The issue of “Biliteracy and Trilingualism”

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Written by: Ms. Chan-Chen Shu-an, Early Childhood Education Specialist

Children are young and innocent, lacking the ability to discern right from wrong or make sound judgments. They are entirely at the mercy of adults, immersed in the family, school, and social environments that are cultivated by elders. The author often feels that children are the most innocent, and therefore, the responsibility of educating the next generation is truly inescapable.

Firstly, the author does not oppose learning foreign languages, as she firmly believes that knowing an additional language is akin to having an extra key for communication, academic pursuits, and knowledge expansion. Furthermore, the author strongly agrees that the earlier one learns a language, the better, especially when it comes to language pronunciation, as it becomes increasingly difficult to master as one grows older.

What is “Biliteracy and Trilingualism”?

The “Biliteracy and Trilingualism” provided by the Hong Kong Education Department is Chinese, English; Cantonese (mother tongue), English and Mandarin (Putonghua).

Objectives of Kindergarten Education

Early childhood education is the foundation of education for human beings. When a baby is born, the first person they interact with is their mother, and the mother is also the first teacher. Therefore, the language used for communication is the mother tongue, which is the language used by the mother and the common language in the family and society. Consequently, the primary objectives of kindergarten education in all countries, for children under the age of 6, are focused on the healthy development of the child’s mind and body, as well as the development of the child’s language skills.

Importance of the Mother Tongue

All countries in the world use the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. Children must first master their mother tongue, and only later, in the upper grades of primary school or even in secondary school, can they choose to learn a foreign language under the guidance of a specialized teacher. Unless they are the subjects of a colonial power, in which case they would need to learn the language of the ruling country, such as Vietnamese students learning French in the past, Taiwanese students learning Japanese, or students in India and Hong Kong learning English.

  1. Language is a tool for “communication” and “learning”, and the mother tongue is the common language in the family and society. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for children to be able to listen, speak, and master their mother tongue.
  1. The development of language is closely related to the development of thinking. Children learn to communicate with others through their mother tongue, which stimulates their brain’s response, thinking, questioning, association, and memory, leading to the acceptance or expression of ideas. This is an interdependent relationship between language and cognitive development. Therefore, the learning of language has a profound impact on the development of children’s thinking.

  2. Being familiar with the mother tongue and mastering the national language allows for a deeper understanding of one’s country’s history and culture. This fosters a sense of identification with one’s homeland, enhances national consciousness, and has a profound influence on one’s feelings, dignity, and love for the motherland. This patriotic and family-oriented mindset should be cultivated from an early age, which is recognized by all countries around the world.

The Wonderful Use of Storybooks (For Young Children with High-Functioning Autism)

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Written by: The Educational Psychologist Team of the Heep Hong Society

For young children with autism who have intellectual and language abilities at the 5-6 year old level, what kind of books should they read? What techniques should parents use when reading with their children?

Young children with high-functioning autism should be able to understand simple moral stories. Parents can refer to the “social story” format to help children with autism effectively understand the content. When the child is familiar with the story content, parents can replace the main character with other real people, or even the child themselves, so that the child can gradually put themselves into the moral story scenario. The story characters can be changed, and the story plot can also be slightly altered: for example, “grandma’s house” can be changed to “aunt’s house”, allowing the child to flexibly apply what they have learned. Of course, changes to the characters and plot should be made before the child develops rigidity towards the story details. As for fables, fairy tales and mythological stories that commonly use abstract metaphors, they can be used only when the child with autism has the ability to generalize their knowledge.

In terms of cognition, when the child’s comprehension reaches a certain level, parents can emphasize emotional words in the story, such as “When she saw the dog, Mei Mei was very scared.” When the child is ready to learn the concept of sequence, parents can emphasize the description of time, such as “Mei Mei did something wrong, and then she said she was sorry.” Based on the child’s level, parents can utilize each page of the storybook, adding or emphasizing appropriate words.

