003: How to Raise a Humble High Achiever with Zac and Lan Mu

6th November, 2018 Posted under Impressive

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Welcome to episode 003 of the Impressive Podcast. In this episode Kimberley talks with Lan Mu and her son, Zach Mu who has won awards for public speaking. How Lan Mu created such a humble and down to earth, yet high achieving young boy in Zach.

Lan will also be sharing the details about the Timor community and how she brought everybody together so that Zach has some great mentorship and family. Enjoy:

  • Time is a luxury many don’t value. Zac and Lu explain how time management is integrated into their lives.
  • Goals that attainable and interesting for a young person
  • Rules and how the reaction differs from a school-aged child to a teenager.

Enjoy the Episode

Recommended resources

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About Impressive

Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds a new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travellers and other hand-picked parents.

In an approachable on-air consultation style, she listens to some of the smartest, kindest parents share their latest parenting challenge with their incredible kids. Together they brainstorm solutions and Kimberley offer handy tips and valuable resources to help bring out the best in toddlers, teens and in-betweens. Drawing mostly on two decades of experience as a child psychologist, Kimberley also shares her personal insights as a mother of two and entrepreneur with a passion for problem-solving.


003: How to Raise a Humble High Achiever with Zac and Lan Mu

[00:00:08 – 00:00:29]: Doctor O’Brien introduces herself to the audience and encourages them to join her in interviewing families and how they do things efficiently.

Doctor Kimberley: Hello, I’m Doctor Kimberley O’Brien — a child psychologist, entrepreneur, and mom with a passion for problem-solving in family adventures. Join me each week for practical tips and on-air consultations with the smartest, kindest parents and their incredible kids. Find answers faster, do things differently, and take your family further. This is Impressive.

This episode is sponsored by BriteChild.com. Now, let’s get started.

[00:00:35 – 00:01:18]: Dr. O’Brien introduces the Mu family, Lan and her son, Zac who came to Australia from East Timor, and leads them to talk about her philosophy in rearing their children and their achievements.

Doctor Kimberley: Hello, and welcome to Impressive. I’m so glad you could join us today mostly because I get to talk to some really inspiring people. We have Zac, who’s 8-years-old and Lan, his mom, Lan Mu, who are joining us to talk about Zac’s impressive awards as a public speaker and their family who are originally from East Timor. Lan came across to Australia as a refugee, and she tells us a little bit about that and mostly around her philosophy as a parent and how she has raised her children to have such an incredible community around them. So, without further ado, I’ll let them talk more about their achievements and how they made that happened. This is Zac and Lan Mu. Thanks for joining us.

[00:01:19 – 00:02:35]: Lan opens up on how they ended up in Australia, starting her early life as a refugee in East Timor.

Lan Mu: Well, my father likes to share stories with us all the time. In fact, the hardship that they went through during the war broke out in 1975 when Portugal that used to [routine] and moved out. And so then, there was a bit of a struggle for power, so there was a bit of unrest in 1975. I was an eight-year-old when Timor got invaded. So, father packed up the seven of us–me being the youngest–and we went to cross the border to West Timor, which is governed by the Indonesians. And we stayed at a refugee camp for about 18 months. The conditions were quite harsh. People got sick; we were poor, so it was scarce. We lived in tin sheds until we processed the paperwork to go to Portugal.

Doctor Kimberley: Oh, wow.

Lan Mu: So, then we went to… after that. Yes. And we were migrants at Portugal and the Portuguese government looked after us. For about seven years we spent, I’m in Portugal—most happiest years.

Doctor Kimberley: Wow.

Lan Mu: And then, from there, the Australian government opened up the humanitarian gates where, you know, if you have a member living in Australia, you are able to sponsor a loved one from overseas. So, then, my Auntie did the paperwork and we came, and the rest is history. Yes.

[00:02:36 – 00:05:21]: Time is a luxury many don’t value. Zac and Lu explain how time management is integrated in their lives.

