If you feel uncomfortable with that last statement because it seems to focus too much on yourself, think twice and consider what Jesus taught in the Bible. “The most important one is this: ‘... Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).
As a Chinese parent, you probably care more about your child than yourself. Love and caring are good. However, remember the flying safety instruction of putting on our oxygen mask before helping the child or elderly next to us. If you cannot breathe, you cannot help others!
Parenting is one of the -- if not the -- most challenging jobs on the planet. There is the awesome responsibility of raising and guiding another human being, of course. But it's the daily interactions between children and parents that can require almost super-human amounts of flexibility, patience and awareness. All the experts and all the books aren't there when it's your toddler who won't sleep, your school-age daughter who stole a valued toy from her best friend, your depressed teenage son who is desperately searching for answers, or your adult child who can't hold down a job.
At one level, successful -- even joyful -- parenting is about listening to ourselves as well as listening to our children. It's a hands-off approach that brings the focus back to what we are feeling and experiencing, so that we don't unthinkingly rain anger and fear down upon our children. Being aware of ourselves helps us develop a strong "mind of Christ" or an intuitive sense of knowing what is best for us and our children in any moment. (And accepting that sometimes we really don't know yet!)
In his book "Sacred Parenting," Christian author Gary Thomas writes, "Our natural (but not necessarily holy) inclination to make life as easy as possible for our children, coupled with our focus on what we really want them to achieve, ultimately tells us parents what we value most about life. In what we stress with our children, we reveal the true passion of our own hearts."
One of the first challenges is to understand that old patterns -- often formed in our own childhoods -- can often rule our behavior as parents right now. For example, if our own parents tried to fix everything that went wrong, we may try to do the same with our children. But the truth is, sometimes our children may need us just to listen to their fears and not jump in with our own fears and try to "fix" it all.
In the process, we allow our kids to make mistakes, and that means we can, too. And if we can forgive our kids and accept them with all their flaws and imperfections, it can't be too difficult to do this for ourselves.
As author Gary Thomas writes: "Are we leaving an authentic example for our children to follow? Will what they've seen draw them to God, or will our hypocrisy create a roadblock for faith? None of us can leave a perfect example, but we can provide a genuine example, an authentic picture of what it means to walk hand in hand with God."
As a mother, have you ever wondered what to leave for your son like I did back then? The Apostle Paul once wrote to Timothy: "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5)
If you think you can't make it, you're not alone. Who can give you hope, help and healing? Perhaps as Christian parents, all we can do is to live out our new life of "Union with Christ" day by day, moment by moment!
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications
I am now a retired California marriage and family therapist who no longer provides therapy services. Lord willing, I shall continue to write articles and lead workshops. Please pray for me; and you are still welcome to visit ParentingABCtoday.com for additional resources. May the Lord bless you and your family!
Happy Mother's Day!
Winnis Chiang, founder of Parenting ABC and a retired LMFT, is passionate about helping Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and positively influence their American-born children.