Xuân’s Report

I had a brief conference with Xuân’s teachers this morning. They described him as energetic, curious, and strong-willed. On the positive side, his strong-willed allows him to focus on a project for long time. On the negative side, he has to have something when he wants it badly. Xuân loves to be physical. He enjoys instruments and often use toys to make noise. He also loves to sing.

They are working with him on using toys and food for their intended purposes. He might be bored with the toys and the food; therefore, he uses his creativity to do something else. Shouldn’t we encourage his imagination? At home, he turned everything into musical instruments.

They are also working on getting him to play gently. With two older brothers, Xuân can be a bit rough, especially when the older brothers don’t physically hit him back. I kept telling them to stop him. He should not be hitting. We have been through these before. Đạo used to get into trouble a lot for scratching other kids.

Now he is very gently. Sometimes he just unintentional plays a bit rough. Like last night, he bit Xuân while they played together. He was meant to bite lightly, but he left his teeth marks on Xuân’s finger. It drives me nuts that he does this repeatedly. The other day, he meant to touch Đan’s face gently, but he slapped him with red finger prints. He’ll learn one day after I yell at him enough.

Con hư tại cha

Lúc trước thấy một chị họ bên vợ tắm cho thằng con 13 tuổi tôi hơi ngạc nhiên. Giờ thằng lớn đã gần 9 tuổi mà còn phải có ba phụ tắm cho.

Sáng nay nó muốn ăn cereal và muốn tôi đi làm cho nó. Tôi bảo con tự làm được mà sao phải. Chỉ cần lấy tô, muỗng rồi đổ sữa và cereal vào. Thế mà nó cũng cằn nhằn đợi tôi la mới thôi.

Hôm nọ nó bảo rằng nó chưa có khuynh hướng đi đại học vì nó vẫn còn muốn ngủ chung với ba. Chú tôi từng nói nếu để nó ngủ chung nó sẽ ngủ đến 18 tuổi. Chắc là vậy rồi.

Building Resilience Through Risks

Ellen Barry:

Limited risks are increasingly cast by experts as an experience essential to childhood development, useful in building resilience and grit.

Outside the Princess Diana Playground in Kensington Gardens in London, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, a placard informs parents that risks have been “intentionally provided, so that your child can develop an appreciation of risk in a controlled play environment rather than taking similar risks in an uncontrolled and unregulated wider world.”

I am guilty as charged for being over-protective. I still watch every move my toddler does when he’s at the playground. My first boy fell down from the top of the slide. Thank goodness the ground was mulch not concrete. My second boy never seemed to learn his lesson and I don’t want to spend hours in the ER room afterward, which we did several times already. Call me a sucker and a typical parent all you want, but I rather be cautious than sorry.

Do Screens Make Us Terrible Parents?

Pamela Druckerman:

Modern parents spend far more time with their children than parents did in the 1960s. Yes, a mother reading work emails at the playground has briefly stopped interacting with her child. But Kamenetz — a mother of two — says if she couldn’t do that, she’d need to be at the office.

We know it’s crucial to stimulate and speak to young children, and our generation of parents complies to a possibly unprecedented — and exhausting — degree. Kamenetz notes that we need occasional breaks from this. She bemoans “an ideological stance that judges mothers for not being fully available to their children at all times and that scapegoats working-class families in particular.”

Stepping Back is Working

The strong wind over the weekend was terrifying. Other than a few hours without power, nothing has damaged. There were moments I felt like the roof was flying off. I re-nailed the gutters and aluminum trims a couple months ago; therefore, nothing blew off. I am glad that we survived the catastrophe. On top of all, we survived the kids’ conflicts.

The boys played well together for the most part. They still argued from time to time, but no crying, screaming, and whining. I consider that to be a progress when you put five kids together in one house of a couple of days. The boys even decided to have a sleepover. I was a bit anxious at first, but they seemed to get along fine.

The parents had agreed to step back and it seemed to work. We give them a chance to they talk it out. We only intervened if things got too rough. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do much of it. It’s so nice to see the kids played together peacefully. They put less stress on us. The iPads helped too even though I feel guilty as hell for giving in to the evil of technology. What is there for them to do when the are stuck in the house? Letting them running around the house drives me nuts as well. Overall, we had a wonderful time being stuck in the house.

Nhổ răng

Răng non của thằng Đán lung lay cả tuần nay. Nó bảo tôi nhổ cho nó. Tôi lắc lư và ngọ nguậy mãi nhưng nó không chịu ra. Khi giựt hơi mạnh thì nó than đau. Máu đã chảy ra nên tôi sợ bị nhiễm trùng.

Hôm qua thấy chổ đó xưng lên và nó than đau mỗi khi ăn nên tôi cũng xót ruột. Tối qua tôi lo lắng ngủ không được nên sáng sớm gọi lấy hẹn nha sĩ cho nó. Trưa nay khi mẹ nó đến trường rước nó đi thì nó gọi video cho tôi khoe rằng nó đã tự mình giựt ra.