In terms of parent-child interaction, for children with autism who have higher abilities, they can take turns with their parents to tell the story, one sentence at a time. This method not only trains the child’s ability to continue the story and focus on listening to others, but also allows the child to deepen their impression of the story through active participation. By using storybooks flexibly, parents can meet the developmental needs of the child and promote parent-child interaction. Children with autism often lack imaginative ability, so storybooks that come with character dolls can be very useful: initially, just tell the story, then add the dolls, and gradually reduce the use of the storybook, until finally using only the dolls to tell the story, and using the “one sentence for you, one sentence for me” method to guide the child out of the storybook and into the world of imaginative play.

In terms of social cognition, parents who use comics can use correction fluid to white out the “speech bubbles” of the characters, then work with the child to create new dialogues. Initially, they can modify certain words or phrases, and when both parties are familiar with the method, they can modify more parts, until all the dialogues are self-created. Daring parents can even try to custom-make storybooks for their child and design different ways of storytelling to attract the child to learn the social concepts they need.

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Intelligent learning through exercise

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Written by: Fung Ji Hei, Game Therapist

I just participated in a professional development exchange activity for teachers in Taiwan, and witnessed how Taiwan’s education system emphasizes using exercise to cultivate children’s growth. This has given me new inspiration, and I hope to share it with all parents. One of the schools we visited for the exchange could be called a “mini sports university” – “Tiger Forest Elementary School”. As soon as I stepped into the school, the students greeted us with the government-promoted fitness exercises. They followed the rhythm to raise their hands and move their bodies, doing all kinds of warm-up movements. It made me feel like they were as lively as little tigers, and I felt like I had entered a forest full of little tigers.

Exercise Can Strengthen Children’s Learning Ability

Principal Liu of Tiger Forest Elementary School said that the school is a key government school focused on the physical development of the students, and believes that exercise can strengthen their learning ability. They are based on the research of John J. Ratey, MD, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and advocate the “Anytime Exercise” program. This program encourages students to exercise at any time. During breaks, students run to any part of the playground to exercise, some play dodgeball, some climb on the jungle gym, and some play badminton. All the students enjoy every moment of exercise.

The Benefits of Exercise – Strengthening Brain Function

It is well known that exercise has the effect of strengthening the body and health. In Ratey’s research, he points out more about the benefits of exercise for the brain. He describes the brain as an information processing center, where information is transmitted through different pathways using different messengers (chemicals). During exercise, the brain can effectively produce more messengers and strengthen the pathways, making the transmission of information faster and more accurate.

When applying this theory to learning, students can strengthen their brain function through exercise, thereby enhancing their learning effectiveness. Research has proven that exercise can improve students’ concentration and memory, which are essential conditions for successful learning. In addition, exercise can cause the brain to produce Dopamine (a chemical that creates a sense of happiness), allowing students to learn happily, and naturally achieving better results.

How to get children to love exercise?

To let children enjoy the time and benefits of exercise, parents need to help children love exercise. Here are three suggestions:

  1. Anytime Exercise

Provide more opportunities for children to exercise, such as giving them appropriate time, tools, and venues, while parents should also pay attention to the safety of the environment.

  1. Healthy Exercise

Teach children to exercise for the sake of health, and emphasize the benefits of exercise to health.

  1. Exercise Together

Exercise with children more often, enjoy the moments of exercise, and cherish the quality time between parents and children.

Encountering a ‘mismatched’ child is an opportunity for parents to grow

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Written by: Lai Shun Mei, Family Dynamics Counselor and Global Career Developer

When a child is born, people like to discuss his appearance, using his resemblance to his parents as a topic of conversation, and talk about which attractive features he has inherited from them. As he grows older and his temperament begins to show, they also like to explore whose personality he resembles.

It is generally easier to get along with someone who has a similar temperament because similar personalities and preferences make it easier to connect. If a child has a temperament similar to their parents, it seems to make parenting easier. However, it often seems like God enjoys playing jokes on us by giving us “mismatched” children: an outgoing and lively mother ends up with a quiet and introverted daughter; a hot-tempered father faces a sensitive and sentimental son; a mother who doesn’t understand fun encounters a hedonistic son.

Parents who seek help often share the common issue of having difficulty getting along with their “mismatched” child. They cannot accept the child’s nature, do not understand the child’s behavior, and do not know how to properly guide their child.

