Our Children – The Unknown Seeds

My dear husband and beloved Son

Introduction

I have always been moved by the scene in the animated movie, kungfu panda, where Master Oogway tells Master Shifu that he cannot train a peach into anything other than a good peach.

He was trying to tell Master Shifu that Po (the panda) cannot be transformed into a tigress or Viper. He is in a category of his own and needs his own style of training and fighting.

Eventually, Master Shifu designed a training regime for Po using food as reward. It was very effective and Po became an accomplished fighter.

Let us now consider the pains Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, had to go to teach Keller to read and write. Helen Keller was an American who was born deaf and blind in 1880. Under the tutelage of Anne Sullivan, She eventually became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree in Arts.

In her writings, Helen Keller mentioned about how enlightening it felt when Sullivan first placed her palm under a running stream of water and signed the words ‘water’ on her palm.

Prior to that encounter, her world was darkness. She could not communicate with the outside world and no one could communicate with her. With persistent effort, Anne Sullivan had finally brought light into her darkness.

Stewards Not Owners

It is quite common, in our culture of ownership, that we perceive that our children belong to us.

Due to this erroneous concept of parenthood, many parents attempt to mould their children in their own images. Some take it a step further and try to convince their children to fulfil the dreams that they themselves have failed to achieve. This is folly.

The painful truth is – we are not the owners of our children. God is. He created them and ‘owns’ them. We are merely the stewards of our children.

When we are blessed with a child, it is likened to receiving an unknown seed from God. We do not know what that seed will produce. It could be an apple tree, a sunflower or a tomato plant. Our jobs are not to impose our will on the seed but to water the seed, remove the weeds (and pests) and provide occasion fertilisers to it.

In the same manner, as parents, our jobs are to fulfil the following roles and to allow our children to grow organically into what they were meant to be:

1) Food, clothing, shelter, safety

The most important things we have to provide for our children are the basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter and safety.

In Singapore, these necessities are usually taken for granted. But consider the plight of the millions of refugees in the world. How difficult it is for them to provide these for their children. Their efforts and courage are laudable and need our support.

2) Moral scaffold

This is of utmost importance. Our children are born into a world where temptations unto selfishness, hyper sexuality and hedonism are aplenty.

Without a proper moral scaffold, they will not have the moral fortitude and tenacity they need to navigate the world and lead good and happy lives.

As such, it is critical to imbue our children with the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance from a young age.

3) Role models

The best kind of teaching is role modelling. If we role model good behaviour (e.g. apologising, showing gratefulness) to our children, they pick up these traits organically. No formal lecture is needed.

On the flip side, if we constantly role model bad traits (e.g. selfishness, pride, condescension) to them, they will automatically pick up these traits.

To be a good role model, we have to be mindful of our behaviours in front of children.

4) Love

In my opinion, one of the best things we can do for our children is to inject lots of unconditional love into their lives.

To do so, we have to be present in their lives. This entails more than physical presence. It means that we have to be emotionally present and interested in our children’s lives; It means that we have to actively listen to their gripes and comfort them when they are sad.

The simple act of injecting love into our little ones can transform them into little lights fully charged to illuminate the world around them.

5) God

This issue may be a little sensitive to the non-religious crowd. Nonetheless, it is important to discuss it so I will leave this here.

Let us now operate under the assumption that there is a spiritual realm. Our child’s ability to be sensitive to this realm, to pray and to listen to the Holy Spirit, depends a lot on how much they are being exposed to these practices when they are young.

Under the Montessori method of childhood education, it has been found that a child’s window for religious development occurs at a very young age (i.e. 3–7 years old).

It is no secret that some adult converts (to the faith) find it hard to engage in certain forms of meditation and prayer. This is because they have not be exposed to such prayer when they were young.

With that considered, Whatever your spiritual tradition, please start your children young. Pray in front of them and bring them to church. This allows them to build up the skills they need to attain spiritual mastery in their later years.

Conclusion

I hope this article has been helpful to you. When faced with a difficult parenting situation today, consider meditating on the trials of Anne Sullivan and Master Shifu. There is always a way to teach our children. We just have to experiment and find the way.

Our job is not to train our children to become like us (or better versions of us). It is to create a good, safe and loving space for them to grow into what God has intended them to be.

Have a blessed day ahead!

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Counsellor, Writer (Christianity, Children’s short stories)

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Denise Thong

Denise Thong

Counsellor, Writer (Christianity, Children’s short stories)

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