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Shame is the kind of feeling that may very well take a kid many years before he or she found the right words to describe. It is different from guilt because guilt is more about what you did; but shame is more about who you are.

Do you agree that shame is an effective change agent for children?


“When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more”


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shadow-danceA lot of times the anti-patterns are used because adults have some unexamined beliefs about what is good for the children. This post is about the belief that “when you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more“. Continue reading

Persuading the Tiger Cub


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Big Tiger Cub!

(Photo credit: digitalART2)

Most of the time when we persuade children, we are also persuading them to form certain beliefs and perspectives about this world that they are just starting to know. In this post, I will use two excerpts from Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother” to illustrate this.

Amy Chua is a great story teller, especially with the really controversial ones. The book is about her obsession with ensuring the success of her daughters in everything they learn.

My observation is that when adults have high ambitions for very young children, they often require the children to abide by tough rules or plans that do not necessarily appeal to that age group. The most convenient way to do that is by persuading the children to believe that there is something wrong about people who do otherwise. It works by teaching the children to divide people into dualistic groups and then ask them to join the side that is preferred by the persuader. Slowly, the children get the impression that there must be something very wrong with people who are not like them. This anti-pattern is called “Divide and Conquer”. Continue reading

Punishment and Threat


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This post is a quote of what Dr Moshe Feldenkrais wrote about the effects of punishing and threatening a child. It is from his book “The Potent Self”, Chapter 7, “Reward and Punishment”.

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If a child burns himself he cries and learns not to touch fire again. He may need more than one such lesson, but these rarely cause any lasting emotional behavioral disorders, painful though they may be. The same punishment inflicted deliberately by an adult may be sufficient to distort the entire process of adjustment and leave an indelible mark on the mind of the child. While a child may fall and break a leg, he will be jumping and running again before long. But if beaten by his father to the same point of grievous bodily injury, the entire social adjustment of the child may be distorted. Continue reading

10-Million-Dollar Rule


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In Search Of Lost Time

In Search Of Lost Time (Photo credit: bogenfreund)

In the book “Outliers”, the author Malcolm Gladwell

  repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practising a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

Malcolm’s books are usually the kind that explains why certain things happen the way they did. That works well for him because he knows that is what readers want. But as the cliche goes, “correlation doesn’t imply causation”. Continue reading

Motivated by Fear


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I want to share two articles that talks about the fear that students in Singapore are facing.

  1. Where does students’ fear of failure come from? by Daniel Wong
  2. Parents are co-perpetrators of fear, by Jenni Ho-Huan

If indeed fear can be a source of a student’s motivation, what does it mean when such students become “self-motivated”? What is in their heads that makes them so driven all the time? Maybe this?

Yeah, if you always see the shark in your mind, you will keep paddling.

Continue reading

A New Name: Anti-patterns in Persuading Children


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I decided to change the name of this project to “Anti-patterns in Persuading Children”.

Before this, I call it “Unethical Ways to Persuading Children” (and before that simply “Unethical Persuasion”) but I am bothered by the word “Unethical”. I don’t feel good using a word with a negative connotation to describe a common practice. I know my arguments will be based on the grounds of ethics, but putting the word in the tittle is still a bad association.

Wildebeest Migration

Wildebeest Migration (Photo credit: katstan)

It is not just about being polite, but I also want people to have the freedom to use the anti-patterns when the situation calls for it. A negative association to describe a practice appeals to the emotion and in difficult situations, makes it hard for people to think logically and trust their intuition, something that is much needed when dealing with children, especially for parents.



I picked up a book in the library the other day. It is a book about computer science, something that I no longer read nowadays. But that day I somehow walked along the shelves of the computer section and a tittle just happen to catch my eye. I am glad I picked it up because in one of the pages I saw the word — “anti-patterns“.


Pattern (Photo credit: Natesh Ramasamy)

I knew this word all along. Legend tells of four awesome software developers, famously called “Gang of Four“, with their extensive experience in the industry, has found that the problems and their solutions in developing software are all different and unique, but nonetheless form patterns that can be distinguished and analysed. They document it and popularised the idea of “design patterns“, so that other software developers can freely benefit from their analysis of good solutions.

The idea of “anti-patterns” came later to analyse and document bad solutions that are commonly used. I quote from Wikipedia, anti-patterns are:

Some repeated pattern of action, process or structure that initially appears to be beneficial, but ultimately produces more bad consequences than beneficial results.

Continue reading



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Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BC; the alabaster mantle is a modern addition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing common about all the unethical ways to persuade children is the use of pathos, or persuasion by means of appealing to emotion. In this project I wish to show how each of them produce some unintentional side effects. But often we do need to persuade children. How can we achieve our objectives in a way that minimises the side effects?

An alternative would be the use of logos, or persuasion by means of appealing to reason. Here is an awesome example of how Teacher Tom reasons with some 5 year old kids.

Inception of Fear


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The movie “Inception” is not about fear (that is Batman), but what relevant is the act of incepting an idea into the mind. Before we continue, I wish to inform you that “Inception” is a great movie and I am putting a lot of SPOILERS here. Please watch the movie before you continue reading!

I shall start with the scene of Saito recruiting Cobb.

Continue reading