Doctor Kimberley: And then, what about Zac? When was Zac born, and what was he like when he was a baby?

Lan Mu: Okay, Zac? What he is now? He’s just when he was like a baby. He’s just placid to those like these veggies very much. But we do make him also. He knows that he has to have veggies, so he can grow and have all the nutrients that he requires. But a good listener; Zac always sticks to the rules. Don’t you?

Zac: Yeah.

Lan Mu: Zac has our rules made. Yes, so, for example, this morning, I have to take him to school, and he’ll be like, “You got 12 minutes, Mom.”

Doctor Kimberley: Wow.

Lan Mu: You’ve got your phone right here. So, the countdown’s on his. He’s always got his watch, see? Zac is a timekeeper. Yes, keeps an eye on his watch all the time and he reminds me all the time. So, “Mom, you know, we got swimming. Can you please hurry?” So, someone to be like…

Doctor Kimberley: So, Zac, have you got any tips for other kids your age like, around time management, and how did you get so organized?

Zac: I don’t know. I just liked it when my mom and dad got me a watch, I wanted to use it, so that they wouldn’t, I wouldn’t waste their money. And now, I’m organized with my watch.

Doctor Kimberley: You’re addicted?

Zac: I’m addicted to it now.

Doctor Kimberley: Wow. Wow.

Lan Mu: So, that was the best present. I think getting a watch for Zac, I think it was last year or the year before—

Zac: Last year, last year.

Lan Mu: I think that was the best investment. I think at that age, by eight, I think they can read the watch heads and can understand. And just at school, I think, just too look at their watch and say, “Look, I’m doing my work. And in 10 minutes’ time, the bell’s going to ring for lunch. So, I need to hurry up and finish all,” especially getting ready for soccer training because the father’s always to the minute.

Doctor Kimberley: Wow.

Lan Mu: So, as soon as the father parked into the garage, Zac knows that he has to be ready. So, if you look at his watch and gives himself that 10 minutes to get ready.

Doctor Kimberley: Great.

Lan Mu: So, in the morning, he is, he is. In the mornings are great because when you’re rushing and you’re upstairs and he’s downstairs, I’ll know that the timekeeper will start yelling, “Ten minutes! Five minutes!” and I know I have to get my things together.

Doctor Kimberley: Yeah.

Lan Mu: Or he’ll yell at me again and it goes, “Don’t rush! You’ve got 25 minutes. Take your time.” I love it when he says that.

Doctor Kimberley: I love that. It sounds like a role of us because often it’s the parents that are saying, “Come on! You’ve got five minutes.” And the kids are running along and trying to keep up.

Lan Mu: Absolutely.

Doctor Kimberley: I love that scenario, where the kids like, track your time. It works for both to you.

[00:05:27 – 00:08:24]: Zac lays out goals that are attainable and interesting for him.

Lan Mu: So, I can’t remember how he mentioned how when he wanted something, I said to him, “What would you like? It’s yours.” I was hoping it’s something not too expensive. And he said, “I would like a Garmin watch.” And I just, “Absolutely, you can have whatever you want. Which Garmin you want?” And the anyone that could feed him was the—

Zac: I don’t want.

Lan Mu: –that “I don’t want,” but it was like a small version of it. And then, what he’ll do is he’ll step up. So, he’ll do his, he’s got a goal that we set up for him. So, what was the first day? It was about 10,000.

Zac: 5,000.

Lan Mu: 5,000?

Zac: And then, it increases up to about 10,000.

Lan Mu: And then, he’ll try to make his goals everyday. So, he’ll come home, and he goes, “Mommy, I’ve got 100 steps to go to make 5.” So, he’ll do a hundred and he reaches 5. And then, the 5 works to come on and you’ll get really happy. And then, a month after, it will be like 10,000-15,000. So, I think that was really good. And had a clock on it, so he was on time for everything.

Doctor Kimberley: Yes.