The outgoing and lively mother “complained” to me: “My daughter dawdles, is hesitant, and doesn’t dare to make friends outside.” She couldn’t understand: “What’s so difficult about brushing teeth? What’s so scary about attending English class? What’s there to be shy about when meeting other kids?” Why is her daughter nothing like her but instead resembles her indecisive, introverted, timid, and unambitious father? As she spoke, she indirectly revealed to me that her problem was not accepting her spouse and projecting her dissatisfaction with her spouse onto their daughter. Therefore, the issue was not with her daughter but with their marital relationship.

The hot-tempered father had to come for advice because his son only got along with his mother and not with him. He deeply loved his son and did not want him to grow up being overly sensitive and tearful like a girl. The older the child got, the more anxious the father became. However, under insults and strict orders, the child did not become stronger but instead became more withdrawn, clinging to his mother and refusing to leave her side. It was only after understanding the situation that it became clear that this father had grown up amidst beatings and insults. He believed his own strength came from such an upbringing, not realizing that those painful experiences had become implicit memories affecting his relationship with his son.

The mother, who claimed she did not know how to play and did not need to play, was at a loss with her son, who was solely focused on playing. She said her son was careless with his studies but persistently focused on play. How could she change her son’s attitude towards his studies? I was curious about this mother’s claim—who wouldn’t like to play? Seeking happiness is human nature, so why did she insist she did not need entertainment? It turned out that she was also playful as a child but was strictly disciplined by her mother, who did not allow her to “waste” time. Gradually, her life lacked playmates, and when she played with her mother, her mother remained serious and uncompromising, often causing her to lose and feel sad. Over time, she grew to dislike playing games. Her mother “successfully” shaped her into someone who “did not like” to play, someone who appeared strong and focused on studies but was also rigid, insecure, and lacking in joy. No wonder she did not understand how to get along with her naturally joyful son.

It turns out that God “mismatched” children for us with a purpose. He wants us to reflect on our relationships with our spouses and parents, and our own growth experiences through the frustrations of interacting with our children, thereby sorting out these relationships and resolving these emotional knots.

 

Parents’ lack of acceptance of their children is a reflection of their lack of acceptance of themselves. A lack of confidence in their children is a lack of confidence in themselves. By taking care of “mismatched” children, parents feel challenged and then become aware of their own pain points. With the help of a therapist, they begin a journey of self-exploration. They clarify and straighten out their family relationships, gaining rebirth and growth in the process. Children are born as they are, and there is no mismatch. Let us make good use of this opportunity for growth!

We should be grateful to others for being willing to ‘offer help’

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Written by: Dr. Cheung Kit

In this era, parents’ protection of their children surpasses that of any previous generation. This may be due to the decrease in the number of children and the improvement in living standards, leading to parents spending more time and providing more comprehensive care for their children. Under such (possibly excessive) protection, children often become very self-centered and disregard the importance of others. From the parents’ perspective, they are inevitably biased and more tolerant of their own children. When faced with their children’s inappropriate behavior, parents tend to make excuses for them. This common human behavior, however, may lead to children becoming unruly. Therefore, in the difficult situation of balancing right and wrong, if someone is willing to “offer help and guidance,” parents should be grateful. The following are “important figures.”

  1. Teachers

Teachers are among the people who spend the most time with children. We would prefer teachers to directly point out the rights and wrongs to children during their daily interactions. This direct message can effectively “sink in” for the children. Sometimes, facing negative criticism, children will naturally feel unhappy, but it helps them understand the boundaries. Therefore, parents should appreciate the strict guidance of teachers and avoid casually complaining about their efforts.

  1. Elders

Many elders may be very strict with their own children but tend to be much more lenient with their grandchildren, sometimes even more so than the children’s parents. However, the status and life experience of elders are actually superior to anyone else’s. Therefore, their “one word of praise” can be more effective than others’ advice. The question is whether they are willing to play the role of the bad guy. If they are, parents should be grateful for their assistance.

                 3. Medical Personnel

Medical personnel have always been relatively respected. However, children often have an aversion to medical procedures. Therefore, during consultations and treatments, children’s reactions often present a good teaching opportunity. If medical personnel (including doctors and nurses) are willing to provide guidance when children exhibit uncooperative behavior, the children will likely understand better. Although they may not correct their behavior immediately, it will certainly help in their life learning process.

