6-year-old Tan Ye Ming is a K2 student who is about to graduate from Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool (a childcare centre) this year. Before his parents sent him to the PreSchool, they visited Tzu Chi’s headquarters in Hualien, Taiwan, where they were deeply moved by the NGO’s spirit of Great Love. It was then that they thought of sending little Ye Ming to the Great Love PreSchool so that he could be nurtured in an environment imbued with humanistic values.
Shortly after they returned to Singapore from Taiwan, Ye Ming’s parents went to Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool to get him enrolled, but unfortunately, they were told that registration was full. While waiting for a vacancy, Ye Ming was sent to another childcare centre. Six months later, Ye Ming’s mother received a call from the Great Love PreSchool, notifying her that they had a vacancy for Ye Ming.
Learning to eat fruits and veggies
Being born in a family where both parents have adopted a vegetarian diet, it was a challenge for little Ye Ming, who had a hard time getting used to eating vegetables. He detested fruits and veggies so much that he would throw up whenever his parents tried to feed him. Despite his persistent resistance, his parents did not compromise; at the same time they were concerned about his nutrition intake, because he didn’t quite like eating meat as well.
Having made numerous futile attempts to make Ye Ming eat his greens, Ye Ming’s parents decided to send him to the Great Love PreSchool, with the hope that he could gradually adapt to a vegetarian diet.
“We had a hard time trying to make Ye Ming eat his greens…. So we were hoping that the vegetarian environment provided by Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool would motivate him to eat veggies,” said Ye Ming’s mother, Ong Li Chuin.
It was equally challenging for Ye Ming to have his meals in the Great Love PreSchool. His resistance to fruits and vegetables was so strong that he would throw up frequently during meal times, just like what he always did at home. Ye Ming’s teacher, Ms. Chen Jia Yu, said that changing the picky dietary habits of Ye Ming was a lengthy process that required much patience and understanding.
When Ye Ming just entered the childcare centre, Ms. Chen was not aware of his repulsion towards fruits and vegetables until one day, she noticed the boy vomiting after having just one bite of a piece of fruit. She then realised that he had the habit of throwing up whenever fruits and vegetables were served to him. Ye Ming did not only puke into his bowl and on the table; sometimes he would even create a mess on the floor.
Instead of scolding or criticizing him, Ms. Chen allowed him to calm down while she patiently cleaned up the mess. She would also involve him in the cleaning after he had recovered himself.
To help Ye Ming accept fruits and vegetables, both Ms. Chen and the other children in the class were very supportive and kept saying words of encouragement to him. Unlike some parents who would not pay much attention to their children’s fussy eating habits, Ye Ming’s parents supported Ms. Chen’s efforts. Ms. Chen would tell the young boy that many poor and hungry children in Africa have nothing to eat, so he must not waste his food. At home, Ye Ming’s mother would instill the same message in him during meal times.
“I didn’t want to stop giving him fruits and vegetables, because Ye Ming is a vegetarian and he needs nutritional balance. I do not wish to see him (grow up) being overly picky on food in the future, as this would limit his food options. I do not think that he dislikes fruits and vegetables entirely; at least he is willing to try,” shared Ms. Chen.
Not wanting to give up on him, Ms. Chen started with giving him half a piece of fruit and slowly increased the serving size to one portion and then two. Ye Ming took more than a year to adapt to eating fruits and vegetables, and today, he is a full-fledged vegetarian who loves his greens, especially broccoli, cabbage, and ginger.
“We sent him to Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool partly to learn how to be a vegetarian and hoped that he would be influenced by the environment there. It is very comforting to see that he is willing to eat his greens now. When we saw how he reached for the vegetables with his chopsticks, we felt that all our hard work was worthwhile,” shared Ye Ming’s mother.
From being selfish to becoming selfless
Before Ye Ming was sent to Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, his parents had to deal with him being a demanding and stubborn little boy apart from the challenge in feeding him at meal times. He was so bad tempered that he would stamp on the floor and throw tantrums whenever he was upset.
