –  A struggle which not only single parents face, but wedded spouses whose other half isn’t always around all the time face as well. In other words, a double parent has to commit to twice the amount of parental responsibility as a parent who is a part of a couple.

Being both mum and dad is one of the biggest challenges I face every day. Why?

Dealing with ‘blurred lines’

For one, there is no such thing as a break. You also have to play both good cop and bad cop to your kids. The lines get blurred constantly. If you are a double parent yourself, you might be struggling with the same issues and may be wondering:

How do I deal with it all?

To be honest, I don’t have a concrete answer to this, and I don’t think there is a right answer anyway! Each parent has their own way of dealing with the pressures of parenthood, which may not necessarily work for others.

For me, what does help is listening to some insightful, interesting podcasts on Spotify (no, I’m not joking!) to calm myself whenever I feel stressed out or need new ideas and parenting resources. 

Making it work

There are so many ideas out there about how you should raise your children. But the truth is, it is almost always about what works for you.

I always say parenthood is like being in a working relationship with your children. Just like our children, we as parents are constantly learning, evolving in the way we think and see things, and putting together a system that works for the both of you! 

I also feel that empathy is a key component of every parent-child relationship. This can especially come in handy when your children throw tantrums or are just plain unhappy for instance. Many of us forget that children have opinions and feelings just like us adults do, but they are more often than not, simply unable to express themselves!

Sometimes, all you have to do is to put yourself in their shoes to get a clearer view of their perspectives and then decide what you as the parent should do next. They are after all just little people with big emotions!

To punish or not to punish?

Perhaps, this may be considered an unorthodox parenting move, but I have never been a fan of using physical punishments to discipline my children!

Instead, we have a dedicated wall at home which is called “The Quiet Wall”. If anybody has ‘crossed the line,’ they will go and stand by The Quiet Wall to reflect on their actions. This also gives me time to calm myself down from experiencing the ‘mum rage’! Yes, us mums are human too! 

Parenting is a rollercoaster ride

All in all, almost 5 years into the parenting journey, parenthood has taught me an endless amount in life, and I am sure there will be so many more lessons to come. Some of the lessons I cherish the most are the ones that have taught me unconditional love, resilience, patience, boundaries, and most importantly, how to be a child again.

To all the parents who are reading this, I wish you all the best in your parenting journeys! I leave my life motto with you:

Be in control of your own life and take charge of all the choices you make, no matter how small they are, because ultimately, life is a sum of all choices you make.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Plano. Any content provided by our guest bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.