BOOK REVIEW, PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

Parenting from the Inside Out by Siegel and Hartzell

This book is on the reading list for the parent coaching certificate program I started a couple of months ago. This reading list included many books I had been eyeing or had heard great things about.

Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell is a book I would definitely classify as a handbook for parents, a must read for those who overreact to their children’s “misdeeds.” I wish I had read this while I was pregnant or on maternity leave. But I remind myself what they said in the book: We have to be gentle with ourselves because we can only do our best under the circumstances of our lives. (Note: not including abuse, physical or emotional, of course.)

The book mostly explains why we behave the way we behave when our children behave the way they behave. Chapter titles are: 1) How We Remember: Experience Shapes Who We Are 2) How We Perceive Reality: Constructing the Stories of Our Lives 3) How We Feel: Emotion in Our Internal and Interpersonal Worlds 4) How We Communicate: Making Connections 5) How We Attach: Relationships Between Children and Parents 6) How We Make Sense of Our Lives: Adult Attachment 7) How We Keep It Together and How We Fall Apart: The High Road and the Low Road 8) How We Disconnect and Reconnect: Rupture and Repair and 9) How We Develop Mindsight: Compassion and Reflective Dialogues.

Each chapter includes some reflective questions called “Inside-Out Exercises” to spend time with concepts like “Think of an issue in your life that is impairing your ability to connect flexibly with your child. Focus on the past, present, and future aspects of this issue. Do any themes or general patterns come to mind from past interactions? What implicit emotions and bodily sensations emerge when this issue comes to your mind in the present?”

Each chapter also has an extensive section called “Spotlight on Science,” sharing research and studies as well as biological explanations on why we ‘lose it’ with our kids. These sections are particularly helpful for those of us who really, really want to understand our reactions.

I highly recommend the book because I personally had a lot of ‘ah-ha’ moments that normalized my experience as an Untigering parent. But if you are a super busy parent and just want the “Coles Notes” version: We have unresolved issues from our childhood. That can cause us to react with strong emotions when dealing with our children. We need to be aware of what we are doing, understand why, and do the work to build connecting relationships with our children. That takes mindfulness and reflection. And work, but it is well worth it, not just because it improves our relationships with our children, but it helps them become more resilient in facing their own challenges.

You’d think a parenting book that is telling you to change or else you will mess up your children would bring you a lot of shame and guilt. But surprisingly, it just helps you understand where it comes from so that you DON’T feel shame and guilt, which will leave you in a much better place to actually make the changes you need to make to be the kind of parent you want to be!

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW

Your Parenting Mojo

Jen Lumanlan is the founder and host of the “Your Parenting Mojo” podcast, where she examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting. She has qualifications from the perspective of having two Master’s degrees in psychology and education.  But what makes her so interesting is the critical eye with which she reviews the research and then breaks it down for parents. Listen to our chat to learn how a click-bait article led her to her research, many amazing podcasts, and coaching practice..

“5 Ways to Tell If Your Child Has a Developmental Delay” was one of the first email messages she received as a new mom, which she found to be not only very clickbaity, but not peer reviewed research, most often based on the research of White Psychology majors. With over 120 podcast episodes (she reads an average of 30 peer-reviewed studies for each interview), Jen does in depth studies for her listeners and readers to understand the research behind the studies telling us how to be better parents. Like so many of the other speakers here at Sandwich Parenting, she is passionate and incredibly articulate. You will learn a lot from her. I know I did!

I chatted with Jen about:

  • How bias is baked into scientific-research and how she works through the bias in the data.
  • What we use as rewards (sweets for vegetables, screen time for homework) and how that makes it more desirable! How does that impact what our children feel about these rewards?
  • Why she does not agree with compulsory schooling, where the person going to school doesn’t get to choose what they are learning. It is not that there is something WRONG with school if someone chooses to do it for their own reasons, but rather, people being forced to study things that do not matter to them is a problem.
  • The history of school – it was initially for the elite. Then as the church lost their power, the state stepped in to make sure that people were educated so that they had a population with skills who were interchangeable.
  • How the element of control was part of her childhood and how it is NOT her approach to parenting.
  • What is the parent’s need versus the child’s need in a particular situation? The only way to navigate a gap is to say “tell me more.”
  • Her podcast series examines her own White privilege and how that impacts how she parents and advocates for her daughter at school. Race impacts every aspect of how she parents.
  • Childhood trauma can affect our parenting. Her popular “Taming Your Triggers” workshop is offered regularly. It’s about listening and being present. This is a workshop that I believe all parents would benefit from, as we parents are often triggered by what we think are our children’s behaviours.
  • She is a Co-Active Coach. As stated on coactive.com, their coaching “delivers contextually relevant and experiential learning that ignites transformation and a life-long journey developing the deepest expression of leadership in each human being.” Coaching is usually about approaching the person as a whole being, most likely having the answers themselves. It is not therapy. And the method Jen uses is focused on being, not doing.

Jen’s message to Sandwich Parents is: “Parenting is a journey that can help to make you whole.” You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear how she describes the container we are building. (Is it leaky?) It’s a great analogy and a wonderful no-blame way to rethink how we are parenting.

Visit her website: www.yourparentingmojo.com or her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/YourParentingMojo

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW

Power Couple Coaches: Jen and Eli

Jen and Eli are a Canadian professional coaching team specializing in working with clients who come from toxic / dysfunctional / abusive families. They work with parents to heal childhood trauma so they don’t continue the cycle of abuse with their own children. Such important work. Join me as I chat with them today.

Parents to two teens, this husband and wife team decided shortly after their first child was born that they were going to raise their children differently than their parents did. With years of training, they are certified by the World Coaching Institute as Child, Youth, Parent and Family Coaches. They are dedicated to teaching “Respectful Parenting for Generational Transformation,” and specialize in providing a flexible, fully customized family coaching experience.

We talked about how:

  • Growing up in an authoritarian household (“Do as I say, or else!”), both knew that they wanted to parent differently.
  • Jen has had a lot of experience working with children with behavioural challenges. She learned early on how to build a connective relationship through sitting with them and listening deeply. She started by sharing these approaches with Eli.
  • They felt it important not only to heal their family intergenerational trauma, but what they learned can work was something they wanted to share with the world.
  • A lot of their clients like that there is both a mom and a dad to talk to.
  • Many clients have difficult emotional triggers to work through. A lot of time they don’t even know why. Children are so good at accidentally setting off these triggers.
  • Our job is to guide, teach, or mentor. But children can’t learn if they are in flight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode.
  • We always want to start with, “How do we control our kids?” but the real question is “How do we control ourselves?” It’s more about you and how you will manage things when someone steps on your landmine.
  • A lot of clients are afraid that their children will want to be estranged from them just as they are estranged from their own parents.
  • Having inappropriate expectations of children based on where they are developmentally will always lead to disappointment and frustrations.
  • Childhood traumas lead to addictions.
  • They have a Facebook community for people who grew up in toxic family environments and don’t want to set up similar dynamics in their own families. They even have people join BEFORE they have kids, they are so petrified of messing up!
  • Jen shared a very personal moment that forced her to confront the question of whether or not to go ‘no contact’ with her parents.
  • We have to decide the message we are sending to our children. Are we providing proper safety for our children? We have to teach our children to be strong in their convictions and that they will still be loved by us even if those contradict ours.
  • Remember that we are human. It’s so important to have rupture and repair moments. To model apologizing and having two-way conversations.
  • Jen and Eli will be launching an online step-by-step program to teach people how to bring about behavioural changes in their daily family lives.

Eli’s final message: Don’t ever give up on your journey. It’s not about the mistakes but how you deal with them that counts.

Jen’s final message: This is a transformational journey and it takes time. it’s not about being a perfect parent, but being human. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Connect with Jen & Eli via their website Respect Coaching & Consulting – Parent Coaching, on Facebook Respect Coaching & Consulting, and Instagram: @respect_cc.

BOOK REVIEW, LOVE FIRST, PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

There is a Better Way

The subtitle explains the book quite clearly: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason.

So many of us have grown up with the stick and the carrot as deterrents against and incentives for behaviour, so this can seem like a rational way to treat our children. Kohn argues that there is a better way.

