Source: Educational psychologists, Shum Ka Man and Tang Wai Yan
Interactive reading is when parents and children engage in reading through conversation. The main difference between interactive reading and traditional reading aloud lies in the fact that traditional reading aloud often involves parents telling stories to children or, in some cases, parents’ intention to teach children to recognize words, focusing primarily on word recognition. However, the advantage of interactive reading is not just about word recognition; it aims to foster a positive parent-child relationship and help children express themselves through conversation.
In interactive reading, children take on an active role, where they can ask questions and guide the conversation through these questions and answers, thereby enhancing their reading comprehension skills. When parents engage in interactive reading with children, they should consider what questions to ask and what steps to follow. There are various ways for parents to ask questions, and we teach them a prompting framework that includes five different question types, abbreviated as ‘CROWD.’
C stands for Completion, where questions can be posed in a fill-in-the-blank manner. R represents Recall, encouraging children to remember what happened earlier in the story. O denotes Open-ended questions, allowing children to speculate about what might happen next. W represents Wh questions, covering the six Ws: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Finally, D stands for Distancing questions, which prompt children to relate the story to their own life experiences, asking how the story connects to their daily lives.
Written by Marriage and Family Therapist, Child Play Therapist, Rachel Ng
When my son was in the first grade, I often encountered the same group of parents at the pick-up and drop-off station. One of the parents had a son who coincidentally attended the same school and grade as my son, so we gradually became acquainted. It was also during that time that I began to witness what was called “monster parents”!
She would frequently ask about my child’s extracurricular activities because her son was enrolled in various classes every day, sometimes even attending two in a single day. On the other hand, I struggled to list many activities for my son. He enjoyed exploring and creating games at home, finding his own joy. I also saw that he was able to grasp the lessons taught at school, so I felt that there was no need for him to participate in additional extracurricular activities. Always, my wish for him was to be happy.
However, gradually, when most of the parents around you gather and chatter about what their children are learning, what levels they’ve achieved in music and language exams, and so on, I, who originally believed in the “go with the flow” approach, began to feel anxious. I couldn’t help but question whether I was a lazy, unambitious, and neglectful mother who didn’t plan for her child’s future!
And so, I also began to enroll my child in various courses, but the resistance I encountered was beyond what I had ever imagined. During the years from my son’s second to fourth grade, even though the number of courses he attended was not extensive, conflicts often arose between mother and son due to the insistence on him participating in additional extracurricular activities. I couldn’t bear to see both of us suffer from the results of these clashes, so I asked myself: “What is truly important for a child? To possess a wealth of knowledge but carry an unhappy heart, or to have a lively, cheerful, and positively charged life?” Even though I hadn’t yet studied marriage and family therapy at that time, I still believed that a harmonious family relationship was the cornerstone for a child to have a healthy life.
In the end, I decided to no longer “force” my son to participate in activities he disliked. By letting go in this manner, I actually created space for him to learn to take responsibility for his own decisions. He would let me know what he wanted to learn or even if he wanted to attend Chinese tutoring at the appropriate time. These exercises in autonomy and responsibility, unwittingly, became invaluable assets for my son in the future. They proved beneficial in his education and career, leading to success in every aspect.
In reality, many parents, like myself back then, find themselves in an environment of intense competition, where they see other mothers doing the same crazy things. This makes those actions seem not crazy, but rather the norm. Even if reluctantly, they feel compelled to do the same. However, children find various ways to express to us that they are struggling, that they cannot accept it! The question is, do mothers really see it? If parents have a short-sighted perspective and are anxious only about gaining an initial advantage, focusing solely on creating fleeting competitive edges for their children while neglecting to establish qualities that contribute to their long-term development, then in the end, the casualties may extend beyond just the mother-child relationship to include the child’s life itself!
Source: Education experts Leung Wing Lok and Chiu Wing Tak
Question: My daughter is currently in K2, and I want to apply for a private school for her. I plan to start her with tutoring and learning the violin. Is the chance slim? What kind of interest classes or academic classes should she take to increase her competitiveness?
