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.





JSM Jan: Strategies in motivating our kids to do their homework well

At our January 2018 Junior Saints Mums meeting, we gathered to share how best to help our children do their schoolwork in an effective and a timely manner.

This is the summary of what was discussed:
(Items in italics are added in by Brenda Tan after the meeting.)

Plan a simple weekly after school timetable with your child.

Include breaks/naps and snack time

No gadgets during work time

It is important to have your child plan their timetable with you rather than you give them schedule. Planning the timetable together will allow them to have greater ownership of their time. Also, they learn to have the habit of time management.

Try to keep to the schedule set, although this may be frustrating initially. Habits take time to set, but it gets easier once the routine is formed.

Create a filing system.

Teach your child to use an accordion file to sort out the worksheets and papers from school.

All homework should be placed in the same slot to be completed, and returned to the same slot to be handed in the next day.

School notices should be kept in a slot by itself.

Returned worksheets should be removed from the file and kept at home.

Create a reward system.

Have a clear reward chart, with achievable goals.

Reward for completing past year school exam papers.

Rewards can include use of mobile phone, watching tv, or computer games.

Setting achievable goals are important, otherwise it may discourage the child to work towards the goal.

Remove privileges.

Remove favourite toys.

Return when good.

Timer: Keeping track of time.

Use a countdown timer to help your child be aware of time that has passed.

A kitchen timer is useful as a countdown timer at home.

Use the timer in a variety of ways – see how many questions your child can do in 10 minutes, and then have a chart to see if he can improve on that score.

Use it as a reminder that certain sections of the exam paper need to be competed by a certain time and to move on if he hasn’t competed the section.

Use it simply as a timer in conjunction with the time-table.

The W200 S Women And Children Digital Timer Sport Watch, retailing for S$15.90 at Decathlon.
It’s the only countdown timer watch I managed to find this price point.
Mindful that the boys are adapting

New time table

Homework/Hate school

Behaviour and expectations

Children learn better when self-motivated.  
A parent accompanies the child when doing homework. Help the child see that learning is not an isolated activity and that you’re also a learner.

Pick up a hobby that can be done while the children are doing their homework.

Bite-sized learning esp. for Chinese.

Read more Chinese books.

Also look for Chinese resources like YouTube videos with good Chinese language appropriate for kids.

Life action movie based on Disney’s Mulan, with Simplified Mandarin subtitles. (There’s a version with both English and Mandarin subtitles, but watching that might cause the kids to only read the English subtitles.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT9V_hHPYhMThe channel has more such movies which are targetted at children and are a good resource for listening and reading the Chinese texts.
Parents to have close communication with child’s teachers.

Monitor the homework channels of the class for work to be completed.

Email or call the teacher if you have queries. Don’t assume that the teacher knows what you are concerned about.

Let the teacher know to look out for your child if they are facing some personal or emotional difficulties, eg death of a pet, so that the teacher can help support your son.


Making the learning appropriate and enough for the kids. Some kids can do more drills, others don’t need as much.

Insist on quality work over quantity work.

Use the school values and school song.

The school song says “time for work and time for play”, so work comes first.

The school song also says “truest fame lies in high endeavour”, a reminder that hard work is important.

The school values of TRUE WISE:
Thanksgiving, Resilience, Unity, Empathy, Wonder, Integrity, Self-Discipline, Excellence, are good reminders to our sons when they don’t produce quality work.

Communicate with your child

Monitor our communication with our children – how much time is given to talking about schoolwork, their hobbies, what they enjoy doing, etc. If the communications with our children weigh too much on schoolwork, then the child might feel that that’s the only thing you care about your child.


Brightly lit area, table and chairs at comfortable height for the child, quiet space to encourage focus and concentration.


Get 2 sets of stationery — one for school use and one for home use. This way he is unlikely to “forget” to pack his stationery for school.

For lower primary school boys, it is not advisable to use mechanical pencils because the 0.5 tips are quite sharp, and erasing these may be difficult. Get the 1.3 or 0.7 mechanical pencils instead, as these make a thicker line and are much easier to erase.

Learning Spelling

For lower primary students, don’t wait until just before the spelling test to learn spelling. Write the words on cards and paste them where the kids can see them every day. Test the kids a few days before the test and get them to correct those they got wrong. Repeat it the next day, until the spelling day itself. This will get easier once the child has a habit of studying for spelling.

There are spelling Apps like SpellBoard which allows you to input the spelling words and have your child listen and write or type in the answer.

There are Chinese Apps for tracing character strokes, but I’m not sure if there are those that allows you to input the words for learning. Nonetheless, learning the correct character strokes can help the child memorise characters better.




Junior Saints Mums: January meeting

Introduction of the purpose of the Junior Saints Mums

The Junior Saints Mums met as a group for the first time on Thursday, 25 January at the SASS’s Centre of Excellence classroom.

The JS Mums were clearly excited to meet and even before the session began, the mothers were engaged in trading stories of their sons’ first weeks of adventures in school.

The meeting began with an introduction by Mrs Deborah Wang, who explained that the group was set up to provide Junior Saints Mums a space to support each other on their mothering journey. The facilitator, Mrs Brenda Tan, then got the 22 mothers to share a little more about themselves, their children, and what they felt the motherhood journey meant to them.

It surprised some mothers in the group that there were mothers who have more than 3 children, some mothers with boys in both the primary and secondary schools, and even mothers in the junior school with children in their early 20s! Indeed, it was assuring to know that there was a good diversity in the motherhood experience in the room – full-time-working mothers, part-time-working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, and work-from-home mothers. What they all had in common were the love they have for their children and one of their kids being in the junior school.

The main topic of discussion was sharing personal strategies for helping our children to complete their homework and revision at home in a timely manner. There were stories of frustration in getting the children to learn Chinese or complete their work on time, and laughter at some of the creative strategies shared by other mothers. When the four small groups were done in consolidating their strategies, they met as a large group to further refine the strategies into practical steps.

The strategies would be put into a document and shared via SAPTA’s website soon.

The session ended with a breakfast, where the mothers were able to socialise and discover more about each other and make new friends.

Thus fulfilling the aim of the Junior Saints Mums meetings: that Motherhood is a journey of friends.

Visual cards for sharing about the motherhood journey.

Sharing about upcoming SAPTA events.

Deepening friendships

So glad we came!

Facilitator Brenda and Host Deborah