Lan Mu: And at the same time, you’ll do his steps and that was his gone. He used to look forward to it everyday. At the end of the day, and I think it was very much, it motivated him to do a lot of things. And he wanted to be an athlete in swimming but he’s loading down with all that. Take it off.

Doctor Kimberley: Okay, got you. How you’re like an amazing goal rounder, how did you manage to achieve so much in such a broad space, rather than just focusing on one thing and doing well on that? How did you manage to stretch yourself across academics, sports?

Zac: My mom and dad pushed me to do Math, Science, English, and that. And my dad, he tells me to do soccer, so that I can be fit and healthy.

Doctor Kimberley: And how do you find time to have friendships and have fun with all those things that’s going on? Did you have parties all the time?

Zac: No, not that much.

Doctor Kimberley: Will you get to invite?

Zac: Yes.

Doctor Kimberley: Did you want talking and meeting people on your birthday?

Zac: I went to a birthday like, on a Sunday. And I liked it. It was ice-skating, and I skated really fast and I did it for them.

Doctor Kimberley: Wow, that’s another talent that you have. Do you have big goals for the future as well, Zac? Are you thinking, “Oh, I want to do this and that.” Or you do just look very much in the here now?

Zac: I want to do like, swimming in the Olympics, to beat Ian’s record for 200-meter freestyle in 1 minute 45 seconds.

Doctor Kimberley: Whose record was that? Did you say that? I missed it.

Zac: Ian Thorpe.

Doctor Kimberley: Got you. Okay, swimming champion. Have you ever met Ian Thorpe?

Zac: No.

Doctor Kimberley: Not yet. But he’s one of your role models?

Zac: Yeah, yes.

[00:08:25 – 00:10:43] Lan talks about how she helped her children early on their speech writing career, mainly revolving around “writing from your heart” and how this translated to Zac winning speech writing competitions. Lan also reveals how she felt being successful.

Lan Mu: It’s about children’s speaking about things that they can relate to, and I find that when you help them with a speech, get them to give them, give their input and their understanding of a particular story that matters to them.

Doctor Kimberley: Yes.

Lan Mu: With all my children’s speeches, I always say to them, “Write from your heart,” and they can write pages of doodles and things like that. But in the end, you can pick about four or five lines that really do have an impact, and then you focus on those. And then, you say, “Tell me more. How does this apply to you and your life and things like that?” And we go from that speech like that and it becomes really funny because when I talk about the experiences. I think leading up to the first competition is probably when the kids practice the most.

Doctor Kimberley: Okay.

Lan Mu: Because they’ve got to actually learned the speech.

Doctor Kimberley: Yes.

Lan Mu: And then, once I learned the speech I’m doing in front of the teacher to get picked for the school, to represent the school and go to this own. By then, they know the speech by heart. And these kids, it’s a two minute, a three minute speech, and they’ve got photographic memories because it’s their story. They know most of the words by heart anyway.

[00:09:32-00:10:06]  It’s Doctor Kimberley O’Brien here. I thought I just had to let you know that I love nothing more than speaking to parents and children from all around the world. So, if you would like to set up a Skype or a Zoom call, I am really game to help you brainstorm solutions to whatever it should may be impacting on your young person, at home or at school. Please, just go to the Quirky Kid website to make your own appointment. That’s Q-U-I-R-K-Y-K-I-D-dot-com-dot-au to make your own appointment and I’ll speak with you soon.

[00:10:07 – 00:10:43]: Doctor Kimberley: Now, Lan, how did you feel as a parent when he was the winner? What did you do and how did you feel?

Lan Mu: Oh, my goodness. It was amazing. You know how your body just freezes and because you think, “Oh,” in your head you do write the kids as they go their appropriate age and you do write them as I do their impromptus. Look, I’m not trying to be bias but Zac was pretty high in my rank and when they announced his name, we were like… oh, it was a shock. You know, to win something, that’s amazing. And he was only 8-years-old. He was, I think, one of the youngest competitors.

