No Shortcut to Olympic Glory


I remember Karl Marx once said something like this, there is no shortcut to the glory of highest scientific achievement. Same can be said of almost everything — from parenting to Olympic medal. Some parents dream of having a wonderful and successful child without any significant and meaningful input on their part. This is like dreaming of an Olympic gold medal without going through the ordeal of training, as if the rule of “No pain, no gain” is not applicable to them.

I remember one of my not-too-close relatives spent chunks of time fishing while her son was young.  She really did not miss a day enjoying herself.  Now she still feeds and clothes the boy as he marches toward his thirties. Aren’t we smart enough to know that a parent just cannot fish a child into a successful being?

By the way, now the son of this relative talked about retiring at age 40, making me feel like a dumb fool still working at my senior age.



Too much Explanation and Talking to Be Good


I have read some books on child education. Thus I like to make noises about what I have learned and also explaining why I go about child issue this or that way. I really know how to make myself look and feel like a fresh-baked fool.

I was told that I could always find explanation or excuse for whatever I did. The message from this statement is: first, I have done too much explanations when I do not owe anyone any explanation at all.  Why have I explained at all?  See how confused I am sometimes.  The gatekeeper of my mouth must have gone dormant.

Second, I must have thought and reflected a lot upon my life’s experience, not that much though, and hence have found a lot to explain.  To be sure, it is not a bad thing only if I could keep it to myself or to the willing ears.

The moral lesson is: I have made tons of noise and explained more than I need to. I must have too much time to waste on talking or explaining. I cannot believe I have downgraded to this level. Shame on me. Actually, the moral lesson is: talk less but write more.



Incredibly Unfair But Absolutely True


This is from book Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want by Dave Lakhani. “People judge you by your appearance. Studies have proven over and over that tall men do better than short men on job interviews and when dating. Attractive people are more likely to be hired than their less attractive peers when equally qualified. A very detailed study of attractiveness was published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin … While this all sounds incredibly unfair, it is a simple fact of life.” p. 18

It made me feel depressed when I think of our less-attractive beings, myself included.  What does it mean to this group of human beings?  Well, there is hope. It lies in these words “when equally qualified.”  This means you have to make up for what you lack in appearance by making yourself more qualified than your more attractive competitors. 

Unfair?  Too bad. Live with this “simple fact of life” and many others.  Being able to reconcile with reality might be part of being mature and grownup.



Reflection from Beijing Olympics Trip


To my son. There is a doctor at our clinic who went to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. He came back from Beijing, excited and eager to share his excitement with his colleagues. He said Beijing was a fascinating place, so fascinating that he wondered why I chose to work here in Kansas. Indeed, not many places in the world can match Beijing in her richness in culture, history and life.

Good question. I have thought of this. For now, the main reason I stayed here is for my children to get a decent education. Once they have gone for college, so shall I. Currently my son is in Boston. My daughter is determined to follow her brother’s footstep to east coast. By then I will either follow her or go back home in Beijing, where I can either engage in coordinating clinical trials in oncology or teach English or something else that might fit my fancy.



Chicken Parents, Shameful or Not?


There are something much more than being shameful chicken parents. When people say I am a chicken parent, I do not know what to say. Because I realize it is not proper to be defensive when you are criticized. According to my daughter, I cannot take criticism well.  I would say I have choices. If I choose to confront other adults, fight will surely follow, which means no peace for my children. I do not want to see this happens.  If I choose not to say anything, I victimize myself for the sake of my children. If neither of the above, … You can see we adults have to consider so many IFs. It is both difficult and sheer ugly to be adults. Below is what I just write on this.

           The words of your child
Listen to their words, the holders of truth.
No polish and gloss, no grace and elegancy.
No use of language for coverup.

Remember The Emperor’s New Clothes?
A little child bursts out,
— “But the emperor has no clothes,”
When all the trusted office-holders see the clothes.
Shame on them!

Adults have too much to look out,
In the name of being cautious and prudent.
Or words should be said but not,  for the peace of all.
Careful and judicious, for politcal correctness,
Truth being reserved and un-truth/less-than-true uttered.
Dear so-called respectful parents,
— Is this also untrue from the month of an adult?



