Sunday, July 26, 2015

From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate (II): 5 Learnings on How to Let a Child Fly

Color Art by Lim's son

By Seow Lim*

One of the most valuable teachings I learned while working to improve my relationship with my 13-year old son was that I should let him fly by himself instead of trying to fly for him. On my first blog (From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate : A Little Story on How Povi was conceived) I wrote about how I found my path on helping him to be well-balanced, self-motivated and happier. Throughout the process I understood what he wants to be, and how I could maximize his interests and potentials, versus trying to mold him into what the test-driven economy that I had believed in. Essentially, I got to know him better, his own personality and needs.

Here are five of the lessons I've learned, that I want to share with you:

The Creative Power of Free Time:

Not having free time was stressful or him. He did not know his full potential, nor did I, because he was mostly becoming an automated follower of routines. With free time in his hands, I have a kid who can explore his various interests and expands on them.

With free time, he cooks dinner for us once a week. He took a Cooking class for a semester in his school. He started making banana cake, quesadilla, fried rice, wantons. His cooking is better than mine! His attention to details is great– cutting in the best shapes possible, following instructions of the recipe appropriately. He has so much sense of achievement that he has volunteered to make dinner for our family.

Next year he is taking global cuisine in school. I am looking forward to it. It will be delicious!
He has grown in self confidence, self regulation, caring for others with this new skill that he has mastered. I now have a son who is so much more independent and take the initiative in caring for his family. I am so proud of what we achieved together.

Wonton soup, made by Lim's little chef

Decision Making Autonomy

I now let him decide how he wants to occupy his time. Before, I thought that he should be excelling on the areas he liked, such as Mathematics. So he started to attend to the advanced class. If Language and Arts were his weaknesses, why not to take more writing and reading classes? The result backfired: for a period of time he didn’t even like Math anymore because he had to solve difficult problems, so he felt extremely challenged and stressed.

When I realized that I was not in the right direction, I cancelled his after-school classes, and told him to decide to either relax or choose how he would like to spend his time time. After few days he told me he liked Math, Science and Computer programming. He also told me he was curious about C programming. Then we went online and look for courses in Introduction to C Programming. He took an online course offered by Stanford University. We let him do it at his own pace, with no pressure. He got started to be able to organize his schedule, spending 30 min – 1 hour a day on it.

He then went to to find Math problems to challenge himself. He got so excited that he reached a certain level with the various categories. Now, these Math problems are shared with his friends. He is also starting to write online novels with his friends. He enjoys free-range creativity, not wanting to be tied down by the writing homework… I let his creativity fly…. and he achieves much more because he is self-motivated.

Discovering New Potentials

My son had always told me that he hated sports. I used to sign him up to basketball lessons, martial art lessons, soccer lessons and had to cancel them after a few classes because he just got really mad when the schedules arrived and we got into arguments why I had to let him learn all these stuff that he didn't like. I have since stopped trying to 'encourage' him to like sports "my" way.

After I stopped filling his days up with activities, one day, he came home from school and told me he got in second place in sprinting in his Physical Education class. It didn't take him long to realize he was good on that so that his track and field teacher invited him to join the track team. Instead of telling him that he should join, I asked him, "I thought you said you hated sports, you sure this is what you want to do?" I no longer wanted to push him to like sports "my" way, it is up to him to discover how he wants to spend his time.

He decided to try out for it, so he was in the track team. Then he realized that he could do hurdles, shot put and long jump too. I asked him why he thought he was good at this? He said: "Because I think I have a physics calculator in my brain. I calculate how it will work most optimally and it turn out to be exactly how I imagine it to be".

Exploring New Interests

One day in June, he told me he wanted to try to build a PC. We decided that perhaps we trade off our Summer trip to letting them build something that they want to use. I let my husband be the good guy. This was a great decision. Even my 7-year-old boy participated in helping his brother in building it. They both took one whole weekend, reading through manuals, figuring out what to do.

Now my teen boy knows a lot about PC components and performance. He built his own Google site to help other friends in the neighbourhood to build their own PCs at the lowest cost. He has listed the PC he has built on eBay hoping to sell it so that he could build another one! He handles all the RMA and returns needed when he ordered the wrong parts or when he received faulty components too.

I am so happy about his drive to learn and distribute his knowledge. He grew up in self-confidence, self-motivation, empathy, sharing and helping others. And he wouldn’t give up until he got the PC working.

Counting on Supportive Parents 

What role did I play in his growth? What did I gain for myself? I am now a lot less stressed because I no longer have to run his life and his schedule. His academic achievement is still important to me but I don’t have to drive him because he is self-motivated. I just need to be around, listen to his needs and wants, and give him the support he needs.

I put my smartphone away when he wants to talk to me, I give him my complete attention. I analyze the pros and cons with him, and let him make the final decision. I realize that without free time for him and me to understand each other, we are just running around like chickens with our heads cut off, busy, stressed, bad relationship.

