JSM January 2020: Your Children Learn Best Through Play

The Junior Saints Mums held our first talk for the year 2020 on 30 January morning at Thinkubator to learn from Mr Joseph Wong, who spoke on the topic, “Your Children Learn Best Through Play”. Despite concerns about the transmission of the novel Coronavirus, close to 50 mothers attended the talk and learnt strategies to motivate our children through play.

Our speaker, Joseph, retired from the corporate world to pursue his lifelong passion of writing books that teach children leadership and life skills. His books proved popular among our participants at the end of the event. 

Joseph compared running a family to running a corporate team, and got the mothers thinking whether kids are born smart. Regardless of whether our children are born smart, it was agreed that children are motivated to learn best when they play and when they like their teachers—which include their parents.  We need to become their role models, heroes and champions, who nurture and communicate with them. 

And the best way is through a fun way—play.

Joseph gave some ideas on how to turn learning into play, in order to make children more motivated in doing their required work, such as having a rewards system, being observant, and discussing issues with them while shopping in the supermarket or at the hawker centre. 

Play needs to be spontaneous (not scheduled) and without performance expectation (i.e. no pressure of getting things “perfect”). 

Children will also appreciate it if parents were to tell them about their own working lives, bringing some of the challenges of our world into our children’s world.

Joseph then shared the 9 Habits of Smart Kids.

While developing the 9 habits is good, it is a real challenge for our kids to adopt these habits for the following reasons:
1. Children are required to read a lot, but
– there are digital distractions
– we are concerned about the choice of books
– we don’t know how to create a habit of reading
– they have too much homework
– we parents do not have a habit reading ourselves

2: Children need to learn from mistakes, but
– we live in a society that pressures them to be perfect
– we parents aren’t always there to point out the lessons from the mistakes
– we parents may rescue them too much

3. Children having to find values in everything, but
– we parents may not find the time to spend with our children
– we parents aren’t always there to draw out the value of lessons for our children
– children needing to juggle time, peer pressure, study time vs play time
However, Joseph challenged the participants to think creatively about how they could turn any bad habit to good habits through play using 3 key questions:
1. What f your kid does NOT have this habit today?
2. Is it a concern for you?
3. If so, how can you make it fun, such that your kid can start to adopt this habit?

Joseph then shared the top 10 skills that employers seek in 2015 vs 2020. In the interim of that 5 years, the skills employers seek have shifted substantially.

He highlighted critical-thinking, creativity, complex problem solving, and cognitive flexibility as key attributes that future employers would look for. 

How prepared are our children in these attributes?

One important way to build up these attributes in our children is to constantly engage them, but how we engage with them depends very much on their age group.

Our goals as a parent are to:
1. Use PLAY to engage our child
2. Be a HERO to our child
3. Make our child stay CURIOUS about everything

The talk was well-received, and the feedback from our participants was that they appreciated the many practical tips from the sharing.

If you are interested in our Junior Saints Mums’ talks, our next one will be held on 27 February at 7:20am to 8:30am at the Thinkubator in school. The topic will be “Math in the Real World” by Ms Faith Tan, an educator specialising in teaching Math.

Do look out for our online registration form closer to the date.

JSM & SMC September 2019: Affirmation

With one more month to go to the SA2 exams and it being the start of the PSLE, the Saints Mums felt that it would be an excellent time to explore the topic of “Affirmation” with Ms Mina Lim on the morning of 26 September 2019.

Ms Mina Lim works at the St Andrew’s Community Hospital Senior (Day) Care Centres, taking care of dementia patients. She has 2 young-adult children, 19 and 21 years old. She shared from her perspective as a mother of her 19-year-old son, Barnabas. Her son’s name means “son of encouragement”. Barnabas was diagnosed with dyslexia at Primary 5, and has slow processing skill. With lots of affirmation from a loving environment, he managed to pursue his studies in SAJC.

For Mina, affirmation means to state your support for an idea or opinion, or to offer someone emotional support or encouragement.

There is scientific evidence that our brain has the ability to re-configure itself. It is called neuroplasticity. Our brain can be rewired. If your brain is hardwired negative, it will be negative. Thus positive daily affirmation is important to transform the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new positive connections. Chemicals in the brain can be formed and strengthened into new neural pathway.