Parents are crucial to the behavior of the children


When parents yells, children know not how to talk;
When parents tell lies, children learn lies are okay;
When parents treat others with disrepect, children will follow to the letter.
When parents spend all the time on computer games, children know where their time goes.

On the contrary, when parents are nice, honest, respectful, diligent, they will see their shadow in their children.  Aren’t we in heaven too early?  Dream on.  By the way, how I dislike some parents.  Never mind.



No Scapegoating the Children


My children’s grandmother values boys way over girls. She was eager to come to America when my son was 10 months old.  So I brought her here.  Within one month after her arrival she got sick with gallbladder rupture and ended in hospital for 48 days. She left for her home after she recovered. Needless to say, this resulted in a mountain of trouble for me. 

In the fall of 1990, I was teaching, working on my dissertation, raising my one-year-old son, taking care of my husband who started having gallstone attacks every other week since the grandmother visit.  I tried to get my mother over to help me with the boy but never succeeded because of the debt generated by my husband’s mother’s medical bill — over $45K. 

Sometimes, when I was too much stressed out and felt like unable to handle it all, I cried and took it out on my son, “All because of you. If you were a girl, your grandmother could not have come over here.” He looked at me with his big innocent eyes, trying to finger out what this mad woman was yelling about. Poor boy. I hoped he was too young to remember all this.

It is so easy to shift blame to the children, the weaker one when you do not have the guts to confront the stronger one — your spouse or the spouse’s parents or some other adults.  Scapegoating the children not only unfairly shifts the anger onto the innocent, hurting the children but also left a guilty feeling in the parent. No amount of apology can erase this feeling.

Last Sunday 8/24/08, similar incident happened. This time it was done on my daughter.  Lucky for my son.  I was extremely upset with some members in my family.  Have been a nice person all my life, I pressed down my anger and did not confront the adult offenders.  Instead, I yelled at my daughter like a mad dog, which I regret deeply.  There is no excuse for this bad behavior on my part.

The hurt and damage on her seem ireversible.  I wish the child could be resilient enough to stage back. And I need to have a good memory so that the same thing will not repeat itself in the future.  I really need to be nasty sometimes to the right person, of course.  I wish I knew how. Maybe I never have this guts, unfortunately for my children.

By the way, isn’t this another stupid thing that a parent can do best?



Some of the Unwise Things that Parents Are So Good At Doing


The most unwise thing that a parent can do is when mom is disciplining the child or giving the child proper punishment for wrongdoings, dad jumps out trying to be the “nice guy.”  Good timing. Or the two are inconsistent in their approach to the perceived problem. 

Another things that can happen is when one parent has problems with the child, he blames the other for his failure as a parent. “See she does not listen to me just because of you,” as if he were free from blame.

To be sure, when a parent is having difficulty handling the child, the last thing she wants is being blamed or getting negative comments from another parent.

Of course, the dreamland would be mutual respect between two parents and the child observes and learns to be respectful.



Bravado and “the kiss-up, kick-down”


This is for my son. Today is Saturday. I was at Barnes and Noble bookstore with my daughter. A new book was displayed on the shelf. China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power  by Rob Gifford, NPR correspondent, 2007. A good book.  His description of a Chinese driver is not flattering but true. He is “a mix of modesty and bravado that characterizes many Chinese,” a “one man philosophy department with an opinion on everything.”  This reminds me of some Chinese people who are indeed full of bravado, roaring and brawling, and never failed man-answer syndrome.

My daughter laughed loudly when I read and acted out the people of “the kiss-up, kick-down type who are so common in the Chinese government hierarchy.”

Nothing will entertain me more than seeing bravado and “the kiss-up, kick-down” in my children, like visiting old friends.



Key to Effective Parenting –Good Relationship with the Children


During the last two postings, I have presented myself as an ineffective parent-teacher because I do not “look the part, sound the part, and act the part” of a teacher. When I look back, the only mechanism that I can rely on in parenting my children is a good relationship with them. When they care and love their mom, they want to make mom happy and know what to do to have it happen.

Last evening, while we were on the way to tennis court I was lost in thought. My daughter noticed my locked brow, asking “Why are you not happy? Why are you frowning? You will get wrinkle if you frown like that.” I said I was not unhappy. I was just thinking about her homework that she had trouble with. I told her, “I will be happy and have less to worry about if you can take good care of yourself.” What followed was her promise to behave and make me happy.