                 4. Passersby

Sometimes, unrelated bystanders can immediately point out inappropriate behavior in children, which can have a startlingly effective impact. For the parents present, this might be a bit embarrassing, but thinking it through, it is beneficial for the child’s behavior.

Children in their growth and learning phase need proper guidance, especially when their behavior deviates. Therefore, if parents are unwilling to play the “bad guy,” we should be grateful and appreciative if others are willing to speak up and correct the child.

Obsession: Separation Anxiety

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Written by: Hong Kong Registered Psychologist, Ching Wai Keung

Around nine months of age, babies become unusually clingy. Even if the mother goes to the bathroom, the baby may appear extremely anxious, clinging tightly to the mother and even crying loudly.

Separation anxiety can lead to two different types of reactions. In some cases, when separated from the caregiver, the baby will exhibit attachment-seeking behaviors, such as clinging to the mother, trying every possible way to find the mother, or crawling wherever the mother goes (Ainsworth, Bell, & Stayton, 1971). Separation can also result in behaviors such as despair, resistance, and detachment, depending on the duration of the separation (Bowlby, 1960; Robertson & Robertson, 1989).

A child’s reaction to separation can also change depending on the environment. For example, in a familiar home environment, the child will exhibit less anxiety compared to being in an unfamiliar environment (Ross, Kagan, Zelazo, & Kotelchuck, 1975).

Around seven months of age, the concept of object permanence begins to emerge in children. They understand that even if they cannot see someone or something, it does not mean that the person or object has disappeared. When children are able to establish this concept, their separation anxiety will relatively decrease. If the mother can frequently communicate with the child, express positive emotions and feelings towards the infant, and provide appropriate stimulation and assistance, the child will more easily grasp and apply the concept of object permanence to both objects and people (Chazan, 1981).

Helping children cope with separation anxiety requires a certain amount of time, allowing the child and caregiver to develop a close, attached emotional relationship (Attachment), and waiting for the child’s own development to mature before it can be effective. For a two-year-old child, they can use photographs to alleviate their feelings of sorrow when separated from their caregiver (Passman & Longeway, 1982); a three-year-old child can even stay overnight at their grandparents’ house without their parents being present.

Whether a child can develop this kind of “resilience” depends on whether the caregiver and the child can establish a close emotional relationship. Once the mutual relationship is established, the child can soothe their anxiety caused by separation by imagining the image of their parents and recalling their parents’ love (Development Through Life, Barbara M. Newman, Philip R. Newman, Wadsworth, 2003).

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Learning with movement and immobility

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Registered Educational Psychologist, Pang Chi Wah

In situations where social resources are scarce, children have little that is fun or interesting to engage with; however, when the objects in front of them show no minor changes and there are no detailed verbal or written instructions, children can still observe the differences and similarities between what they see now and what they have seen before, or make associations with other things they have encountered. They even try to describe their observations in their own words. This is active learning, which not only educates the mind but also unconsciously enhances psychological qualities.

With the continuous advancement of modern technology, everyone can travel the world instantly from the comfort of their homes through television or smartphones. But does watching TV or online information require concentration? It turns out that being able to watch video messages does not necessarily mean that children are attentively learning, as this falls under the category of passive learning. It requires colorful messages and continuous verbal narration, and lacking any of these elements might lead to a lack of focus.

Even though students still need to learn in classrooms today, with the help of information technology, it seems possible for them to see distant scenarios without boundaries. Unfortunately, there are still shortcomings; they need to experience these settings firsthand to gain a more comprehensive understanding and learning experience. Modern learning requires the involvement of more sensory channels to stimulate students’ motivation to learn. Are there other options available?

Human desires are endless, but resources are finite. Is it possible to endlessly stimulate learning through multiple senses? Should we pause and consider why more and more people are proposing vegetarianism, or having a meat-free day on Mondays? Some suggest returning to a simpler, more primitive way of life. Learning activities and arrangements might need similar actions to help children grasp the essence of learning and experience the authenticity of the learning process.

