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The Art of Parenting

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (November 22, 2018)


When I first became a parent, people asked me whether it helped me understand children more. Having been an educator for over 10 years, I had interacted with many children over the years and the question asked whether I could relate to them more because I had my own. My answer every was ‘no, not at all’. When I became a parent, I didn’t understand children more, I empathized with parents more! Over the years, because of my work, I had interacted with hundreds of parents and it had and continues to be such an honour to hear their stories, their accomplishments, their struggles, their worries and their concerns. And before I became a parent, I think I tried to show understanding but I don’t think I could show empathy. Because I had never been in their shoes before, I could only offer a listening ear, advice based on my experience as an educator and encouragement as a friend. But things changed after becoming a parent.


I think I used to see things as more black and white and sometimes couldn’t see why parents couldn’t see the same way as me. If you don’t want your child to continue doing that, then just say no. If you think your child’s grandparents are spoiling them, then just tell them to stop. If you handhold your child so much, they will not be independent. To me, it seemed more like a science. An action leads to a specific reaction. And so, parenting is the science of taking the best actions that lead to the best reactions.


But I have now come to realize more and more that parenting is an art. It’s not black and white. They’re not straight lines. An action could lead to multiple reactions. And so often, it’s a struggle because it’s a judgement call.


Just this past weekend, my son was crying about not wanting to go to Sunday school at our church. He would have to go independently which he had done before and I knew he had a school friend there too. But he was adamant about not going. On one hand, I really wanted him to go. We have an amazing Sunday School at our church and I know that he would learn great things there. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to force him into the room wailing and crying and end up hating it. In the end, I had him stay in Sunday adult service with me and it worked out well for that day. But I second guessed my decision and still wonder if I made the right one.


And this is just one small decision in the plethora of ones we need to make on a daily basis as parents. Not to mention the larger decisions for their lives.


Do I make him eat his food or let him have his way and feel the hunger pangs later?


Do I let her get ready for school on her own and let her learn to do things on her own or help her so she actually arrives school on time?


Do I go through homework with him and rectify mistakes so that he doesn’t get a bad grade or do I let him work independently and let the teacher give him red marks?


Do I send him to a local school and have more discipline or an international school with more creativity?


Do I have her continue her piano classes that she hates so she learns perseverance or do I let her choose something else to do to empower her choice making?


These are just a snippet of the decisions we as parents have to make and I have come to the conclusion that parenting is not a science but it is an art. An art of continually getting to know our children, getting to know ourselves, making decisions with trial and error, making decisions with our wisdom and best judgement, and trusting that God will fill the gaps that we fall short in. Parents – a salute you all because you have the most challenging job on the planet, but also the most rewarding one. Enjoy the art of parenting – sometimes messy, sometimes confusing but a joy to be a part of.


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教養的藝術


當我初為人母時,不少人都問我母親的身份有沒有幫助我更了解小朋友。在從事教育工作這十多年間,我曾接觸無數小朋友,但當我被問及這條問題時,我的答案是「沒有,一點也沒有」。母親的身份並沒有助我了解孩子更多,卻令我更明白父母的想法!這些年來,我的工作讓我接觸到不同父母,我有幸聽到他們每一個的故事、成就、掙扎、擔憂及顧慮。成為母親前,我嘗試表達對他們想法的理解,但我認為我能做的只是傾聽,以教育工作者的經驗給予建議、以朋友的身份鼓勵他們。然而,這一切在我成為父母後出現改變。


從前的我容易把事情看成非黑即白,有時候不能理解為何父母不能跟我抱持同樣想法。如果你不想孩子繼續這樣做,那就叫他們停止;如果你不想孩子的祖父母驕縱他,那就制止他們;如果你常常抱著孩子,他們難以變得獨立。對我來說,這一切就像科學,一種行為會引致特定反應,而教養就像科學,最好的行為會引致最好的反應。


然而,我現在越來越明白教養是一種藝術,不是每一件事也是非黑即白、也有界線。一種行為會引致好幾種後果,父母掙扎是因為害怕所作出的決定只是基於主觀的判斷。


就在上星期,我的兒子因為不想上主日學而嚎啕大哭,我知道他可以獨自去上,亦有朋友在班上,但他就是堅持不去。一方面,我非常希望他去,因為教會的主日學辦得非常出色,而他也可以在那裡學到很多東西。另一方面,我又不希望強迫他,擔心他會在課室裡大哭大叫,甚至討厭上主日學。最後,我讓他跟我一起上周日成人崇拜,一切都很順利,但事情過後我再三思考這個決定到底是對還是錯。


作為父母,這只是我們每天生活中需要作的眾多決定中的一小部分,更不用說我們需要為孩子的人生所作的每個大決定:


我要讓他吃東西,或是讓他自己作決定,他等一下就會感到餓?


我要讓她自己執拾上學的用具,一步步學習,還是幫她一把,確保她能準時上學?


為了讓他取得高分,我應幫他核對功課,確保全部正確,還是讓他自己完成,再留待老師評分?


我要送他到重視紀律的本地學校,還是追求創意的國際學校?


我要讓她繼續上她討厭的鋼琴課,使她學習堅持忍耐,還是賦予她選擇權,讓她做其他事情?


以上僅父母需要作的決定中的一小部分。教養並不是科學,而是藝術,讓我們不斷了解我們的孩子、了解自己、反覆試驗、運用智慧及最好的判斷力作決定、相信天父會填補我們的不足。謹向所有父母致敬,因為這是一份全世界最難的工作,但亦是收穫最豐富的工作。好好享受教養的藝術——有時候讓你措手不及、有時候讓你感到困惑,但更多的是看到孩子成長的滿足和喜樂。


2018年11月22日(香港經濟日報)



#Relationships #Communication