If you want child to be great, be a great parent first.
If you want respect from your child, respect your child first.
If you raise your voice at your child, the child will learn the same mode of communication.
If you let go your temper, the child will never know self control.
If you waste your default time, your child will do the same.
If you harbor prejudice against others, your child will share your prejudice.
If you spare proper your child proper discipline in the name of love, complain not when you are child does not turn out to be what you want him to be. When you complain about your child, look inward for explanation.
The child is the mirror of the parents. The child is the product of your parenting. Nothing comes from nothing.
When your child makes mistakes, you as the parent should let him know where he did wrong and how to be better next time. But the timing of your criticism is critical to ensure your criticism is constructive and positive. Always have in mind the well-being of the child.
If you truly love your child, DO NOT criticize him —
1. in public
2. when the child is already full of regret for what he has done
3. before the child goes to bed
4. at meal time
5. while the child is having a good time
6. when the child is crying
7. when the child is sick
These rules go for anyone, not just for children.
Is it ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or behavior problem? Parents, try behavior management before heading to the doctor’s office. Medicine may seem an easy solution, but good discipline will last longer.
(1) Daily routine, having boundaries and consistency in expectation
(2) Positive reinforcement for the effort made not just for the result
(3) Clear rules, instructions, and expectations
(4) Consistent consequences to unwanted behavior
(23) Philanthropy. Teach the child the importance of engaging in philanthropy work and develop in her the habit of giving as a social activity. Set an example for the child by volunteering time into charity work
(24) Focus on the present. While the past is gone and the future is not here yet, present is all we have right now. Only by focusing on the present can we not only fully enjoy life but also have a better chance of a future in which we are less tortured by regrets for having wasted time.
(25) Enjoy life. While we work hard to prepare for the future, don’t forget to enjoy what life has to offer now.
(26) Seek a goal in life. Have a goal and work toward it, be it in career or in health or in family.
(27) Learn how to develop and maintain an intimate relationship. Learn to resolve conflicts by open communications, understanding, and compromising.
(a) Teach the child to live within his means instead of living on borrowed money;
(b) put aside a little of the income into a saving account;
(c) plan well for any big purchase, e.g. if a child wants to buy an expensive item, teach him to set a saving goal, say $10 per week, and wait till he has saved enough for the purchase.
(17) Learn to budget.
(18) Expense. Teach your child how to pay bill.
(a) Before making a purchase, always compare at least two stores the quality and price of the goods;
(b) Avoid waste of any forms;
(c) Avoid impulsive shopping;
(d) Eat home cooked meals whenever possible
(e) Avoid shopping sprees, especially during holiday season
(21) Debts. Teach your child the responsibility of a loan, how to avoid getting into unnecessary debts or getting deeply in debts. Learn how to use credit card.
(9) A kind heart which is filled with good wishes for others, with which you are ready to extend your helping hand to the needed.
(10) Listening and understand what others are saying and how others feel.
(11) Communication. Good oral and written communication skills are very essential to a child’s success. Schools are not designed to help students develop strong communication skills. Hence, you should help your child to develop this skill at home.
(14) Clean and orderliness. The child should learn to keep his room clean and in good order. Carry out a weekly or monthly cleaning.
(15) Organizing. Teach the child to be organized, put things back to where they belong after the child uses it, and establish a proper procedure in completing a task.
(4) Motivation, the start of everything. Nobody can push you forward all the time. Your self-motivation is the ultimate push and energe to your goal.
(5) Efficiency. Learn to manage your time. If it must be done, do it without procrastination. Don’t always wait till last moment.
(6) Passion. Find out what you are interested in and good at, and want to spend as much time on it as you are allowed. Go for your passion at full speed.
(7) Cooperation. Learn to work with others and aim at a win-win result. Make friends in competition.
(8) Empathy. Learn to see situation from other’s perspective, to put yourself in other’s position so that you will be able to gain a better understanding of others.
I might not go into great detail on each of them, as I myself have not learned all of them yet. To be sure, it is hard for the children to learn them all, especially if the parents cannot claim to have done them all.
(1) Critical thinking ability. This is not something you learn at school, which confirmity is the norm and you are not encourage to challenge authority. Both teachers and employers like obedient students and employees. But if you don’t want your child to become someone who only know how to follow the rules and obey authority, you need to teach the child this crucial skill — critical
(2) Read to develop the ability to make associations, to determine the reliability of the information presented by the author, or decide if the conclusion is logic and truthful, and finally engage in dialogue or debate with the author.
(3) Stay positive. Especially in time of setbacks or hardship or facing obstacles, instead of complaining, actively seeking solutions, maintain self-confidence and do everything to keep at bay negative thoughts.
A friend of mine sent me the above on 1/4/2013. I am sure I have read something similar to that effect, but good things always worth repeated attention.
Here’s the list in English:
(1) critical thinking ability
(2) reading comprehension
(21) debt or loan
(24) seek the moment
(25) enjoy life
(26) have a goal
(27) develop intimate relationship
I read this article on 12/27/2012, “Parents: are you part of the bullying problem? Take this quiz” by Dr. Claire McCarthy. The author reports that at least one in ten middle school students reports being bullied, which is more than I have thought before.
Very often, the hurt and the damage to the kids will put them at the “a higher risk of mental and physical problems long after the bullying has ended.” Here are some of the questions the author asks in the article.
Are you part of the problem? Answer these questions:
(1) When you want your child to do or stop doing something, do you every use phrases like “don’t act like a sissy” or “you throw like a girl!” or ‘you’re getting fat”?
(2) Is “tough love” part of how you parent?
(3) Do you spend limited time talking to or being with your child?
(4) Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullied–and not said or done anything?
(5) Have you ever wondered if your child might be bullying someone–and not said or done anything?
(6) Do you praise your child for being aggressive?
(7) Would you be proud of your child for being successful and popular–even if you suspected he or she might be bullying people?
(8) Do you ever talk about other people in a demeaning way in front of your children?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may indeed be part of the problem. It’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself and your parenting, and make some changes.
A few more questions:
(9) Do you know the signs that a child might be a victim of bullying?
(10) Do you know the signs that a child might be a bully?
(11) Have you talked to your child about cyberbullying–and about what they do online?
(12) Do you regularly tell and show your child that you love them no matter what?
