“Wait till you’re older and then you will understand.” Have you ever responded in a similar manner to your child’s never-ending questions? Or do you answer each and every of your child’s questions patiently? How do we communicate with our children effectively then?
On 10 April 2015, Mr. Lin Cheng Cai, a teacher from the Hualien Tzu Chi High School, shared parenting and counselling techniques with an audience of 318 at Jing Si Hall. With a wealth of teaching experience, Mr. Lin was able to impart effective strategies on improving parent-child communication through case studies during the 2-hour long session.
The talk, which focused on “The Soul of Parenting, Educating and Counselling,” was Mr. Lin’s first public speaking experience in respect of family life education. Mr. Lin also shared about his personal experience as a father. Before his first child arrived, he had thought about ways of being a good parent. He realised, however, that reality was starkly different from his imagination.
Mr. Lin recounted the severe fatigue he experienced that resulted from caring for his newborn. When his colleagues asked about his plans after the birth of his child, he replied, “I wish I could stuff my child back into her mother’s womb.” The amused audience burst out laughing.
In addition to sharing about his parenting style, he talked about the students he had counselled in school— sharing how he had built trust with them one-by-one through their interactions and how, just like a parent, he had subsequently guided them back onto the right path.
Model Answers From Dad
Mr. Lin thought that his daughter’s matters were within his control, until she started school. This realisation arose from a geometry question. When Mr. Lin asked his daughter to identify the circular shape from a group of objects – a plate, an eraser, a tree and a pencil. She chose all, but with an explanation. She clarified that a used eraser will have rounded edges and that the cross-sections of a tree and a pencil are circular as well.
The unexpected answer from his daughter made Mr. Lin question himself if he had restrained his child’s creativity and imagination. He was thus inspired to pursue a relevant course. At this juncture, Mr. Lin posed a series of questions to the audience, “Have we ever taken our children’s views seriously? Are model answers always correct?”
Mr. Lin was shocked when he found out his petite daughter signed up for the cello club in school and wondered why she would make such a choice. He initially thought that she might have been attracted by the sound a cello makes, but when he asked her for the true reason out of curiosity, he was in for another surprise. Her reply was, “I chose to play the cello because I get to sit while playing.”
A few weeks later, Mr. Lin’s daughter faced difficulties in the co-curricular activity, and decided to switch to another club. To her dismay however, she had exceeded the trial period and had to wait till the next year before she could transfer to another club.
To motivate his daughter to fulfil her obligations for the year, Mr. Lin and his wife took turns to accompany their daughter to her cello lessons, helped her with the heavy cello, and encouraged her to persevere till the end. He hoped to lead by action, that his child might learn that one must be accountable for one’s actions. Mr. Lin’s daughter subsequently advised her younger sister to think through her decision when it was the latter’s turn to choose a co-curricular activity in elementary school. Her exact words were, “Please choose wisely as you will be in great trouble if you don’t!”
Reprimanding Versus Communicating
Mr. Lin noted that when a child commits a wrong, most adults will respond by reprimanding him or her. In this case, an adult who does not chide the child would appear to be “odd”. As a Chinese saying goes, the harsher the words, the greater the love.
Mr. Lin expressed his belief that regardless of one’s response to the child’s wrongdoing, the motivation behind is always in the child’s best interests. He asked his audience to consider this question: if the approach of a gentle reminder could actually change a child’s mentality, might it be a better way to address the problem then? He shared how a student had once told him, “Sir, I could see from your gaze, that you sincerely hoped I would change for the better. Thank you for not scolding me!”
Mr. Lin shared a case study about a student who was addicted to the Internet. His compulsive online usage during the school holidays resulted in an unhealthy lifestyle which worried his parents. To curb his usage, they terminated the Internet subscription at home. In response, he actually threw the keyboard at his parents!
However, Mr. Lin decided to put aside his prejudice and approach the student with an open mind. Instead of berating the boy, he got him to reflect on his actions and think of other alternatives which he could have adopted as a way of dealing with the situation.
The next development however, was unexpected — the student wanted to use the computer so badly that he tried sneaking into the school library in the dead of the night to do so. In response, Mr. Lin merely told him to take responsibility for his own actions and the student was later assigned to maintain the computers in the library for a full year. If the computers were kept in good working order over the one year, his disciplinary record would be clear again.
After a year, the student had cleared his demerit points, but he still continued to serve the school library till he graduated from senior high school. During his college days, the boy even volunteered at an orphanage. Mr. Lin met the student many years later and the latter finally asked him, “Why didn’t you reprimand me back then?” Mr. Lin replied that the boy would have received so much scolding that his would not have made much of a difference. The boy subsequently told Mr. Lin the reason behind his volunteer work: “Through my adolescent eyes, I saw the hopes you had in me.” Hearing this, Mr. Lin was deeply touched.
During the Q&A session, participant Mr. Sun Zai Ding shared that his elder daughter was not motivated in her studies and he worried that his younger son would be negatively influenced by his older sibling. Mr. Lin expressed his view that every child needs to be guided differently so a parent needs to develop a parenting style suitable for the child. At the end of the talk, Mr. Sun mentioned that he would put into practice Mr. Lin’s advice – to get his children thinking, to think about their goals in life and how they should work towards them.