Thằng con trai giữa này của tôi cũng lì thật. Mai mốt tôi để cho nó tự mình nhổ lấy luôn.

Bully Turned Deadly

Geraldine DeRuiter recounts the story of her bully:

In 2010, after years of finding nothing, I learned from a friend that my bully had been murdered in his home not far from where we grew up. Consumed by the story, I pored over every news article on his death I could find. He had been dealing pot and was killed in a robbery gone wrong. One of the murderers had been his childhood friend.

DeRuiter also gives a different perspective on the bully:

Nobody wants to extend sympathy to a tormenter. The trouble is, school and neighborhood bullies aren’t adults. They’re kids, and many are grappling with their own problems. In 2008, the Institute of Education in London published a report that found that bullies had higher levels of anger, depression, emotional disaffection, paranoia and suicidal behavior. Other studies have found that as they grow up, bullies tend to have more trouble keeping jobs, have more problems with alcohol and drugs, and are more likely to have criminal records. A large number of bullies are also victims of bullying, meaning they face some of the same pathologies that they induce in others.

“These kids have been told that they’re worthless, that they’re stupid. They’re dealing with trauma, and they don’t have the social skills to process it. Punishing them just makes it worse,” says Julietta Skoog, a school psychologist with Seattle Public Schools and co-founder of Sproutable, a company that creates video-based parenting tools. “It’s never just ‘I feel like being a jerk.’”

As a victim and survivor of bullying, I also wonder how my tormenters turn out. One of them showed up on Facebook. We were neighbors. I was around eight or nine and he was two years older than me. He beat me up because he thought I made fun of him, which I did not. He was stronger and a better fighter than me; therefore, I was not stupid enough to piss him off. The punch was not as hurt as the embarrassment when I mom got involved. She banned me from speaking to him. As time passed, he wanted to hanging out with me again, but I could not. If he apologized, I would have reconsidered it. Now we are friends on Facebook. He seems to be doing fine. We did not bring up the past. The memory still lingered.

Hangry Explained

As we were watching coverage of the Olympic, I asked Đạo, “What is hangry.” His replied was, “It’s the combination of hungry and angry.” I thought he just made that up until I read it in the Washington Post. My eight-year-old is smarter than me.

He read the chyron and said to me, “Her name is [Arielle] Gold, but she won a bronze medal.”

Little Xuân stayed home today because he had a high fever. It turns out he’s teething. He looked out our window and said to me, “Daddy, chim [birds] play tree.” It’s fascinating to hear a two-year-old putting together a sentence and mixing Vietnamese and English. One of his frequent sentences is “Mommy, bú [breastfeed] please.”

Telling Kids Family History

Bruce Feiler:

The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

Feiler also points out the important of telling kids positive stories:

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

When our mom’s oldest sister was still alive and well, she told us many great stories about her parents, particularly their business success. Our grandparents were entrepreneurs and they worked hard everyday. Even though they were took advantage of and cheated on, they remained kind and compassionate towards others. Our aunt learned all of those skills from our grandparents and became successful herself.

When she left Vietnam, she also left behind her houses, businesses, and fortunes. In America, she rebuilt everything from her empty hands. She started out with growing mung bean sprouts. From there, she owned a small Asian grocery store. Then she opened a Chinese restaurant with a full bar. She also owned a beer-to-go joint. She had a couple of apartment complexes for rent. When her brother and sister started a restaurant but could not handle the work, she took over the business and saved their behinds.

Their stories were inspiring. Even though I don’t possess any of the skills they had, I always appreciated the family history. I am so glad that she told them to us. I will pass them along to our children.

Đạo’s and Đán’s Progress Report

Đạo and Đán received their progress report yesterday. They are graded on the following scales:

  1. Seldom demonstrates
  2. Sometimes demonstrates
  3. Usually demonstrates
  4. Consistently demonstrates

Đạo’s academic performances are between usually (3) and consistently (4) good. His social performances, however, are 3s across the board. He even had a 2 for “identifies, pursues, and reflects on goals.” Đạo is not antisocial. He just has a group of three or four friends that he is closed with.

To my surprise, Đán earned all 4s in his social performances. Then again, Đán is a pretty social kid. He doesn’t have a group of close friends, but he gets along with all of his classmates. His academic performances are also consistently good, except for his musical literary skills, which is understandable. He once told his music teacher that he couldn’t count 1 to 4 so he did not have to play the piano.

Another surprise is that he mastered most of the activities in his kindergarten report, including “taking turns and sharing.” I don’t see that at home. He fights constantly with his brothers over toys. He definitely acts different at home and school. He never received any pink slip for misbehaving in class. His teacher never complaint about his behavior. Even when I asked her, she told me that he is an excellent student in class.

Late last year, I was a bit worried about his reading since he could not tell me the alphabet. Then he made tremendous improvement once he mastered the letters. He worked through his word ring in two or three times. He is also doing good with Let’s Read, which we read together 2 or 3 pages each night. He started to be able to put the letters together on his own.