Category Archives: relationship

Is There A Free Choice To Raising Children? (Part 2)

With two gifted daughters, Chua is determined to reverse one of her fears: “A remarkably common pattern among Chinese immigrants fortunate enough to come to the United States as graduate students or skilled workers over the last fifty years” (p. 25). A perfect example of a parent doing what she is supposed to do: “Saving your children from your fears and to get them to turn out the way you want them to turn out.” Chua went on to say that the first immigrant generation (like her parents) sacrifices all for children’s education, and extremely strict and rabidly thrifty; the second generation (like herself) will “typically high-achieving” but less strict; the third generation (like her two daughters) is “the one I spend nights lying awake worrying about”, Chua says, “they will feel that they have individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and therefore be much more likely to disobey their parents”–leading to disrespect and generational decline. “Well, not on my watch”, she claims. “From the moment Sophia was born and I looked into her cute and knowing face I was determined not to let it happen to her, not to raise a soft, entitled child–not to let my family fall”; “The Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.” (p. 26). So, off she goes… “Working hard [exerting effort (intense force)] to avoid what you are afraid of, to instill and perpetuate your personal beliefs, opinions and points of view in your offspring, including the need to be well thought of”.

Such default condition doesn’t just impact immigrant families. All the rules and the punishments they had in place were simply a demonstration of what every parent would do: arming me with disciplines, skills and work ethics, so their first-born-daughter would turn out.

We can judge and assess what Chua or my parents should do, or shouldn’t do all we want. It would’t change that very default condition of parenting or make it go away. Tiger Mothers or love-unconditionally-with-logic-mothers, rich or poor, Chinese, or Caucasian, as long as you are a parent, you are going to be affected by it. No parent is immune from it.

Does that mean being a parent is a bad deal? Doomed? A green light for anyone hitting a child, or calling a child “garbage” (Although, I found it strange and disrespectful at first to call a child “little monkey”, “weed”, “stinker”, or “pumpkin”–but we do it, even myself after 14 years of cultural assimilation, in American-kind-of-everyday-conversation)?

It is rather to uncover the prevailing notion that shapes our thoughts, actions, and experiences of being a parent. I have since developed a sense of compassion for all parents–yes, even for those behave abusively that I used to point finger at. It allows me to appreciate how any culture (or anyone) sees the world, and not quick to judge. Please don’t mistaken this as a permission or an endorsement for any parenting strategy. What parents do to their children, for them, the bitter sweet, the good-bad-and the-ugly are not personal phenomenon at all. Maybe they are a function of the default ordinary way that we have been related to parenting for thousand years. Maybe it is an unexamined everyday of thinking about parenting we have been unwittingly entrapped.

How about that question of is there the right way to parenting?

I don’t know if there is THE right way. Parenting is not a subject of Math. It is BEING in a relationship with another person. And relationship is not a cookie-cutter, cause-effect, linear-matter. I invite you instead of looking for an answer, creating opportunities for you to explore your relationship to parenting:

ex.plore (ik splor”) vt. [L. explore, to search out : ex-, out + plore, to cry out, wail] 1. to look into closely 2. to travel in (a region previously unknown or little known) in order to learn about its natural features, inhabitants, etc.

I like the number two definition!!  You?

Something to consider:

In our “I-based world”, we often forget that every matter consists of at least two points of view, and that they cannot be exactly the same. We see/hear things differently from each other. To simply listen to the other’s point of view, and even to ask them to share more of it, without trying to get them to have your point of view, takes you beyond the ordinary and into extraordinary relationships (Taken from CONNECTED! January, 2011, e-newsletter).

Is There A Free Choice To Raising Children? (Part 1)

It has been three weeks since an excerpt article  from the the book by Amy Chua titled, “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother” published.

At first, I felt “obligated” to weigh in on the matter. After all, I am Taiwanese (No, it doesn’t mean I am a Chinese if that’s what you are wondering. Most Asian countries are culturally-Chinese-influenced). Many commenters (well over 7542 comments through WSJ at the writing of this) and bloggers—in fact, the vast majority of the ones I have read—are aghast. Some are appalled at Chua’s parenting techniques. Others are angry because they have no desire to be lumped into Chua’s “Chinese mothers” categorization, and feel that the Wall Street Journal is simply perpetuating harmful stereotypes. A lot of hateful language directed at Chua. Just to share a few:  “This was appalling and reprehensible. Anyone viewed treating a child as she describes should be prosecuted for child abuse. Anyone who could construe that this type of behavior might be “motivation” need psychiatric evaluation. This is not a cultural issue. I am so sorry for her daughters. The woman clearly hates herself”; “I grew up in America, in a white family, with a psycho mom much like Amy, and boy do I feel bad for her kids! If I were her husband I’d divorce her”; “Chinese Mothers Are Nothing”.