If you answered no to any of those, it’s time to start learning, talking, thinking and feeling.
I remember when my son was little, I taught him math. As the result he could do multiplication when he first entered primary school. When he got good grades, I told him it was because he was smart. “If you are smart, you are supposed to be ahead so that you can help those lagging behind.” With this story, he has lived up to this belief and has succeeded in graduating from one of the top institutions of higher education majoring in mathematics. Even if, at some point in his life, he is behind others, with this story, he is more likely to see himself in front of a group.
To be sure, this story-telling practice is not a modern invention. Humankind started telling stories since the most remote past in human history. Before written languages were invented, story-telling was the primitive and primary means that humans passed on to the next generation knowledge, experience and values.
Good stories, like the one told by this Jewish boy, play a positive role in a child’s life, as they are crucial in forming a high self-esteem in a child and contributing to his success. Nothing boosts a child’s self-esteem more than winning a hard-to-win competition or living up to a high expectation or solving a hard-to-crack problem or having met a tough challenge.
On the other hand, nothing ruins a child’s self-esteem and exerts long-term damages on his life more than starting his life with no story or sad story like telling him that he has not measured up because he is not that smart or because he is a loser or because he is not worthy.
To be sure, we all write our story with our life’s experience. Be it an epic voyage or a colorful journey, our story all starts from our first home, with our parents being the first narrators.
In the broadest sense, the stories that the parents tell the children define what is, what should be, and what shall be. They shape the way children see the world, explain cause and effect, give meanings to their experience now and later.
Furthermore, these stories embody the values that the parents hold and hope to pass on to their children. Sociologists call this social construction of reality. That is, we live in the world of reality that is initially constructed by our parents and is taken over by us as we grow older.
The stories always have heroes or heroines who are expected to conquer a mountain or to take a journey or to fight a battle or to reach a goal or to fulfill a promise or to complete a mission or to live up to an expectation. They invariably follow one of the master plots of all novels, that is, the hero of the story is going to take the journey.
These stories make up a large part of one’s childhood experiences. The memories of these early life experiences will continuously be interpreted by the child as he grows. They lay the foundation for beliefs about oneself and one’s self-confidence, convincing the child’s general competence or incompetence.
These childhood experiences can be translated into a set of assumptions about oneself and an explanation of why one succeeds or fails.
To be continued…
This is the second column that I am going to write for our local paper. I would like to share it with my readers here first.
When I was teaching sociology courses in 1990s, there were a few Jewish boys who were top students in my class. Still, they wanted to be better than the best. Once I asked one of them, “You are already the best. Why do you still work so hard?”
He answered, “You know, since God gave me such a smart head, I would waste it if I don’t use it.” With this belief and this positive attitude, this boy will without a doubt claim top prize no matter where he goes in the future.
Sociologists call it self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, if you believe you are smart, you act on your belief by working hard. And of course, the hard work will reward you top prize, which further confirm your belief.
As a teacher and a parent, I have been marveled at the power of belief on the one hand. On the other hand, I was wondering how this idea got into his head? Who told him God had given him a smart head instead of a dumb one?
We all know it was not from God directly. It was most likely from his parents or rather from the stories that his parents told him when he was little. It is this story that has motivated him to work hard and it will continue exerting impact throughout his life.
To be continued…
“Smoking has been identified as the primary reason for the gap in healthy life expectancy between rich and poor. Among men, smoking is responsible for over half the excess risk of premature death between the social classes.”
“Smoking is the principal cause of the inequalities in death rates between rich and poor. Put simply, smoking is a public health disaster.” Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, posted on nice.org.uk site
The smoking habit is more often found among lower class than among upper and middle class. Very often, this habit is passed on from parents to the children. Same pattern can be said of alcoholism, drug addiction and other undesirable habits. Look at Whitney Houston’s daughter.
It is extremely crucial that parents rid themselves of any bad habits if we don’t want to see them in our children.
My sister told me her son used to ask her about his math problem. Sometimes, the boy understood it but still needed his mother’s confirmation. It sounds like he needs more confidence in his own ability. This reminds me of an incident when my son was about three years old.
When he was small, I used to buy lego toy for him, big block at first. I could see he was trying to piece two together. If one side was not working, he turned and tried the other side. After some twisting, he finally plugged one block on another. He was happy figuring out by himself.
Around age three, I started buying small size lego, which was more challenging. At first, I showed him examples by piecing them together to make a car or a house. He was sitting there watching me and would not trying making something by himself.
What happened was he thought he could not make something as I did or could not make as well as I did, so he would rather have me build and then he would play with what I built.
When I looked back, I realized a trap that parents are likely to fall into. On the one hand, parents want to help their children; on the other hand, if they help too much, it is very easy to overwhelm the children with parents’ ability, which can potentially defeat the child’s desire to try or damage their confidence in themselves.
It’s better to leave children alone and let them figure out how to play. Sometimes, by doing too much for the children in the name of love, the parents accidentally deprive the children of the opportunity to play and learn and to build their confidence in doing things by themselves.
On 3/13/2012, I read an interesting news about French President Sarkozy who apologizes for his son’s throwing tomato prank.
His 15-year-old son Louis Sarkozy and a friend “chucked a tomato and a pellet at the policewoman from the Elysee Palace, police sources said.”
I feel a bit disappointed when I learned of this. I used to think Sarkozy is a great politician and must be an equally great parent to his children. At least, he must be a good role model for them.
I guess not. People can be great politician and a not-so-great parent at the same time. I guess probably because he is too busy with big matters and has ignored his children’s proper upbringing.
My first writing came out on 3/3 KCStar newspaper. To my surprise, I received some emails from work. I have to confess that I myself seldom read newspaper and thought others were like me, going online for any news, without ever buying the newspaper.
I feel encouraged by the nice compliments that they sent to me. One person thanks me for the gentle reminder of parents responsibilities to their children. Of course, that article also reminds people of sacrifice that their parents made for them.
One friend even asked if I were the mother in the story. Of course not. But I do share one thing with that mother, that is, the gift that I give to my children. That gift is time. Considering life is nothing but time, time is the most precious gift that a parent can give to the children. Yes, there is another gift that a parent can always give to the children, that is, be a good role model.
