Dear Present & Future Parents,
Most of my content online was created for the purpose of helping out younger folks within my generation – the adults of tomorrow.
This time, we're taking a different spin.
This time, I'm writing an open letter to you.
The parents of tomorrow...and today.
As someone who suffered verbal, physical, and mental abuse as a child, I'd like to bring to light my past experiences and emotions to provide 3 important notes to current and future parents on how to take better care of your children.
Even if you're doing a fine job parenting, and I hope you are, it is my wish that at the very least, you'll find this article insightful.
Note #1. You are the first trusted lens through which a child views the world.
If you're no stranger to my content, you know how much I talk about self-improvement and constantly working on yourself.
Regardless of your upbringing, you always have a responsibility for the final product that is you.
If I didn't believe in this and simply let myself be whatever my parents raised me to be, I promise you I would be an utter monster today.
However, this doesn't mean that parents, too, have a responsibility.
And if the parents fail to do their homework to be decent people, they're going to lead their children astray with their equally misguided ideologies, behaviors, and perspectives.
Here's one of my personal examples.
Through the way my parents treated me, I was raised to believe that mistakes and wrongdoings were to be resolved and rectified through violence and acts of harm, whether verbal or physical.
Obviously, this sounds ridiculous, and resorting to punch-first tactics as an adult in this world would land you in heaps of legal trouble.
But it's basically what my parents taught me from a very young age through their actions.
Eventually, I started physically beating myself up for mistakes that I made.
My self-esteem, if I even had any, was obliterated.
I did their "job" for them.
I became a perfectionist and was utterly impatient and unloving towards myself.
These were, after all, the lenses that my parents gave me.
As someone who eventually glued himself to self-improvement, fortunately, it didn't take long for this behavior from my end to cease, and I found more productive and healthier ways to fix my mistakes.
In other words, I did and still do my homework to work on and improve myself.
For example, you shouldn't raise your kids to:
- Use violence as a go-to method for fixing mistakes.
- Brutally impose themselves on others to establish cruel dominance.
- Think only of themselves and nothing of others.
- Steal what doesn't belong to you and endlessly lie about it.
- Neglect their own kids and never bother to hear them out.
It doesn't matter which way you cut this cake – these behaviors and ideologies are no good for anyone to adopt.
And yet, sometimes parents carelessly indoctrinate their kids with ideas like these through the way they behave, talk, and treat others, including their own kids.
Parents, if you don't take a good look in the mirror and think about the way you see things, you risk setting your kids up for failure.
Look at your thoughts and behaviors under the most powerful microscope you can find and relentlessly vet your own lens.
You're not perfect and you never will be, but if you want to do your best to point your kids in the right direction, and if you give a damn about your kids, you should have no problem doing this at all.
Note #2. The parent/child relationship is not a master/slave relationship.
You might think this is obvious information, but if it were that obvious and if it wasn't as big of an issue like it actually is, I wouldn't be writing about it.
Asian parents are especially guilty of getting this one wrong. Not all of them, but a handful too many.
It goes without saying that I'm not pretending to know what it's like to have been an actual slave in human history, but I was pretty much at the mercy of my own parents' will outside of breathing, blinking, and using the bathroom.
Just about everything I wanted to do outside of homework and studies required absolute and expressed permission.
Here are just some examples of what I couldn't do without expressed approval:
- Hang out with friends.
- Stay after school for any reason at all, even for a necessary project or assignment.
- Play video games or read a book.
- Eat a snack or treat, at any point of the day.
- Having social media. Not "being" on social media. Having it.
And because I was raised in a Guess Culture environment, and because I never knew exactly whether or not I would get approval for a request, I had to dance around my desire and beat around the bush.
I could never ask for what I wanted directly without fear of a harsh rejection.
If you didn't think that was bad enough, let's take it a step further.
I didn't get to choose my own future.
When it came time for college applications, I didn't get to choose which schools I was applying to.
Out of the ones I got accepted to, I didn't get to choose which school I'd end up going to.
Then, I didn't get to choose my own major.
Guess who made all of those life-changing decisions for me?
The two people who I'm no longer in touch with.
And if you deny your child that, there's a good chance they will eventually seek it out, even if it costs you the relationship entirely.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't guide your child in the best way that you can.
This isn't an invitation for you to be completely uninvolved in your child's development and life.
But if you fail to respect your child's autonomy and instead exert your tyrannical control over them, you're not fostering a parent/child relationship.
You're fostering a master/slave one.
Give your child room to breathe, or watch them rip their own freedom from your fingers and disappear from your life.
Note #3. You have a pair of ears. Use them.
Nothing says "bad parenting" like ignoring your child's cries for help and change while kicking their concerns and hardships to the curb.
If I had a set of parents who cared about what I was going through instead of thinking about new insults they could throw in the next at-least-an-hour-long lecture I got on the daily late at night, then I wouldn't have had to resort to writing online.
You could argue that the world is better for it since my content has now been seen by and helped plenty of people all around the world, and I wouldn't have started writing online if I had parents who listened to me and heard me out.
But I don't spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of my abusive upbringing. What a bittersweet subject.
At a certain point, mucking around the swamp of your own past, looking backward, just fucks with your neck.
Here, or should I say "hear," is your call to action:
Be there to listen to your child.
If your child doesn't think you're available, then they're going to turn to other sources for help.
This could include:
- The internet and its potentially dangerous denizens.
- Their friends, who might not actually be friends.
- Bad influences.
- Their teachers and other adults at school.
Being last on the list of people that your child could go to for help and for an audience that would actually listen is not something to shoot for.
If you're not listening to them, you're not doing your job.
Parents and their children are supposed to be a team, and you can't be a team if you can't communicate.
Let your child know that you're there for them.
There's more to this I could write, but I don't want to turn this article into a book. Perhaps I'll write a book instead.
But here's what I'll leave you parents with.
Like I just said at the end of the last note, parents and their children are supposed to be a team.
My relationship with my parents was skewed and they had all the power while I was just there to do as I was told. I didn't even get to have a say in the future of my own life.
The bridge between us was utterly strained, and because they didn't have their act together after nearly 5 decades that they've lived on Earth, the bridge has been burnt.
Prevention is better than cure, so hopefully, this article, if it makes a difference, made a difference while you still had a chance to fix your relationship with your child, or will help you be a good parent when the time comes.
I've previously acknowledged that parenting is something you have to figure out as you go, and nobody can be a perfect parent who never makes mistakes.
However, treatments like:
- Physically, verbally, and mentally abusing your child;
- Neglecting them and refusing to be there for them;
- And controlling them and constructing their life with only your visions of what their life should be
Have no place in any household.
And unless you want to be a horrible influence and risk your kids never getting in touch with you again, I suggest you avoid treating your children like this.
Make families tightly-knit units of love and care.
Not units of distrust, resentment, and hate.