Frankly, I am more curious about the blistering reactions than Chua’s methods. Why are people enraged about how one woman chooses to raise her children as if there is “the right” way to parenting.

Well, is there?!

I decided to read the book to get the whole story before judging by its cover. Reading Chua’s book was like reading documentation of my own father’s child rearing techniques. It hits home: Growing up, we were never allowed to have a playdate, nor sleepover, or video games. There were no snacks between meals–“Three meals a day is plenty”–my father would say, and he decided what two TV programs to watch per week. We were required to speak Taiwanese when we were at home, or my parents would not speak to us. The scene about fighting over practicing the piano with Chua’s daughter is also all too familiar; though, I didn’t have the gall to rip up music sheets, but at one point in protest, I played piano with my feet, and paid for it later with a fierce spanking, plus an hour of grueling squat. Comic books were prohibited. I was once caught reading them when I was in 9th grade. Six hours of kneeling on an abacus with a Bible in hand to read out loud was the punishment. My father sat across from me throughout the night till dawn. I went to school with both bruised bleeding knees.

Some would say without a doubt my parents are strict, and even abusive. During teenage years, I wrote in my journal about escaping my parents “mad house”, so they could no longer damage my spirit. I vowed I would never spank my children when I become a parent. I would reason and give choices to my children. I would praise, encourage them and never yell or punish them physically. I questioned their parenting skills, and blamed them for my failures. I fact, I know I will be an American-family-TV-shows-type-of-parent (you know a few of them, don’t you), a better kind than my parents.

What I didn’t know then was this very thing about parenting I discovered several years ago. I will call it, “default condition.” It’s like once you take on the role, “Parent”, you are immediately inherited certain thinkings, ideas, behaviors, beliefs about what being a parent is, and is not. You play the role accordingly without knowing. It acts as gatekeeper for what you can think, and do as a parent. You thought YOU can do better than, or do the opposite (as like I used to think), but the challenge is that you don’t know that you don’t know (yes, it’s mouthful) the kind of parent you become is not given by your aspiration, but the default condition, which is: “Children are property, and they belong to you. To save your children from your fears and to get them to turn out the way you want them to turn out by working hard [exerting effort (intense force)] to avoid what you are afraid of, to instill and perpetuate your personal beliefs, opinions and points of view in your offspring, including the need to be well thought of” (Taken from the workshop: Parents: Outside the Trap).

Do I have any evidence for that? Sure, I do. It is well illustrated in Chua’s story……

(To be continued…)

Family Holiday Traditions

(Taken from “Connected e-newsletter, By FamilyBy Design)

We have noticed that when we think of the holiday season we think of traditions and traditional activities. And it is not because we have holiday traditions. It is because holidays are traditions. No tradition, no holiday. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, et al, are traditions, as are all the activities associated with them.

During this time of year, we celebrate Christmas. And we cannot think of Christmas without thinking of traditions, mostly family traditions. Even if we tried, we cannot help but think of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, Christmas Eve church service, carols and other Christmas music, decorating our home with a lighted fir tree and garlands, dolls and other keepsakes, and having our family, neighbors and friends to our home for holiday food and drink. As Ray Charland said during one of our Families and the Holidays teleconversations, “It wouldn’t be Christmas without those things.”

Family holiday traditions seem to be a source of warmth and joy and also stress and upset, both of which seem to increase during the holidays. How can that be?

Well, the family part of family holiday traditions is relationship … warm and joyful.

The holi part calls for the day(s) to be sacred, pure and perfect – uh oh!

The traditions part is “long-established customs and practices that have the effect of unwritten law” (dictionary definition). And law is agreements/promises transmuted into expectations. And since our expectations are rooted in fantasies (i.e. purity and perfection), stress, upset and disappointment are unavoidable – built into the notion of The Holiday Season.

You may ask, ‘how did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do. Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof

While traditions may tell us who we are and what is expected of us, they cannot be counted on to deliver happiness and joy.

So when you and/or members of your family find yourselves upset during the holidays, there’s nothing wrong with you. It comes with the package. It’s normal and ordinary.

What may be extraordinary is being aware that traditions and traditional activities do not guarantee joy and fulfillment in your holidays. However, you can use traditions as a reminder that you can bring warmth and joy to life in your relationships and families. You can bring your unabashed expression of love and appreciation to the people you hold so dear.

We wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and a happy entry into 2011.

Familying Workshop Is Coming To Texas!!

It is with joy and excitement to announce that I will be leading the very first Familying Workshop in July!!

The journey of creating “Familying” started in 2009. Through your generous contribution and support, I was able to use the structure and the distinctions of Power and Contribution Course to discover many hidden discourses of being a parent, and how they unknowingly impact the dynamic between parents children. Another thing I realized (which is nothing new to most of us) was that how we are in relationship with others can traced back to our own relationship with our parents. Simply say, family experience is life-defining: it shapes who you are, what is possible and not possible in every relationship and every aspect of your life.

In sharing with others about Familying Initiative, I was referred to Sandy and Lon Golnick, the owner of “Relationship and FamiliesBy Design.”  The work they have started six years ago paved the path for a new paradigm, called “Familying”. I am honored to be in partnership with them, create, produce, and conduct workshops and coaching for parents who have a commitment to experience a new peace, freedom, and ease in their roles as parents.

So, stay tune!!  More details to come!!!

For Heaven’s Sake

What could be the very one thing that gives us ongoing growth and development–like sunshine and water are to flowers and plants?

I say it’s curiosity that have children grow like weeds. Did you notice I say “children” only? Most of us, the adults, seem to stop growing at one point. Maybe, that’s why we call ourselves, “Grown Up”, like we we are done, baked, cooked. No need to grow because we have already grown.

I can probably save one hundred dollars per week by putting a dollar in a jar every time my three-year-old charge asks WHY–that’s how often he asks “WHY, Hsiao-Ling?” I realized lately, when I give him an answer to his why, I might actually stop him from being curious. Another way the adults squash children’s curiosity is telling them “You don’t need to know this right now”–as my husband shared with me how his father had always said so whenever he asked WHY.

Me: Mary is coming to babysit you on Saturday.

Little Boy: Yea. Is Mary not going to see her grandpa? (Mary’s grandpa passed away two weeks ago)

Me: No. He passed away, remember?

Little Boy: Oh, he went to heaven.

Me: (not saying anything)

Little Boy: Can Mary go to heaven to see him?

Me: Maybe later.

Little Boy: Why not now?

Me: (looks at the little boy’s mommy)

Little Boy’s Mommy: Well, honey, Mary can’t go right now.

Little Boy: Why can’t she?

Little Boy’s Mommy: Because heaven is a place you go when you pass away.

Little Boy: Why is it?

Little Boy’s Mommy: That’s the way it is, buddy. (then turns to me) I am not ready to have this conversation yet.

Conversations like this sometimes could be hard for grown ups (just wait when children ask questions about sex). WHY?  Could it be we think we have all the answers (or, we think we need to have the answers)? How can you being curious when you already know the answers? Could you grow, or allow others to grow, if you already know the answers? And, how could being curious use us as parents? What impact would it have in our children’s life when we are willing to be in the not knowing?

Me: I heard your bed was wet this morning.

Little Boy: I peed peed in my pant.

Me: I thought you had your pull-ups on at night time.

Little Boy: I did. I just had a lot of pee.

Me: You sure had lots of it.

Little Boy: It’s just an accident, Hsiao-Ling.

Me: What can you do when you have an accident like that?

Little Boy: (looks at me) Clean up?

Me: (smile) You mean you help me to clean up your accident?

Little Boy: No, it’s not your mess, Hsiao-Ling. You don’t clean up my mess.

Maybe, one of the benefits of being in the wonderment to discover our children’s view about life is allowing our children to come up with their own answers to life…. that they learn to be responsible for their own actions, including accidents (which some of the adults still think you can’t be responsible for accidents–“It’s not my fault. It’s an accident!!”)

P.S. I am meeting up with a group of people this weekend, and engaging in a conversation about curiosity. Here are some questions that get you start thinking:

#  What are you curious about?
#  What have you always been curious about?
#  What are you not curious about?
#  How is life different when you are being curious or not being curious?
#  Where is choice?

Enjoy the ride!!

Out of The Trap

A mother I worked with once shared with me how guilty she felt about not been able to spend enough time with her new born and with her oldest child. She was also afraid she was beginning to resent her children. “I want to hold him, but I cannot… I don’t want him to start a bad habit of wanting to be held every time he cries… I need a break… I am a terrible mother. How could I say I need a break… how could I resent my children?… I shouldn’t even think that…”  Through her teary eyes, I saw a mother who loves her children deeply, and at the same time overwhelmed in her attempt to get her parenting job done.