When my kids were very little, I parented them that way: withholding approval until my kids behaved the way I wanted them to. 90% of my communications with them was to criticize them so that they could improve. However, something about it seemed off, even as I justified my punitive approach to correcting their behaviours. I became more aware that I was raging rather than disciplining.

Choosing to Parent Differently

When I finally realized that my children deeply feared me, I knew I had to change the way I parented. I started by verbally telling my kids all the time that I loved them no matter what. 

When we disagreed, we would often toss out to each other a reminder “I love you [Mommy/Kiddo]” as if the unspoken part was, “despite our disagreement or your poophead move just now”. 

Then I started shifting a higher percentage of our communication into conversations that built our relationship and trust, rather than me just doing parental “duties,” like nagging, reminding, cajoling and ordering, I watched the kiddie shows they liked to watch, we talked about their video games, etc. And slowly they stopped tensing up when I would come into the room, knowing that I wasn’t going to yell at them to do something they SHOULD be doing.

Now they say things like, “Mommy, you’re not going to like this, but…” and proceed to talk to me honestly. This change is a huge win for us because it means they aren’t trying to hide things from me but rather feel safe enough to share something that might have in the past made me very angry.

Why Unconditional Parenting is Important

The most striking long-term effect of love withdrawal is fear. Even as young adults, people who were treated that way by their parents are still likely to be unusually anxious. They may be afraid to show anger. Then tend to display a significant fear of failure. And their adult relationships may be warped by a need to avoid attachment—perhaps because they live in dread of being abandoned all over again.

Fundamentally Alfie Kohn’s argument is that behavioural scientists developed positive reinforcement as a way to control animal behaviour. Using this technique to influence children without taking the time to understand their thoughts, feelings, or intentions ends up being counterproductive for the longer-term goals we have for their success as self-sufficient and confident, resilient adults.

Parenting through fear may seem like it works in the short run, but a child experiences that as love that is conditional upon their behaviour. Because children fear the withdrawal of that love, they will often do whatever they can to stay in the good graces of their parents. They will be obedient regardless of their own feelings, perspectives, and ultimately what is actually right or wrong.

Creating obedient kids controlled by their fear of parents means that they may be easily controlled by others as well, like peers or authority figures and less able to fight for their needs or protect their boundaries.

Do we want to raise our kids to make decisions based on fear? Do we want them to have challenges with their relationships!? Do we want them to be easily manipulated by others? Or do we want them to know how they feel? To trust their own judgment about what is the morally right thing to do?

If I always tell my children that “they are wrong and I am right,” how are they to develop their judgment? If I dictate how they SHOULD feel, how can they learn how they DO feel, and to trust that? 

It’s about the Why

Shouldn’t our goal be for the children to refrain from doing certain things not because we’ve forbidden them, but just because they’re wrong? We want them to ask “How will doing x make that other kid feel?”not “Am I allowed to do x?” or “Will I get in trouble for doing x?” We want our children to understand the impact of their actions and intrinsically make good decisions.

In other words, we want to raise moral human beings, people who make decisions based on logical reasoning and empathy for those around them, not because they were told that something is right or wrong. 

The world is a complex place with many moving parts. The more we help them find their own way to interpret the multiple pieces of information, the more they will be able to live their lives the way they want to—with integrity and confidence.

We cannot just raise our kids based on how we see the world, but how they will need to see the world when they become adults.

Our Own Childhood

By the way, Kohn points out: “It’s pointless to talk about what holds you back from being a better parent without reflecting on how the way you were raised shapes your internal architecture. It affects not only what you do with your kids, but what you don’t do.” 

We must do the work to figure out where our parental playbook came from, how that impacted us, and which parts we want to change as we parent the next generation.

Just a gentle warning: For many of us, doing this work can be triggering. Understanding the past can help us connect the dots to why we behave in ways we don’t want to behave now as parents and lead to positive change. At the same time, it can be incredibly difficult to live through the fears from our childhood.

But we are all doing the best we can and change takes time, not measured in days or months, but years. We start where we start. 