Chiu: I think if you choose interest classes, you should consider what type of activities the school prioritizes. For example, many schools have orchestras, dance classes, or singing classes. If your child is learning the viola, her chances might be limited because the demand for viola players is not as high. If she learns the violin, as orchestras usually require many violin players, her chances will be better. Alternatively, learning to dance or sing can also be beneficial.
Leung: My opinion is relatively straightforward. Some parents pursue learning less common instruments, thinking that schools might prefer that. For example, learning the harp or African drums. However, I believe it is essential to consider the child’s genuine interests. During the interview process, if the school sees the child’s enthusiasm for that particular instrument or music, it will be a plus. Whether she learns a popular or less common instrument, I think the impact is relatively minor. The most crucial aspect is to let the school see the child’s passion for music.
Question: My child is about to enroll in kindergarten, but he is a bit timid and afraid that he won’t speak during the interview. What should I do?
Chiu: That’s a significant issue. If he doesn’t speak, it would be a pity, like “making a great effort but falling short at the crucial moment.” I have thought of a method that you can consider. When practicing the interview with your child, you can record the process as if it were a real interview. Then, when necessary, for example, if your child suddenly becomes speechless during the interview, you can show this recording to the school teacher and say, “Teacher, could you please watch this clip? Actually, my child speaks regularly.” Play the video for the teacher. If the teacher has empathy, I believe they will take a look. When the teacher watches it, the child will also show interest, and it will be easier for him to start speaking.
Leung: That’s a good approach, but the prerequisite is that parents need to be well-prepared. I think the most basic thing is to engage your child in conversations about topics and interests as much as possible in daily life, so that your child will speak more naturally when facing strangers. Another thing to note is that parents should not answer for their child when they are not speaking. When you answer for them, you are actually doing them a disservice, akin to cheating.
Question: Is there a problem if we don’t enroll in Pre-Nursery (PN) classes? Because the tuition fees are quite expensive, and some friends say their children take more sick leave days than going to school.
Leung: It’s hard to generalize. Actually, if the family environment permits, and there’s someone to take care of the child, not attending PN classes may not be a big problem. However, some parents worry that not attending PN classes might make it difficult for their child to progress to K classes, and that’s another concern. So, it depends on individual circumstances.
Chiu: Indeed, many parents are concerned that if everyone else attends PN classes and their child doesn’t, their child may lag behind in competition. This is a real worry. As for what to learn in PN classes, they typically focus on cognitive abilities, self-care skills, social skills, and communication abilities. As long as parents can teach these four things to their children, such as teaching them to recognize words, communicate effectively, make friends, and take care of themselves, there may not be a need to attend PN classes.
Question: My daughter was born in mid-January, which is an awkward month. Should I enroll her in the younger class (N class) as a “younger child” or put her in the older class (K1) as an “older child”?
Chiu: Personally, I prefer being an “older child” as there are many advantages to it. Firstly, you’ll be stronger and have the opportunity to become a leader or class monitor in the future. If you’re a “younger child,” others might pat your head, and younger kids being treated like little brothers or sisters might not be too happy. Secondly, being an “older child,” you’ll have more experience. You’ll be a few months older than other kids, so you’ll have more experience, making it easier to absorb knowledge while studying. Being an “older child” also means you’ll have stronger self-care, communication, and social skills, benefiting you in many ways.
Leung: The age difference between children might already be significant and being an “older child” entering school would truly give an advantage at the starting line. There’s another downside to being a “younger child” as it’s possible that your child might not keep up with the rest and could face repeating the same class. Facing the possibility of repeating can seriously affect a child’s confidence, and it’s challenging to regain once it’s lost.
In today’s society with advanced information and fast-paced information dissemination, children inevitably come into contact with various healthy and unhealthy information from a young age. For example, social networks are filled with verbal violence, and computer and mobile games are filled with bloody fights and war violence, which may lead to imitative behavior in the next generation.
From a biological perspective, violence is an inherent instinct of living beings; otherwise, survival would be impossible in the law of the jungle. Newborn babies are closest to their instincts, but the cultivation of rationality is a matter of upbringing and the responsibility of parents.
Parents should try to guide their children to reflect on the harm of violence:
Violence cannot solve people’s problems; it can only solve the problems of those who are problematic.