A colleague of mine enjoys spending time with her young grandchildren, all under age two. When we talk about children, there seem to be a consensus, that is, we all agree the younger the children are, the easier it is for parents and the most difficult period is those teenage one.
Most people tend to focus on the rebellious part of teenagers, deliberately choosing east when you say “Go west.” Or they become adult-like physically but less than an adult mentally. As a parent, I often feel torn between the desire to encourage their independence, mentally at this point, by debating or arguing with them and the need to cultivate respect to adult and elderly without demanding total obedience to authority.
To be sure, debating with or even conversations with teenagers can be rather exhausting sometimes, so much so that you wish your teens could be a bit docile and just accept your authority. But in the long run, parents help their children to hone their debating skill and critical thinking ability, which will benefit them in their adult life.
It is so much easy to raise obedient children than one who always test your authority, argue or bargain with you on every issue. But you know what, for the future of our children, we should encourage debate, argument, bargaining instead of trying to knock the sharp angle off the children, rendering them incapable of nothing but succumbing to authority.
Last Saturday, on the way back from Barnes & Noble where my daughter stayed for the afternoon working on Acadec preparation, I asked her a question. What would you do to a child if he, after throwing a temper, refused to do his work? She said “That sounds like me. Are you sure you are not talking about me?”
“Would you let the child play since he would not study and you might as well let him have some good time?” I asked.
“No, that sounds like encouraging the child to throw a temper, knowing the consequence would be play time,” she said.
“I would let him play because he would be in good mood after some fun time. Then you can talk to him and he is more willing to listen when he is in good mood.” I explained.
“That makes sense. After all, you still need to talk to him,” she agreed.
Another reason is this. The fact that you let the child play instead of punishing him for throwing a temper demonstrates your kindness and forgiving, which should in turn touch the child and creates a sense of guilt for having behaved badly, that is, if the child is good. Sometimes, punishment can yield opposite result. I would use it sparingly in good children.
It may make you feel good when you scream out your frustration.
It may make you feel good when you throw out hurtful words without any regards toward other people’s feeling.
It may make you feel good when you smash at something hard to let out your anger.
It may make you feel good when you always have the last word in quarrel.
It may make you feel good when you solve your problem with a powerful fist.
It may make you feel good when you indulge yourself in your favorite unhealthy food.
It may make you feel good when you smoke as you are so addicted to.
It may make you feel good when you drink as an alcohol does.
It may make you feel good when you lie in bed instead of venturing out in the morning.
It may make you feel good when you are just purely selfish.
But you know what, do the right thing always, because, by the end of the day, doing the right thing will make you a good person and that should make you feel good.
If you ask why I write this piece, it is because I am fed up with too many selfish persons.
I heard of this saying regarding raising a boy when I was in China. In English, it means something like this — “Don’t spoil a boy” or “Raise a tough boy.” The belief behind it is a boy should be raised in such a rough manner so that, when he grows up, he can shoulder life’s hardship, either physial or psychological ones.
On 12/3, after her SAT test and upon hearing her complaining of the temperature at the test center, I told my daughter this. She said it was such a sexist view as if boys and girls were different and should be raised differently.
“Well,” said I, “I’m not a sexist. That’s why I have raised both you and your brother in the same way and expect both of you to tough it out instead of complaining over minor physical discomfort. She got my message.
Back in 2007, I read an article in Chinese on over-controlling parents. I have kept this article all the time. Now I am going to deep six it after this posting.
(1) Interfere in children’s play time
(2) Always tell children what they should eat
(3) Say too much over children’s dress
(4) Tell children how they should do their homework
(5) Bargain with children’s teachers about grade
(6) Teach children how to compete
(7) Frequently call children during day time
(8) Ask children to report the happenings at school in detail
(9) Peep in children’s privacy
(10) Have decided what college they should get into when children are in elementary school
If you find yourself possessing all of these controlling signs, I would suggest you go to see a psychiatrist for your own mental disorder. No mentally unhealthy person can become a sound parent.
On 8/4/2011, I chatted with a monitor from Wisconsin. She has two boys. Unfortunately, the first one is autistic. Even worse is the second one who is perfectly normal wants to behave like he were also autistic, doubling the amount of work for the parents.
I am sure the second child will grow up normal like the rest of us, only he has an autistic elder to emulate in his childhood and that definitely has a huge impact on his life.
This incident reminds me of the theory on birth order. What would happen if the younger one were autistic instead of the older one? Will the older one emulate his autistic younger brother or will he become mature early and assume some responsibility in helping his parents taking care of his younger brother? I have no doubt the result would be vastly different from what it is now.
Yesterday when I was at Barnes & Noble’s bookstore with my daughter, I met another Chinese parent with two boys, the elder one being first year of high school.
When talking about her children, she had a rather laissez-faire style, getting as little involvement as possible, allowing the children to develop freely.
“Have fun in high school. Enjoy your high school life,” she thus encouraged her child. “I don’t need the children to bring honor to the family. After college, they are on their own,” she said.
I was very impressed by her light-hearted and easy-going approach, a sharp contrast to Tiger Mom. Then again, she reminds me of a relative of mine who adopted similar parenting attitude when her son was young and had to continue providing for her son’s care many years after college.
I am 100 percent sure that I have posted this piece before, but on reading it again, I feel strongly that this should be out one more time. Simply because I love it. I hope I could commit it to memory, though mine gets short.
(What a parent should be to his/her children)
A place they can search for comfort.
Eyes they can look at and trust.
A hand they can reach out and clasp.
A heart that understands and doesn’t judge…
A place they can search for comfort.
Eyes they can look at and trust.
A hand they can reach out and clasp.
A heart that understands and doesn’t judge.
Someone they can lean on and learn from.
A source of wisdom and loving advice.
A million memories in the making.
A precious companion on the path of life.
A door that is always open.
A caring, gentle hug.
A time that is devoted to family alone.
A reflection of love and wisdom.
This is from what I wrote long ago when my son was still a baby. I don’t even remember where I got it, but I believe there must a reason for me to keep it. Words associated with an ideal home are the following–
providing good role models,
feeling safe and secure,
feeling unique and special.
I am not sure I have provided this ideal one for my children, giving my easy-to-boil temper. At least, I have tried. No regret.