I really do not have any magic in regulating their behavior. Good relationship is my key.



Look the Part, Sound the Part, and Act the Part


When I read the book Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want by Dave Lakhani, I was thinking of my role as a parent. For parents, being persuasive means making the children do what we ask them to. Here’s a quote which, I think, is relevant to us.

“In order to be persuasive your persona must be developed to fully support your message. You must look the part, sound the part, and act the part. If your message and your persona are not congruent, people you hope to persuade may take an unfavorable decision about you.”

This quote reminds me of the complaints that a parent made of his child. That is, the child takes teacher’s words seriously but not his. This is a common phenomenon among children. Teachers’ words are like those on the law books and are followed to the letter. This is partly because the teachers “look the part, sound the part, and act the part.” Their role is that of an educator while ours that of a loving parent.

Here’s my point. It is both difficult for us and confusing for the children to view a mom playing two roles: loving parent and a strict educator. We really need the authoritarian air of a teacher to play a teacher role at home. I know I do not possess that air.  That’s why I have not been a good role-player when I tried to act like a teacher to my children at home.  Some people are luckier than this.



Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want


A few weeks ago while I was at library with my daughter, a book caught my attention.  It is called Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want by Dave Lakhani, 2005.  I thought of my son and the time when I thought he was very much in need of empowering himself with the ability to persuade.

The book started with the comparison between manipulation and persuasion.  Of many things that a person has to do in order to manipulate, interesting to note is the emphasis on building relationship, creating trust, befriending, etc.

We know that a good relation is the key to get any task done at workplace, like being a good team player, but as parents, we might need to be reminded that it is absolutely essential that a good relationship with the children is the foundation of “getting what you want.”  I call it manipulation for the benefit of the children.



Teenage — the most Tricky and Sensitive Stage of Life


For some teenagers, this stage of their lives is the tricky and sensitive one that parents have to live through with their youngsters.  Some of them are very eager to assert their independence, even though they are still financially dependent on their parents.

One of the ways to demonstrate their version of independence is refusing to listen to their parents, telling the parents to mind their own business. “It is my life,” my daughter’s favorite statement. They do something not because parents ask them to but because they want to. In fact, if parents ask them to do something, they would say NO simply because they do not want to be told. The tricky part is to create this situation where what they want to do is what parents want, without having parents telling them. Funny and twisted indeed.

I used to ask my children what kind of future that they would like to end up with and what kind of life they have in mind when they grow up. To be sure, they can depict nothing less than the most regal life that they have read of. What would you do for this? Kids are smart. At some point, they know what they should do for their own good. If not that smart, let them live according to their level of IQ.



Being Accepted and Popular at Middle School


At school, there is always the issue of being accepted and popular among girls. To be accepted often means you become one of them spending hours on absolutely stupid tittle-tattle. Being a good school performer may very likely exclude you from the group because you are too far above the rest of the group. It does not give you a good feeling to get an A when others are struggling with C or D. My son once told me, “You don’t want to share your good grade with others unless you want to be excluded.”

To this I keep telling my children, unless you can transcend the boundary of your environment, you are forever one of the herd, a mediocre and an obscurity. Not bad to be among the majority of humanity.



Give the Children Choices by Creating Smart Rules


We adults like to have choices, so do the children. But we adult define the range of their choices by laying out artificial rules. For example, it is 10 PM now and my daughter is still on the Internet. Instead of shutting down the PC and telling her to go to bed now, I ask her, “Do you want to go to bed now or have 10 more minutes of computer?”  In case like this, I know she always chooses one of the less evils. You get what you want no matter what she chooses. Sometimes, I know she wants 20 minutes, still I ask her “How about 10 minutes?”  She bargains for 20 minutes and is happy to have it. I think people all feel good if they get what they ask.

Note this works until the child challenges the legitimacy of your rule.



“A parent’s love for a child is a significant human experience”


This is from a book that I was reading a few weeks ago. “A parent’s love for a child is a significant human experience, but psychologists do not possess sensitive ways to measure the intensity of this emotion accurately.” By Jerome Kagan, 2007, p. 44 An Argument for Mind.