Zac: Yes.

[00:10:44 – 00:11:42]: Lan discusses stating rules and how the reaction differs from a school-aged child to a teenager.

Doctor Kimberley: And what did you do?

Lan Mu: I said to him, I said “How did you feel?”

“Because mommy, I knew I won.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I just knew, Mommy. I had a gut feeling because I spoke with my heart.”

Doctor Kimberley: Do you have any family rules that you stick to or family meetings that you come back to or things you revise? Or you pretty much stick to the same, retain any rules that come from that?

Lan Mu: I think I stick to the same routine and rules. I mean, I want to know why when they’re all marked-up, we all sit down, and then you’ve got to say this and I’m really tired today. And today you both, you know, like, I’m crushed like, I’m tired. This is what’s happened. You know, I hope it doesn’t happen again. You’ll find that with Zac’s age, he’ll sit down and nod and go. Okay, but the teenager, you’ll look at him, he’s looking at you. He’s staring back at you and you’re thinking, ”Ugh..” You do have your breaking points and you think, “Oh.”—

[11:43-12:35] I’m just popping in here. Just talk to Kimberley O’Brien to let you know about Quirky Kid’s Performance Psychology Program for children aged 7-12 years. The program is called Power Up. So, it’s performance psychology helping kids to perform in things like exams, dance performances, or musical presentations of some sort. Anything that involves a performance, kids are often quite anxious, and the Power Up Program teaches them how to overcome their anxiety by having a plan. If you’d like to find out more about Power Up and about how we adapted this program that is typically used for adult athletes into something that is user-friendly for children, please go to QuirkyKid.com.au. That’s Q-U-I-R-K-Y-K-I-D-dot-com-au and find out more about Power Up.

[00:12:37-00:14:49] Lan discusses the importance of role models for young children, as in the case of Zac, wherein he emulates his older brother and cousins to function academically and socially. Zac comes in with a mindset that he is protected, he is safe, because of how his role models and even kids his age look out for him.

Doctor Kimberley: Is there anything else that you can think of that’s really contributed to Zac’s confidence and his sporting abilities and his academic success?

Lan Mu: You know what? I think role modeling is really important. I think having role models to look up to. I know Zac, he has been, like I said, he’s been so fortunate to start kindergarten, and then have his older brother, his cousin in a much older year, and another cousin he seeks that participated in the leadership program. So, he can see all that from kindergarten and feel protected, and see what they do for the school and, you know, he’ll look up at me and he’ll say, “One day, Mommy, I’m going to be what Ryan Meister as captain of the school. Charlton’s at school, Guess I’ll see you later. And I want to give it a go. Will you help me write a speech like the other time?” You know, I think you can write your own speech.

Doctor Kimberley: Yes.

Lan Mu: I think he’s got good role models. He’s always had them. And I think even with the swimming, all the cross-country or anything that Zac does in public speaking, he’s always had the older cousins to look up to and the brother—the older brother to look up to. And I think he just basically just follows, you know, any footsteps, so I think it’s really important.

He’s very lucky in that sense. And I think that’s why Zac has done so well in all areas of school and even socially, I think, because he’s always had the cousins and the brothers to protect him, I think he’s always had that to guide him I think. And even like, when he’s at soccer or whatever and he’ll do something silly like, a typically nine-year-old child would do. And what other cousins, you can see the cousins gone up to Zac and go, “I don’t think you should be doing that, Zac.” He’ll come back, and then he’ll go, “Oh, Kenan said that I shouldn’t have done that, maybe Kenan is right.”

Doctor Kimberley: Yes.

Lan Mu: Because I could’ve hurt myself, but he’s very lucky in that sense. He’s always had someone to look out for him and guide him I think, and with myself and my husband, you know, I find that sitting down with them every night, having dinner, no electronics—that’s the rule. Dinner time, no TV. We sit down, we’ll have a bit of a chat.