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

A Recovering Perfectionist

Michelle Lee Diasinos is a Conscious Parent advocate, coach, author, and co-host of The Mothers’ Roundtable podcast with two children of her own. Read her chapter in the #1 International Best Selling Change Makers Volume 4, where she shares her personal transformation that led her into this place of service to parents navigating their unique path. A recovering perfectionist, Michelle delves into the challenges parents face when perfection becomes a problem. One of the many exciting projects she’s initiated is “Heal My Story,” a platform for people to anonymously write about their healing journey. Join our chat and hear what moved me to tears in what she said.

I chatted with Michelle about:

  • Motherhood was the first time she truly met herself.
  • She spent a lot of time doing work on her own, making peace with her past, releasing anger, frustration, and sadness. She was able to get to a place where she could be comfortable with the fact that her parents did the best they could at the time and did what they did with love.
  • Prior to parenthood, Michelle was a Special Education Teacher and worked in occupational therapy. She was a very calm person and thought she would be a patient mother. But being a parent is nothing like what you think it’s going to be like!
  • Michelle put immense on herself to be the best parent ever! She then realized that she was also pressuring her son to meet her perfectionist tendencies. As many parents did, she took her son’s behaviour to be a reflection of her (bad) parenting. This kind of situation made her realize she had a lot of work to do.
  • Even as a trained professional who was calm and using all the ‘right’ tools and techniques, she discovered she was capable of raging anger, explosions, and subsequent guilt. She’s come to realize that the anger is just an invitation to look deeper. All it meant was that she had a need that wasn’t being met.
  • Perfection is insidious! Most of us don’t even know we are perfectionists. Listen to the language you are using when speaking to yourself. For example when parents go to bed at night, they’re often thinking, “Did I do a good enough job?” This question might be driving their every action!
  • Children’s behaviour is an expression of their unmet needs. We as parents can do everything possible to meet their every need. How do we help them gain the tools to deal with not having their needs met?
  • Her “Heal My Story” project is a platform where anyone can share aspects of their healing story. I highly recommend you try it out if you are thinking about processing your trauma through writing. It is for anything that has surfaced during your healing journey that you want to put out there in the world.

Michelle’s message to Sandwich Parents is: “I acknowledge you. I know how tough this can be. I want to remind you that compassion is the salve. When you mess something up, and you inevitably will, because you are human, give compassion to yourself. Because each time that you do that, you are showing yourself unconditional love. You are showing your kids how to do the same, so that they can go out into the world and they can show it to others. This is sacred work. I see you. I thank you for doing this work.”

Join her on Instagram and Facebook, where you can learn more about how to live a truly Conscious Parenthood. And listen to her podcast, The Mother’s Roundtable, where every week she and her co-host Jessica Crescenzi  examine a topic related to parenting and give advice based on their expertise as parent coaches and their perspectives as mothers.

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW

The Heartful Mama Coach

While pregnant, Lina Lie knew she was going to be both a Super Mom and Tiger Mom. After the birth of her son, that all went out the window! She went through what many mothers go through when motherhood surprises them: she fell into the frustration trap, realized she wanted to change her parenting style, and did a lot of research. She also took the next step and became a parenting coach to help other parents with her coaching program, The Heartful Mama.

I interviewed Lina about her peaceful parenting approach and what parent coaching is about. After chatting with her, I decided that I would join the next cohort for parent coaching certification with the Jai Institute of Parenting. So far, the reading list has been eye-opening and helpful for my own parenting journey.

In this episode, hear Lina talk about her journey and why parent coaching can help anyone the world over to be the peaceful parents they want to be.

We talked about:

  • How parenthood doesn’t care what qualifications you have or what school you attended. It’s messy, especially if you don’t have a lot of support.
  • Parenting is a lifelong journey. Lina realized that she didn’t want to be just surviving for the rest of her life, she wanted to be thriving, enjoying the relationship she has with her child.
  • She grew up with her parents living and working and in a different country, so her grandparents, uncle and aunt were her caregivers. Even though she had great care, a feeling of emotional abandonment was still a huge issue. She worked through it with therapy.
  • Coaching is cheaper than therapy! It provides space to figure out what is underneath the rage and triggers. 
  • A coach can empathize with and support a parent, providing helpful tools to diffuse triggers. It can even make a difference in the parent’s relationship with their spouse.
  • Our subconscious and unconscious beliefs impact the choices in our lives. Learning why we behave the way we do can help change the way we parent. We can be the kind of parent we want to be.