To achieve this reversal, guidance from parents and teachers is needed to change the trends and habits of this era; there are now some suggested activities for parents and teachers to consider, such as: trying to turn off the volume of the television, letting them experience what it is like to be deaf, only able to see and not hear to absorb information; they can also cover the television screen with cloth, making them feel like they are listening to a radio, only able to imagine the scene from other people’s speech, still able to grasp the plot without visual aid, and for example, placing some food in one of three cups, asking them to smell which cup contains the food, which is a lot of kinesthetic learning.

Parents and teachers make some small actions in teaching, which may produce some unclear factors that make them hesitate, but at the same time, it also generates more curiosity, and under guidance, they can have greater motivation to learn, starting from being moved emotionally and intellectually, then leading them to pursue what they want to hear and see, becoming active and enthusiastic learners!

Children’s exposure to biliteracy and trilingualism

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Written by: Cheng Sui Man

One afternoon, as my two-and-a-half-year-old twin boys were eating homemade jelly cups, the older one suddenly said:

“Mommy, help me scoop scoop please!” “Huh? Scoop what?” “Help me scoop scoop.”

At that moment, the older twin pushed the jelly cup and a small spoon towards me, and I suddenly realized: “You want me to help you scrape the jelly clean from the bottom of the cup!”

“Mommy, help me scoop scoop please!” This short sentence contains biliteracy and trilingualism: Cantonese, English, and Fujian. Those who know Fujian or Taiwanese will understand that the “scoop” that my brother is talking about is not the “buckle” of “button”, but the Cantonese pronunciation of Fujian, which is similar to the word “buckle”, and means “to scrape, to pull out, and to dig”. If my brother were to say this to my father, who is 100% Cantonese, I believe that even if father guesses until the sunset, he still won’t be able to figure out its meaning. So where did you learn the word “scoop”? In fact, no one specifically taught my son the word, I believe it was just my mom’s habit of speaking Fujian at home, and as my son listened to her, he picked it up without realizing it. As for the appearance of the English word “Please”, I believe many of you can imagine that it mainly comes from the domestic helper at home.

Is it better for younger children to be exposed to more languages? Not necessarily. Some child psychiatrists say that the language environment in many Hong Kong families is “chaotically multinational,” with parents speaking Cantonese, grandparents speaking Chinese dialects, and domestic helpers speaking Filipino-style English or Indonesian-style Cantonese. Too many different languages can be confusing for young children. It is recommended that children under two years old grow up in a monolingual environment to master one language well before introducing another language into their lives.

For example, parents who want their children to excel in English might specifically hire a Filipino domestic helper (since Filipino helpers generally insist on speaking English, while Indonesian helpers often learn Cantonese). Doctors also remind parents that it is best to try to maintain purely English conversations at home. Mixing Chinese and English does not help children learn languages effectively and may even cause confusion in young children, affecting their language development progress.

Chronic cough? Bronchitis? Or Asthma?

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Written by:Cheng Sui Man

The children can’t stop coughing, often continuing for an entire month, especially severe in the middle of the night, waking up from coughing, leading to insomnia, and then falling asleep from extreme fatigue. This is torturous for both children and adults! What exactly causes this persistent coughing? Is it sensitivity or inflammation of the trachea? Upon consulting a doctor, it turns out this is also a form of asthma!

Children are naturally more prone to having narrower airways due to their young age, making them more susceptible to nasal congestion, snoring, and even shortness of breath even with just a common cold. However, unlike bronchitis, a common cold usually recovers within a week, but the cough from bronchitis can last over twenty days, so it’s not surprising that the coughing continues for a month from the onset of the illness.

This leads to another question: Why does bronchitis occur? According to doctors, one common cause is the child contracting the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). This is a very common virus that spreads through droplets and air. It causes the airways to constrict and become inflamed, producing mucus that accumulates and further narrows the airways, stimulating the patient to cough and creating a vicious cycle. Doctors indicate that in these cases, bronchodilator medication may be prescribed to reduce symptoms and allow the child’s immune system to fight off the virus. However, once a child has been infected with RSV, the airways are somewhat damaged, increasing the likelihood of developing asthma in the future. As the doctor explained, my eldest son had indeed been hospitalized due to RSV infection in the past, and since then, every time he catches a cold and coughs, his recovery time is longer than that of my younger son!

