Runtao on Family Education (1): Help Your Child to Build Confidence

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【编者按: 润涛先生对子女教育有着独到的见解,其理念及方法值得大家学习和借鉴。 本文由网友Fusion翻译完成,5名网友对原翻译进行了修改。我们非常感谢所有对本翻译文做出贡献的朋友。请分享给你的孩子或母语不是中文的朋友,并在留言处分享他们的观点。谢谢。
The article was initially translated by Fusion. Five persons contributed to the further edit. We are very grateful to all contributors to this translation.
Please share the article with your children or friends whose native language is not Chinese, and share their views in the comment section. Thank you.】

Runtao on Family Education (1): Help Your Child to Build Confidence
The Child Education Series, Part 1

by RunTao Yan
Thanksgiving Day, 2011
(For the original article in Chinese, see 要让你的孩子有自信 — 教育孩子系列(一)》)

Thanksgiving is an American holiday to thank God for his blessings after the autumn harvest. On this day, I would like to thank my mother and father, my paternal grandfather, and my maternal grandmother for their nurturing during my childhood. This essay will address the question raised by many of my blog readers, “Mr. RunTao Yan, how do you educate your children?” Here is Part 1 of my Child Education Series, Help Your Child to Build Confidence.

First, allow me to say something not directly related to today’s topic. Many readers like my blogs. I have sold more than 900 copies of a book, which merely reprints my blogs that anyone can read for free. I am a scientist, not a professional writer. I do not even know what they teach in a typical Creative Writing program or any writing program in college. I guess readers like my blogs purely because of my unique, refreshing, and independent perspectives. Only writings that offer vision, knowledge, fun, and sound logic can last for generations. Of these critical qualities, a unique concept is by far the essential element. This means exploring what others dare not explore and thinking what others dare not think. Technical products follow much the same logic, just like Steve Jobs, because of his unique vision in creativity. Copycat products that lack creativity never earn people’s respect.

No matter in which field a person excels, he/she must possess the ability to think independently. This ability depends on his/her strong sense of self-confidence or being fearless in front of authority or a tyrant. Otherwise, even a super-intelligent person will crawl behind authority or kneel before the tyrant.

Self-confidence is nurtured in early childhood.

If you are a parent and viciously yelled, cursed, or beaten your child when he/she only had passive memory (before three years of age) or had active memory (between 3 and 7 years of age), you would have mentally damaged your child and diminished his/her self-respect. Today, as a result of your actions, you should face the consequences and have a timeout for three hours in front of your child. If he/she asks you what you are doing,  you should tell him/her that you are repenting because you nurtured him/her with servility, which has dominated the Chinese culture for thousands of years and is in complete conflict with modern civilization. It would be best if you stop doing what you have been doing to minimize the damage that has already been done to your child.

Do not underestimate the damage to your child through these passive memories of your menacing stares and yells. This passive memory may have sowed the seeds of fear. If repeated through the child’s years of active memory, such stares and yells may reinforce this fear and form the conception that he/she has to bend before a strongman and never challenge authority. Consequently, your child may grow up with the belief and behavior pattern that he/she should likewise bully the weak, kiss up to power, and never stand out in a crowd. In other words, he/she may have been nurtured into a self-disciplined slave.

I do not have any recollection of mistreatment in my passive memory. However, after I developed active memory, I did receive such abuse from my uncle on my mother’s side, the Big Uncle. During my childhood, I never stayed overnight, nor had any meals in any relatives’ homes, except the home of Big Uncle and Second Auntie. Big Uncle’s son, Cousin Naughty, and Second Aunt’s daughter, frequently came to our house and stayed the night. These two families had been quite close to ours.

One day my mother and I visited her mother, who lived with her son, Big Uncle. While visiting, Big Uncle menacingly stared at me for no reason. I got nervous and felt something was wrong. I dragged my mother out of their house and asked my mother to go home. Big Uncle’s wife was confused and did not allow us to leave. She said, “We’ve all agreed that you should stay here overnight. Why do you want to leave so soon?” I kept asking my mother to leave, but she did not know what had happened. In the end, Big Uncle told the truth that it was he who stared at me to scare me, just for fun.