Her final message comes in a quote by L. R. Knost: “One day your child will make a mistake or a bad choice and will run to you instead of away from you and in that moment you will know the immense value of peaceful, positive, respectful parenting.” Lina wants to be that parent. I do as well. And she wants to help any parent who wants it to be that parent too.

Learn from Lina on The Heartful Mama website, her Facebook page and beautiful Instagram reminders. Book a free discovery call to learn if her parent coaching is for you. She is passionate about helping all parents, but is especially interested in working with parents of intercultural backgrounds or living outside their home countries.

LOVE FIRST, PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

Future-Proofing Our Children

Wealth is an Advantage

The rich invest in their legacy for beyond their own death. They believe in it so much, they often sacrifice precious present time with their loved ones to create financial advantage for their descendants because they know that in any competition, an advantage better positions them to succeed.

Wealth is about creating a safety net for the future of our children. It increases opportunities and reduces hardships. Wealth gives a person more choices, allows them to make riskier decisions, and gives them a cushion to land on in times of failure or hard times. In other words, wealth is an advantage, it is future-proofing our children!

What Does That Have To Do with Parenting?

As parents, we want to give our children stability, safety, freedom from suffering, advantage, and wealth. We want to give them tools to control more of their lives so that they can be strategic and intentional, rather than reactive or defensive. However, what if the very act to provide them the best ends up impacting them negatively as well?

Unintended Consequences

Focusing only on financial advantages (money, education, houses, and cars) may backfire. Why? Because too much emphasis on achievement over connection may result in high pressure, relational conflict, self-esteem issues, etc. We want to give our children advantages, but if the way we do that creates intense and ongoing conflict with our children, we may be harming our connection with them instead and negatively impacting their emotional health.

When conflicts with our children put a dent in their confidence about what they like, what they are good at, what they would like to experiment with, what they think they can build, how they see themselves, etc., etc., they stop thinking about how to enjoy themselves, they are no longer curious to learn, and they focus on how to either please or escape us. 

Another Way

Success in life is not just measured by financial wealth. Success is when a person is resilient enough to overcome challenges. A person can only be resilient if they have had the chance to try and fail, learn and practice, and then do and improve. They need the opportunity to develop their own judgment and test their own theories. They need to be okay with not being perfect — they need to know that mistakes are part of the learning process. 

They need to know that they are accepted by their parents no matter what, win or lose, so that they learn to accept themselves regardless of what they achieve. The voices of their parents become the internal voices they hear as adults. So the voices need to help them get through challenges rather than berate them for not being good enough.

Future-proofing our children also includes what voices we leave in their heads — not just the house or money in their bank accounts!

BOOK REVIEW, PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

Untigering by Iris Chen

Motherhood was ruining my straight-A reputation.

When I ‘met’ Iris Chen for my podcast earlier this year, I half-jokingly sang to her that she was “strumming my pain with her fingers, singing my pain with her words…” I knew of her from her website and her Facebook Community. I then joined the private Untigering Parenting Group. As I got to know her work better, I realized I had to interview her and hear her talk about her journey,  so I did. Imagine my delight when she told me that she had a book, Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent, coming out January 5, 2021.

You’ll notice that she calls it UntigerING, as in: it is a continuous effort. Chen encourages everyone to remember that we aren’t aiming for perfection. She reminds us that we are human. But she points out that how we choose to parent does have a huge impact on the health and happiness of our children, especially when we give them unconditional love regardless of their achievements. We can unlearn and unprogram our belief that to be a parent means we are the controlling authority on everything relating to our children. Ironically, if we don’t try to coerce them using fear and control tactics, they can more easily attain the agency to make great decisions that are suitable for them, which leads to more success as defined by them.

There’s no need to feel shame or frustration at an impossible ideal. We will fail. We won’t always live up to our principles. But we can continue to grow and move in the direction of our vision. There is no other choice for those of us to seek to parent without oppression. We must do the work.

