Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Parenting & I-Ching III

Another story from my graduated I-Ching student, on him + his hair-tearing boy.


I was having my 推拿 done once and this female therapist started telling me about the problems she had with her teenage son.
She was a single struggling parent earning little in a tough job. She certainly didn't have any maids at home and hers was a very physically demanding job.
Her son started getting rebellious around 13 or 14 and would waste her hard earned money at video arcades into the wee hours.

When she asked him where he was going he would be rude to her.
One day she decided to have a good talk with him but he just refused to entertain her. She said that because he loves Japanese food, she had to bribe him to go to a Japanese restaurant so she could talk to him nicely.
It cost her more than a hundred dollars. A full day's work of massaging people, blown on some asshole teenager who somehow has expensive tastes.
I can't recall the details now but she worked out an arrangement with him about spending money and coming home early.
That talk was just a very early beginning. It was a tiny step which would have been wasted if she had not the determination and grit to follow through. For a long time more he was recalcitrant and incorrigible.
But as she said, "我就是一步一步慢慢地把他拉回来。" She must have endured much more rudeness and ingratitude even after that expensive sushi dinner but she never gave up.
Parenting is like an ultra marathon. Having run a marathon before I can relate to how easy it is to give up but stories like these inspired me.
I wish I had heard it while helping my son prepare for his PSLE last year. I also did not give up but it was one of the toughest times of my life. I compared it then to my army qualification training which was at that time the most hellish experience I had ever hone through.
I am writing all these posts to share with other parents on the same path as I do and also to compile and review my experiences at the midway mark. In this I was inspired by my heroine Professor Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.
For the record I agree 100% with everything she wrote.

More to come.
I said that my son's PSLE was one of the toughest times of my life.
It was a very busy time at work and I needed to clear a lot of backlog.
But when he flunked his Science prelims despite all the enrichment and tuition classes we went him for (and I must add, my own coaching), I realised I had to take more drastic action.
I bought 2 more assessment books and 10 exam papers.
Over the next 2 weeks I went through all the papers first and got the answers by checking both the model answers and textbooks and guidebooks.
I set him to work on them. Because his major problem was never finishing on time aka poor time management, I would sit with him and take timing.
Once he missed the deadline he was to do 10 push ups. He then had a time extension of 5 or 10 minutes. Miss that one and the push ups would increase exponentially. There was one mock paper he went over by 30 minutes.
When he was done, he had done so many push ups that his arms were shivering and trembling.
Other people watching may accuse me of child abuse but I alone knew how far I could push my son because of all my earlier foundation work with him. I personally trained him since Pri 2 in all his physical abilities from jumping to upper body power so I know his limits.
I wasn't just some tekan corporal.
I had to prepare for the answers before and after and correct his answers so they were acceptable to a PSLE examiner. I had earlier gone for seminars and read guidebooks for parents so I knew how to mark PSLE science papers. I studied a lot harder than he did for something that I shouldn't have had to.
Around the same time I arranged for him to go for chiropractic sessions to ensure he had good posture and to ensure that his spine and therefore his immunity was at peak condition.
I don't have a car so we took the mrt to the chiropractor.
On the train I didn't see why we should waste time. So I made him stand and started firing questions from the assessment books and he had to answer them verbally using the actual format with "scientific language" (when it comes to your turn for PSLE you will know what that means).
This was a technique practised in my faculty when I was in university. The theory is that being able to think on your feet and formulate coherent verbal answers creates an ability that translates to written skills. It certainly worked for all of us.
I asked him several questions until he was half falling asleep. I kicked him and told him to answer the question. He moaned "我很累". But we carried on until we reached our destination.
The boy later told my mother:"Daddy 神经病的".

But he was able to deal with any question with confidence and speed after went through that mill.
He went from exceeding the time limit by 30 minutes to 15 and then to 5.
Two days before the science paper, he finished a mock exam with 15 minutes to spare. My wife would remember my saying that no matter his results I am pleased with his efforts.
His PSLE Science result was an A, up from an F. He didn't tell me but he told my mother that he was happy he got an A for me.
When doing spring cleaning last December, he specially set aside the mock papers he had done and kept them in a designated place. I was actually very surprised. I thought as you probably did that he would be traumatised by the experience and suffer from some PTSD.
But no, like the wet, cold and hungry overnight camping trip, he had fond memories.
I learnt an invaluable lesson that day. Kids may tell you that they want to be left alone to do their own things. But kids cannot articulate what they truly feel.
Although I was hard on him, in his eyes, I cared enough to go through the painful process of exam preparation with him.
As I wrote on my Facebook some time ago, when a parent is fighting in the trenches with the child and leading by example, the child no longer has an excuse. So while he found my "training" tough, he could see past the discomfort.
"Tough love" had a new meaning for me then.
When parents don't want to give their kids stress or push them to work harder like those useless parents who emigrate just so their monolingual children (thanks to them) don't need to study Chinese, they are telling the child that "I don't care about you enough to walk this difficult path with you. Let's take the easy way out, never mind you will be crippled in future by your lack of tenacity".
Just like parents who let their babies use walkers don't allow their babies' bones and muscles to develop properly under natural stress.
So, if you love your child, you will not take the easy way out and avoid the painful process of helping your child grow.
My wife witnessed how aggravating that whole period was and I wanted to give up many times. But unless you feel your child is not worth it, you would not shy away.
Weak, uncaring parents damage their children irreparably even if they pretend they want the best for them.
Toys, no matter how expensive, are cheap. It is the time and effort that is the true measure of a parent