Thursday, 24 July 2014

Lesson #8: What have we done to our children

Last week I attended Brahm Centre's charity dinner and I'm glad I went. It was immensely inspiring to witness the many men and women who contribute their time, money and effort for such a good cause. This voluntary organisation's mission is to offer educational programs and activities to promote happier and healthier living. It was at this centre where I shared my personal experiences during my talk on "Parenting 6 kids without going mad or broke" in April.
Group MD of American International Industries & Board Member of Brahm Centre, Brahm Centre's yoga instructor, International speaker & author of 'Search inside yourself', CEO of Tan Chin Tuan Foundation
There were so many prominent business leaders and luminaries yet they selflessly give of their time in voluntary work. See the photo above? So many cool people. Coincidentally, one is my ex-classmate, one an ex-neighbour, and one a cousin-in-law. And me? Maybe I should give myself a title - CEO of the Wee kids (after all, we are almost a SME). Then at least it would seem like I have achieved something.

Brahm Centre published a book The day the ball didn't bounce written by Dr Peter Mack, with a forward by our 6th President, S.R. Nathan. I read it in one sitting and it really tore at my heart. It tells the true story of a 16-year old boy who committed suicide last year. It troubles me that a child or teen would even contemplate wanting to end his or her life. According to statistics, 20% of primary school children in Singapore have harboured suicidal thoughts. That is simply alarming.

A secondary 4 girl in #2's school committed suicide last year. The principal gave instructions that the students are not to talk about it at all. Will hushing it up and hiding from it help? Perhaps it was out of respect for the family. But as a society don't we need to talk about it? We need to have our kids know that they can turn to someone for support, that problems can be worked through. In many cases, such as the one highlighted in the book, the cause of suicide is unknown. Could it be due to the academic stress of the 'O' levels? Could it be relationship problems? Could it have anything to do with the family?

Sadly, many parents these days are overly concerned about one thing. That is, the achievement of stellar results. But at what cost? Are we literally driving our kids to their graves? I heard with disbelief about a primary 5 boy who committed suicide over his spelling marks. I know of parents who give their kids a tight slap in front of their friends if the grades fall below a certain expected mark. I have even heard one story where the parents told their son not to come home if he doesn't score above 90 for his exams. In the end, a police report had to be made because the child was afraid to come home and couldn't be found. Strangely, or perhaps it is not so strange after all, these stories come mostly from top schools.

Are we taking the easy way out by blaming the competitive system? Are our hands really tied? As parents, we do have more control than we think. If our child came back with 60 marks, we can choose one of two responses: "Why so bad? Your cousin always gets above 80. You are such a disappointment. So useless!" or "That's an improvement over your last exam. I can see that your effort has paid off. Well done!"

If we choose the former, what are we inadvertently telling our kids? That their self-worth is linked to a grade on a piece of paper? That we love them only based on their achievements? It is no wonder many children grow up with such hurt, bitterness, and a sense of worthlessness. And many become adults who are searching for ways to fill that emotional void as they never had a sense of security for being good enough just as they are. There is such a delicate line between wanting to motivate them by pushing them harder, and breaking their spirit with harsh words.

My heart aches for the children of this generation. Many may look rich with materialism but are poor and broken inside. For every child who unfortunately succeeds in committing suicide, there are more who attempted suicide but did not succeed. Something has gone wrong. What can we do? How can we stop their pain?
Invisible sufferings

It was heartwarming to hear from Tan Chade-Meng, the keynote speaker at this event, who is a Singaporean working in Google. I love his self-depreciating humour. It takes an incredibly self-assured person not to take himself seriously. You won't believe it, but his official title on his name card says "Jolly Good Fellow". And his job description is 'Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace'. His story is truly inspiring. He started out as a software engineer at Google and spent his leisure hours studying meditation and mindfulness. He managed to create such an impact that he headed GoogleEDU's head of personal growth and went on to deliver a TED talk at the United Nations and even gave a speech at the White House! You can learn how to transform your life with his book Search Inside Yourself - The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace).

I was really impressed at his rise to fame, so during the Q & A, I asked him what was the 1 thing which contributed to his success. I'm sure there are a lot of other mindfulness speakers out there, so how did he get to be where he is today?

His answer was "Luck". I was taken aback, but he went on to explain. Behind his "luck" are 3 important factors.

1) Being at the right place at the right time, and always being prepared.

2) Giving his best effort in everything he does. Thus when an opportunity arises and the people above are looking for someone, they will say "How about Meng? He's very dependable".

