Taoist Wisdom: 4 Types of Parents
As parents, we naturally love our kids, but how many of us nowadays actually feel confident about knowing the right way to show our love? What’s the best way to care for our kids? What’re the best qualities we can help our kids learn for them to thrive in this chaotic world?
As parents, we can liken ourselves to the roots of a tree, with the kids being the fruit. Any problem with the fruit can be traced back to the root because kids often eventually mirror their parents.
Laozi said in the Tao Te Ching:
“The best leaders are those whom the people hardly know exist. The next best is a leader who is loved and praised. Next, comes the one who is feared. The worst is the leader who is despised.”
Can we use this Taoist saying to examine ourselves as parents? Which category do we fit into? Do we allow our kids the greatest amount of independence needed to nourish their spirits, so that they can take care of themselves and lead a life of fullness as adults? Or do we spoil our kids, so they are grateful, yet over-reliant? Are we forceful or unreasonable, causing our kids to fear and retreat from us? Or are we weak or violent, causing them to hate us?
The fourth type: bad-tempered parents
There is a blog on douban.com that began around 10 years ago called Parents are Terrible. Most members say that they hate their parents for exerting control and violence over them. Today, the number of bloggers has reached over 100,000 people. Some posts are quite frankly shocking and frightening.
Looking through the posts, you see individuals simply crying out to share the pain of being bad-mouthed; of growing up surrounded by violence, anger, and abuse; or of suffering acts that are unanimously perceived as controlling or interfering. They have been bullied by the exact persons who are supposed to be their loving and respected guardians and role models.
Ms. Xin is a typical example. Her parents, who had been hoping for a son, endlessly scolded and humiliated her sister and her, until they felt that everything they did was wrong. Doing very well academically didn’t bring them happiness; their childhood was a mass of arguments and an endless fight for control.
“I am 33 years old and already divorced. I’ve inherited my mother’s violent temper; when I’m angry, I end up taking it out on my daughter,” says Ms. Xin.
Emotional and physical abuse in the early years is known to severely traumatize kids — each individual may react differently — with some turning silent and some becoming violent; but almost always there is the scar of negative psychology, such as low self-esteem, self-pity, and a belief of self-inferiority. They are more likely to continue the cycle of trauma in adulthood, through violent relationships.
The third type: domineering parents
Some parents attempt to sculpt their kids into a preconceived mold and exert strict control over them.
One lady shares her experience of growing up with such parents. She had been obedient all of her life. In both middle school and high school, her parents had chosen the subjects for her to study, and when she graduated, they told her what job to take.
“For 20 years, I’ve been like a puppet; I’ve always listened to my parents and have done whatever they wanted. I lost my ability to think independently because I was accustomed to obeying and pleasing others — I never developed the courage to say no,” she said.
It’s a common phenomenon among Chinese families for parents to impose their views upon the kids. “Why don’t you listen to your parents; we are right!” “Your wings are too strong and you don’t listen to your parents!” — such words can often be heard. Parents are frequently over-protective and do everything for their kids, who, when later faced with the world independently, find it a bitter and frightening place.
The first and second types: those who parent well
The best parents are said to let their kids grow. Liang Qichao has nine kids. She considers every one of them as excellent individuals. Each has been treated equally and has been educated without authoritativeness. They have been allowed their independence and a choice over what advice to follow.
When one daughter was trying to choose a professional subject to study, her father, seeing that she had no interest in biology — his preferred subject for her — said: “Whatever the subject, it’s important that you’re interested in it. What I’ve suggested might not be the one for you. You must weigh things up and decide for yourself. You don’t have to listen to me.”
Over the last century, many parents have ended up manipulating their status and experience, and bullying their kids, forgetting that building respect is at the core of positively influencing and educating another human being.
How great it would be if every individual would be celebrated for their uniqueness; if every kid would be given the space to dream freely and reach their full potential.
Translated by: Chua bc and edited by Emiko Kingswell