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Parents Zone

Is an electronic pacifier a quality toy?

September 2023

Written by: Speech Therapist, Lee Wing Yan

 

With the advancement of technology and material abundance nowadays, it’s not hard to see that tablets are being used as “electronic pacifiers” for young children. Regardless of the occasion, whenever parents bring out this “electronic pacifier” and play YouTube videos, children sit quietly, and adults can focus on their tasks. Since tablets and smartphones can calm young children and provide educational games and videos for learning, does that mean they are quality toys?

 

The key to selecting “quality toys” lies in whether young children can genuinely learn from them. Indeed, educational videos and interactive games can offer the cognitive concepts that preschoolers need to learn, but we also need to consider how preschoolers actually learn language.

 

Recent foreign research explores the impact of the parent-child interaction pattern on language development one year later (i.e., at age 3). The study found that the presence of “connectedness” between parents and children during interactions most influenced the child’s subsequent language development, including whether both parties participated in the same activity in turns. Additionally, children’s learning of verbs, such as “I eat” in “eat” or “Mom drinks water” in “drink,” directly affects their future language development (from the three examples above, it’s clear that to form complete sentences, children need to recognize a certain number of verbs).

 

Seizing everyday life opportunities to teach verbs through activities

 

So, can tablets and smartphones achieve the mentioned “connectedness”? Based on my daily observations, children tend to use tablets and smartphones alone, and they resist it when parents want to intervene. Furthermore, most of what children learn from videos are limited to English alphabets, counting, nursery rhymes, cartoon character names, or specific dialogues from cartoon characters. But what about verbs? Verbs are often easily overlooked in videos because children can learn them more effectively by doing them in real situations! For example, teaching a child the action of “brushing teeth” doesn’t it involve singing a nursery rhyme “Up and down the brush,” repeatedly emphasizing the action of “brushing,” and brushing teeth together with them? In daily life, whether during bath time, cooking, playing with toys, or going to the park, parents can take the opportunity to teach relevant verbs used in different scenarios through interactive activities.

Furthermore, research also indicates that the quality of interaction between parents and young children during play and reading, including the vocabulary adults input to children and the spontaneous “baby talk” from children, is higher compared to when using tablets and smartphones. Scholars generally believe that young children’s language learning primarily occurs through interaction with people. Therefore, if young children excessively use tablets and smartphones, reducing interaction with family members, it may be detrimental to their language development.

 

So, what defines a “quality toy”? Whether it’s choosing tablets, smartphones, or traditional toys like dolls, puzzles, and toy cars, the most important aspect to consider is:

 

Does it promote interaction and communication between parents and children?

Does it replace original opportunities for parent-child interaction?

In parent-child interaction and communication, parents can use various communication techniques to enrich the child’s language environment. These techniques have been mentioned in the previous article on “Four Communication Styles.” Toys are, in fact, just tools. Through toys and quality interaction, we aim to enhance young children’s language development.

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Parents Zone

Three sentences of family life: Love warms within the home

September 2023

Written by: Education expert, Principal Cheung Jok Fong

 

Have you ever heard the theme song of a certain TV drama called “Embrace Love”? I really like a few lines from it, as these few words capture the essence of “family.” A family is a place that provides shelter from the wind and rain, your “support.” When you’re feeling “weary,” the door of your home will always be open for you. The mentioned “love” refers to the deep-rooted bond of kinship that’s destined from the moment you were born, stronger than blood. Indeed, what could be more important than family ties? When you’re feeling down, your family will share your burdens, willing to listen to your worries and accompany you through difficulties. When you’re sick, your family will take care of you unconditionally. When you achieve success in your studies or career, they’ll genuinely rejoice and take pride in your accomplishments. This kind of “love” can’t be bought with money.

 

We all hope that parents and students understand the value of family love. Sadly, this love might come too easily, acquired from birth, and as a result, some don’t fully appreciate it. Sometimes, we see in newspapers that some teenagers would rather linger on the streets than go home; some families argue all day long, turning the home into a battlefield; some even resort to violence over trivial matters, leading to tragedies. The examples mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg, and sometimes I can’t help but feel saddened that a once peaceful home can turn into such a situation.

 

The Three Sentences of Family Life

How can we build a harmonious family? Pope Francis once proposed the “Three Languages of Family Life” when talking about family, which are the three phrases that should be spoken more at home: “Thank you,” “Please,” and “I’m sorry.”

 

“Thank you” represents gratitude towards family members. Many times, children are taken care of by their parents from a young age, and they may start to take it for granted. Consider this: do parents have to prepare three meals a day for you? Who washes your clothes and cleans your shoes and socks, providing you with a cleaner living environment? When you’re sick, who takes care of you tirelessly, even getting up at night to give you medicine? Classmates, while your parents are taking care of you, why not say “thank you” more often and help with household chores when you have the time, sharing the workload with them? In fact, when children complete household tasks for their parents, parents can also say “thank you” to them. In today’s society, the notion of elders being on a pedestal is no longer appropriate. You should know that in building a harmonious family, everyone has a responsibility. Don’t think that certain tasks are necessarily assigned to specific family members. Even when you receive help from others, even family members, you can still say “thank you.”

“May I ask” represents respect for family members and polite behavior towards others. Some may think that since we are family, there’s no need to be overly polite in our speech and we can just speak straightforwardly. However, “May I ask” doesn’t just encourage us to speak politely; it reminds us to consider the feelings of our family members in our words. Sometimes, people tend to get heated over trivial matters and believe that they should argue their point forcefully in all situations, even with their family members. But is it really worth it to act this way? As the saying goes, “Winning an argument but losing the family.” Even with close family members, it’s better to choose our words carefully.

