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Working mother and son learn a tough lesson together


Working mother and son learn a tough lesson together

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It was six o’clock and dusk was closing in when my company called an emergency meeting. I felt a little queasy and by half past six, I could resist it no longer; I tiptoed to the pantry and stealthily made a call. Nothing could be more urgent than this, I reasoned.

learning“Hi, son, did you get your dictation book back? What was the result? Only 85 marks, how come? Didn’t we go over those lines together a thousand times? Why are you so forgetful?” By this time, I was growling.

Eighty five only? The marks for each dictation will count towards the grand average in a school semester. This would put him below 30th on the school report-card again. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I pushed my son to study, my efforts were always in vain.

All of a sudden my boss shot a question at me. “Blanche, what would you suggest?” “Well… ha, ha … er …” I stammered, with a nervous laugh. Oh, Blanche Tang, as a working mum, you are such a loser, I reflected.

It was 10pm and I was starving, but there was no time for dinner. I had to help my son with his homework. And yet he put his elbows on the table and his face in his hands, pouted and talked back when I scolded him. “I can’t see why it’s a must to achieve 100 marks every time. What’s the point of scoring any marks if everyone is supposed to get full marks?” At this, I flew off the handle and shouted: “You haven’t finished your homework, and you haven’t reviewed your lesson! I’ve really had it with you! You know that you’re asking for a good spanking, don’t you?”

On the nights that followed, there was a lot of yelling and crying in the house — the family was in turmoil. There just seemed to be no end to all the wailing and bawling …

Seeing the light

But thank God for coming to the rescue: when my son was eight years old, he drew a picture of me as an ugly witch. Then he stabbed at the drawing ferociously with his pencil, ripping it to shreds. There was no doubt about it — my son hated me.

That was the turning point of my life as a mother. I thought long and hard: I was strict with my son because I wanted him to have a bright future. But how could there be a future for a child if he was growing up with hatred in his heart?

It didn’t matter what position he earned in an exam. The only thing that mattered was: what could I do to rekindle his love towards me?

From that moment on, I vowed that I would adhere to the four big “Nos” in nurturing my son — no beating, no scolding, no threatening and no long face.

The four big “Nos” did not imply that I would give up my parental obligations. Rather, when my child made a mistake, I would encourage him to look for it himself and correct it. I would guide him patiently to think over, reflect on and come to understand his shortcomings, with a view to not making the same mistake again — but only when both of us had calmed down and were in a rational state of mind. 

Triggering the motivation to learn

Appreciation was a great motivator: “Your writing is really good and these expressions are particularly impressive! Where did you learn all this?” “I learnt it from my reading.” “You are terrific! And you see how enjoyable reading can be!” My son would flash a broad grin at me.

When a child becomes aware of the satisfaction to be gained from making an effort, he will come to love this feeling and will determine to continue working hard so as to keep on enjoying such satisfaction. This is the dynamism of “self-motivation” — the motivation to want to learn.

My son became more diligent in his reading from that time on. Without being told to, he saved new words in his computer and studied them when he had time. His English composition skills improved by leaps and bounds. During his university study, he even managed to win a scholarship with a piece of writing that he produced.

However, a child is bound to experience moments of adversity as he grows up. Even a grade A student cannot always stay on top right from primary school to the university. When his school performance falls short, many parents will become angry with him, demanding to know why he received such poor marks.

Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead!

mother and sonI have determined to rid myself of such negative thoughts. Never again will I act like a witch. When my child’s school performance turns out to be less than satisfactory, I will learn to keep a cool head and respond wisely according to the circumstances. The child will already be feeling guilty about his poor performance and will be eager for guidance so that he can do better in future. It will do no good for parents to yell at him and blame him. Advice and encouragement are what he needs.

I would put my arm around my child’s shoulders and ask him sincerely: “Well, are you happy with your performance?” And the slight shaking of his head told me that he wasn’t, but that he would try to improve.

Not only have I abstained from the bad habit of yelling, I have also learnt to be persuasive by gently telling my son: “You will perform better so long as you work hard.” Or “You have been studying very hard — and look at the improvement you have made! Congratulations!” Or “Your writing is really good and these few lines are particularly impressive!”

Somehow or other, a miracle occurred. My child, who could once finish no higher than thirtieth in exams, has already graduated from the University of Hong Kong. Now he is pursuing a master’s degree in the UK. What’s more, he has become my best friend, someone in whom I can confide and who feels at ease confiding in me.


Blanche Tang

About the writer

Blanche Tang, a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, majored in psychology. She is married and has two sons. During the 1980s, she was a very popular Hong Kong disc jockey (DJ), having won the Golden Radio DJ Award several times.

In recent years, she has been devoted to promoting parent-child education, as well as concerns for the psychological health of city people. She currently hosts a “phone-in” radio show “Mind Express Family” (訴心事家庭) on RTHK Radio 1 about family matters and concerns. Currently a columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Times, Ms Tang has also written several books, including Incredible True Stories (《不可思議的真人真事》), John & MaryMum, Don’t Cry (《媽媽不要哭》) and A Mother Who Smiles (《會笑的媽媽》).