The CEO in our practice says in our newsletter, “My job was to give the great people who worked for me a chance to be successful–to give them the tools to be successful–and let them flourish, even in hard times. Seth Godin says that the role of a supervisor is to be a librarian/coach, not a teacher/limiter/taskmaster. It’s the same with my kids I think. I do have to set boundaries occasionally, but in the long run it is about giving them the chance to try things, to be successful, but also to fail. My job is maybe to pick them up, or boost them up, but not to pre-judge what I think they cannot do.”
I can’t believe he could come out with so much wisdom. This tells a lot about both being a parent and being a boss. While employees need rules and policies, they also need room to grow and develop their full potential. Same can be said of children. It is a real challenge to the parents to provide children with advice and guidance without imposing undue amount of restriction and limitations at the same time.
On 1/29/2011, Saturday afternoon, I was at HyVee reading magazine Scientific American. There is an article by Lera Boroditsky, “How Language Shapes Thought–The Language We Speak Affect Our Perceptions of the World.”
“In recent years empirical evidence for this causal relation has emerged, indicating that one’s mother tongue does indeed mold the way one thinks about many aspects of world, including space and time. The latest findings also hint that language is part and parcel of many more aspects of thought than scientists have previously realized.”
This is no surprise when considering the fact that language is but an instrument, with which we think, express and communicate to each other. Different instrument will naturally yield different result. However, no matter what instrument you use as a parent, the more you use it with your youngsters, the sharper their minds will become. So, talk with them as much as you can.
On the Saturday morning of 7/30, the heat finally let down in its intensity as the long-waited rain finally blessed the dry-hit land. I knew weeds had grown out of control in my backyard garden during the time when I was in China. Since I got back, I had not done anything about it because of the hot weather and dryness of the land. Now with the rain and the cool day, it was the good time for me to work on the yard.
Oh boy, in just a few weeks, the weeds had grown taller than my waistline and it was so hard to yank out just a tiny part of them. Yet, I had to do something about the weeds as some of them had already yielded seeds and might be soon spreaded far and wide, which meant a whole lot extra labor.
As I was hard at work over the weeds, I thought of the similarity between gardening and parenting. Weeds will grow wild when the garden is left unattended. When children are left without parenting, they will be free to develop. There is a strong possibility that some of them will go wild like these undesirable weeds.
The moral lesson is parenting is like gardening. Both need constant tender loving care. No shortcut. Hard work, whichever way you look at.
Make no mistake the man behind the 911 event deserved a thousand of death. Yet, there are something lurking in the back of my mind that is disturbing.
Number one, like typical government behavior, there is an obvious lack of transparency. Present is a quick killing and corpse disposal and their labored coverup soon after and plenty of excuses. Why? What was it that Obama tried to cover up? This opens itself to all kinds of speculation.
Number two, the killing could be justified if acted upon self-defense, which doesn’t appear to be. Sounds like it is okay to kill as long as you can find good excuse. NO.
Number three, if anyone can act like a judge, able to determine the life and death of another human being, let’s just do away with our court system and save tons of money. NO.
The last implication is most disturbing. That is, honesty and consistency in parenting. When we demand total honesty from our children, we try to cover up something, which is a dishonesty to me. When we don’t enforce the same standard to all, we are inconsistent. Same thing happens when we say “God bless America” only. I always want to replace it with God bless all. Why not?
By the end of the day, what should we honestly say to the children? Throw honesty out of window? Ask Obama.
I have been constantly amused and surprised by the stupidity of some parents, in that parents maintain a strong self-centeredness or parent-centeredness. For example, a parent would say, “I don’t like what you did” or “I don’t like what you said.” The parent said this as if the teenager cared what the parent liked or not.
Even though it is okay for the parents to express their like or dislike, parents should realize their responsibility is NOT to make the teen understand and accept what their parents’ like or dislike, BUT to develop in the teen the sense of right and wrong and consequently their own like or dislike.
Instead of telling the teen “It is wrong,” ask your teen children what they think. Remember it is what the teens think that matters, not what the parents think.
It was high time that parents understood that their like or dislike or what they think is no longer the center or the rule of teen’s behavior. It is time to ask what the teen children think. Nothing pronounces more loudly of the failure of our parenting if the children were unable to think for themselves by the time they turned teenagers or they were ready to leave for college.
Don’t become despaired if your little ones lack of self-control. The research also yields some cheerful result. That is, self-control can be learned.
“Children in the study who improved self-control on their own as they grow older reported fewer health and criminal behavior problems than those who remained impulsive.”
The message to parents should be this — self-control is the key. While it is a piece of cake to teach your children self-control when you work with easy targets, the real challenge crops up when you have to face those headstrong, impulsive, extremely disobedient ones. I remember one parent commenting on a difficult case, “I’d rather live some more years than bothering myself with this recalcitrant child.”
If you are a responsible parent, you should do what is good for the children in the long run, even if it often means a hugely unpleasant moment. If it is a battleground, it worths the fight, for your child’s future.
On 1/30/2011, I read a report on child behavior carried on Time magazine. It is called “Self-control: The Key to Health and Wealth” and I would add one more to proper parenting. Here are the result of the new research.
“A lack of self-control during youth may predict health problems, less financial stability and a criminal record by adulthood.”
The research shows “…kids who scored lowest on measures of self-control–those who were more impulsive and easily frustrated and had the most trouble with delaying gratification or waiting their turn in line–were roughly three times as likely by adulthood to report having multiple health problems and addictions, earning less than $20K a year, becoming a single parent or committing a crime than kids with the most self-control.”
On 3/19, on the way to her drawing lesson, I told my daughter it was difficult to serve her. In Chinese, it means,
Next I gave her some examples, which she admitted and promised to improve in this regard.
I have seen some high maintenance kids who are very particular about the way their meals are served and the special way they dress, which must be followed to the letter. A friend of mine had to buy meals for their son because they could not cook American food for him and he would not eat Chinese food.
High maintenance not only means more expense but also implies a lack of flexibility, in that it is difficult for these kids to make adjustment when they land in a new environment. Hence, wise parents know better than raising high maintenance kids.