As for “I’m sorry,” it represents seeking forgiveness from family members. When you make a mistake, it’s only natural to have the courage to take responsibility and say “I’m sorry” to the person you’ve hurt. At the same time, “I’m sorry” also signifies an opportunity to mend relationships with family members. Sometimes, right and wrong are not easily judged in a few words. Or perhaps, there is no clear right or wrong, but rather differences in values among individuals. Unfortunately, many conflicts arise from such differences. If no one is willing to compromise, relationships can become very tense. As the saying goes, “Give in a little, gain a lot.” Putting down your pride doesn’t mean you’re surrendering, nor is it about compromising on the issue. Instead, it creates a new opportunity to resolve the problem in a better way.

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Parents Zone

How to cultivate a child’s manners? Respect and attention are essential

September 2023

Written by: Education expert, Principal Cheung Wai jing

 

At a talent recruitment event for a large multinational company, both Siu Cheung and Siu Choi successfully passed the initial and follow-up interviews. They stood out from over 100 competitors. Whether it was written tests or communication skills, both were equally impressive, leaving the human resources department’s evaluators in a dilemma, as the company would only hire one person.

 

In the end, the company manager decided to personally interview both candidates. Surprisingly, after just a few minutes, the manager chose to hire Siu Cheung. When asked for the reason, the manager candidly stated, “The reason is simple. When I was speaking to them, Siu Cheung maintained eye contact with me the whole time, while Siu Choi was looking around, indicating that he wasn’t good at actively listening to others. Being adept at listening and respecting clients is a crucial requirement for a sales supervisor.”

 

Expressing Sincerity and Respect through Eye Contact

 

This example illustrates a straightforward lesson: eyes are the windows to the soul, and people use their gaze to convey a range of emotions such as respect, attention, disdain, and indifference. Therefore, maintaining consistent eye contact during conversations signifies your sincerity. Moreover, those who can attentively focus on others’ words without shifting their gaze will naturally earn gratitude and respect from others.

 

Schools often organize activities centered around the theme of “politeness” to encourage students to be courteous to others. “Others” includes not only family members, elders, teachers, and fellow students but also unfamiliar people. Children should learn early on about polite phrases like “good morning” and “thank you,” but many still don’t proactively greet others, let alone observe other daily life etiquette. Schools focus on teaching students how to behave politely when interacting with teachers and peers in the school setting; the rest relies on family education.

The example of “job hunting” mentioned above might not be applicable to elementary school students for the time being, but they also frequently have opportunities for interviews. If they want to leave a good impression on others, children must learn to use their eyes to show their attention and respect when conversing with others. Therefore, parents need to teach children the skills and art of listening. Of course, when parents listen to their children, they should also give them appropriate respect and attention. This way, children will learn that politeness in interpersonal interactions knows no age or status boundaries. Here are three listening tips:

 

  1. When listening to someone, avoid looking around and instead focus on the person’s eyes.
  2. When you understand or share the same sentiment, use your eyes to communicate and show agreement.
  3. Gazing at someone doesn’t mean staring fixedly at them; doing so can actually come across as impolite.

 

In literature, characters are often described as having “eyes that speak.” In reality, everyone has eyes like that; as long as we utilize them well, they can be more persuasive than the words we speak.

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Parents Zone

Parental Relationships and Child’s Physical and Mental Health

September 2023

Written by: Marriage and Family Therapist, Child Play Therapist, Lee Wai Zi

 

Whenever a child is born, it brings about changes to the family. Many times, parents, caught up in taking care of and disciplining their children, can easily overlook the quality of their own marital life. Over time, marital life becomes reduced to a pile of responsibilities and pressures. I once heard a friend say that when he comes home from work every day, it’s like an assembly line of checking his children’s homework, supervising their studies, while his wife takes care of their meals and routines. By the time the two of them can rest, it’s often late at night. Even if there’s still energy left to exchange a few words with his wife, the topic tends to revolve around their children’s academic performance and achievements. Sometimes, there isn’t even enough time left for their own rest, let alone considering their spouse’s needs.

                                                                              

Many couples facing difficulties in their marriage tend to attribute the problems in their relationship to the birth of their children. Generally, people believe that this is due to differing expectations and parenting methods between parents, or unequal distribution of roles and responsibilities in raising children, leading to conflicts in the relationship. However, the vast majority of couples express that they don’t necessarily need their partner to agree with their thoughts or actions. The key issue is that when they face the stress of parenting and various life pressures, they often don’t feel valued, supported, and accepted by their spouse. This leads both sides into a state of loneliness and helplessness, gradually eroding trust and emotional connection.

 

Differing educational philosophies and methods between spouses are ordinary and natural. However, during the process of parenting, parents are prone to repetitively using ineffective and destructive methods to deal with their differences, inadvertently creating a negative cycle of interaction within the relationship. For example, a wife might complain in front of her husband that the child doesn’t listen, and might even reproach her husband for not helping to share the responsibilities of household chores and parenting. The wife’s expression of dissatisfaction is aimed at making the husband understand her concerns and troubles, and hoping to receive his support and comfort.

However, husbands often only receive criticism and blame from their wives. In order to protect themselves from getting hurt, they might remain silent or explain and defend themselves repeatedly, hoping for understanding and acceptance from their wives. The more husbands explain, the less valued and understood their wives might feel, leading to more accusations. And the more wives accuse, the more helpless husbands might feel, causing them to further evade and defend. Both spouses are participants in this negative cycle of interaction and victims of this cycle as well. If parents don’t promptly address and resolve the deadlock in their relationship, not only will the problems persist and worsen, but it could also ultimately impact their children.

 

The well-being of the family and the children relies on a strong emotional connection between the spouses. Therefore, for the sake of themselves and their children, it’s worth spending more time nurturing the love between partners. As long as the marital relationship is harmonious, children can naturally grow up healthy and happy.