Ask ourselves whether we are emotionally connected to our child. Every child longs to feel accepted and be secure in their parents’ love. Anything that suggests the possibility of losing this approval is a threat to his sense of self. Affirm them as our child, as a child of God, and as someone who has so much potential to be a mature and respectable man or woman.

It takes a lot of effort to affirm another person. We have to be conscious about our action and be willing to be aware of our mistakes and learn from them. We need to understand the needs of our child and value him, to affirm him and not just his work. It is an effort of trial and error to discover how best to affirm your child, and the best time to start is today.

At the end of the session held at the Church of Ascension Hall, 33 mums from SAJS and SASS came out empowered to affirm their children daily.

Teacher’s Day Celebration 2019

5 September 2019, was a significant day to celebrate and honour the staff at St. Andrews Junior School.

SAPTA, in partnership with Church of Ascension created a memorable sports themed luncheon for the staff as “We are your biggest fans”!

Luncheon started at 12 noon at Church of Ascension Hall for over 120 teaching and non-teaching staff. Prior to the buffet lunch, the staff tried their skills on “a-minute-to-win-it” table games. It was hilarious as the staff pit themselves against each other, yet cheering for their colleagues. It was a sight to behold as the staff showed their fun side outside the classroom.

In the midst of all the excitement, there was not a moment of silence. Mr Khairil the emcee did a fantastic job controlling the noise level with the start of the Staff Appreciation video, followed by a 2-tier Teacher’s Day cake presentation dedicated to the management team. Both the video and cake was specially crafted and designed by two loving mothers who wanted to show their appreciation for the school. The teachers are grateful and thankful for such supportive parents and many were touched with the outpouring of gifts from the parents.

The staff enjoyed the opportunity to mingle, relax and chilled out with their fellow colleagues as they indulge in the buffet, and two “live-station” of tea tasting and gourmet coffee.

Mr. Khairil conducted the finals of the a-minute-to-win-it game followed by Ms Patsy Neo, addressing her staff and giving thanks for all the efforts in creating a successful event.

Next was a heart-warming segment when Mr Thomas Tham gave the opportunity to teaching staff and non-teaching staff to share testimonies on how each group supported one another. This demonstrated the St.Andrew’s spirit and values.

The two and a half hours flew by and everyone looked forward to receive the practical, usable microwaveable tupperware and cutlery set in a carrier specially sponsored by Church of Ascension. It was presented through the management team to the next tier and everyone was a happy trooper after the event.

The staff were thankful and very appreciative as this was only made possible by a group of like-minded parent volunteers spearheaded by SAPTA. The 2 months of planning and working as a team paid off as the parent volunteers saw the event to fruition. Everyone showcased their talents and contributed in one way or another and doubled our blessings!

We look forward to “Staff Appreciation 2020!”

JSM Aug 2019: Overcoming Learning Challenges

On 29 August 2019, about 40 mothers got together from 7.20am to 8.30am at the Thinkubator to learn how to help their children overcome learning challenges, difficulties in learning, and homework demands.

Mrs Serena Koh is an ex-teacher with more than 10 years in the education field, who became a stay-home mum to her 3 teenagers. She has a degree in Special Education and is currently a private Special Education tutor providing Education Therapy and Intervention to children with learning differences.

Serena shared openly about the challenges and difficulties her 3 children faced, particularly in relation to learning and homework demands.

Despite each child having different learning styles, she drew out clear strategies to support their learning needs and to help them develop life skills such as time management, and how to boost their weaker executive functioning skills.

1. Routine and timetableBy setting a routine and timetable, the child will not need to figure out the routine. They are expected to complete their homework before playing. There is no need to indicate the specific time for each homework, but each task has to be completed before moving on to the next task. If each homework is time specific, it might lead to anxiety of not being able to complete the work, and not having time to be able to play. The child will feel stressed and demotivated to complete their homework. Only dinner and bedtime will need to have fixed timing.

If play is permitted before or in-between work, it will be a challenge to shift the “gear” back to work. Instead, allow the child to have a 1 minute break of jumping jacks or a bit of movement then back on the task. As play is a very strong motivator, keep it to the end of work.