Most parenting books are written by white men and women. Mommy bloggers are primarily American stay-at-home moms or momtrepreneurs. In all my years of studying at the University of Google Parenting, until I read Chen’s book, I never came across someone who had had a similar experience to mine. This vacuum of Asian parenting support means that most of us get our parenting advice from white experts. Some of their advice and research is invaluable, but a lot of it doesn’t work in the context of our having Confucian/Asian backgrounds. Iris Chen’s Untigering voice is a beautiful and thoughtful response to the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Tiger parenting was idealized in that book, where the stereotypical Chinese parenting approach was shown to produce top notch academic and career results. But, at what cost? Untigering highlights a different journey that many of us have been on, with varying levels of success, prioritizing the respect our children deserve and would not normally have received based on the way we were raised.

What is particularly powerful is the balance she takes between being a strong advocate for this approach and being non-judgmental about it. Frankly, that’s not easy to achieve. You know how woke scolds can be particularly harsh critics. But Iris writes as though she’s a big sister who happens to have gone through adolescence earlier than me, and she’s giving some heartfelt advice that I can tell will help make my trip through that stage much easier.

She helps me understand that we don’t have to be a product of our environment. There is not some perfect score to strive for so much as a set of values to lean into, like connection over achievements and honouring the uniqueness of our children and family situations. She provides practical suggestions with lots of room to tailor them to our own needs. Her stories are relatable and eye opening.

Chen helps us see the impact of our trauma on our parenting. She reminds us that we do not live in a vacuum and that our society is the ecosystem we exist in and there are threats to our safety. Her brilliant analysis of the myth and paradox of meritocracy (which has the opposite of its intended effect) concludes that it’s never fair, but we keep pretending it is. She asks us to really understand the systems that are set up for us to ‘fight for the crumbs’. We are playing in a rigged system that favours those at the top and she wants us to fight it. Not just for our children, but for the children of others who have systemic barriers in their way, often for generations.

It’s a call to decolonize education and question the stories of white supremacy.

Many Chinese immigrants accept racism and condescension as part and parcel of the immigrant experience. There’s no use complaining about it. Instead, beat them at their own game. Outperform. Outshine. Outlast. But in doing so, we often end up tolerating injustice and becoming complicit in perpetuating oppression. We’re not interested in dismantling these systems; only in gaming them.

I got so caught up with the initial Untigering concept that I almost missed the second half of the real message: Untigering isn’t just about a parent changing the way they treat their child, but rather how they look at society as a whole, and the injustices and systemic issues that cause trauma for specific populations. It is deconstructing a white supremacist structure and the competitions we sign up for as human beings. Do we compete and win at the expense of others who are less privileged, hiding behind the myth of meritocracy? Or do we collaborate and work together as a community to support those who need it so that we can thrive as a whole?

[Untigering] is the process of unlearning and dismantling tiger parenting so that we can practice peaceful parenting. It requires us to look back and address our childhood wounds, consider the present and what cycles need to be broken, and look ahead for how we hope to change the narrative for our children. It calls for us to question societal and cultural norms that are rooted in trauma and oppression so that generations after us can walk in greater freedom.

Iris Chen asks a lot of us. But during and after reading her book, I am left with a burning desire to look at both how I can best parent my children and how we all can lift up the less privileged children in our society.  She wants us to think about the rules we are playing, the stories we tell ourselves, and the actions we can be taking to make the world a better place.

You can find links to buy her book on her website and listen to my interview with her on my podcast.

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, STORYTELLING

Irresponsible “Chi-Knees” Joke is Racist

This is not funny, nor should it have made it through the editors or producers of Monster Hunter. How disappointing that in this day and age a movie-maker would think it appropriate to release a movie that had a scene where a childhood racist taunt makes it to the big screen.

An article from The Guardian states: “The controversy highlighted the difficulties for entertainment companies in navigating sensitivities in the enormous Chinese market, while also navigating the country’s strict censorship laws.”

I’m sorry, but this is NOT about the country’s strict censorship laws. To mix the two issues is irresponsible and frankly quite insulting. Censorship is about a country controlling content that they deem inappropriate to their population. For some, it can be political, for others, it is about ethics and morals. Regardless, navigating a country’s censorship law is just par for the course in doing business, much like learning about their tariffs or trade regulations that protect their local businesses.