Is it any easier for me who cares for other people’s children?  No, actually, it is not any easier.

“J.J. is crying. Hsiao-Ling fix it”. J.J’s two-year-old sister said to me with a frown. J.J. has been crying for ten minutes since I put him down for a nap. God knows, I really wanted to “fix” it. Hold him, rock him, give him a pacifier. Just do whatever I can to “fix” his cry so my heart could stop flinching. “It’s OK (who am I kidding, right?). J.J. is having a hard time going nite-nite. Let’s wait for another 5 minutes.”  Five minutes has gone by, and J.J. was still crying. “Fix it, Hsiao-Ling, fix it!!” Now the sister is starting to cry.  As I tip-toed to J.J.’s bedroom, he “magically” stopped crying. Whew!!

You would not believe the thoughts that went through my head during that didn’t-seem-to-end-5-minutes: I should go in there… no, I can’t… he just want some attention… if I go in there, I might spoil the baby… but just this one time… it’s ridiculous that I will spoil babies if I pick them up every time they cry… what if he doesn’t stop crying… I am going to ruin his life… is it time yet… I should know what to do…

Yes, I “should” have known, as a Professional Nanny, as someone who is trained in child development, and work with children most of my life, I should know better, right?

I am trapped in the “shoulds” and the “shouldn’ts”, can you tell? I am “shoulding” myself all over…

What I should know is what the experts say about caring for babies, and raising children: do this, don’t do that; follow these tips, but not those. Of course, some instructions work, and some don’t. Regardless how effective they are, as a parent (or a caregiver), this is probably always in the back of your mind, “Is this the right thing to do?/Am I doing the RIGHT thing?/Am I doing enough?” (Though, I am not a parent, but I experience this with my father every time when I speak with him on the phone).

What if, the overwhelming, the frustration, and the upset of being parents is caused by traditional notions of what it is to be a parent (Ah, the trap of shoulds, and shouldn’t)? And what if, it is those notions, beliefs, ideas and points of view, not children’s behaviors, shape – often negatively – our experience of being parents?

My friend’s daughter, S, just turned seventeen. When she was four, she wondered off while her mother, M, was in the Best Buy store. M was panic at first, then became frustrated. “How could she do this TO me? I just told her to stay next to me… why can’t she just listen?”  By this time, M was upset, and mad. She thought, “I am going to teach her a lesson.” M slowly walked towards to the exit door as if she was going to leave. Just as M walked by a cashier counter, she saw S!!  S thought her mother was walking out, she cried, “Mommy! Mommy!”  As they both settled back in the car, M found herself telling S how scared and worried she was, and S should never do that again. M even drove to Walmart, and pointed out the “Missing Children” poster–doing all of it, to teach a four-year-old, and hoping she would understand what she had done. S did not say a word, just sobbing. Suddenly, M realized a distance was created between them. She stopped talking, looked into Sarah’s eyes, immediately, she knew S did not mean to misbehave. M asked S, “I really don’t know what to do right now. How could I be with you now that would make a difference?” (Mind you S was only four years old at the time) S looked at her Mommy, quietly said, “Unconditional love would make a difference now.”

The nature of the default roles and responsibilities of parents is often the driving force in relating to children, which is so automatic that we don’t know that we don’t know it limits us in relating to children as human beings. Trap, isn’t it?

The possible way (I say) out of the trap is to realize you are trapped, and that you are trapped in the trap that you are in. This realization could be the key to experience peace, freedom, and ease in the roles of being parents.


Creating An Extraordinary Relationship

(Taken from “Connected e-newsletter, By Sandy and Lon Golnick)

If we were to consider that creativity has more to do with allowing something to be than with getting something to be (i.e. doing something to make something happen), we bet that we would experience more of the freedom, ease and joy that is natural to relationship.

We don’t have to do much to have our relationships be ordinary, with ordinary disappointments, upsets and frustrations. But most of us are working so hard to change those things that we have failed to notice that change is natural, that things change quite naturally. Many of us have failed to notice, or may have forgotten, that if we let something be, something else soon follows. And we may have forgotten that the way we demonstrate that we are indeed letting something be is simply to communicate it, to tell the truth about it and whatever it is we’re experiencing at the moment.

Allowing (creating) our relationships to be ordinary – when they are that way – is the entry to having our relationships be extraordinary. It is extraordinary to let an ordinary relationship be the way it is rather than try to fix it or change it.

Extraordinary relationship includes ordinary relationship and yet is not limited to it, because it also includes that which is outside of ordinary relationship. But what is extraordinary cannot be seen while we are focused on [changing] the ordinary.