I once shared this with my daughter, which she agreed heartily. If a parent notices something not right in her child, like some undesirable habit or something in the child’s temperament or character or even bad behavior, she should make great efforts to help the child improve or make change for the better. If she does not do it while the child is young, it is like seeing a young misshaped tree without doing anything to set it straight. Imagine how difficult, if it is ever possible, to straighten a mature tree.
I have seen adults with hard-to-change bad habit or defect in personality, like too shy or awkward socially or too lonely to make friends, which hurt their career or their relationships, and from which they suffer most. I once had a colleague back in 1999, a smart one in his mid-30s, shy and quiet. I learned that both he and his big brother had a hard time finding a date. I could easily see why. I am sure early intervention would have raised individuals with a rather different life experience.
A parent would do her child a lifelong disservice if she fails to straighten up her young child.
I read a report on a study on 10/11/2010, “Too much TV psychologically harms kids.” People have been thinking on the same line for a long time. It is simply a commonsense for all responsible parents not to let their children indulge in too much TV.
“The study, published in the US journal Pediatrics, found that kids who spend hours each day in front of the TV or games console have more psychological difficulties like problems relating to peers, emotional issues, hyperactivity or conduct challenges, than kids who don’t.” “… the negative impact of screen time was not remedied by increasing a child’s physical activity levels, says the study conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol in Britain.”
“The researchers found that children who spent two hours or more a day watching television or playing on a computer were more likely to get high scores on the questionnaire, indicating they had more psychological difficulties than kids who did not spend a lot of time in front of a screen.”
Earlier studies indicate that “Excessive use of electronic media is not a concern if children are physically active.” But the latest findings indicate that might not be the case, and the researchers advise parents to limit their children’s computer use and TV viewing time to ensure their “optimal well-being.”
Enough has been said. Now time for action, that is, time for the parents to do what is good for their little ones, even if it means some unpleasant moments.
On 11/7/2010, Sunday evening, while talking to my sister over the phone, we touched the topic of being smart. I said I was considered the least smart in our family. My sister asked how I got the idea that I was not as smart as others. I said, “I just remember people often praised both of you and commented how smart you were. I am the one who was often scolded for getting into trouble. Compliment words were very foreign to me at that time.”
My sister said that it was not true. She admitted that obedient child often received more praise from adults, while troublesome ones received opposite treatment.
From this I thought of some possibilities. Probably when parents often praise one child in front of another, a message is sent to both children — the one who is not left out gets the message that she is not as smart or as worthy as the other one. I must be that unfortunate one and that how I got the idea that I am not as smart as my siblings.
Interesting to know. I hope parents can learn something from this.
On 9/22/2010, a Wednesday, the company issued some new policies. One of them deals with Personal Electronic Devices, like cell phone, MP3, radio, and stuffs that make sounds. To be sure, the new policy is rather stringent, to say the least, so much as that some people started talking about how to circumvent the new policy or find loophole for its violation.
This, of course, reminds me of the early 1920s Prohibition law on alcohol in the U.S. Any time you have something which is either too stringent or not feasible to enforce, you end up making people wonder how to break the law instead of how to follow it, which runs against the original motive behind the making of these rules and regulations. So is it true with any rules that parents create and try to enforce on the children. It takes a matured mind and understanding on the part of parents to lay out feasible rules for their children.
Examples of stringent rules on children include the following:
–No computer under any circumstances
–Zero phone chat with friends.
–No TV anytime
Here are a friendly version on these rules.
–No computer play before you finish your homework and after your bedtime.
–Limit chatting with friends to 30 minutes per call and twice per day
–Watch TV only on weekend after homework
Skillful communication is very crucible to a better relationship with your teen children. Nothing is truer than this. Here are some examples.
Instead of saying to your teenage children “You are wrong,” ask them what they think and why they think this way. No one likes judgmental statement, even if he knows he is wrong. Imagine how you feel when your boss told you “You are wrong.” After all, the purpose here is not to make one feel bad but to help the child see the reason.
Instead of telling them “I don’t like what you have said,” ask them for their explanation. This way, you focus on and show interest in them, which sounds a lot better than simply expressing how you think, as if you only care about your own like or dislike. This also stimulates the youngsters to think and express themselves logically and reasonably.
Instead of saying “Clean the dish for me” or “do this for me,” come out with something that will emphasize the benefit to them if they do it. For example, “I will have time to help you out if you could help me.” Or “It will do you a great service if you could do this.”
Some may argue, “Don’t I have the right to say what I think?” Yes, you do and you have to right to say whatever you want. But don’t forget you also have the right to decide the quality of your relationship with your teen chilldren and the impact of your communication style. You have the right to either extinguish or add fuel to a simmering fire. Think of your parental responsibility before you talk of your right.
It takes a huge amount of wisdom and sometimes maturity to be a better communicator. You will be good at it as long as you are willing to learn and be a better parent.
I heard many times complaints about teenage children by their middle-aged parents, that is, issues of lack of common language, decreasing communications, and presence of mutual misunderstanding.
To be sure, teenage is the period when the children start spending more time away from family. They are practically getting ready for the moment when they hit 18 and move into college, the final physical separation from their first home.
This is also the time when most of the parents go through mid-life stage and through all related issues associated with this stage. It is not easy to keep open communications with children.
It might not be realistic to expect the children to compromise and reconcile in order to stay as close to their parents as before. Rather, it would be a win-win situation to both sides if parents could take initiatives.
One of these initiatives that parents can take is to learn or to keep themselves updated what the children are learning. e.g. if the children take history class, parents get a similar book and read with the children. This way parents will be in the position to help if help is needed. It is also beneficial to the parents’ aging brains when they learn something new. In fact, the benefits go miles beyond this in the long run.
On 9/26/2010, while waiting for my daughter’s skating, I had a nice chat with the mother of another skater. She has a wonderful child. I asked her if there were many one-child families like hers in Taiwan.
She told me one of her relatives even chose not to have any child at all, because a child means so much trouble for the parents. I told my daughter of this. She said he would feel sorry when he got old and had nobody to visit him. Indeed, you can view it as an investment to raise children. Let’s call it emotional investment, for lack of a better term. What you put in is a large part of your life, energy and money while you are young, the return being good children, a huge comfort in your old years. Very often, you must make self-sacrifice for the well-being of your children during your younger years.
The next day, a Monday morning, on my way to work, when I experienced the hardship of highway driving, I thought of this and I no longer have any complaints.