We live in a world full of challenges. Since rationality cannot solve all problems, violence certainly cannot.
Rationality sows the seeds of civilization, while violence spreads the poison of hatred in society.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”? When will the cycle of revenge end?
When others have different opinions from you, can you try to think: What common ground do we share? What can we share together?
There are no two identical individuals in the world. If violence is used to eliminate others just because they are different from you, the demise of humanity is not far away.
Schools teach Chinese history and Western history, and the history of humanity is a history of violence. Regarding the last global war – World War II, it was a self-inflicted massacre of the entire human race, resulting in the annihilation of a population equivalent to ten times that of Hong Kong. What problems did it actually solve?
Excluding individual regional conflicts, today’s era of peace and the stable, prosperous, and harmonious state of society are by no means inevitable.
Only with social stability and world peace can humanity have the space to pursue knowledge, advance technology, develop the economy, and improve social and cultural life. Only by distancing ourselves from violence can humanity have a future.
It is easy to see whether parents are competent based on how they handle a child’s tantrums. If a child is yelling and screaming, can parents quickly calm the child’s emotions? Some competent parents simply crouch down, make eye contact, and hold their child tightly while gently asking, “Why are you crying? Don’t throw tantrums.”
Our first priority is to help the child regain control of their emotions. If they can’t control their emotions, they won’t be able to hear anything. We shouldn’t try to teach or scold them when their emotions are high because they often won’t listen. If a child throws a tantrum and we can’t control our own emotions, raising our voice and scolding them louder will only make them escalate further. Therefore, we must be able to teach children to control their emotions.
Sometimes we see children in supermarkets throwing tantrums, shouting, crying, and even rolling on the floor. When this happens, the child is already challenging the boundaries set by adults. If at that moment, we are afraid of embarrassment or concerned about how others will perceive us, and we try to compromise just to calm things down, then we are teaching the child to reach such a level in the future. We might say, “If you scream and roll on the floor, I will buy it for you, but if you don’t, I won’t.” Therefore, we must lead by example when teaching children and not worry about how others perceive us.
What would be a more appropriate approach to handling the situation? Parents should set aside everything and crouch down to talk to the child, saying, “Mom just told you earlier that we won’t be buying anything. Do you remember? If you really want to throw a tantrum, Mom won’t buy anything at all. Let go of everything, and let’s go home.” Because we need to persist consistently, the child will understand that they cannot challenge their parents, and they won’t escalate their behavior.
Many times, parents are not aware of their own language expression, and they may unintentionally encourage children to cry. In reality, if we frequently say, “Don’t!” the child will only hear that word. For example, if we say, “Don’t cry anymore,” the child will only hear the word “cry.” So what should we ask them to do instead? “You should calm down, wipe away your tears, and be calm before I talk to you.” If we stand upright, speaking loudly, and say, “If you dare to cry again, just wait and see what I will do…”, the child’s anger will only intensify. Therefore, we need to pay attention to our words and actions and encourage them in a positive manner.
When faced with problems such as a child throwing tantrums, refusing to do homework, or not wanting to eat, we often get stuck in that particular issue. How can we make the child finish quickly so that we can move on to another activity? We need to think of the next “reward” for them. For example, if the child dislikes doing homework, we can say, “How about this? If we finish within 15 minutes, we can read a book together, watch cartoons, play with building blocks, or play with toys.” These are things that children enjoy and look forward to, so we should keep emphasizing and magnifying these activities.
We need to show them the future consequences that are directly linked to their current behavior. If the child cries or throws tantrums at home during the process, parents often place them in a “Quiet Corner” where they can calm their emotions. This can be done in their familiar and safe room or on their bed, allowing them to gradually stop crying.
If competent parents have enough ability to make the child reflect and express themselves, they could say, “Mommy is really sorry. I feel like I was wrong earlier.” Assigning roles can make it easier, for example, when the mother is doing homework with the child and the child starts throwing tantrums and refusing to do it. The mother can say, “Go to your room now, sit on your own bed, and think about what you did wrong.”