Now I ask him thought provoking questions everyday like "If you had a time machine for a day, what would you do with it?" "Is there any natural leader in your class? What do you think a leader needs to do?" By listening to him attentively, I understand how he perceives others, what his true interests and passions are (yes I have to listen attentively the very technical analysis such as why a PC is much better than a MAC because of ...) .

But the most important progress is that he wants to share everything with me now. He wants my opinions on all his analysis. He has made it a habit to discuss with me every day. The quality of time we spent together is extremely high. His teachers are so impressed with his happiness level and well rounded improvements. (I am no longer concerned about his happiness so I am back working on with the help of our fabulous team on our social mission to help parents develop wholesome, well balanced, healthy and happy kids).

I let him fly by himself so he realizes that he can go farther and higher.

* Seow Lim is POVI's creator and founder. Get to know more about POVI

Povi would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Helping Children to Become Caring, Confident and Secure

Art by F.M.F, 10 years old

By Daphna Ram, Ph.D.* (with Sarah Whipple, Ph.D.)

Part of healthy development involves a strong emotional foundation. Two critical components of social and emotional development are self-concept and self-esteem. Self-concept refers to what an individual believes about him or herself. Self-esteem refers to how positively an individual views and feels about him or herself. Both concepts refer to understanding yourself and knowing who you are.

Children’s perception of others also plays a role in his or her self-esteem and self-concept. Children engage in social comparison, where they examine their own abilities and accomplishments relative to those of their peers. Knowing your place in the world— seeing yourself as separate from others and unique— is crucial in helping you understand how to relate to others.

Parents may play an important role in helping children develop self-esteem and explore their self-concept. By simply asking their children a question every day, parents may help their children think critically about their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. For example, asking a child about his or her strengths (“what is easy for you but hard for others?”) gives the child an opportunity to understand what he/she is good at and feel good about him/herself. This also situates the child in a social context and allows for social comparison; the child is given an opportunity to understand her own strengths relative to others, and also to understand that people have different strengths and attributes.

Similarly, asking specifically about others also allows for social comparison. For example, asking children “Who is happy?", or "Of your teachers who do you think cares the most about students?” enables them to think about characteristics that they value (or don’t) in others and reflect on whether they are similar to others on these charateristics. Again, this helps children understand how they relate to others and helps them highlight their own attributes. It is important to note that as children get older, their self-esteem may decrease as they realize they may not be as good as others at all things. However talking openly with children about their abilities relative to others, and  asking the child about his or her weaknesses (“what do you wish you were better at?”) allows the child to evaluate his or her limitations. This also provides the parent an opportunity to reinforce to the child that not everything comes naturally to everybody, and that sometimes we must work in order to achieve our goals.

The notion of working hard is also especially important with regard to self-esteem, as children who feel that their performance on a given task can be improved through practice have been found to have more positive thoughts about themselves than children who feel that their performance outcomes are fixed.  Furthermore, children who believe in the importance of practice tend to be more resilient, even in the face of failure.  

Supporting children’s self-esteem and self-concept also promotes the development of specific emotions that are critical in helping the child have positive interactions with others. Self-conscious emotions, such as guilt, shame, and pride, arise from understanding that you are different from others, and that others may have different expectations and perspectives. This allows the child to consider other points of view, which helps promote empathy and sensitivity. Research has found that children with more well-developed understanding of emotions and perspectives tend to have better social relationships. Therefore helping children understand who they are helps them understand who others are, and helps them become caring, confident, and secure individuals.

*Daphna Ram, Ph.D Psychology Cornell, utilizes her Developmental Psychology expertise on Povi.

Povi would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Insightful "Inside Out", the movie: A Celebration of Emotional Intelligence

Abstract Art "From Sadness to Joy", by 8 years old D. M. F.

By Anna M.*

My 8 years old son was in a very bad mood and not willing to talk about it. I believe in the power of the motion pictures to change the perspective on things, so I invited him to choose a movie to go with all of the family. I was exhausted and uninspired. After teaching Culinary Arts for 51 kids(!)  I had little energy to make yet another supermom effort to try to understand the source of his anger.

Four hours later, after watching Inside Out (Pixar Disney 2015) all family went through a change of emotional mood. Thanks for the well represented emotion-emoji-like characters of the movie, we found ourselves laughing, and celebrating the fact that little red monster Anger had finally departed and cute happy Joy was back. All family agreed that the movie was excellent, and were grateful that it could help us to communicate our feelings to each other in a creative fashion.

From that summer afternoon up to now, all family is making good use of the characters well defined by the movie: I can explain why I get so upset when I have to drive through slow traffic while being late. My husband is avoiding Anger when confronted with yelling kids at 9:30 PM. The boys can share when Disgust is taking her part in their minds, and when happy moments are retrieved so to avoid sinking in yet another bout of anger.

