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. 

2019 Notice of Annual General Meeting

Notice is hereby given that the 49th Annual General Meeting of the St Andrew’s Parent-Teacher Association (“SAPTA”) will be held on Friday, 29 March 2019, 5pm at:



1. Welcome and Opening Address by Chairman.
2. Adoption of Minutes of the 48th Annual General Meeting held on 24 March 2018.
3. Matters arising from the Minutes of the 48th Annual General Meeting.
4. Presentation of the Chairman’s Report for 2018
5. Adoption of the audited Statement of Account for the year ended 31 December 2018.
6. Election of Office Bearers and Executive Committee 2019 – 2020.
7. Election of two (2) Honorary Auditors for the ensuing year.
8. Election of Honorary Legal Advisor.
9. To transact any other matters which prior notice has been given to the Honorary Secretary at least 7 days prior to the AGM.

Submissions should reach the Honorary Secretary no later than 22nd March 2018 and addressed to:

The Honorary Secretary
St Andrew’s Parent-Teacher Association
c/o St Andrew’s Secondary School
15 Francis Thomas Drive
Singapore 359342


By Order of the Executive Committee (2018/2019)

Deborah Lee, Chairman SAPTA

Please take note of the following:

AGM Documents

In consideration of our environment, the Notice of AGM, Minutes of Meeting, Statement of Accounts and Chairman’s Report will not be mailed to members.

These documents are available for download in the links below. We will, however, be pleased to mail a set to you upon request.

Minutes of 48th AGM of SAPTA (n) – 24 March 2018

Notification Letter

On-line Registration of Attendance of AGM

If you are attending the 49th Annual General Meeting, please register online at this link:






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.


Dads Coffee Club: Laser Tag

Dads Coffee Club organised a Laser Tag event last Saturday, 17 March 2018. 25 pairs of father-and-son met at the SASS Hall to team up and strategise out-playing the other team.

In the process, the fathers and sons all got to know their fellow Saints better, and the friendly atmosphere remained buoyant long after the event was over.

Thanks, DCC for organising this event!


2018 Notice of Annual General Meeting

Notice is hereby given that the 48th Annual General Meeting of the St Andrew’s Parent-Teacher Association (“SAPTA”) will be held on Saturday, 24 March 2017, 12:30pm at:



  1. Welcome and Opening Address by Chairman.
  2. Adoption of Minutes of the 47th Annual General Meeting held on 29 March 2017.
  3. Matters arising from the Minutes of the 47th Annual General Meeting.
  4. Presentation of the Chairman’s Report for 2017
  5. Adoption of the audited Statement of Account for the year ended 31 December 2017.
  6. Appointment of two (2) Honorary Auditors for the ensuing year.
  7. Appointment of Honorary Legal Advisor.
  8. Presentation of Appreciation to outgoing Committee Members.
  9. To transact any other business which prior notice has been given to the Honorary Secretary at least 7 days prior to the AGM.

Submissions should reach the Honorary Secretary no later than 16 March 2018 and addressed to:

The Honorary Secretary
St Andrew’s Parent-Teacher Association
c/o St Andrew’s Secondary School
15 Francis Thomas Drive
Singapore 359342

By Order of the Executive Committee (2017/2018)

Deborah Lee, Chairman SAPTA

Please take note of the following:

AGM Documents

In consideration of our environment, the Notice of AGM, Minutes of Meeting, Statement of Accounts and Chairman’s Report will not be mailed to members.

These documents are available for download in the links below. We will, however, be pleased to mail a set to you upon request.

Minutes of 47th AGM of SAPTA – 29 March 2017
SAPTA Financial Statement2017

On-line Registration of Attendance of AGM

If you are attending the 48th Annual General Meeting, please register online at this link:


Thank you.


JSM Feb: Making learning effective and fun (Part 1)

The whiteboard after the session.

The Junior Saints Mums met on 22 February 2018 for a discussion on how to make learning effective and fun for our kids.


The session began with a paired sharing for mums:

Share with your friend one thing you that appreciate about your son for, since we met last month. What was the occasion? How did it make your feel? Did you let him know?

The exercise helped to remind us that our children, who may be sometimes be a challenge to look after, often have strengths and mindfulness that can both surprise and delight us.

The Learning Process

A quick run through of the agenda with Brenda.

After a quick run-through about the agenda points, our facilitator, Brenda Tan, asked the 16 mums to discuss the following questions in their groups:

What do you remember about your own learning strategies in primary school? What seemed to work for you?

The groups reported that their own learning strategies consisted of:

  • copying notes and mind-maps
  • practicing 10 year series
  • participative learning (doing the exercises)
  • repeated writing/intensive ?? (copywork)
  • self-revision (homework/assessment book)
  • tuition (doing assessment)
  • memorise (recite repeatedly)
  • repetition and memory work

The group agreed that while the strategies were effective for them, they do not appear to be fun activities for learning.

The groups also noted that there are strategies that were limited in the time when they were in school:

  • technology
  • school outing (limited), and exclusively for upper primary
  • no overseas trips

A close up on the mums’ personal strategy for learning when they were in school.

The mums shared that these strategies not only gave our kids a learning opportunity that went beyond the curriculum, but made the learning fun too.

The Neuroscience of Learning

Brenda briefly shared about new learnings from neuroscience and how learning at middle childhood may differ from teenage years and adult learners simply because the brain is changing as the child is growing.


