By Zhang Heng
I Made Plans for My Son
My son is 12 this year and he is in Grade 5. In the past, regardless of whether on holiday or at the two-day weekend, both the specific time when he did his homework and the amount of his homework each time were organized by me. He was very obedient and every time he could finish on time as planned. So, over time, I thought my plans were quite reasonable and that only by listening to me could he finish his homework on time.
During this winter vacation, with my previous experience, I first saw how much homework he had as usual, and then evenly divided it according to the number of days of the vacation, and meanwhile I reckoned how much he should do every day and how long he would finish it. Except the time that he went out to play and the days when he visited relatives and friends, I had his vacation occupied. But something unimaginable happened to me. This time he not only didn’t do his homework, but always played online gaming on the mobile phone like “Arena of Valor” and so on, and even more, in his leisure time, he began to watch TV. Every time I urged him to do his homework, he agreed with me completely, but didn’t do it or found all sorts of excuses to shirk.
The school would start soon. Seeing that his homework hadn’t been finished, I felt so anxious in my heart, while he was so unconcerned: He watched TV and played games as he did before. When I saw he didn’t give his mind properly to his homework and was still so calm, my patience was subject to a huge challenge. One day, I was no longer able to rein back my inside repressed anger. Therefore, I shouted to him loudly, “Do you intend not to attend school? If you do, throw away all your homework! Don’t write! Never again do it, that’s great! And I’ll no longer need to worry about your doing homework.”
After I got angry, he had his head down in silence. No matter what I said, he defied me with silence. Looking at his look, I was really angry but didn’t know what to do. I put my mind on his homework all the time, thinking: I don’t ask how well you study or how excellent you are, but at least you should finish your homework assigned by the teacher. During that period, I’d been angry with him so that I even didn’t want to sit with him at the dinner table. And when he spoke to me, I didn’t want to say a word to him. I expressed my dissatisfaction with him in this way, but I also didn’t want to give up disciplining him. I thought inside: He’s my son, if I don’t discipline him, who will? People often say, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” It seems that he should be disciplined, or it’ll be difficult to control him when he grows up. Hence, I made up my mind to carry out all my plans I thought out: Firstly, I don’t allow him to come into contact with mobile phone to play games; secondly, I don’t allow him to watch TV. I thought: In this way, he will naturally be able to finish his homework then.
However, things didn’t go completely as I expected. Under my high-handed means, though he didn’t watch TV or play games, he still didn’t change his attitude toward doing his homework. He just put his head on the desk and didn’t do it. As a result, when I checked it in the evening, the amount of homework he had was the same as what he had in the morning. Seeing this, I lost my patience utterly and then said to him angrily, “Tell me what you want. Are you ever going to do your homework? Give me a definite answer!” Under my repeated close questioning, he said, “Never mind: I can finish my homework.” I questioned him, “You can finish it? Think about how much homework you still have! Only several days remain before school starts. You will finish your homework when two Sundays come together.”
This was my harshest criticism of him. During that time, I had his doing homework on my mind all day and because of this, I was exhausted physically and mentally.
All of This Was Caused by the Position
I had tried every possible method but there was nothing I could do about it. I thought inside: If things go on like this, not only will our relationship as father and son fall apart, but my daily life will be affected. This thing occupies my mind so much. In this state of helplessness, I could do nothing but come before God and pour out all my difficulties to Him, “O God! Now I feel very helpless. As for how to treat my son’s study, I don’t know what I should do. If I don’t discipline him, I fear he won’t study hard; if I do that, he’ll take no notice. What shall I do with him? God, I wish for You to guide me to understand which truths I should enter.”