We have discovered or invented many instruments and scientific methods to measure phenomena found in nature and in other human experiences. Indeed, many natural and human phenomena can be measured accurately by social and natural scientists but not emotion — “a parent’s love for a child,” which is deeper than the ocean and higher than the sky. It is crucial to human existence but probably not scientifically as important as we think.



School Worries


School will begin tomorrow for SMSD 8th graders. With the children going back to school comes a mixed feeling. On the one hand, the children start school life, engaging in guided learning and developing academically and socially.  On the other hand, my worry starts and I have to make my child un-learn something that she learns at school. Why?

 

To be sure, children learn much more than you want them to learn at school. My daughter learns about new fashion clothes from her friends at school, then back home giving me no peace until she gets what she asked. She makes me understand if she does not dress this way she looks like a loser. This is certainly her definition of loser.  She told me the girls of her age at school wear this or that makeup and thus she wants it, too. From her conversations with her classmates, I can tell their good-humored raillery is too vulgar to my ears, jammed with bad language, highest affront to any respectful being. When I told her not to use these terms, she told me not to be old-fashioned mom.

 

Well, if old-fashioned means decency and good taste, I would rather have an old-fashioned child. Am I being a too old-fashioned mom or is it another form of cultural conflicts?



When the Child Refuses to Take NO


I found this truth never fails me. That is, the child will think you a mean mom if you say NO to him/her only once, even though you have said YES all the time. It’s like one drop of black ink will change the color of a cup of pure water. 

Well, parents cannot unconditionally give green lights all the time to the demand of a child. Saying NO is just part of the discipline that the child needs. I thought we adults got to outsmart the child.

First and foremost I try to anticipate what happens next, then try not to give the child the opportunity to challenge your sanity, like not taking the child to the store or have the child promise not to ask for anything if we go to the store.

I also find it helpful to avoid frontal attack or offense, especially dealing with a headstrong teenager. Instead of saying no directly, sometimes, I would ask my daughter what she would do if she cannot have it. Or, I would say, “if you buy this, you will have to give up that.” Or I would ask, “Am I still a good mom if I say no?” “Do you still love me if I don’t buy it for you?” Or I would tell her that I would give up my lunch for a week to satisfy her demand. Lucky for me that she does care if I say this.

Well, I cannot use the same mechanism all the time and have to think of something new.  Sometimes, I wish I knew more tactics.  Maybe it is time for me to go to school to get better equipped mentally.



Conversation– an intellectual sporting event


To my son. You told me with excitement about your 2-hour dinner meeting with an old friend of ours. You kept saying it was interesting. I fully understand why you were excited over it. You were actually excited over the reward of a good conversation with a person of ideas and good taste. In fact, I had anticipated it to be interesting and intellectually challenging meeting someone with a philosophy major from Harvard and an M.A. in theology from another Chicago Univ, then a law degree from Harvard.

Recently I was reading a book entitled Conversation: A History of a Declining Art by Stephen Miller, 2006. It was an interesting read. I hope you read it someday. Here’s something to share with you.

Michel de Montaigne, a 16th-C French lover of conversation, said, “To my taste, the most fruitful and natural exercise of our mind is conversation. I find the practice of it the most delightful activity in our lives.” I am not sure he would say the same if he had TV and computer back then.

On reading, he said “studying books has a languid feeble motion, whereas conversation provides teaching and exercise all at once.” He thought of conversation as an intellectual sporting event that will improve people’s mind.  Undoubtedly, elementary school teachers would stand up against talking more than reading for their students. For they surely wanted only their voice to be heard in class. 

It was such a fun to read and carry on a mental conversation with the author. I will post more on this later.



A Challenge to Your Brain — Imagine Fun out of Not-So-Fun


On weekend I was reading the magazine that my son once subscribed Discover. There is an article called “Mental Fitness,” Here’s the quote from the article, which I am going to share it with my son. “Fun, engrossing activities are strongly encoded in memory because they engage our emotions…” “Any information associated with pleasure and excitement triggers dopamine release.” This dopamine “fosters exploration in search of reward, causing newly acquired knowledge to be stored more deeply and better remembered later.”