After arriving home, my mother told my father and grandfather why we came back early. My grandfather then told me not to be afraid of Big Uncle. “If he stares at you, you should stare back at him!” Since then, and for a long time after, Big Uncle’s menacing stares often appeared in my nightmares.

One day in the year of my high school graduation, which was after my grandfather’s passing, Big Uncle hit my younger brother in front of my mother and father. Again, it was for no reason. During the time, we were building a new home for our family, for which we had many relatives come to help. Big Uncle defended his actions by saying my brother was loafing on the job, which was completely untrue. It was a nonsense claim, like a wolf blaming a sheep for muddying the water in the river.

My brother is as diligent a person as anyone could imagine. He started collecting horse dung (translator note: people use it as natural fertilizer in the farmland)one early winter morning when he was a little kid, which resulted in terrible frostbite on the back of his hands. We could not understand why Big Uncle acted so viciously? We did all know why. It was because he could not live with the fact that a family could survive in this world without cursing and beating up children. While he was hitting my brother, he said he was beating up a child on behalf of the child’s parents. In fact, my brother was 15 at the time and taking care of all the house chores with extreme diligence. How could such a mature young man still be regarded as a child? Recognizing that my mother and father did not say a word, Big Uncle left with disappointment and anger. He expected my mother or father would save his face by saying that my brother “deserves the beating.”

Big Uncle had the guts to hit my brother (his nephew) because he was the closest kin to my family. He had the closest sibling relationship with his third older sister (my mother) since a very young age. My mother was almost his surrogate mother, and she loved him the most among all the siblings. He always came to help whenever our family needed labor. He also loved my mother the most among all of his kin. He felt he had the responsibility to help my mother nurture her children. As to how the nurturing would be carried out, he simply followed the thousand-year-old Chinese tradition of “beating up your child on a rainy day, while having nothing else to do.” However, in my family, children can make fun of their parents and treat them as equals. Big Uncle could not tolerate that. In his mind, if parents did not have the supreme authority over their children, the family would not be a family! After that incident, he stopped coming to our house for a long time. The beating incident made my mother and father unhappy.

Had my grandfather been alive, he would probably have told my brother, “If Big Uncle hits you, you should hit him back! He and you are equal human beings in this world!” That was also why Big Uncle never dared to hit us when my grandfather was alive. He knew my grandfather had a temper on such issues. In fact, my brother understood Big Uncle’s twisted logic clearly. In remembering Big Uncle’s kindness to our family in other aspects, my brother continued to pay New Year’s visits to him and continued to act with care and sincerity. Over time, Big Uncle stopped feeling the awkwardness when interacting with my brother.

Of our six siblings, no one had rebellious thoughts or behavior while growing up. This is because we never had the experience of being stared at viciously, cursed at, or beaten up. If we did anything wrong, our mother, father, and grandfather just pretended they did not see and let us correct it by ourselves. I remember when I was a younger boy, I made a mistake while practicing calligraphy. I told my father, “Oops, I did this wrong.” My father said to me, He had made more mistakes when he was that age. My grandfather, who was on the side, corrected him. “It’s not that you made more mistakes than this boy when you were young. It is that you are making more mistakes now than this boy, and you are making more mistakes now than when you were young!” My father laughed at the comment. I did not understand and said to my grandfather that it could not be possible. Then my father told me seriously, “Children make fewer mistakes than grownups, and that is true. This is also why a parent has no right to beat up his/her child, anywhere in this world.”

I asked, “What if a child steals?”

