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As parents, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life, sometimes getting so caught up juggling work, home, and being good role models to our kids until we forget how to parent properly and find ourselves asking if we’re doing things right.
We all need new perspectives sometimes, so it’s nice to hear from other parents about how they approach daily life, taking care of kids, and the things they do to make it all just that much more enjoyable.
This week, Ally Leong, an Instagrammer and full-time mommy from Malaysia talks to us about her approach to parenting, managing her household, and how her method of setting flexible schedules helps her out as a mother.
You can follow Ally on Instagram at (@lnnally) to keep up to date with her daily adventures and download the many fun kids’ activities and games that she creates for her followers.
On keeping things free and easy
Ally has two kids: a six-year old girl and a one-year old boy who spend most of their time at home due to the fact they’re home-schooled.
Ally says that home-schooling was just one of many decisions that she’s made that allow her to engage with her little ones during their formative years as much as possible.
“I decided to home-school them even before they were born,” Ally says. “They grow up so quickly and I would hate to not be there to see their firsts—their first rolls, first sit-up-straight, first words.”“Now, we’re pretty flexible with our routine, and we live in the present as the day flows,” Ally says. “If the kids feel hungry, they eat. And if they want to play, they play—meaning learning takes place throughout the day.”
Ally says that this freedom to decide their own schedules has seen her daughter go to bed and wake up on her own without the need for supervision, and her boy has no problems following suit, creating a sense of independence at an early age for both of them.“Ever since she was two-years old, I’ve told my little girl, ‘you sleep when you feel sleepy, okay?’. Now she usually goes to sleep around 9.30 to 10PM after brushing her teeth and switching off all the lights herself and wakes up at 7 to 8AM on her own.”
These days, Ally is getting her daughter to adapt to regular school timing before she enters Primary 1 next year and uses the same method of letting her figure out her own timing to achieve this. So far, they have both figured a way to set a learning period from 10AM to 3PM every day.
Let them learn how to learn!
As far as learning and kids’ activity goes, Ally says she throws in plenty of variety into the daily timetable and includes worksheets, reading, painting, drawing, ballet, and even gardening as part of the activities.
Kid’s activity time includes drawing, arts-and-crafts, language skills, and countless others!
She also especially loves lying on the floor mat and laughing over silly jokes with the kids and spends plenty of one-to-one time with her daughter during learning hours, helping her pick up new information and skills on whatever topic interests her.
“We spent five minutes a day doing a single activity when she was two, then it increased to 10 minutes a day at four years, to 15 mins a day at 5 years, and now half an hour each day at six-years old,” she says.
Other than the activities she prepares for her daughter, Ally also relies on other resources such as books to keep her kids mentally stimulated. These include Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson which her son uses to mimic hand actions, while her daughter enjoys non-fiction science and picture dictionary books from Usborne, Scholastic, and Oxford.
To make things interesting, Ally likes to incorporate lots of reading into her kids’ activity time.
Of course, Ally is also a fan of baba baa books—especially the Press-And-Learn English Malay Chinese Words Sound Book that teaches her kids daily vocabulary in three different languages.
The Press-And-Learn English Malay Chinese Words Sound Book is one of Ally’s faves when it comes to fun learning activity time.
“It’s part of my daughter’s daily routine, and my boy loves pressing on the vehicles buttons. As a trilingual family, we’re really thankful to baba baa for creating such a wonderful and helpful book.”
When it comes to screen time, Ally doesn’t believe in placing a limit—she lets her daughter use the computer to do things like research, practice her illustration skills, or watch YouTube, and leaves it to her to figure out when enough is enough.
“They don’t spend their entire day in front of the screen, and I don’t believe controlling screen time actually makes them use it less,” she explains. “I actually believe in letting them make their own decisions.”
“I let my daughter understand that staring at the screen for long periods harms her eyes, so she decides to limit screen time by herself,” she adds. “But if I ever them staring too long as they grow older—which could be likely considering how much I use the computer myself—then I’ll sit them down for an open discussion about my concerns and how we all feel about the habit.”
Discipline: Teach them like they’re grown-ups
When it comes to the subject of discipline, Ally thinks there’s no reason to get too harsh. Instead, she believes in getting her kids to deal with issues on a more mature level and understand the reason why something they do is wrong.
“I did actually yell and scold my daughter when she was two, but then I noticed that she was afraid of telling me the truth when she made mistakes,” Ally says. “Since then, I’ve stopped yelling because I feel children are less likely to lie and keep quiet about mistakes when they believe grown-up values and celebrate in telling the truth.”
Image Credit: Daria Shevtsova
Instead flat out punishment, Ally prefers for her children to understand cause and effect. In an example she gives, Ally says that her daughter once felt upset because she was late to her ballet class and decided to take it upon herself to make sure she always arrived 15 to 20 minutes before the start of class.
And the same principle applies for rewards as well.
“I don’t reward either,” Ally says. “I think rewarding children for doing well reinforces extrinsic motivation (being motivated to pursue praises and rewards) and hinders intrinsic motivation (being motivated to perform based on enthusiasm and love for the subject or task).”
“Children are naturally curious to learn—they’re learning 24/7,” she adds. “Even if you don’t see the results directly in their exams or in school, I assure you they’re figuring things out on their own throughout the day.”
A bit of advice
In a nutshell, Ally’s approach to parenting revolves mainly around being a guide and a mentor rather than an instructor—a style that requires incredible amounts of positivity, patience, and willingness to allow her children to make mistakes instead of preventing them.
But with children being children, this approach sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. This is when Ally admits to the steep learning curve of being a parent and the importance of taking personal breaks to recharge and re-evaluate her approach.
“When things get uncontrollable, I try to change my perspective,” she says. “As children are still learning how to handle their emotions, they have a hard time regulating themselves.”
“So that’s why I’m here—to tune in and guide them by acknowledging their strong feelings. As a mom, my favorite part is when they trust that I can understand them and always reach out to me for support.”
Some more activities that Ally keeps her kids occupied with.
And giving a final word of advice for others in her situation, she urges other moms to always remember that bringing up children is a constant learning for all involved, and that the trick is to try keeping positive whenever around your little ones.
“Motherhood is exhausting,” she says. “It’s full of tiny acts that go unnoticed. If you need to, I suggest taking time off to recharge—probably 15 to 20 minutes to refuel by doing something that makes you laugh.”
“If you’ve someone to take over, don’t hesitate to ask for help. And if you don’t, just be around them, forget about chores, and do nothing. I notice that kids just want you to be there and not do anything with or for them. Stay present and be present.”