It would be nice if we could always combine fun with the have-to-learn stuff. Yet, one thing we can do is trying to create fun out of something not-so-fun. How?  Here’s a challenge to your imagination.  Should be fun, shouldn’t it, unless you do not like to be challenged?  For me, anything challenge is fun, although not too much over my head.



Children follow their mothers


As I observed two children of other people living in my household, I found they are different from mine in many areas. One obvious difference is both of them like to spend time with me at kitchen, whereas my children do not.  As I was wondering why, I discovered that the mother of one child spent a lot of time in kitchen. I remember the other child’s mom is a good cook.

As kitchen is never my favorite place at home, neither is it my children’s favorite hangout.  Indeed, nothing comes from nothing.  I only hope my children can manage to bring food to the table when they grow up. Or find some means to complete this task.



Feel and Think of What It Feels Like to be a Teenager.


I had lunch with two friends of mine today at Sweet Tomato (8/8/08). One thing that we share in our experience is that we are all mother-of-two-kids. That defined the focus of our chat. At some points, we recalled the time of our coming of age and the years when we were immature and our parents had to put up with our immaturity.

The recollections of those difficult years with our parents should offer us some insights when we are facing the same problem that our parents once faced before. It helps creat an empathy, with which we could be sensitive toward and understanding of the special issues and problems that the youngsters might pose during their difficult teenage years.

Simply put it, the recollection put us back to the position that we once occupied when we were teenagers, so that we are capable of feeling and thinking of what it feels like to be a teenager.

Very interesting and useful exercise for parents, that is, if their memories have not failed them.



Like George W. Bush, Parents Like to Criticize


This morning (8/7/08)  I heard of George W. Bush issuing blatant criticism on China. This instantly reminded me of what my daughter used to say to me when I made clamorous noise about what I thought to be undesirable. To which, she said, “Who ask your opinion?”

Indeed, just like GW. Bush I often give unwelcome criticism when I myself do not like to be criticized by anyone at all. Kong Fuzi or some other VIP once said: “Do not do unto others what you don’t want done to you.” This is the ethic of reciprocity, too much a common sense for me to dwell upon. Yet, each time I make criticism I violate this Golden Rule or maybe Silver Rule.

Sometimes, I catch myself acting like GW Bush and hold my tongue. But then I thought. Isn’t it the job of the parents to point out to their youngsters when we see them doing something that invites criticism?  Isn’t it harmful and negligent if we keep our month shut at moment like this?  Then we should say something or shouldn’t we?

See I am sometimes mentally confused, too, though only for a second.



Don’t be a PPP — Party Pooper Parent


Everyday I come back home from office, mentally drained and physically worn out after battling with the full spectra of beings, ready for a good long over-due nap. “Hi, mom. Hug,” a sweet, youthful voice and a big daughterly hug with lovely smile from my daughter quickly refresh me and wipe out any unpleasantness that I might have during the day.  It is like a joy-conveying angel befalling in my life.

I have a thousand and one questions for my daughter, such as “Did you make good use of your time today?” “Did you do your homework?”  “Did you practice piano?” “Did you spend too much time on the Internet?” “Did you do your daily math?” “Did you remember to put value into your time?” etc. But I know better than being a wet blanket over the heavenly joy that she brings at the moment.

My sister told me she felt awful when she saw her child wasting time.  I feel the same way. Yet, if the child is not mature enough to appreciate the value of time, let it be. Choose a proper moment to work on the child’s maturity and other issues. I try not to bring up unpleasant topics while the child is in a pleasant hugging mood.

For me, I will continue enjoying the presence of my child while she is around me, even if she is not as mature as I expect at the moment.  Allow myself to be lifted by her high spirit. For I know my daughter dislikes PPP. And most important of all, this angelic joy won’t be here forever.



No more whining Parents–You Reap What You Sow


Mental confusion. The truth is an adult is mentally rated below a pre-school aged children when he resorts to physical abuse of the child. Because even a child of that early age knows that it is morally wrong to beat a small-size kid and we should not solve domestic problem with fists or other instruments like whip or club.  Such parents remain at the nursery mental level even when they reach age 80. The only hope for the children is to wait till they can match their parents in size and in muscle.