My father said, “A child can only steal a melon or a date. A grownup can steal a nation, grabbing the entire country and all its resources. Therefore, beating up a child is a senseless, illogical, and horrendous act. This act is derived from the traditional Chinese doctrine of ‘father trumps son,’ which supports the grander doctrine of ’emperor trumps minister,’ all to establish and strengthen the hierarchical order of the traditional Chinese society. To prevent grownups from challenging the ruler’s power and authority, the society must sow the seeds of fear of the power in their heart as a child. Only through this growing-up nurturing would a grownup act like a slave voluntarily and subconsciously. In China, there have not been any deep thinkers for over two thousand years. This has been so ever since Emperor Qin Shihuang established the first Imperial Dynasty and the Imperial System. All deep thinkers appeared during the period of ‘A Hundred School of Thought,’ before Emperor Qin Shihuang.”

When I became a father and had two young children, I never had the so-called “power and authority” in front of them. When I told this fact to my Chinese friends, they all thought it was incredible and wanted to help me figure out why. They could not comprehend that it was my wish to relinquish such parental power and authority.

It is true to say that an independent-minded person, a person written in capital letters (a real human being who is unafraid of power or authority), would have a hard time surviving in the Mao era without experiencing various kinds of mistreatments and tragedies. Nowadays, our children growing up in the free world should not have such worries. Suppose you want your child to live with dignity, to become a person with creativity, a person written in capital letters. In that case, a person respected by others, a person with an independent mind and not a pathetic soul who bows to the powerful, bullies the weak, and is afraid of authority, you should help your child before reaching his/her third birthday, to establish his/her self-confidence, show the personality that is unafraid of a strongman or authority, and with such courage deeply rooted in his/her heart. You should especially let your child know that his/her dignity is as precious as yours.

I have many childhood experiences and recollections of my grandfather, father, and mother, teaching me the principle of “respecting others and earning back the respect from them,” and the belief “what a child should be afraid of is not a strongman or a parent, but not knowing the truth (Being fearful of a strongman and not knowing the truth, are entirely different concepts).

The daughters regard their father as an older brother and their mother as an older sister. They treat their parents as equals and tell them everything because there is no need to lie. They make full decisions for their affairs and continue to do so now. What I am proud of is their character. They are unpretentious, diligent, hardworking, respectful, self-confident, and self-motivated. As to what jobs they do and how much they earn, I do not care a bit.

Many parents feel that a child who is brought up with lots of effort and resources is their private property, and therefore, must obey parents as long as they are living with them.

But they fail to understand that besides being a child to the parents, he/she is also a social being. The era of “beating up kids behind doors without neighbors knowing and intervention” is over, now abandoned by modern civilization. You have to consciously recognize that a child’s human rights supersede your sovereignty over the child and should, if you ever had such authority, to begin with (you do not). The society and people around us no longer respect an obedient slave. Instead, they respect a person daring to think, daring to act, daring to stand out, daring to be creative, and written in capital letters (a real human being who is unafraid of power or authority).

The same logic that applies to a family also applies to a nation. Such nations that claim sovereignty superseding human rights must bend to more powerful foreign countries and act tyrannous and cruelly to their citizens/subjects. Their tradition of “beating up children (subjects) behind doors” will soon be thrown out by the world community. A nation is a collection of many, many families. A family’s operational mechanism reflects that nation’s culture. If a man beats up his wife and children after he gets bullied outside of his house, and many, many similar men and families form a nation, that nation will naturally produce an authoritarian ruler or government which acts the same way in the international arena. If you plan to repatriate back to China with your children and assimilate to its traditional culture, ready to bend to authorities to live a quiet life, then you should not read this series of my blogs. However, you should still be aware that the world is changing. The popular culture and people’s value system in China may also change, perhaps rather quickly, while your children are growing up there.

(To be continued)

Thanks to all of my blog readers for your continuous support. I wish you all a very happy holiday!


附:要让你的孩子有自信 — 教育孩子系列(一)  (文学城链接

【编后语:翻译润涛文字至信雅达之境界非一朝一夕之功,译文之中不足之处,还请指正。】

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