We also could talk openly about how moms are so connected to their children's emotions, while dads might seem to be a bit distant sometimes, as their brain is switched to other types of priorities. My husband and I figured that lots of people like us could mirror themselves on the on the dining table scene, where wife was signaling husband how to connect with his daughter.

But Sadness, the blue and somehow out of shape fuzzy monster was left out of our debate. And I guess there's a reason for that. We all really don't want to let her take over our emotions.

That's exactly the feeling that struck my mind when I watched the movie's description of growing up. I secretly kept it hiding it in my mind. While watching the brilliant scenes of memories being deleted, new core memories being stored, islands of happiness and fun dissipating and falling into the void, I remembered about the end of my childhood. The movie was now not about my sons, but about me. I recalled all the growing pains and the departing child-like images. I remembered about the big red teddy bear, my Italian doll and all the imaginary houses I had inside the home where I grew up. I realized how hard it was when I had to leave my little and cozy paradise to move to another city, leaving my friends behind.

That's when I cried. My son looked at me, held my hands, and later we talked about the reasons for my sadness. I told them about growing up and how all those scenes in the movie reminded me about my transition form child to preteen.  I am certain that he will always recall our watching-a-movie-together experience for a long time. Maybe it's already stored in his memory.

So, if you, like me, believe in the magic powers of a good movie, _ and the super powers of dialogue _ this movie is not to be missed. Invite your friends and family and enjoy. Don't forget that it's ok to laugh and even cry. And that's also ok to allow some Sadness get into your life as a catalyst of transformation.

* Anna M, journalist and chef, is POVI's content manager.

Povi would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!

Friday, July 3, 2015

4 Tips to Start a Cool Conversation with your Children (and keep them talking to you)

Art by Lim's son

By Seow Lim

Did you ever feel that you ran out of words when it comes to make your children interested to get engaged on a conversation with you? Most parents know exactly how that feels. These tips are from my own personal experience, used with my own children in conversations that they enjoy, so that they have allowed me to log into their universes with lots of fun together.

For most of us the everyday routine doesn't make parenting easy: You rush them off to school. You get your coffee, kick start your computer and chaos reigns. Your paperwork is behind deadline, you have a meeting right before lunch and there is absolutely no time to catch up with your huge stack of filings. Before long, everything is piling up and you return home dreading the amount of work you need to catch up on the next day. The first thing that crosses your mind when you see your kids, you mind turn blank, you smile, you kids smile back, you are thinking in your mind "what should I say? "Nothing creative comes up and you say "How's your day?" And they turn their face to their book, TV or Tablet, and say "OK".

Besides the working adult, kids are running their own lives too. Events are happening to them at school, during extra-curricular activities and even when spending time with their friends. They feel, they think, they want to share with you. But they are kids, it is harder for them to volunteer their deeper thoughts and feelings to you. So how do you get them to open up?

Stop asking the same question every day. Many parents are probably used to asking ‘How is your day?’ to your kids most of the time. After a while, you might sound like a broken record with nothing new to express. This sends the message that your kids are second fiddle to whatever else is going on in your life. You can ask them questions about their everyday lives such as ‘Did your lunch taste good today?’ ‘Was Maths class difficult?’ ‘Your friend, Bobby looks happy today, did something good happen to him?’Get them involved with your lives as well through simple questions such as ‘Daddy looks really tired, what do you think is the best way to cheer him up when he comes home?’Find thought provoking questions to ask. Questions that make your kids think will help them realize that there is more to the world than they perceive and that they have a part in making decisions or generating ideas.

Questions like "Who do you think is the most important person in the world?" " If you could give a piece of advice to everyone around you, what would you give?" "Has anyone made you feel silly before?"

When speaking with your kids, always give them your full attention. Give them your eye contact. Don't keep looking down at your smartphones or TV.  This will send a message to your kids that when it comes to them, nothing else can fight for your attention and that is how important they will feel. Yes, with social media, we can find out some much that's happening with our friends that are all around the world, the pictures they post, where they are traveling with their kids, the food they like to eat etc. But our kids are here just beside us. With the time they are with us, and wanting our attention, we should make it the highest priority to do so, not looking down at our smartphones Timing and environment is key.

When planning to have quality interaction with your kids, always choose a relaxing situation such as car ride, dinner time or bed time. In an environment with less tension will help encourage your kids (as well as you) to open up. And hopefully keep your smartphones away or on mute during those times. It is common to see in restaurants a family of 4 having dinner together, while each and everyone is having their heads down on their smartphones or tablets.

Involve the whole family. To get your kids fully involved in communicating effectively at home, it is important to rope in all family members to practice the habit. Surrounded by an atmosphere that encourages open communication, your kids will learn to express themselves comfortably and this will probably give them a lot of help when communicating with people outside of the family. When they are having playdates with their friends, it would be great to also host a short circle time with the rest of their friends, and have them ask each other thought provoking questions and sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Looking for your daily inspirations to start thought-provoking communications with your children?

Povi would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at to catch up anytime!