[00:14:49 – 00:18:12] Lan reveals how it helps that they chose schools that are near their home, favoring the child’s safety, self-esteem, and mental health over a highly competitive and demanding academe.

Doctor Kimberley: And what about choosing a high school? Have you been, you know, tossing up academic versus sporting high school? Or is it just following the cousins and the brother to do the same kind of path? Or has it been another big decision to consider?

Lan Mu: It’s another big decision. I mean, my oldest child, Charlton, goes to a Catholic school, which is across right from my house. Both my boys, I think, academically, they could have gone selective school tests, and I think they would’ve done, I think Charlton would’ve done well. But at the end of the day, I think there would’ve been just a mentor. Health of your child is important. I think there’s a lot of pressure out there, mental tutoring, and things like that. In my community, tutoring is ideal find that I’ve got eight siblings in my family, and you’ll find that seven out of the eight, they’ve got their kids tutored. I don’t believe in that. I mean, my husband and I both came to Australia as refugees and, you know, we both went to an ESL school where we learned English, an intensive English. And from there, we managed to go to university and get good jobs. And I think I’m so lucky to be born in Australia and to be raised and have that support with my husband and myself where they’re quite lucky that we can help them in terms of their homework. But in terms of going to an academic school and things like that, I think you’re better off taking them, putting them to a school where you’re able to get to them like it’s not, like, say, there was a big, severe thunderstorm, whatever, I know my child is only five minutes away. And they know that I can get to them. And I think schools now, I mean, the pressure’s, I mean my son’s in Newry. It’s not a selective school, but he’s just got so much homework. It’s a lot going on for a little teenager. And there are days where, you know, five minutes past three, he’s walking across the road with his cousins and his friends, and I think I’ve made the best decision because he’s laughing, he’s smiling, and he’s home within five minutes. He just wants to dump that school bag, get that ice-cream, and just sit in front of the TV for a little bit, and have a bit of his duties with his cousin in the backyard.


And that’s not it’s only work. And I think it’s a lot of pressure there. And I think with Zac, too, I think I’ll be doing the same. I think, if you were to put your child into doing the selective tests, you know, you’re competing—that’s the best–and these kids are being tutored since kindergarten and, you know, Zac’s thought, “There’s no way I could do that test. I mean, they get that problem solved within five seconds and it takes me a minute or two.” I think that competitive environment, I don’t know, I don’t think it’s good for the self-esteem. I think it would be hard. I said to my kids, “You do public speaking and you’ll love it. But when you go into these competitions, I mean, you’re a winner already. It doesn’t matter if you win or you don’t.” You’ve been selected from your class, that’s a big thing. For a school of about 800 kids, you’ve done more already. Just doesn’t fall off the sky; you’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to earn it. And when you’ve earned that, and you know you’re putting that effort, it’s yours, buddy. And that feeling, how does that feel? I said to Zac when he won, I said, “How does it feel, Zac, that you earned that, that trophy? You earned that trophy because you put in 10 minutes of your day everyday” and he said, “Mommy, it feels amazing.” I said, “Here you go.”

[00:18:12-00:19:16] And that concludes our interview with Zac and Lan Mu today. Thank you so much to Lan for sharing how she’s created such a humble and down-to-earth yet high achieving young boy in Zac. And also to Lan for sharing the details about the Timor community, and how she has brought everybody together, so that Zac has some great role models in his cousins at the same school. And she’s close enough to be there if the boys need her. Such a great story. And also, I’d love to thank you for joining us here on the Impressive podcast. If you’d like to find out more about the podcast or have a look at those shoutouts, you can go to QuirkyKid.com.au. That’s Q-U-I-R-K-Y-K-I-D-dot-com-dot-au-forward slash-impressive. Or you can join us on our Facebook community. If you search Impressive, you’ll find us there and that would be a great opportunity to interact with other purpose-driven parents. We would love to hear from you. Thanks again for joining us and we’ll see you next week. I’m Kimberley O’Brien, and this was Impressive.



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