My daily drive to work runs from highway 435 to 69, then merge into 35. Highway 69 section, with two concrete walls enclosing both sides of the narrow lanes and everybody going crazily fast, makes it the most accident-prone section. I choose to use this route because it is the most time-saving route, so that I can get home early for my daughter. This is parenting, an investment into a happy future, too.
On 11/27, Saturday afternoon, I was reading at HyVee, waiting for my daughter’s art class. The picture of the smiling Kate Middleton caught my eyes as I passed through the checkout line. I took the magazine and read a few lines.
“As a young teen, she was shy and awkward, wasn’t really confident. She gradually began to blossom in high school, excelling at sports and easily making friends. … By the time she arrived at the University, the timid teen was gone, replaced by a self-assured young woman with brains and pluck who knew exactly what she was looking for in a Prince Charming.”
It is interesting that she went through the normal growing up stage from an awkward teen to a young woman full of self-confidence. This reminds me so much of the similar process that my son once went through.
Some people never complete this process of development. They never grow beyond teenage maturity, remaining all their lives timid and shy, irresponsible and lack of independence.
To be sure, it is parents’ responsibility to help their teens to successfully go through this stage and enter adulthood with due maturity, independence of mind, and a healthy dose of self-confidence and ready to lead and shoulder responsibility when they are called.
In the morning of 8/15/2010, my daughter told me she would practice piano, then learned some French. I knew she would ask me for something. Next, she asked if she could hang out with her friend in Town Center in the afternoon. I gave her okay, though I was going to say something about the quality of her piano and French. I did not say anything because I thought she knew better than otherwise.
For some little kids, they rushed through their tasks and often do a shoddy job because they can’t wait to get to the next stage — play. I always think it a good idea to get their work done before anything else. But now, I think differently.
For those children who cannot concentrate on what they should do and who do their homework with their minds on some computer game or watching TV or something else, they are better off have their share of play or fun time first. After fun, shut it off and switch to work, with nothing to look forward to after serious work.
Work and play, which should be first? Parents should be flexible in making this decision. I know I would not automatically consider work first. I would give them choice. If they choose work first, I would demand quality job before fun starts.
“You Raise Me Up To more than I can be,” was first given to us by Secret Garden from the album Once in a Red Moon, an award winning Irish-Norwegian duo, lyrics by Brendan Graham, first released in 2002. There is an obvious religious message from the song, with You referring the Lord who raises us up. Every time I hear the song, I think of parents and their role in raising the children to the level higher than themselves. Here’s the song for all parents.
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.
There is no life – no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.
You raise me up… To more than I can be.
On 7/16/2010, a nice Friday afternoon, my daughter took a long nap after school. She woke up to tell me that she had a dream in which she had some rough time with me. To be sure, the words that I say in her dream are what I often say to her in daily life.
This reminds me of the background music that is softly played all the time in my office, so much so that some of the lyrics keep ringing in my ears even after I am not in the office. I know background noise serves certain purpose, like creating relaxing atmosphere. Whatever purpose it serves, it certainly has left something indelible in my head.
My words surface in my daughter’s dream reminds me of this office background noise. As parents, we inevitably create a voice ringing in the back of children’s minds. They are like this background noise, exerting influence even after the source of this noise is cut off. My daughter often says to me before I say anything, “I know what you are going to say if I do this.” See background noise works like magic.
On 7/6/2010, I read an article by Michele Borba, Ed.,D. “Surefire Ways to Turn OFF Your Teen.” The article starts with this statement, “Talking with an adolescent can be like walking through a minefield. At any moment you could be asking what you thought was a simple, sincere question only to find it triggering an explosive response… often seems to backfire because of the type of questions asked.” The author goes on listing “7 Deadly Questions to Never Ask an Adolescent.” These questions are,
1: “So, how was your day?”
2: “Why didn’t you tell the kid to leave you alone????”
3: “What was she wearing?”
4: “Why are you sooooo sensitive?”
5: “Why did you do that?” (Even worse: “What were you thinking?”)
6: “Why didn’t you just say no????”
7: “Why don’t you just get over it and move on?”
This is pathetically preposterous! I feel awfully sorry for those parents who are literally abused and tyrannized at the hand of their spoiled teens.
No.1, I don’t see anything wrong with any of these questions. Nothing offensive to me.
No.2, even if a parent asks a “wrong” or “unwise” question, does it warrant the explosive response from the teen child? Don’t parents deserve due respect? Why do these teens have zero tolerance toward their parents?
No.3, the fact that teenagers go through touchy, sensitive stage is not the excuse for their lack of respect toward their parents who are as much human as themselves.
No.4, why is it that parents ask the child “How was your day” and the child never cares to ask his/her parents the same question? I am fed up with the selfishness of these teens, as if the whole world turns around them. For all their lives, the parents have loved and cared for them, but they have not learned to love and care their parents. Isn’t that ridiculously wrong?
To be sure, teens with problems are tiny minorities. Even with these problematic teens, parents still need to put their foot firmly on the ground and not allow the teen to trample upon them. They deserve better treatment than this.
What I see is nothing but a bunch of spoiled teens who have not learned the proper way of communicating with their parents, who do not care hurting their parents, and who are actually the products of bad parenting, so tragically popular now.
Continued from yesterday’s posting. That article provides three advice to those who feel a strong urge to issue instructions.
(1) When you feel you have to say something, take a deep breath before you criticize. Hopefully, a deep breath could hold your tongue back to where it belongs.
(2) Imagine how you would react if the tables were turned. In fact, a lot of problems can dissolve if we can put ourselves in other’s shoes.
(3) Give advice to those who truly appreciate it. In this case, your advice is not unwanted and unwelcome any more. Keep your advice to yourself, no matter how valuable it may seem to you, if the listener refuses to lend your a ear.
This is also from reading Psychology Today on 7/3/2010. There is an article on the psychology of unwanted backseat drivers, which reminds me of being the parent of a teenage child.
A backseat driver is defined as the person who dispenses “helpful advice – in car or elsewhere” and who often ends up being annoying, not to mention distracting and totally unwelcome.
Backseat drivers are like parents, however well-intentioned, likely to provoke irritation. The implication of backdrivers is this– I don’t trust you to handle this on your own.