“So it seems your eldest son might indeed have asthma,” the doctor’s conclusion was definitely the last thing I wanted to hear. Asthma, in its worst case, can be fatal! Wait, that’s the worst-case scenario. The doctor added that asthma is actually classified into four stages.

Stage 1: Intermittent Asthma

Usually caused by respiratory viruses such as RSV or filtrable viruses, occurring sporadically a few times a year, with normal conditions the rest of the time. Therefore, it is only necessary to use a bronchodilator during episodes of airway constriction and shortness of breath to relieve discomfort without significant side effects, and there is no need for long-term medication.

However, if the airway constriction is not properly relieved, the airways can become increasingly prone to narrowing, and the asthma could progress.

Stage 2: Mild Persistent Asthma

Patients have episodes about once or twice a month, and bronchodilators are insufficient to manage the condition. Inhaled steroids are needed to “treat the root cause” and control inflammation. Inhaled steroids come in different strengths, and the doctor will prescribe the appropriate dosage as needed.

Stage 3: Moderate Persistent Asthma

Patients have asthma attacks on average once a week and need to use a bronchodilator daily.

Stage 4: Severe Persistent Asthma

Patients need to use a bronchodilator daily, three to four times a day, while also using inhaled steroids to control the condition.

Following the doctor’s advice, I should no longer be afraid to let my child use inhaled bronchodilators! Relieving the child’s coughing and asthma symptoms early on can also hopefully prevent the worsening of asthma conditions in the long run.

How to effectively reward children?

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Written by : Pario Children, Parenting Education Centre

Childhood and family have a profound impact on a person. How do parents influence their children’s growth? How to cultivate good behavior and character in children? Is it correct and effective to use rewards and encouragement?

Do not turn love for your child into a reward

It is often heard that parents say, “If you behave, daddy will shower you with love.” Parents think this is providing positive reinforcement, encouraging positive behavior in children, but shouldn’t the companionship of mom and the affection of dad be unconditional? Love and affection should not be contingent on being well-behaved! A child’s self-worth should not be equated with their behavior or achievements.

Do not turn existing habits into rewards

Some parents might say: “If you behave, we will go to the park on Sunday!” When the child behaves in a “naughty” manner, parents cancel the child’s original plan to play in the park, letting the child learn to bear the consequences. Although this is one of the parenting methods, if the child originally has the habit of going to the park every day, and the parents use “going to the park” as a reward, is this really a reward? This is just continuing the daily routine! Of course, if the child does not usually have the opportunity to go to the park, this reward would be very attractive to a child who naturally loves to play!

Clearly explain rewards and good behavior

Rewards are necessary! But parents must carefully design or choose them, and the most ideal rewards are those that can attract children and are different from the daily routine. For example: going to the park for only 30 minutes every day, but today they can play for an extra 15 minutes; eating only one type of cookie for a snack every day, but today they can have two types. When rewarding, parents should clearly tell the child the reason for the reward, “Because you ‘put away your toys on your own’, mom and dad really appreciate you, so today you get ‘an extra cookie'”, letting the child concretely understand what good behavior is, and also understand the relationship between good behavior and rewards, giving them the motivation to continue displaying good behavior.

Provide unlimited support and encouragement

Children often need the support and encouragement of adults to have enough security and courage to try; sometimes, parents give a lot of encouragement, but the child still does not dare to try as expected, and sometimes parents will blurt out in disappointment: “I’ve held you for so long and you still won’t try, so I won’t hold you or kiss you!” What comes next is the child crying louder and being even more unwilling to try; even if the child is forced to complete the task, there is an additional emotional scar. Therefore, parents should give children unlimited support and encouragement, telling them: “Mommy has confidence in you, try again next time, you can do it!” Believe that when children have stored enough energy from encouragement, they will step forward.

Perhaps, in the process of parenting, parents neither want to be tiger parents nor can they avoid the competition in society, sometimes they may feel lost, but remember to respect the child’s innate traits, and let your appreciation and encouragement accompany their growth.