“He was a very self-centred kid before he went to Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool. Whenever he wanted something, he was determined to get it no matter what. If you didn’t give him what he wanted, he would persistently fight with you. He gave us so much headache and trouble, and hardly ever cared about how others feel,” revealed Ye Ming’s father, Tan Yok Liang.
Ye Ming’s parents were desperate in sending their little boy to Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, believing that the conducive environment could influence him positively. Much to their relief and delight, Ye Ming gradually changed his habits and temper after he started schooling at the PreSchool.
The teachers of the PreSchool stress on teamwork and actively work to instill the spirit of selfless giving in their students. Through working with others and regular involvement in daily chores at the childcare centre, Ye Ming grew to become the helpful boy he is today. He now takes the initiative to help his parents with household chores.
“When he sees me hanging clothes to dry, he would run to me and say he wants to help. If I tell him I can do it on my own, he will get angry and say that he is part of the family and wants to contribute,” said Ye Ming’s mother.
Ye Ming’s parents hopes to nurture their son into an independent individual, because they are aware that they will not be by his side forever. Moreover, Ye Min will have to serve the army when he turns 18. So they made the wise decision to let him get involved with household chores at a young age. Now, at the tender age of 6, Ye Min is already helping to vacuum the house, do the laundry, wash the dishes, do recycling, and he will also keep his own toys after playing with them.
Ye Ming’s transformation from a self-centered, egoistic boy who behaved like the world revolved around him to a helpful, loving boy he is today has brought great comfort and joy to his parents. Although it took a few years, the change in him is very significant to his parents.
“We are confident in Tzu Chi’s humanistic education, because we have learned how Tzu Chi has helped (the needy around the) world. If adults like us can be inspired to change our deep rooted bad habits, I am sure a small child can definitely be influenced to change himself. And I believe that only Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool can help him do that,” said Ye Ming’s father with joy on his face.
He also said that helping a child build a solid foundation is essential during the growing years, and that the focus of education should not be solely on academic performance, but also character building. He believes that the purer children’s intentions and thoughts are, the more they are able to touch the hearts of others with what they do, and they are less likely to end up becoming a social problem.
Transformation of a family
As Ye Ming applied what he has learned in school at home, his behaviour and actions started influencing the whole family. By taking the initiative to help out with household chores, Ye Ming has influenced his sister to do the same. His parents shared that they now have the habit of sorting trash at home for recycling. It all started with Ye Ming having to complete his homework about recycling, and the whole family decided to help him with it. Eventually, recycling became part of their daily lives, and there are now three recycling bins placed at home.
Ye Ming’s parents are convinced that their son’s changed behaviour and habits are the results of the education and guidance he has received at the Great Love PreSchool. The young boy would often share with them what the teachers have taught him during the day. His parents have also learned parenting skills from Tzu Chi. Inspired by Tzu Chi’s humanistic values and emphasis on leading by example instead of words, Ye Ming’s mother has started taking more initiative to greet her colleagues at work while his father is now more prompt in his actions.
Moving on to primary school
As Ye Ming graduates from Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, he will be leaving an environment he is familiar with to enter primary school next year. His father is aware that he is about to face a very different environment and wants to give him a soft landing. So he has started preparing him mentally for the transition to primary school since half a year ago.
“I’m not too worried about Ye Ming after he graduates from Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool. I’ve started getting him ready for the new chapter in his life since half a year ago, telling him how primary school will not be the same as his preschool and how he should deal with whatever difficulties that he may encounter. I also told him to remember what he has learned in the PreSchool and apply it in his daily life,” shared Ye Ming’s father.
As Ye Ming would be moving on to primary school soon, he felt a little sad having to leave his classmates and teachers. When asked if he has anything he wished to say to his beloved teacher, Ms. Chen, he said, “I will miss you.”