The psychologist explains that when the backseat drivers exercise unwanted authorities, they are often acting out of their own fear of the unknown. They offer unsolicited advice in an attempt to combat their own feelings of powerlessness.
Psychologists often make things sound more serious than they really are. At least, I am getting better at finding out when I should zip up my mouth to a teenage child, much as I am eager to dispense my well-thought-out advice. In fact, I have learned being a backseat-driver-parent more often than not means asking for trouble.
On Memorial Monday, 5/31, I took my daughter to a local hair service store. The day was hot and uncomfortable. When I tried but failed to find a shaded spot for my car, I made this comment, “When people seek shade under a scorching sun, they need to remember how much work that has been involved in developing a big tree with a huge lovely shade. Can you think of the analogy of tree shade?” I further asked her.
“I know what it is. You are thinking of parenting and the filial duties that children will do toward their parents when the parents are old. Only when you have done a good job of parenting can you enjoy the loving care of the children,” said she.
“Wow, excellent,” said I. “Serious? You have mentioned this before,” said she. I am sure I have. And here I am talking about the same thing again. No pain, no gain. No free lunch under the blue sky, for parents and for all of us, especially for children.
I have personally observed many cases where parents talk and beg while children ignore and defy as if the authority were on the side of the children. To be sure, children defiance can make parenting a rather harrying and even devastating experience instead of what should be a rewarding and joyful one.
I would not blame children for being too recalcitrant. A child is never born this unruly. Like all habits, it takes some time, some try-and-error and even parents’ cooperation for this type of interaction to take form. I realize it is easy to say than to actually do it. Still, parents need to put into actions certain rules in order to hinder the development of any unpleasant defiant behavior.
(1) If you ask a child three times to do one thing. STOP yourself. Set a rule. Ask once next time.
(2) Never ever tolerate any disrespect from your child. If you catch it once, set it right loud and clear.
(3) Never raise your voice. If you cannot control yourself, forget any attempt at controlling your child.
(4) Never take any negative, conflict-ridden attitude.
(5) Finally, if you are genuinely at loss, turn to your child for help. Ask him/her what he/she would do if this or that happens. Trust me they are like freshman congressman, full of ideas and opinions.
If anything, parenting, first and foremost, means self-discipline.
Continued from the posting on habits, happiness and health many days ago.
I have discovered some little ways that can guarantee surprisingly good results. That is, greet people either at work or at home or anywhere you find yourself meeting people. This works like miracle drug in relaxing atmosphere, bringing good will, putting people at ease, and most importantly making ourselves feel good.
“Good morning, Dr. … How are you?” With that, I have noticed the genuinely pleasant smile on the face of people that I have just greeted. Your sincere greeting means you are not rude and haughty enough to ignore people passing by and that you are in excellent mood to exuberate good wishes to people around. After all, who would like to be around the grumpy and grouchy ones who are full of negative thoughts and complaints?
For my dear children, you should get into the habit of greeting people no matter where you are. Do it even at home in the morning. Don’t take it as unnecessary ritual or something like that. Even if it is a ritual, it has its positive function and results. Be a missionary of peace and good wish.
I read Time magazine, 5/3/2010 issue a few days ago. There is an article that reports “The Long-Term Effects of Spanking.” The result reveals that a spank on the bottom may be the quickest and most effective disciplinary measure, yet it makes children act out in the long run.
“Spanking remained a strong predictor of violent behavior.” Instead of spanking, the report suggests that parents use time-outs, which deprives the child of any interaction and gives him a total quiet moments by himself.
Nice suggestion! We all know physical punishment will hurt the children psychologically and emotionally in the long run and we should not resort to violence toward the weaker and younger ones. But still, many parents cannot contain their own temper and shortsightedly grab the immediate gain at the cost of long-term loss. Until parents can put things in perspective and exercise good control over themselves, the children will unfortunately never be free from physical punishment. Very often, it is the parents who are in more need of discipline than their children.
The other day I watched a Chinese talk show in which parents, children and some parenting experts together watch a scene where a girl went shopping with her parents. When her demand for a new toy was not satisfied, she made a terrible scene in public drawing huge attention until her parents yielded. Seeing the triumphant smile on the face of this girl, my heart went out to her parents who seemed thoroughly beaten, tortured, lost and utterly helpless.
I am sure most of the parents have this experience in which they grudgingly give in to their spoiled children. I never have such extreme cases, but I have my share of unpleasant moments, in which we went out with a cheerful mood with all the intentions to make it a pleasant experience, but out of the store a totally opposite one took its place. Each time after the experience, I told myself that I must learn something from this and I would never go to a store without a written promise from my child that we would not do this or that. But very often, the moment we plan to go out, I am in such an excellent mood that I simply forget all this.
It takes so much discipline and never-to-forget rule for parents to ever achieve any desirable result.
On 3/18/2010, a friend of mine called and we talked a lot about education of young children. To be sure, young children are very playful by nature. One thing I remember clearly from my son’s primary school teachers is their comment on how much he liked to play. Nearly all of them are like this. I would not worry too much about this.
When looking back, I think it extremely important to work on instilling something beautiful in the minds of the youngsters. These tender young years are the best time for parents to sow this seed, so that they always have this dream of the most beautiful, of high ideal and aspiration.
When their hearts and souls are filled with this dream of something beautiful, so beautiful and great that they don’t want to give it up easily. It gives them a great pleasure to indulge in such a beautiful dream and then later will motivate them to exert great efforts to get closer to their beautiful dream. As I mention in one of my postings, family is the place where one’s vision of future, ideal of life are cultivated and formed.
To be sure, this is different from the grandiosity that Richard Nixon or some similar politicians demonstrated but something larger, broader and more beautiful than what we see in real life. Let them know life cannot be worthwhile without some transcendental value, for which they should strive for. The good part of it is when this seed is deeply rooted in their minds, they won’t stop pursuing the greatness even if you ask them to. This must be done when they are young.
The little children might have this or that undesirable places that need improvement. Yet they will all become insignificant when you think of what aspiration, ideal and goal that the young child should have for his whole life. I don’t mean to ignore the undesirable parts, but just don’t make it too much a big deal. Don’t make his life less happier because of this minor issues.