Selfish.  Yes, we are all selfish to certain extent. It’s not that bad as long as it does not involve others.  But parents that physically abuse their children are selfish because in essence they care nothing but their own pleasure at finding an outlet for their own emotional disturbance, a hedonic thrill at the expense of a minor.  By the way, yelling and shouting is another form of abuse, an assault on the mind and nerve.
 
I read somewhere that a child told his parents something like this, “If you don’t like my temper, think of the fact that it is you who has spoiled me when I was small.”  As for children riding on your neck urinating and defecating, you reap what you sow and eat whatever goes down on your neck if you make it happen.  Parents, stop being crying babies for what you deserve. Thank you for reading it.



Domestic Violence, spanking, child abuse, all in the name of discipline


To my great dismay, I watch some “highly educated” parents demonstrate utter mental confusion and selfishness when they talk about child discipline.  “If you spank the child, you look like a big bully beating up a small child.  If you don’t, the child turns around and ride on your neck urinating and  defecating.  Look at my child now,” said one parent.

First of all, this parent attributes the perceived ill-behavior of the child to “lack of whipping” when the root cause is the failed parenting style or the flaws on the part of the parent/parents.  It is so convenient for such parents to shift blame to the child.  Nothing could be more shameful than this.

Secondly, I am disturbed by any form of physical abuse of the child, no matter what excuse that a parent could concoct up, though I myself am not free from having exerted such abuse before. A parent reveals his/her total incompetence, helplessness and selfishness when he/she resorts to physical means of discipline.

Why selfish?  Why mental confusion?  I will talk more on this tomorrow.



Be it Black or white, it is a good cat if it can catch rats


With children, you have to be flexible and employ whatever mechanism that works.  In his elementary years, my son used to be very adamant in staying within his comfort zone. It would not work if you told him to study well so that he would find a good job. He was happy with working at Pizza Hut where he believed he could eat pizza to his heart’s content.  He will be embarrassed if he reads this now.

For some times, the only thing that motivated him to get good grades was to make mom happy. Anything lofty than this was beyond his comprehension.  Luckily, he did care to make mom happy and brough home good grade cards.

Then, gradually as he read and learned more and became mature, he gained a better understanding of what he wanted to get out of his life. He flung himself into the process, putting in as much hard work as needed, happily.  By the time he reached high school, because of his decent grades, he could easily associate himself with people like him.  They motivated each other for the shared goal — being high achievers.

I am so glad something worked at that time. Sometimes, I wonder if he would turn out to be the same if nothing motivated him at all during early school years. Perhaps, without his knowing it and within his comfort zone, he formed a good study habit in the process of pleasing his mom.



How to tell or not to tell the truth


On 7/30/2008 I took my nephew to have an English language evaluation test. His English is as good as my Russian, which is below sea-level. After the test, the instructor told me “He may not know everything, but he certainly has the potential to learn it all.” It was so pleasant to hear these words. I would not feel this way if he said truthfully, “He knows absolutely nothing.”

This reminded me of an incident with my children. I remember it was my daughter who broke something. After that she looked at me with her big frightened eyes, motionless. I told her “That’s okay. Mom did that before, and mom was as silly as you are at that time.” She felt relieved, thinking “It turned out I am not the only one who did silly thing.” I was just trying to calm her down but, to be sure, I was never that silly.

I know I am not as honest as the little child who shouts out “But the emperor has no clothes.”  And I have never had an opportunity to be around the naked emperor telling him how handsome his clothes is. This is the wonder of an adult.



Growing up with my son by Yang Wen


I was reading a book by Yang Wen, Growing up with my son.  The book is a loving memory of a mother who has been successful in bringing up an excellent son.  The book is very dear to the author as it traces back to the time before the birth of her son to the point he grows up.  I can understand the pride, nostalgia, and the altogether joy and happiness that a mother feels about a far-away grownup child.  I find it so tempting for a mom like her to indulge in such a recollection.

In essence, the book is the celebration and appreciation of a mother’s experience of caring and raising her child, sparkled with wisdom that she garnered in the process.  Her child has filled her life with so much fun, rewards, and happiness.  Yet, how many parents have enjoyed and benefited from the gift of their children to the extent that Yang Wen has?  By the way, from his book, I believe Gao Yanding has been more than benefited from his daughter.  Hurrah for Yang Wen!  Good job for Gao Yanding!


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