2. Clear expectationsOnce clear expectations are set, the child will not “test water”, but will know what can or cannot be done. When parents check school work,
– check that it must be completed (every page, every question, neat handwriting)
– do not need to check for right answer, or the teacher might have a wrong impression that the child knows his work. With mistakes, the teacher will be able to work on the problem with the class.
– homework must be done to the best of the child’s ability
– no random answers are allowed.

3. Understanding their challenges

Some children might have
– Dyslexia
– Language Processing Disorder
– Auditory Processing Disorder
– Slow Processing Disorder
We have to be sensitive to their needs and be creative in teaching. Play is a powerful tool to learn. Serena challenged the mothers in a dictation test to help them understand some of the struggles a Dyslexic child might face.

3. Accommodate their needs

Provide a suitable environment for your child to work on away from distractions. Be sensitive of their needs for movement. If necessary, they can be seated on yoga ball to do work as long as they can function and complete their work to the best of their ability.

Before starting work, activate their schema to bring awareness to the topic before starting homework on topic. This helps to bring the information nearer to where it is more easily accessible.


4. Encourage, Affirm, Appreciate EffortsMost importantly, reward them for effort and not the results. This will help to build self-confidence and self-esteem. Focus on building good work habit, as this is a life-skill to cultivate.

All mothers received practical tips and strategies to help their child and they look forward to the next talk next month.

JSM&SMC July 2019: Therapeutic Conversations

It was refreshing start to Term 3, as Charis Patrick, Family and Martial Therapist, Trainer and Family Life Educator, addressed a crowd of 51 mothers on 25 July 2019 at the SAJS Thinkubator.

Mingling at breakfast

As morning refreshments were served, mothers mingled and interacted during the session to discover:
– the different communication styles
– how to talk so your child will listen
– how to listen so your child will talk.
Research shows that when we communicate, only 7% of the content is received, while body language and tone takes up most of the message.
Charis spoke with passion on actions speaking louder than words. She suggested that as parents, we take a step back and do not nag our children. The less “rescuing” or reminding our children, the more they will take ownership of their situation and increase their personal motivation for action.

Our natural parental fear will lead us to want to “rescue” our children, but allowing our children to exercise personal choice helps to motivate them. For example, if the child chooses not to do his homework, he will have to face the consequences at school and not blame the parent for not doing the homework.

Supporting our children doesn’t mean rescuing them. Support creates a trust that our children have the ability to complete their tasks, which motivates them further when the tasks are completed because of their ability.

As parents, when we lose hope, we tend to try to rescue our children. However, rescuing has many implications:

  • Rescue leads to disempowerment in the child.
  • Rescue will never be appreciated by the child.
  • Rescue will lead to a sense of “self-sacrifice” by parents (in the hope of making everyone happy), which leads to feelings of resentment. When we are resentful, we’ll be angry and will likely punish (perpetrate) our children.

“Self-sacrificing” is a common phenomenon among stay-at-home mothers. As stay-at-home-mothers, their “KPIs” include their children’s performance in school. However, when mothers “self-sacrifice”, they send a message to their family that they can sacrifice and their time and wishes are not important. When their families start to taking self-sacrifical mothers for granted, these mothers would feel resentful.

When we reduce our tendancy to “self sacrifice” and build up our sense of self instead, we create healthier boundaries for ourselves, that our children can relate to. This will also lead to healthier relationships with our children and our spouses.

Interactive participants

As parents, we have to learn to be aware of our emotions and regulate our emotions. This will help us better understand ourselves, and in turn better understand our children.

We can listen to our children’s passions, even though we may not agree with them. We can also be passionate with what our children are passionate about. We do not have to burst their bubble. We can give them space to explore their options.

3 important ingredients for communication.

Every communication is an incidental teaching. Round up the conversation with a hug. Let our children know that we are their safe space, so that when they have difficulties or problems, they know they can come back to us, their safe space.

Steps to have a therapeutic conversation.

Deborah thanking our speaker.




JSM March 2019: Unlock Our Children’s Motivation

Mrs Sophia Lim introducing the speaker.

JSM participants at the Thinkubator.

With SA1 around the corner, mothers would like to help our children to unlock their greatest potential.

On 28 March 2019, 46 SAJS mothers gathered at the SAJS Thinkubator to learn about the 10 intrinsic motivators that can be found in every child, and how mothers can use them to help “Unlock Our Children’s Motivation”.