I love this poem on dream by Langston Hughes. Here it is again.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
Some parents say that the most stressful time is holiday seasons with shopping and party preparation. Since I do no shopping and am too lazy for any preparation, I find the most stressful moment is when a child asks for something and will not take no for the answer. More often than not, it is a test of will between the minor and the parent, which often constitutes daily occurrences.
Of course, one of the sure ways to avoid this kind of stress is to take a laissez-faire attitude, be a yes-man all the time. In so doing both parents and the children will have an easy time, totally stress-free.
Yet, I don’t think it is the choice for most of responsible parents. At least, I cannot sit still when I see a picky child eating all meat without any vegetables, or that child insisting on watching TV after bedtime or playing on the computer without doing what he/she is supposed to do, etc.
Moreover, with laissez-faire attitude, you will likely cultivate in your child an expectation. That is, the child will expect an yes answer and feel frustrated or even mad over a negative one.
Looking back, I think it is easy to say no when the child is small. I remember the time when my son was small and made a scene at the store when his demand was denied. I would firmly took him out of the store and avoided taking him there as long as I could. Next minute he forgot the whole thing.
But things are totally different when your child is big and seems to have a much stronger will than you do. For me, this is the most stressful part of parenting. Still, in the long run, for the children’s wellbeing, I believe parents should stand firm, with some discretions, even if it means a stressful tug-of-war.
As a nation, it is so convenient to forget this simple truth, that is, with action speaking louder than words, we don’t need to preach this or that to other nations. We simply demonstrate what we expect others to do by our deeds. We cannot expect other nations not to engage in invasion when we invade other countries. When the U.S. condemns Iran of acquiring nuclear weapon, Iran could easily say, “We will be just like you, no more no less.” What a compliment! Indeed, the best praise from our enemy is to see them emulating you.
If a parent articulates uncivilized words and behaves unreasonably toward the youngsters, the children have every reason to behave accordingly. If you spend most of your disposable time on TV or Internet or any trivial pursuits, your children will surely follow your lead toward a mediocre end. You cannot expect an otherwise behavior from your children. Parents who indulge in computer games are disgusting hypocrites when they expect their children to be someone else. Remember the saying “a child is a chip off the old block?” Well, the old block determines what kind of chip it will be.
Too much challenge to us parents not to be hypocrites, right? It is never easy to be better than ourselves.
With the global recall of Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrids car, I smell another case of blaming game, that is, people have shifted too much responsibilities unto their vehicles when they got into accidents or when they abuse their car. I have been driving Toyota since 1986, all kinds of them, and the only problem that I have is cop’s speeding tickets, which is my own problem. I believe firmly that Toyota of all models are of top quality, in spite of its recent problems. Very often, it is people’s driving habit plus 10 cups of alcohol that get them into trouble with their cars.
This is very much similar to the famous 2003 obesity suit against McDonald’s restaurants for being responsible for making people fat and unhappy. And there have been numerous class-action lawsuits by lung cancer patients against tobacco companies.
Currently there are about 43,000 people killed in fatal car accidents each year in the U.S, and the number is climbing each year, with over 40% fatal crashes being alcohol-related. Until people take responsibility for their own lives, stop drink-and-drive, text-and-drive, and all other forms of risky behavior, no matter how safe the vehicles are, there is no hope of seeing a reduction of fatal car accidents.
One step forward, for an individual, only when we stop seeing ourselves as passive victims at the hands of others and stop enlarging the power of any external forces do we start taking responsibility for our own lives and turning a new leaf in the writing of our own history. So much fresher now.
On the New Year’s Day when I shared my observations of another mother with one of my relatives in China over the internet, she pointed out an interesting phenomenon inside a family. It always seems like a rule with very few exceptions.
Very often the one who does most for the children gets least credit and least appreciation. This, at least, matches with one real life experience that I have witnessed, in which the mother wholeheartedly serves her child who, on the other hand, adores the father of the family and treats the mother as someone less equal. In this sense, such mothers play the role of un-sung heroines.
I don’t know how to explain this phenomenon, other than the father must have something that the youngster adorns and admires and the mother lacks this. One step further, in the long run, for children, what matters is not what we do for them but what we have achieved ourselves when they look back. Most people, at least young people, don’t have this maturity to appreciate silent heroines.
Still, if it is the right thing to do, do it regardless how children view it. After all, silent heroine is better than noisy un-hero. Yes, I just invent a word and I am so proud of my invention.
PS. I got back from China Wednesday evening and received a long standing hug from my daughter.
I have been fortunate to know some parents who either unduly over-praise or over-criticize their youngsters. I know of one parent who keeps saying her child is the best even if the fact points to the opposite. On the other hand, another parent always find faults with her children even if they are far better than the average. The over-critical parents must have an extremely high standard for their children, which is equally damaging to the children.
It seems a big challenge for parents to be realistic and objective about their children, as it is a rather emotionally charged topic and as with any emotional topics, people tend to get unreasonable and very subjective.
Every time I hear parents bragging out of proportion about their children, I ask myself, “What is it for? Is it for parents’ vanity or what? Is it to prove that they have been successful as the parents?” When parents deliberately ignore the stark fact, there are always some unspeakable reason behind their minds.
It would help tremendously if we understand perception influences and often becomes reality. Until we can get closer to reality and confront with the unpleasant truth, we cannot expect to initiate any change for the better.
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While chatting with some of my long-time classmates, as early as our Preschool/Kindergarten years, we inevitably shifted the topic to parenting. We shared a similar family background with our parents serving in the army and dedicating their whole lives to the revolutionary cause, giving no thought of proper parenting of their youngsters, so typical of parents in those years.
Our parents gave us the least attention while we needed them most. Talk about proper guidance and nice things like these! Many of us got into the field of learning which least fit us and changed careers later in our lives.
Now that I become a parent, I want to do my share of duty and avoid the same experience in my children as I see it as the mission of a parent to discover what the children are interested in and where their natural aptitudes are and guide them through their formative years.
To be sure, nearly all parents throughout generations have the best intention for their children, but the results are so much different, subject to so many unpredicatable factors resulting from their personality, environment, and parenting style.
I like this well-known saying uttered by this classmate of mine, “Sow mellon, reap mellon; sow bean, reap bean.” So is it true with parenting, so is it with older children when they should know better than being stupid with their time.