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August 18, 2011

Taking a Lesson from History for Parenting Tips

How far would you go to make sure you are raising your children to the best of your ability? I noticed that for many of my Asian friends, it is all about being able to provide their children with the best education they could afford. For them, it means thousands of dollars spent on music or dance lessons every year in addition to private tutoring sessions to make sure their kids are always the top of their classes. A few of my friends have even moved to another city so that their kids could enroll in a particular school district and thus obtain access to the best teachers possible. Some of my American (Caucasian) friends think it is ludicrous that any parents would do that. "Moving to another city so that my child could attend a particular school, that's the most absurd thing I have ever heard," a friend commented. Although I must mention here that she had no problems putting her kids in private schools. When I look at these two groups of parents, I think that the different approach to education is really a distinction that comes from cultural differences but not necessarily our views of how important education is for our children. We all want our children to succeed in life. We have come to equate the amount of education one receives with how successful one will be in life and career. People who succeed without the benefit of education are often looked upon as the exceptions of the rule. As such, it seems obvious to everyone that if you want your child to go far in life, you want to provide them with the best education possible.

You must be wondering what education has to do with the image of a Chinese man I have included in this post. Well, this is painting of Mencius. He was a famous Chinese philosopher born in 372 BC. The reason why I want to bring his name into the discussion of parenting is not because I thought he had some great tip I could share with you, but rather, I want to share with you the story about his mother. There is a famous story about Mencius' Mother moving 3 times while he was growing up.

At first, Mencius' family lived beside a cemetery. On day, his mother noticed that young Mencius amused himself by acting out the various scenes he witnessed at the cemetery. Mencius' mother realized that effects of living beside a cemetery had her child, they then moved to a house in the market place. However, the move did not have the positive impact she had hoped for. The boy took to playing the part of a salesman, boasting about his wares and bantering with customers. His mother then went on a search for a new home. She found a house close by a public school. There, her child's attention was drawn to the correct manners by which the scholars were taught, His mother was at last satisfied. "This," she said, "is the proper place for my son."

Mencius' mother moved 3 times in order to find the proper environment for the sake of his upbringing. By no means am I saying that you should move to a better school district or send your kids to private schools. I am fully aware of the fact that ancient China is a far cry from modern America. What I want to do here is to take the idea of shaping children by providing them with the proper environment to a border spectrum of parenting.

I think that there are kids who behave properly and improperly everywhere you go. Sending your kids to private school will not shelter them from the ugliness of the world. They are not less likely to be bullied or made fun of simply because they are in a better school district. Since these are my beliefs, I had to come to turns with what am I going to do as a parent in order to make sure I raise decent human beings. I do not expect my children to win the Nobel Prize, I do not expect my children to become billionaires, nor do I expect them to become doctors, lawyers or rocket scientists. I do, however, expect them to be decent human beings who follow the basic laws and rules set up by the society they live in. I also hope that whatever professions they choose in life will make them happy.

Like Mencius mother, I am a firm believer that kids are deeply influenced by their surroundings. Like it or not, my kids will pick up bad habits from their friends and chances are they will also do things I do not approve of. My goal is to make sure that I give them the tools they need to make smart decisions and better choices when I am not around to stop them. One of my worries is that my kids will hang out with the "wrong crowd" of kids when they are older and act in a way that would put themselves in danger or harm other people. Taking notes from Mencius mother, my first step is to weed out bad influences in DD's life. Am I going to the extreme? Maybe I am? She is only 5 after all.

I have been members of mommies' groups since DD was 6 months old. We have made a lot of friends in the past 4 1/2 years. Many moms and kids came and went, in the end, we only stayed friends with the ones with the same core values we do. In the last year, my husband and I have made a conscious decision to not have any playdates with several moms and their children. To give you an example, one of the girls DD played with regularly acted out. She purposely threw sand the kids' faces when we met up for playdates at the park, spat in their faces as well as hit other kids. At first, the moms thought it was just temper tantrums (which is totally normal for kids, they all go through that stage). However, we noticed that the girl's behavior was growing increasingly aggressive while her mother simply looked on and did absolutely nothing to stop these type of behaviors. My first issue was that this child had physically harmed our children and her behavior was getting worst. My second issue was that the mother did not make any real attempt to address the behaviors. I understand all children go through their temper tantrum stages. My daughter went through it and it was a solid 6 months of shaking our heads in disbelief. During this difficult time, we continued to parent our child with plenty of disciplinary actions such as time outs and taking her favorite toys away until she changed her behavior and apologized for acting out. It was rough, but we did it. Thus, I can not say that I understand why this mother failed to address her child's behavior issues especially after she had harmed other kids. Although I enjoyed the company of this mother, I simply could not allow my child to continued to be abused by her daughter. I also fear that my daughter would think that her friend's behavior was acceptable because she acted out continuously and there weren't any consequences to her actions. The day that I found my daughter spitting (not on other people, but on a toy at the park) was the day that I stopped all playdates with this woman and her daughter. I feel that parenting is already such a hard task, I simply could not risk having my child pick up bad behaviors and possibly invalidate the moral and ethic values we are trying to indoctrinated in her.

After we stopped having playdates with this little girl, DD asked me many times why she could not play with her. Each time she asked me, I would recount all of the inappropriate behaviors that occurred. I would then followed up by asking her how she felt when she was mistreated (like when the girl hit her or spat on her). When I questioned DD about her feelings and if she thought those behaviors were qualities that she wanted in a friend, she agreed with me and understood why she could not have any more playdates with this little girl.

Because my daughter is only 5 years old, I am still able to choose who DD plays with. I am hoping that by making better choices in people she interacts with, she will come to understand and learn the qualities she should seek for when she makes friends on her own later on. I might not be able to walk with her every step of the way in life , but I am going to make sure that I give her all of the critical thinking skill she needs in selecting friends and make appropriate choices. I can not say that this will without a doubt ensure that my daughter never runs with the wrong crowd of kids, but at least I am able to say I tried and I did everything I could to instill in her the moral and ethic values needed to be a decent human being.


Karrieann said...

we, the parents are ultimately responsible for the upbringing of our children and for the well-being of our children.

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