Our speaker was Mr Elmer Lau, a training director at Acorn Training. He specialises in the Reiss Motivation Profiling for children, a tool to profile the intrinsic motivators of a child. Elmer is also a St.Andrew’s alumni and a fellow parent of 3 boys in our junior school.

Our speaker, Mr Elmer Lau.

In the hour-long session, the mothers had a lively discussion on the challenges they faced motivating their children. Elmer listed the 10 intrinsic motivators children have, and shared some examples of how to motivate our children beyond the use of reward and threats:
1. Acceptance (need for approval)
2. Understanding (the need for intellectual stimulation)
3. Family (the need to spend time with family)
4. Idealism (the need to help others)
5. Order (the need for structure)
6. Power (the need for achievement)
7. Social Contact (the need for companionship)
8. Status (the need to feel important)
9. Tranquillity (the need to feel safe)
10. Competition (the need to win)

The talk ended with a light hearted question and answer session.

Mrs Sophia Lim was our host for the session.

A light refreshment followed, which allowed the Junior Saints Mums to mingle with one another.

For details about our next Junior Saints Mum Meeting in April, do like our Facebook page for the latest notification. 

JSM February 2019: Bullies Are A Pain!

About 40 Junior Saints Mums met on 28 February 2019 at the SAJS Thinkubator to hear from Ms Vivienne John, who shared candidly from her many years of experience as a counsellor in SAJS and as a mother.

Mrs Vivienne John sharing on bullying.

She shared about how to identify bullying situations and how she taught boys in the school ways to deal with it.

Mrs Vivienne John on identifying a bullying situation.

The participants found the session very useful and many felt empowered to help their children handle a bullying situation. Mrs John also addressed concerns about bullies and bullying at the Question and Answer session after her presentation.

The areas Mrs John covered include: 
– The definition of a bully
– How bullies can harm others
– How not to become a bully
– Signs to look out for if your son is bullied
– What to say when your son gets bullied (including slides to role play with your son, if he encounters a bully)
– How your son can defend himself if he faces a bullying situation
– Strategies of how a child can face up to a bully
– Myths about bullies

The slides Mrs John used can be downloaded here: Bullies Are A Real Pain!

The meeting ended with Mrs Deborah Lee, the SAPTA Chair, inviting the Junior Saints Mum to refreshments where the ladies enjoyed a time of getting to know one another.

Mrs Deborah Lee inviting participants to refreshments.

The next Junior Saints Mum meeting will be held on 28 March 2019, on the topic “Unlock Your Child’s Motivation”. More information on sign up will be available on our Facebook Page closer to the date. Do like the Facebook page to be informed of our upcoming SAPTA events.What Motivates My Child?
– Discover what are the 10 intrinsic motivators in a child
– Learn how to spot the motivators in your child
– Learn how to motivate your child beyond the use of rewards or threats.

About our Speaker:
Elmer is an expert in coaching students and parents in the area of motivation. He is one of the very few coaches in Asia who specializes in the Reiss Motivation Profiling for children, a powerful and scientifically validated tool to profile the intrinsic motivator of a child.

JSM Apr: Scream-free Parenting

The Junior Saints Mums met on 19 April 2018 at the LKC Hall at the Church of the Ascension. Charis Patrick, who has 2 boys currently in the Junior School, and an older son who has graduated from JS, faciliated a session on “Scream-free Parenting”.

Charis began by reminding the mums present that to be human is to have emotions and to not be perfect, and we do not always have things together.

The key question we need to ask ourselves is “How do we measure ourselves?”: Our frustrations increase when our standards are hard to achieve. On the other hand, when we acknowledge that we are not perfect, we are able to accept failure and build up resilience.

Know your child for who they are

Every child is different, but do we parent them differently?

Charis shared a story where her 3 sons experienced the same soccer event differently, with each child corresponding to a particular child-type.

  1. Goal driven
    Goal-driven children are perfectionists, have high expectations of themselves. Views success as important and failure as not scoring 100%.
  2. Socially sensitive
    Socially-sensitive children are emotionally sensitive and are sensitive to nuances and feelings of others.
  3. Out of the box
    These children are often inquisitive and may not follow the social norms. They see their personal rules as more important to follow.

Thus, “fairness” or “equality” isn’t experienced the same way by our kids, and we need to change our tactics if it doesn’t work.