A process called myelination occurs a fetus is about 16 weeks and continues into adulthood. A substance called myelin, made up of fatty lipids and proteins, surrounds around the neurons. These myelinated cells become more efficient in the way they carry messages throughout the brain; information travels much more quickly than in cells that have not been myelinated.

When myelination completes at about the age of 25, the brain becomes efficient and effective in its functioning. Some neurons are fully-myelinated at birth, eg. those that control the ability of an infant to suck. Other neurons become myelinated in early life, and provide increasing efficiency for toddlers as they fine-tune their vision, hearing, language, emotions, and physical capabilities.

The frontal lobes, where the brain plans for the future, more accurately assess risk, makes sound judgement, reasons, controls impulses, sets goals and priorities, plans and organises multiple tasks, and exhibits emotional control, is the last to be myelinated.

Myelination also aids cognitive development.

This myelination of the frontal lobe starts occuring at tweens (10 to 12 years old) and continue through their teen years to adulthood. Myelination also helps tweens inhibit their impulses more efficiently and to demonstrate greater self-discipline, although many will continue to have impulse control problems until the myelination process is complete in adulthood.

Limbic System

The limbic system triggers our “fight or flight” response for survival. Thus, in less than 0.1 second, the nerve endings sends signals via our spinal cord to the amygdala in the brain so that the body can react to it. eg. touching an open flame triggers the brain to remove the hand from the source of heat.

The limbic system also controls our emotions and memory, so when confronted with anxiety, stress, or threats, the amygdala becomes over-activated, and cut off access to memory storage, reasoning, and association circuits. Therefore, when our children are in a distressed emotional state their learning ability is directly negatively impacted.

On the other hand, when in a positive emotion, the neural pathways to memory storage, judgement, and connections open up, and new information can be processed, associated, and stored for later retrieval and use.

Therefore, there is a scientific fact behind ensuring that the learning environment for our children is a safe, happy, and fun one!

Yet, why do the learning strategies that the mums say work for them as student work, even though they do not appear to be much fun?

Practice Testing and Distributed Testing

Interesting, the strategies that the groups cited as effective are also cited by many research on meta-learning (how people learn) as the top two effective learning strategies: Practice Testing and Distributed Testing.

Both these strategies are effective because while they may not be “fun”, they train the brain in memory retrieval. Memory isn’t stored in the brain as a unit or in one part of the brain, but are widely distributed throughout the brain, with duplicated neural pathways so that the memory can be retrieved if any of the neural pathways should be wiped out. Memory retrieval therefore, has to do with training the brain to associate retrieving the information from different elements stored in different parts of the brain, and this requires re-visiting the neural pathways the brain formed when creating the memory, and strengthening these pathways results in how quickly the memory can be recalled.

Therefore, perfect practice makes perfect.

Practice Testing:

any form of testing for learning which a student is able to do on their own.


  • flash cards
  • completing practice problems or tests
  • copywork/”xi-zhi”

However, one-off heavy practice or cramming does not increase the memory retrieval process. This is due to the increase in cortisol levels which triggers the stress level to the brain (remember the “fight or flight” situation regarding the emotions?), blocking the amygdala from opening the neural pathways to cognition and association.

Therefore, there is a need for these practice testings to occur over a distributed period of time.

  • Distributed testing:
    distributing the learning over time.
  • revisit and review materials periodically
  • allow for time lag between learning episodes for brain to consolidate learning (aka sleep on it!)

Brain health requires good nutrition and rest!


Brenda reminded the group of when their children were babies learning to walk and the mums’ reactions to that process:

  • Encouraging in tone and emotion that it’s a positive process.
  • Celebrating for every strengthening step.
  • Discounting the “pain” of falling.
  • Placing the baby near the sofa to support them cruising.
  • Ensuring the distance isn’t too great so that the goals are achievable.
  • Ensuring the space is safe to walk.
  • Ensuring the space “grows” with the walking — self-exploration is safe.
  • Creating walking boundaries.

If learning to walk were a metaphor for learning in school, have we reacted the same way to our children failing, like the way we react to our babies falling?

The Fall And I Learn process is part and parcel of the learning process, and our reactions to how our children fail impacts the limbic system’s memory and emotion regulation. If failing in school is constantly a negative memory and emotion, it creates a downward spiral towards any formal learning setting.

The brain is a learning organ in any situation, and association with new information is connected with prior experience about what to do with that new data.

Therefore, a positive framing of failure is key to helping the brain understand how to deal with the natural negative associations with failure — a topic to look into more deeply for another JSM session.


How then do we make learning fun?

Knowing that effective learning is as fun as hitting the gym for hours on repetitive exercises and bland chicken breast meals, the fun in learning is actually in a few key strategies, which allows the learner to feel motivated and getting a dopamine hit:

  • Keeping track of progress: recording the number of times and results of each practice testing (how often correct, how short a time to get it correct, etc.)
  • Celebrating milestones with a positive memory, eg. ice cream cone for achieving a school goal.
  • Noticing the progress: Articulate to our kids the progress that they’ve made and our emotions to that. Help them see the changes that they can’t see.
  • Provide learning support: (see our previous JSM meeting on Strategies in motivating our kids to do their homework well.)


The motherhood journey in supporting our children to grow and thrive is an immensely satisfying and rewarding one. Thankfully, it’s also a journey of friends, who can help us be better mothers in their sharing of strategies and perspectives that work for them.

The Junior Saints Mums ended their February meeting with a delicious lohei, and shouts of blessings upon our school community: staff, families, and children.