After this prayer and a period of time of seeking, one day when practicing spiritual devotion, I saw God’s words say, “If the adults always try to subdue the child in this way, if they’re always telling the child what to do, treating them like a doll in their hands, always carrying them around, clutching and cradling them, the child won’t want to listen.” “In a parent’s eyes, the parent is always a parent, and the child is always a child. Thus, the relationship between parent and child becomes very difficult to deal with, and it’s very hard for both sides to get along with each other. Precisely because a parent always assumes their place as a parent and will not budge from it, keeping that status from which they will not come down, their child becomes at odds with them. A lot of things really result from the parent always assuming their place as such and taking themselves too seriously; they always see themselves as the parent, the elder: ‘Regardless of when, you won’t get escape from your mother’s (or father’s) control; you’ll still have to listen to me. You are my child. The fact of this doesn’t change, regardless of when.’ This viewpoint makes them miserable and wretched, and makes the child miserable and exhausted. Isn’t this the case? Is this not a manifestation that one doesn’t understand the truth?”
These words of God caused me to cool down. I thought about myself: These days, in dealing with my son, what I did was indeed just like what God’s words said. I always stood in my position as a parent, thinking: I’m his father. That I educate him is a mandate from Heaven and cannot be blamed. So he must listen to my words, for the positions of father and son are never changed. Hence, when he didn’t listen to my “kind advice”, I got extremely angry, and then acted toward him based on my hot blood and even gave him a cold shoulder, which made our relationship cold and tense. Besides, he didn’t communicate with me, either. Therefore, there was less laughing and talking but more tension in our house.
I was shamed by the revelations of God’s words. Though I believed in God, I didn’t have the likeness of a Christian, for I constrained my son at every turn and treated him as an object of control. So how long he should study every day, when he could play, and his actions and deeds every day were all controlled by me. Thinking of the past, I came to realize what I had brought him was all control and restraint. No wonder he said he felt tired at home and added that homework was an assassin of their generation. Alas! I always requested and educated him in my own way, took away and restricted his freedom, which caused this deadlock today. I must take much of the blame for it.
Having recognized of these things, I prayed to and sought God, asking Him to lead me to find the path of practice and entering in. I saw God’s words say, “How is the truth to be practiced in this case? (Letting go of your pride.) … No matter what happens, sit down and calmly talk with them, communicate and seek. Don’t you think this attitude is good? Isn’t it right? So, what is being let go here? (Position and pride.) It is the letting go of the position and status of a parent, the airs of a parent, and all of the responsibility one thinks they should assume, everything that one thinks they should be doing as a parent; instead, it’s enough that one does the best they can in terms of their responsibility as an ordinary brother or sister.”
The words of God pointed out to me the ways of practice: We parents should put aside our own airs first and don’t treat our children in the position as parents, but instead stand in an equal position to get along with them, understand their thoughts, respect their opinions and have a chat with them calmly. In this way, the situation could be changed.
Though I understood this aspect of the truth, because my disposition was seriously corrupt, when I was going to practice, I found it was too difficult for me. I just couldn’t open my mouth to admit my mistakes. And something was on the tip of my tongue but I couldn’t say anything and didn’t know how to communicate with him. I wanted to learn to have a chat with him and speak the words in my heart to him, but I was used to standing in the position as a parent to talk to him, so I really couldn’t let go of my pride and was unable to put my feelings aside in a short time. Moreover, I thought in my heart: Even though my attitude toward him was awful, what I have done was for his own good. Now if I take the initiative in putting myself aside to open up to him, isn’t it a loss of my face and dignity as a parent? After this, if I say something when seeing some faults in him, will he listen to me? Besides, what’s there to say to him? He’s only a child yet and doesn’t understand anything. When he grows up and understands things, he will naturally know my good intentions. This is how I believed my thoughts were right. Therefore, I temporarily didn’t think of putting God’s words into practice.
My Viewpoints Were Wrong
God knew the fallacies within my viewpoints and the next day, when practicing spiritual devotion, I inadvertently saw a passage of God’s words, “And many parents think they are always right. ‘As long as it’s for the child’s sake, what I’m doing is right.’ They really have such thoughts and points of view. How could you not make mistakes? You too are a corrupted human being, how can you determine that you are without error? As long as you admit that you do not possess the truth, that you are a corrupted human being, then you have errors and you can make mistakes. You can make mistakes, yet at every turn how is it that you try to take charge of your children, and have them at every turn listen to you? Is this not an arrogant disposition? This is an arrogant disposition and a ferocious one at that.”