This is about the responsibility of story-tellers to keep up with reflecting the societal issues of our times, if not get ahead our times and challenge us to be better. I completely understand that no one can manage to know or understand the traumas of everyone else. However, this was a taunt that many young Chinese-Americans have had to live through and pretend didn’t bother us. Some of us learned to joke about it beforehand so that they couldn’t get to us, because we got to ourselves first. Many of us decided at a young age that we didn’t want to be Chinese and escaped from Chinese school or speaking Chinese with our parents.

When I was a kid in California, I was desperate to not look or sound Chinese. I had other kids tease me about my knees and ‘these”. It was a racist taunt and it was meant to hurt us.

Film-makers: Do better.

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, STORYTELLING

Beliefs (Not Facts) Inform Behaviour

Take the Example of the Flu and COVID-19

We are so busy that it is impossible for us to deeply investigate each headline. These headlines, by the way, are designed to scream a soundbite at us to believe and then repeat. This morning on the news, we heard once again that the flu numbers were much lower than in previous years. But why? And how do we KNOW why that is? AND how does that impact our behaviour?

Everyone has their own theories depending on their set of beliefs. If you believe that COVID is a hoax, you insist that everything is being counted as a COVID death even when the death should be counted as something else. You may find Facebook postings or Tweets from nurses that confirm this. The lower number of flu deaths would support that belief, because a flu death being counted as a COVID death means that the flu numbers would of course be lower than before. 

If you feel that masks and social distancing prevent transmission of disease, you will attribute the lower flu numbers to our COVID prevention behaviours. You would point to articles from WHO or Public Health. Facts support our own beliefs. 

But how did we get to our beliefs?

We’d like to think that we are rational people who end up with beliefs based on fact.  A lot of our beliefs were taught to us and we believe them unconsciously. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Our experience and constructs interact and we end up with beliefs that are confirmed or challenged by new interactions. Many of us feel that science and research form the basis of our understanding of the world, while others point to conflicting studies, changing advice from healthcare providers, or pharmaceutical firms lobbying governments. In any case, we all prefer to be in our echo chambers seeking information that confirms our biases.

In the case of COVID and the flu, complicating all that is how facts are collected, recorded, analyzed, and reported. How are rules interpreted by the frontline? How consistent is the data being collected? What else is happening? Who is funding the newspaper reporting the news? What is their political stance? And more importantly — WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING!? How do these facts inform our behaviour?

After reading all the different articles out there1, I reluctantly realized that the reality is that I firmly believe that the flu and COVID are transmitted in similar ways. Therefore, I believe that if we do things like wear masks, wash our hands, and socially distance, we can lower the risks of transmitting both the flu and COVID. I staunchly believe that masks and social distancing help us protect each other from our respective germs.

What does that have to do with parenting?

We often have a set of beliefs about our children. Their behaviour over time supports that belief or surprises us, which then may cause us to adjust our beliefs.  However, humans don’t really like to have our beliefs challenged. It causes cognitive dissonance (holding two opposing thoughts at the same time) that can be anxiety-inducing. So sometimes we get defensive (maybe even go on the offensive) to protect our ego and beliefs.

Let’s say we believe that our kids are lazy.

There is some truth to that anyways, as humans are designed to conserve energy.  But then we see everything they do (or don’t do) as a confirmation that they are lazy, which then adds layers and layers of stress, because how in the world are they going to become successful contributing members of society if they are lazy? We have to change them! They need to buck up and be less lazy! 

So then, what do we do? We tell them to stop being lazy. And what do they do? They get defensive about being labeled lazy because of such-and-such an excuse/reason. However, if they hear the word “lazy” enough, labeling them, they will embrace that, Oh, I must be lazy and in order not to be lazy, I have to work very hard, which I don’t want to do right this moment, so I’m not going to. Which triggers our fears again. And on it goes. They behave exactly the way we feared they would.

