Help Kids Be Who They Are
The following is a guest blog that my dear friend and esteemed colleague Lillian Pearl Bridges (pictured here with her lovely two sons and daughters-in-law) has allowed me to share with you. It was originally published on the Natural Cures Blog. Lillian is the author of "Face Reading in Chinese Medicine," director of the Lotus Institute, and a wildly popular international speaker on face reading, personal transformation, and the "Golden Path." Besides teaching and consulting, she is currently busy cooking up a storm for the cookbook that she is writing. Please visit her website at lotusinstitute.com. While her sons are all grown up, I still have a teenage daughter at home and have found Lillian's ideals very much in alignment with my own.
As a mother, I wanted the best for my two sons and still do, even though they are now adults. I too read all the parenting books to look for the best advice on how to be a good parent. And of course the first person I turned to was my mother. I was raised in a Chinese family, but luckily I didn’t have a Tiger Mother, with incredibly high standards for education. I had the Dragon Mother instead! She guarded and protected her children fiercely and yes, she did have high standards, but she quite simply assumed that we would get good grades and go to college or marry well or get a good job and then take care of our parents in return. That was our filial responsibility and to me it is perfectly natural to think and live that way. I thought that was a good way to parent, but I wanted to give even more to my children. I wanted them to want to achieve for themselves, not achieve because I wanted them to or for my sake. I didn’t want to raise “Ego Extensions..” So, I started researching the techniques of the best parents I knew and the happiest adults who were my friends and clients. Most importantly, I wanted to find the wisdom that would guide me on one of the most important missions of my life - raising good human beings.
Most of what other people did or the advice they gave me I disregarded, as I wanted to trust my intuition and also wanted to give my children what they really needed and wanted and to teach them to be able recognize those things for themselves. Parenting doesn’t come with manuals and just when you thinkyou have figured it out with one, you get a completely different one. There was a lot of pressure from within and without. My mother-in-law thought I carried my children too much and didn’t let them cry things out. My husband didn’t think I disciplined them enough. My mother thought her grandchildren were perfect jewels – that’s the benefit of a Dragon grandmother – but also thought I wasn’t protecting them enough from harm. I was giving them too much freedom to explore the unsafe world out there – in other words, they were playing sports and swimming at the beach.
The expectations of your spouse, your parents, your in-laws, your friends, the teachers at school and society were very stressful for me. To top it all off, I ended up being a single mother and felt even more responsibility for being the perfect parent. So, I looked to what I already knew: from my studies at UCSB and UCLA in psychology and child development; and to my work in Chinese Face Reading, where I knew how the traumas in childhood could alter a person’s life; and to the Taoist philosophy that I teach regarding uncovering your Original Face and finding your Golden Path. In short, I wanted to steer my children, not drive them toward their future. So, I decided that I needed to create a standard to live by to ensure that I was doing the right thing. So here’s what I came up with:
“To be a good mother, I have to love my children and support them in what and whom they love.”
Now that may sound easy, but here’s what that little phrase really means to me. Loving your children means that I love each child for who he (in my case) really is. I view parenting as being the “Keeper of the Sacred Flame .” The flame refers to the soul, spirit or essence of each person. I was fortunate enough to be the keeper of two beautiful flames and it was my job to make sure they didn’t go out. It didn’t matter what they did, how they acted, what they said or what anyone else thought of them. I was responsible for remembering their “Original Face,” or who they came in as and maintain the faith that they were special and wonderful beings always. Yes, they acted badly and said and did things that were upsetting, infuriating and exasperating. But, as long as I was faithful to the purity and beauty of their individual flames and reminded them about who they are, those flames would not go out and they wouldn’t have to search so hard for themselves in the future.
The second part of my standard, was even harder. Supporting my children in what they love was about helping them do what they were most interested in, even if those interests changed. And it also meant not forcing them to do things that I thought they should do, if they truly had no interest. For my older son, that involved buying him bows and arrows as he loves archery to this day. I’m sure you can imagine what a Dragon grandmother thought about that! He was also obsessed with soccer and that involved lots of driving to practices, games, even volunteering to be a Team Manager so he could pursue this passion. It also meant watching lots of Liverpool games. My younger son was completely different. He played baseball with a whole different set of practices, games and yes, I did become Team Mom more than once. He also loved to read and didn’t like the library so I invested a lot of money in buying him his favorite Science Fantasy novels and he still has that big collection today. He is even writinga novel of his own right now. Of course, I also made them do their homework too! Supporting them in the choices of people they lovedand liked meant being accepting of their friends and eventually their girlfriends and someday their wives. I didn’t tell them I didn’t like someone they liked or loved. I only pointed out if their friends were acting in dangerous ways. Yes, I have a little of the Dragon mother in me too! I also didn’t criticize their father, for they loved him very much and that would also mean that I was criticizing an important part of them.
You know what? That standard worked for me, and more importantly, it worked for my kids. A lot of my clients ask me for parenting advice, and that is what I tell them. I think kids should play and they are not playing enough. That’s why you support them in what they love – that is play for them. Unfortunately, I am now seeing a lot of children with lines across the top of their chins, which means retirement that is supposed to happen when they are in the 60’s! This marking means that they are working too hard doing things that they don’t want to do and their bodies’ are taking a hit. They are exhausting themselves physically instead of living with their spirit fully engaged. Maybe it is time to let children play more and stop making them work so hard. Straight As and perfect SAT scores don’t necessarily make people happier. Help the children in your lifefind what they do want to do and encourage them to do it. Let kids play more so they know what it feels like and so they can eventually find their life’s work that feels like play. Then they can contribute themselves and their talents to the world because they will be on their Golden Path.