Regardless of child-types, we need to intentionally schedule time with each child, where they can get 100% of our individual attention, especially in families with multiple children. They each need to feel important in their own way.

We also need to be careful of the words we use that could end up labelling our kids. Instead of saying “Why are you so CARELESS?”, we could say “How can we be more CAREFUL next time?” In professing their carelessness, we risk them seeing themselves as being “careless” instead of being able to be more “careful”.

For the goal-driven child, we need to help them manage expectation in their quest for perfection. Allow them to do better, but with a limit to the number of times they can try, so that they can learn to accept their imperfections, and build up resilience.

Parenting style

Charis shared a webite that can help parents find their Parenting Style.

There are essentially 4 Parenting Styles:

  1. Directive
    = Authoritarian/Controlling
    Children with no sense of themselves; resentful and rebellious
  2. Jellyfish
    = Easy-going
    Children who are ‘kings’
  3. Absent
    = Busy parents
  4. Parent Coach
    = Authoritative/Firm

Charis shared that being ‘firm’ is not the same as being ‘fierce’. Being firm is being consistent, but being fierce is to be emotionally charged. She shared an acroym, CPF, to help us remember how to be firm:

Being consistent allows our children to feel safe as they experience us predictable and reasonable.

Emotions Management

Charis asked the mums to think about the family scenarios that gets us screaming. How else can we respond in that situation?

She shared the 2Os method.

  1. Ownership
    Self-awareness: What’s triggering our emotional response?
    Acknowledge the feeling/emotion: Identify and label the feeling/emotion, in order for the emotion to soothe and die down.
  2. Objectify
    Being careful not to objectify the child:
      What is the value that we impute to the child when we scream at him?
      How do our child see the way we parent?

Charis agreed that screaming is effective, much like how instant noodles are “fast to cook, good to eat”. However, she encouraged us to aim for more powerful, sustainable and choiceful methods.

What do we model to our kids when we scream?

  1. We don’t have control over our emotions.
  2. Screaming is scary and is a superficial way to get things done, as the underlying issues have not been dealt with.

Charis pointed out that it is not the responsibility of our kids to make us happy. Instead, she reminded us that we are 100% responsible for our own happiness. And when we model this philosophy, it teaches our kids to take charge of their own happiness.

JSM Mar: Making learning effective and fun (Part 2)

The Junior Saints Mums met on 22 March 2018 at the LCK Hall@Church of the Ascension for their March meeting.

The session started out with a recap of the February session and an overview of Fall And I Learn, and a focus on how to allow our kids to develop resilience when they don’t find success in their work.

Brenda then shared about growth and fixed mindset.

The research done by Carol Dweck in her 2007 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” has been adopted by educators, organisations, learners, and parents to help learners develop a growth mindset.

This video explains the Growth and Fixed Mindsets:

The mindsets show up differently in the following areas:

And has implications for how our children view challenges, failures, and success, and how resilient they would be in life.

How can we help our kids reframe their failures and build resilience?

  1. “Something Worthwhile”
    If something is worthwhile, the hardship and effort to doing that something is not only then required, but also a meaningful process to the worthwhile outcome.
  2. “Clues for Learning”
    Beyond telling our kids that they need to “learn”, it’s also important to teach them how to learn (eg, repetition, drill), and also that wrong answers are clues that we haven’t mastered a concept or topic yet.
  3. Ask for help
    We need to teach our kids that they can and should look for help when they face a difficulty. It embarasses kids to ask for help because they feel vunerable and worry that if they asked for help, they will look foolish.

Other principles that Brenda noted as important principles include:

  • Honour the emotions:
    The child’s disappointments, frustrations, anger, etc may be negative emotions, but we need to allow them to feel those emotions as part of the failure process. However, we also need to help them realise that–
  • We are Choice-ful people:
    We can make a choice to do something about the failure, or let it remain so. We can choose to put aside our negative emotions or dwell in it. To remain unhappy is also a choice.
  • Reframing ‘Challenges’ as ‘Normal’:
    In doing so, challenges and obstacles are not extraordinary situations, but is the norm and expected. This means that failures are part of the process of learning and something that provides feedback on where to get better in.

The session ended with Brenda getting the mums to think up ways and verbal responses that will promote a growth mindset in our kids, in response to a few sets of situations that they would meet with their kids.