Then the father or another person can enter the room and tell the child, “Do you know that you made Mommy very unhappy just now? Do you know that she will be very angry?” We share our adult world, thoughts, and feelings with the child, helping them understand and willingly say, “I really made a mistake. I was really wrong. I’m sorry, Mommy.”
It’s already been 3 months into 2023 and summer vacation will be coming soon, followed by the start of the new school year in September. For K3 students to start their primary school life. However, these students have spent most of their 3-year kindergarten education in online classes due to the pandemic, with little face-to-face interaction. How can parents help them adapt to their new academic and social life in terms of their psychological and physical well-being?
Students who are promoted to Primary 1 are at most at K2 level because they have not returned to school for at least one full year. There are many things they need to adapt to when transitioning from kindergarten to primary school. These include school schedules, daily routines, and learning styles that are vastly different from what they are used to. Kindergarten classes typically last for around 20 minutes, after which they move on to another subject, but in primary school, classes can be 35 minutes or longer, making it difficult for them to maintain their focus. All of these issues can create significant adaptation problems for young students.
So how can parents explain these changes to their children? Firstly, parents should not be too anxious, as many primary schools offer simulation courses and adaptation weeks for new students, as well as school visits. Primary schools are usually much larger than kindergartens, and young students may be excited about the various facilities and opportunities available to them. However, it is best to start talking to them once they begin school, as too much information too soon may be overwhelming. Simply telling them, “Yes, this is what school is like” is often enough.
Additionally, some things that young students may not be capable of now do not mean they cannot accomplish them, they just need time to grow and develop. Parents need to remember that every child has a different growth rate. After starting school, observe their emotional changes when they return home from school, and if you notice any issues, pay close attention to them
It takes time for young children to adapt, but sometimes parents also need to adapt. In kindergarten, we refer to it as the Homeroom(regular class location), where one teacher leads the class, and children usually only see one or two teachers. If parents need to participate or collaborate with the school, they can simply find that teacher. In primary school, each subject has different teachers, so if any issues arise, parents need to consider how to communicate with each teacher.
When children learn a language, pronunciation is also an important aspect. There are many pronunciations in English that are not found in Cantonese and are difficult for both children and adults to master. How can parents teach children to pronounce English correctly? What are some tips to use?
The English tongue’s sounds can be difficult for children and even adults to master. We can try to use different cueing techniques to teach children to pronounce the sounds correctly. For example, parents can use visual cues, such as looking in the mirror with the child and showing him the tip of his tongue, placed between the two rows of teeth.
In addition, parents can also use verbal cues to clearly tell the child, “Put your tongue in the middle of your two rows of teeth,” so that they know what to do. When necessary, parents can also provide tactile cues, such as using a popsicle stick or spoon to touch the tongue and showing them where to place it for different sounds.
Parents can also try playing simple games with their children to train their listening skills, such as whether they can distinguish between right and wrong in terms of hearing. For example, intentionally mispronouncing a word: “Is ‘fank you’ correct? No, it’s not.” “Is ‘thank you’ correct? Yes, it is.”
This time we have to bite our teeth on the tongue or write the words “free” and “three” on a piece of paper, and then the parent reads out one of the words “three” “You show me which one” and reads “free”, “You show me which one”. If he knows how to distinguish, it will be clearer and easier for him to express himself.
Parents may worry that expressing too much love to their children will spoil them and therefore do not know how to express love to them. Generally speaking, Chinese are more introverted and often dare not express their love. Especially when you originally wanted to express that you were very worried about your child, it often turns into another attitude.
Once, I saw a mother and her child get lost in Shatin and then reunite. What was the mother’s behavior like after the reunion? She grabbed the child’s hand and hit him while saying, “I couldn’t find you earlier; do you know how scared I was? I was so worried. What would I do if I didn’t find you?”
In fact, everyone knows that the mother loves her child, but the child doesn’t feel it. I often share an example during lectures to express love. When I was young, my father ordered a drink, but because money was tight, he asked the waiter to bring an extra cup after ordering one hot drink. He kept pouring the drink back and forth in front of me, trying to cool it down quickly so that the child wouldn’t burn his mouth and could drink it faster. But I found that when children ask their parents or when I asked many students’ parents, they would answer, “This will make it cool faster.”
