20 January 2015, by Mandy Loh

Keep Calm and Parent On – 5 Tips to Stay Sane!

Wow, another year has gone by! Hope everyone enjoyed the Christmas and New Year festivities, and here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy and lovely 2015!

Cheeky reindeer!

My cheeky reindeer!

I’m not really in the habit of making resolutions, but for this year, I decided to focus on a personal goal of KEEPING CALM. It’s definitely a stretch target for me, as a stay-home mom with two little munchkins intent on tearing down the house every waking minute, and with Cristan becoming ever more cheeky. While his “Terrible Twos” are thankfully behind us, I’m now facing the age of the “Mischievous Munchkin”, and Cristan’s main aim in life seems to be testing boundaries and pushing my buttons!

Yes, his devil's wings are showing...

Yes, his devil’s wings are showing…

I try my best to employ parenting tactics such as talking gently and reasoning with him, but more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself losing control, shouting, and in recent months, bringing out “Mr Cane”. Yes, I’m not completely proud of it, but we have resorted to corporal punishment as a way to manage his misbehaviour. I actually agonised quite a bit about whether to use the cane, but after asking around and finding out that most of my friends do use this method of discipline, and that it can be done in love as a way for young children to understand boundaries, I decided to go down this path as well.

Now that Cristan has had a taste of “Mr Cane”, we use it more as a deterrence than actual physical punishment, but we are careful to follow through on our warnings, so that they do not become empty threats. Surprisingly though, Mr Cane has become a good tool for managing my anger, as I’ve found that I do not have to get all worked up and scream at him to get things done/ stop certain bad behaviour. I just have to tell him calmly that if he does not follow my instructions within 10 counts, Mr Cane will come out. Most of the time, the mere sight of me brandishing Mr Cane will get him to comply.

Anyway, I thought I’d share 5 tips, based on personal experience, on how to keep calm and stay sane when dealing with a cheeky preschooler:

1) Giving Transition Time

Young children find it difficult to transition immediately from one activity to another, and even as adults, we would not be happy if we are asked to do something “immediately or else!” So most of the time, I will give Cristan 5 minutes to wrap up whatever he is doing, and to make it fair, I will set a timer on my mobile phone. When the buzzer goes off, I will let Cristan hear it, and often, he will willingly finish up and move on to the next activity. This seems to work extremely well when I pick him up from preschool or when we’re at the playground.

Having fun with the check-out system at his preschool

Happily and willingly going home from preschool, after sufficient “transition time”

2) The Count-to-20 Challenge

Don’t ask me why, but 20 seems to be a magic number, which works a lot better than 5 or 10. Many times, I will challenge him with, “Do you think you’ll be able to wear your shoes/ finish your milk/ clean up all these blocks in 20 counts?” and he will race to do it in time. I suppose it becomes more of a game to him, instead of yet another boring grown-up instruction to follow!

3) Infusing Fun into Routine

Getting Cristan to brush his teeth, and shower, are two of the major battles of each day. Many times, I have to literally drag a crying, screaming boy into the bathroom and get it over with. But sometimes, enticing him with fun and games work too. For example, letting him paint on the bathroom walls with washable paints while showering. Or singing a silly song while he brushes his teeth. His favourite last month was “All I want for Christmas is my 2 front teeth”, which gets him roaring with laughter every time!

The Naked Artist

The Naked Artist working on his masterpiece

4) Being well-rested

This is applicable to both munchkin and mom. When Cristan is well-rested, he’s usually in a terrific mood, and its naturally easier to get him to behave. This also holds true for the parent; when I am well-rested, I find it easier to keep cool instead of getting upset when he doesn’t listen. So whenever possible, I will find some time to rest within the day, so that I’m not at the end of my tether by the evening crunch time of dinner/bath/bed routines.

I usually take a nap in the afternoon when both babies sleep (I'll be in the middle with one kiddo on each side)

I usually take a nap in the afternoon when both babies sleep (I’ll be in the middle, with one kiddo on each side)

5) Enforcing Consequences

When all else fails, and Cristan is being particularly cheeky and out of control, we will enforce consequences for bad behaviour (after giving sufficient warnings). These include time-outs, withdrawing of TV privileges, being sent to his room for the evening, and of course, Mr Cane. While it may seem unpleasant at the time the punishment is meted out, children actually feel secure and even loved when they know that there are boundaries. Don’t just take my word for it, this is sound advice found in almost any parenting resource on discipline.

After the punishment, I will always reaffirm Cristan by giving him a hug and telling him that I love him. I make it a point to separate his identity from his naughty behaviour (ie. I love you but I do not like what you did earlier). Now, Cristan would voluntarily come to hug me and say “I love you” even after getting caned! I’m glad that he understands the consequence is due to his actions, and more importantly, that he is confident that I love him no matter what.


Well, I hope the above tips will come in useful for other moms out there! Cheers to a calmer and saner 2015!



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