Celebrated Chinese educator Zhou Hong and film director Jack Neo weigh in on the finer points of parenting.
By Carol Loi
To label Prof. Zhou Hong as a “wonder parent” is not too much of a stretch. His parenting philosophy is “appreciation education”, which focuses on a child’s strengths and builds upon these positive traits to inculcate a healthy self-esteem in the child. It has not only propelled his hearing impaired-daughter into the list of top 10 women in China but provided a source of hope and progress for millions of families throughout the world.
Zhou will be in Singapore next weekend from March 3 to 4 to elaborate on the principles and techniques of appreciation education. If you are interested in issues like raising high-achieving children without compromising their happy childhoods, preventing them from joining gangs (or pulling them out if they are already in one), helping them to handle school bullies and overcome gaming addictions, sign up at the links below.
In the meantime, City News caught up with both Zhou and film director Jack Neo, whose latest movie We Not Naughty is based on Zhou’s parenting approach, for a quick chat.
How has Zhou Hong’s approach to nurturing children impacted the conceptualization of your latest movie, We Not Naughty?
Jack Neo: I had consulted Zhou Hong in preparation for the movie, with the aim of incorporating his approach and his on-the-ground experience of appreciation education into the movie. Raising children is an art; a parent’s own background tends to make a lot of difference in how his or her child is raised. If their own parents had not praised or encouraged them, they are less likely to know how best to encourage their own children.
Zhou Hong: Parents tend to compare their children with others. Such comparisons often discourage children more than they encourage them. It would thus be more constructive to highlight their strengths and weaknesses rather than pit them against one another directly.
How do we as parents know if we are using the most effective way to nurture our children?
ZH: It is a matter of how we view the world, not just our children. Before we change others, we should first reflect and see if we need to change ourselves. We need to understand the consequences of our actions on others. For example, before we decide to separate from or divorce our spouse, we need to know its impact on our children.
JN: We think our parenting approach is natural because we were brought up in a certain way by our parents. Some parents who were raised in an abusive home would often raise their children in the same way, as they have not experienced any other way of raising children. It becomes a kind of “generational curse”. But all it takes is just one enlightened parent to break the cycle, to recognize that their children are precious and unique individuals who have their own strengths, not just weaknesses.
What do you think is the main cause of stress in our country? Not only are the parents stressed; the children are stressed too.
ZH: From the start, parents are afraid to lose out. Educating parents to adopt an appreciative mindset is therefore important. One of the mothers who attended my seminar last year had an 18-year-old son who spent 20 hours a day playing computer games! He had a very bad temper, and his parents would often be angry with him but did not know what to do with him. After attending the seminar, she used what she learned and tried a different approach. Instead of getting angry with him, she told him that her heart ached for him, and she made supper for him. She continued to shower him with love and attention, and he gradually reduced the time he spent on computer games.
Even though he spent less time on the computer, his bad temper issue remained and he would throw things in a fit of anger. Instead of scolding him, his parents explained that they understood his need to vent his anger, but that his outbursts upset them too. They would also encourage him after each episode, saying that it was good that the number of drinking glasses he threw each time was decreasing. As his temper improved, so did his relationship with his parents, who did not react in a typical fashion, but in a way that was full of love regardless of what they saw in front of them.
There is another story of a boy whose parents separated when he was 1. He had a very bad temper, and joined one of my camps when he was 6. He learned the art of looking at things positively and thus became very popular in school. One day he was bullied at school. But instead of taking revenge, he wrote a letter to the bully saying that he was concerned for him and his heart hurt for him. The boy requested for the bully to not to treat him like he treated himself. Even a young boy understood the power of positive relationships.
Does this mean that children should not be disciplined or punished? How will they learn to tell right from wrong if we only shower them with appreciative words all the time?
ZH: It is important to know that bad behavior often arises from an underlying reason. Punishing our children for their wrong behavior is almost like just chipping at the tip of an iceberg—we need to look for the underlying source of the bad behavior and address the root of the misbehavior.
Prof. Zhou Hong’s seminar “Naughty Children—Born Or Bred?” on Mar. 3 and 4, 2012 (1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.) at MAX ATRIA@Singapore Expo is open for registration through Sistic. Tickets at S$69. City Harvest Church members enjoy a 15 percent discount off with the quote “360con360” upon purchase, till Mar 1, 2012 only. Log on to www.congress360.com.sg or www.facebook.com/NanzChongKomo for more information.