It is our responsibility to break that cycle. (If we don’t, we just pass it on and they will have to break the cycle when they become adults.) We need to always challenge our beliefs about our children. Be aware that our natural tendency is to take a behaviour and use it to justify our beliefs. Instead, we can wonder what else is going on. I’ve learned that a lot of times they have some barrier that I didn’t know or understand until we dug into a bit more. More of than not, their “excuse” was actually quite legitimate, and by listening carefully and working with them to remove those barriers (such as being tired or fearing the consequences), they have become a lot more willing to get done what I think is important to get done.

Let’s say that we believe our kids are addicted to playing video games.

If we believe that there is no educational benefit to video games and that it’s bad for their brains, we will become quite stressed out at their “addiction” to playing video games. We will worry that they are wasting their time and that they cannot control their urges to do what is fun as opposed to what they should do. So we nag, scold, limit, and tell them that they shouldn’t be addicted to video games.

It’s important to observe them carefully without bias whenever possible. I started noticing how much more interactive video games are nowadays and how complicated they are. It requires a great deal of problem solving, collaboration, and hand-eye coordination to play these games. They are learning leadership and followership skills that they might have gotten in the olden days when kids ran wild until sundown. COD, R6S, Among Us, Fall Guys, Animal Crossing, Roblox, and Minecraft are actually amazingly interactive games where the kids grow as people.  I’m really impressed with how much they learn and how excited they are explaining very complex things to me.

Let’s say we are worried they will fall behind everyone else. The Tiger Mom in me wants them to be really good at math, competent swimmers, perfectly tri-lingual, dedicated to a martial art, and talented at a musical instrument.  But why? Because I want them to be successful as adults. When they were little, I made them do math programs, weekend Chinese school, and take swimming, kung fu and piano lessons. I drove them around and yelled at them to practice everything. At one point in time, they would hear me coming and leave the room so that they didn’t have to hear me lecture them. We were stressed all the time.

I quickly realized that the stress I put on them was causing problems with our relationship and they were starting to hate the things I wanted them to be good at! They were internalizing the stress and what failures they were for not meeting my expectations. They feared me and flipped between trying to please me and trying to escape all that I wanted them to do. All the activities were not getting them to where I wanted them to be.

Rest and Restart

It was time for a reboot and a review of what my beliefs and ensuing behaviours were actually doing. I realized that I don’t need them to be excellent at things. I want them to learn how to learn, experience improvement, and to desire excellence. None of what/how I was doing was getting us there. So we started over and I took them out of their activities and let them pick what they were interested in exploring. Now we choose things together that we want to invest in and I don’t (consciously at least, ha ha) give them any pressure to have to be good at it. Ironically, that seems to free them up to want to be good at it.

So far my kids are: decent at math, competent swimmers, reluctant to learn languages, and lovers of pop music and computer games. They are very adept at PC software (one can even build a PC from scratch), are learning to code, like to host Discord parties, and will challenge my husband or me if they disagree with our opinions. They can hold their own when conversing with other kids or even adults. They have their own ideas and aren’t afraid to voice them. 

Do I think they will be successful adults? I believe they will know how to set their own goals, develop thoughtful plans, and work well with people to get where they want to go. I believe they will know how to be healthy and happy. I believe they will be fine.

That’s successful enough for me.

1Readings about this topic:

From WHO: “WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard From the Canadian Government, Public Health: “Overview of influenza monitoring in Canada From Texas’ KXXV: “Healthy habits urged during COVID-19 also help prevent spread of flu” by Halle Jones, November 16, 2020 From New York Post: “Drop in flu deaths may indicate that most at risk died from COVID-19” by Melanie Gray, October 24, 2020 From United Press International: “COVID-19 prevention may lead to record low flu rates, CDC says” by Dennis Thompson, September 18, 2020 From Yahoo!life: “Can the Flu Shot Help Protect Against COVID-19? The Answer May Surprise You” by Dominique Michelle Astorino, August 27, 2020 From AFP Fact Check: “CDC does not add flu and pneumonia deaths to COVID-19 toll” by Clare Savage, June 23, 2020 From Arkansas’ Baxter Bulletin: “Statistically speaking: COVID-19 vs. flu” by Dr. Steve Parsons and Dr. Susan Parson, April 1, 2020 From WHO: “WHO launches new global influenza strategy” March 11, 1919