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My First Child: The First Experiment

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Young Asian family using a tablet in the living room.

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 behavior to help her understand our perspective. On top of this, we used a reward system to reinforce Leia’s good behavior.

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 behavior, 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 behavior!

Parenting during a pandemic – A new opportunity

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