If you are a parent, chances are, you would have experienced a bombardment of parenting advice, whether from parenting books you read, parenting courses you attend, well-meaning friends, relatives, or even strangers on the street.
If you have been a parent for a while, by now, you should know that some advice conflict with others. The truth of the matter is that if you place all the theories side by side, you will realise that they indeed conflict with each other. While some are completely at odds with one another, other theories overlap here and there but yet never seem to agree as well. So we all end up thoroughly confused, like the story of the old man and the donkey.
Among the smorgasbord of parenting advice, there are two which I feel are the best advice I have received. Some parenting advice are like foundational pillars of parenting wisdom, e.g. putting your trust in God and seek Him for wisdom. These are the advice that will apply through all situation, all kinds of parents, all kinds of kids. And if we keep our eyes on them, we will not get lost in the world of parenting confusion.
1. Consider Your Face Already Lost
This particularly applies to our culture where face is important. We do all sorts of things to save face. When we are embarrassed, we lose face.
Think about this : why are we so anxious that our children behave well, do well in school, or go to the best brand name schools, etc. Basically we hope that our children are exemplary in every way. Why?
Firstly, it makes us feel proud. In other words, it give us ‘face’. Secondly, it reflects on us as parents. We must be very good parents to produce such wonderful kids. Something we do must be right. Hey! We are the ultimate experts at raising perfect kids. Thirdly, and sadly, for a lot of us, whether we are conscious of it or not, part of our identity as a person is vested in our children. We are ‘mother/father of so-and-so’. Imagine if your child is, say, President Scholar XYZ. You will probably go round identifying yourself as “I am the mother of President Scholar XYZ.”
Another example : Why do we get angry and frustrated when our children start acting up in public? I suspect it is the same for all of us – we are all embarrassed, and afraid of losing face in public. Therefore, the same tantrum happening at home may not elicit the same kind of reaction from us compared to if it were to happen in a public place, or a friend’s house.
Another example : if you are a high-flyer but unfortunately, your child isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, how would you feel, and why?
The bottomline is that for most of us, how we react to our children is very much affected by how much value we place on the issue of ‘face’. This is probably how most us were brought up anyway. The need to save face makes us more anxious, more easily agitated and angered, less patient and less able to think with a clear mind.
So it is best that we recognise that our children are just going to make us ‘lose face’ sooner or later. Probably they have already done so by some mega tantrum in the middle of the shopping mall. So we might as well consider our face already lost, and stop trying to preserve it. With that out of the way, we will be calmer and in a better frame of mind to deal with whatever we need to deal with, be it behavioural issues or performance in school.
We should stop trying to impress or please people.
2. Remember that God is not done with our children yet
Isaiah 54:13 says that
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
This is a promise of great comfort to all parents, that we are not alone in the job of bringing up our children. In fact, we are secondary to God in the business of teaching and bringing up our children. We should then put our trust in Him and not in our own wisdom, or the wisdom of the world.
Bearing this in mind, we should also remember that God is not done with our children yet. None of us would claim that we are perfect beings and that God is done with teaching us. This is after how many decades of our lives? Why then do we expect our children, just a few years old, to be ‘perfect’ children? They have a long journey to go. God is certainly not done with them yet.
So when we face criticism from others or from ourselves because of some shortfall from our children, we should remind ourselves that God is not done with them yet. And when God is involved, there is hope no matter how bad the situation may be. If we keep this in mind, we will not get overly anxious, frustrated or fearful. Again, with a clearer mind, we would be able to handle whatever situation it is better.