3) Being surrounded by good people. He believes in treating every single person with kindness, no matter who they are. As it turned out, there were many people he met who were prominent people. I experienced this firsthand during the Q & A, as when I started with a "Hi", he immediately replied, "You're Michelle, right?" Wow. Talk about treating everyone with compassion and respect.
I'm taking his advice and 'surrounding' myself with good people!

Sane tip: I left the dinner with a renewed sense of wanting to reach out more to those around us, and was reminded of the notion that nothing is impossible. No matter what our age, we can still dream big dreams, believe in ourselves and perservere. I have been trying to instil in my kids the importance of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves, and we attempt to do some charity work together every school holiday. I guess we need to look into ways to do more. Dr Peter Mack puts it so eloquently:

Charity Begins at Home:

Many other little actions go a long way towards establishing the child's resilience, including developing the habit of expressing gratitude. The ability to express gratitude is a strong asset in life. Let the child learn to be charitable because it is the antidote to selfishness and self-centredness. Donating money for a good cause is fine but it is the charitable work that makes the greatest impression in developing the child's identity. This is because charity work allows the child to see himself as part of a greater whole in society.

Being involved in voluntary causes also gives the child circumspection - a perspective of how fortunate he is compared to many others. Through charitable activities done with friends or family, the adolescent can see first-hand for himself that it is possible to survive tough times by reaching out to others in times of need. By giving back to society, the adolescent comprehends that it is possible to survive with much less, and that it is possible to smile through turbulent periods by learning to rely not only on his own abilities, but also on other people in times of need.

- Dr Peter Mack in The day the ball didn't bounce



Save  tip: We were each given a copy of The day the ball didn't bounce at the charity dinner. As President Nathan wrote in the forward,

"It should be evident to the reader that the main tool, in our hands, to prevent a suicide would be to recognise the early signs of stress that appear from behaviour and make the person aware that you care enough to want to listen to his or her troubles and want to work together to resolve them… I believe this book will be an easy and yet valuable read for all parents and teachers."

I have 3 copies with me which I am happy to give away. Just leave a comment here or on my FB page with your email so that I can contact you if the book is yours. If there are more than 3 readers, I'll get Kate to pick 3 names randomly. The book can also be purchased from Brahm Centre (free with a $10 donation).

This August, the talks lined up at Brahm Centre includes topics such as 'Laughter and Happy Living', 'Back pain - When is it serious?', and '"Pa and Ma, I love you!" How to Engage our elderly loved ones meaningfully'. Hop over to their website for the dates and times. Admission is free.

If you are looking to do some meaningful volunteer work, why not consider their Youth Program (coaching, skills training, leading activities), Virtual Hospital Program (befriending, cooking, coordinating) or if you have expertise in such areas, you could give a talk on various happiness or health topics. Just fill in their online form.



~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

16 comments:

  1. After reading your blog, I fully agree that Charity Begins at Home... and I have share it at FB too...

    Is glad that you are going to give away the 3 books. I am interested to have one...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jen,

      Yes, we can all make a difference! Thanks for sharing it :) Oops, I should have mentioned to please leave your email so I can contact you if you get the book.

      Delete
  2. Would be interested to have one. Will either pass it on after reading or have you pass to another reader who's interested. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michelle,

      That's a great idea. We can all help to spread the word. Please leave your email so that I can contact you :)

      Delete
  3. Thanks for sharing! The book sounds interesting, and I think it would be a good read for us as parents.
    Adeline / growingwiththetans@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is very informative. Thanks for leaving your email!

      Delete
  4. hi would like to have one of the book as well and pass on and donate to the library once 8'm done reading.

    thanks.

    Adelene
    adelene@yahoo.com.sg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Adelene,

      Oops, we've past 3 readers :) will have to do balloting.. but chances better than the p1 registration I hope ;)

      Delete
  5. Hi Michelle,

    Hope to have a chance to win a copy of this book to better prepare myself for the future when I'm a Dad. :)


    Cheers
    Qin Liang
    lim.qinliang@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Qin Liang,

      Wow, you will definitely make a great dad! Applaud your effort :)

      Delete
  6. There are 5 of you who requested for the book so Kate drew lots for 3 names. (Picture of her drawing lots on our Facebook page)
    And the 3 names are…

    1) Michelle
    2) Adeline
    3) Adelene

    Congrats! I will email you for your address shortly.

    Have a great day :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, I pm you on Facebook. Thank you so much!

      Delete
  7. Special Thanks to Kate for balloting me! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll tell her that ;)

      Hope we can all do our part and spread the awareness on suicide prevention amongst our youths and children.

      Delete
  8. Hi Adelene,

    There seems to be a problem with your email address. Can you please send me your address to mummyweedotcom@gmail.com
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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