After I finished reading this passage of God’s words, I couldn’t help but feel very ashamed. To think that I believed when we parents educated our children, our starting-points were for their good, so we were beyond criticism. But through God’s words, I came to understand: I’m also a corrupted human being; the way I educated my son wasn’t truth; I asked him to obey me absolutely, and even more, I took charge of him at every turn, which wasn’t in accordance with God’s intention. Though he is my son in the fleshly relationship, he has his own thoughts and opinions. So I have no reason to get him to listen to me at every point. I was always strict with him. Wasn’t it Satan’s arrogant disposition? Thinking of this, I no longer thought my behavior was all for his good. At that point, I was willing to let go of my pride and position as a father and open up to him. Then I prayed to God, asking Him to prepare a suitable chance for me.
One night, I saw my son had nothing to do and then I came to him and said calmly, “Son, let’s have a heart-to-heart talk.” He nodded in agreement. I asked him, “Before, when I lost my temper at you, what did you think?” He replied, “I just really wanted to tell you my inner thoughts. Actually, I had the plans in my mind and I knew I needed to arrange my time properly.” His words were beyond my expectation. Then I said, “In fact, I want you to have good study habits. When I saw you played games and didn’t do your homework, I got anxious inside. So I lost my temper at you. That was my fault. From now on, I’ll no longer do that, and if something happens, I’ll discuss and communicate with you….” That night we talked a lot as friends. Since he also read God’s words at usual times, finally, I said, “Let’s make an appointment: In the future, if I do something wrong, you can point it out to me. We help each other, pay attention to practicing God’s words and pursue being Christians God likes. OK?” He answered happily, “OK!”
I Realized My Son Had Grown up
That night, before I slept, I read another passage of God’s words, “The child has, in fact, long since grown up, he’s long since established his own way of thinking, state of mind, insight, and viewpoints—he’s long since had these things—yet the adults never realize this, they can never keep up, they always talk and interact with the child as if he’d just been born.”
I thought: That’s right. As my son grows older, he indeed gradually has his own thoughts and opinions. However, I always felt he was a little child, so I controlled him and forcefully indoctrinated him with the ideas which I thought were right. Besides, I didn’t get enough sense to have heart-to-heart talks or communicate with him in order to have an understanding of the inner world of him. But through having a chat with him openly just now, I gradually felt he was no longer the naive child in my heart. On the contrary, he has his own thoughts and views, and isn’t the one who has no opinions or plans as I imagined. Just because my ideas were constrained, I treated him as a child at a few years old all the time as if he knew nothing. Having experienced these matters, I realized my son had grown up and he was no longer the child I thought or the one who must be watched and forced to go ahead by me. Meanwhile, I shouldn’t control what he did any longer, but instead should know more about his inner world and allow him to show his innocent and lively side belonging to his age group. In dealing with his doing homework, I let go of my high-handed means and learned to allow nature to take its course. As for some new things he wanted to learn, I didn’t simply restrict him but led him to differentiate and let him know which were positive and which were negative.
When I did these things, I saw my son sometimes finished his homework in advance, and what’s more, he offered to ask whether we could have a gathering. Seeing this, I was so happy inside that I couldn’t help but offer God boundless praise and gratitude, because I knew it was all under the guidance of God. At the same time, I also saw that when I did things based on my corrupt satanic disposition, what it brought us was all pain, depression and indifference; instead, when I acted according to God’s requirements, there were unexpected results.
At another two-day weekend after school started, I asked my son, “When are you going to do your homework?” He said he had planned that how much homework he intended to do in the morning, how much he would do in the afternoon and what he would do the next day. Hearing that he had arranged his own time regularly, I said, “OK, now that you’ve arranged, just do as you planned.” When I saw he was growing up and maturing and that he had his own plans and directions to do things, I thought I indeed couldn’t see him with my old eyes any longer, nor could I employ corrupt disposition to deal with our relationship. Under the guidance of God’s love, we are both gradually growing up. All the glory be to God!