When responding to children, parents should express their feelings at the deepest level: “I love you; why would I do this if I didn’t love you? Am I doing it for someone else? For another child? So in fact, there are many things in our lives that can express love, but there is one thing that must be remembered. If you are afraid of being overindulgent, remember the following two points:
First, if the child can do something, let them do it. You should not fight to do it. Second, when the child makes a mistake, we should correct them. In the process of correction, try to be gentle and firm. When seriousness is needed, be serious. But remind the child to say the solution, not just say no or that it’s wrong. Otherwise, the child will not progress.
Written by: Family Dynamics Psychological Counselor, Lai Shun Mei
Every time a child does homework, he or she falsely claims to have a stomachache, to go to the bathroom, or to go to sleep. Thousands of lies and excuses. Parents who value character development are naturally outraged because they have zero tolerance for dishonesty in their children. But why do children always avoid doing their homework? Why do they have to lie to cover it up?
Often, children avoid doing homework not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t. Children want to be good and smart, but when they find out they can’t do their homework, they think they are not smart enough. They can’t accept this and will lie to cover it up and avoid it. Generally speaking, children with normal intelligence but learning disabilities will have their academic performance affected to some degree, but they can excel in other areas as well. And regardless of their intelligence level, as long as they use the right approach, coupled with the right amount of training, they can also build the corresponding ability.
But why do people lie? When a person feels that he or she is in an uncomfortable situation, he or she will activate the defense mechanism to protect himself or herself. Lying is one of the ways to cope with a crisis by avoiding it. If parents want to help their children, they should allow them to tell the truth so that they can understand what their children really don’t understand.
How do you instill in children the courage to speak the truth? You have to let your child know that even if he is not smart enough, you will still love him so much, take him as your joy, be patient with him, and find ways to help him solve his problems together, thus building up his sense of security and making him feel at ease to reveal his inner uncertainties and difficulties. On the contrary, if his experience makes him think that he is not smart enough, which will lead to his mother’s anger and complaints, he will not dare to tell the truth and even activate his self-protection mechanism to protect himself with lies that adults can uncover at first glance.
At this point, the child will not only fail to protect himself but will also get into more trouble because the mother will be rehabilitated and will take the initiative to admit her mistake and promise not to lie again. But in fact, his homework difficulties are not resolved, creating a vicious cycle. Therefore, we encourage parents to learn to accept their children’s shortcomings so that they will have confidence in you and feel safe to open up to you.
Source: Family Dynamic Psychotherapist, Yuen Wai Man
Parents’ upbringing backgrounds, education levels, or family of origin may differ in parent-child interaction, so it is quite normal for parents to have differing opinions on something.
When there are indeed different opinions, parents should find a calm environment to discuss their own perspectives and views on the problem. In any situation, we don’t want parents to argue directly in front of their children. For example, Dad can explain to Mom, “When I’m unhappy or under work pressure, I use my phone to vent and reduce stress, so I don’t think it’s a problem for kids to play with phones.”
And the wife can also express this to her husband: “Actually, I hope you can support me and understand that taking care of children is also very difficult for me.” Everyone can discuss calmly and equally in a peaceful environment. In fact, in the parenting environment, parents’ steps must be consistent.
Parents, for example, are like dancing partners in parenthood. When the father steps forward, the mother should step back. When the father raises his arms, the mother should spin around. This is a natural rhythm. If they can work together effectively, not only the dancing couple but also the onlookers can enjoy the dance. But if everyone insists on their own stance without compromise, the dance will be a mess.
In the family environment, children are often the most faithful and loyal audience, always standing in the center of the hall watching how their parents dance. So if the parents dance poorly, the audience will also be restless, the atmosphere will become tense, and more problems will arise. On the dance floor, parents will also trample on each other, causing more pain.
If there is a situation where the parents cannot see eye to eye and are in a heated argument, we would suggest that one of them leaves the scene. It’s not a matter of winning or losing or saving face, but rather allowing everyone to catch their breath and take a break. In a family environment, it’s not a competition between parents because the real victim will always be the child. So when parents are in a heated argument and cannot compromise, one of them should step back, cool down, and leave the scene. This would be better for everyone involved