Tuesday, October 20, 2015

From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate (III):
A Date With My Teen Son

Art by Lim's son, when he was still a pre-teen

By Seow Lim*

I was a full time high tech corporate employee for over 15 years in the Silicon Valley. A very ambitious product strategy executive. I worked very hard. I was a classic tiger mom. In my world, there was no room for failure. I was very strict. No compromise. Everything, for me, had to be perfect. I was always busy running around - juggling work and kids. My kids were always busy driven around - to lessons, classes, mostly by the nanny. We were all so busy.

When we sat down for dinner or after dinner, the conversation mostly evolved around accomplishment of tasks. "Did you finish your homework for lesson A, B, C?",  "When is your next belt promotion test for your martial art lesson?",  "How did you do for your tests this week?", I would ask.

Then, something happened. It was November 2013, and it marked a significant turning point for me and my family, as you can read on my first post on this blog. That's no longer me today.

As a 'transformed' mom, I make time to have one-on-one time with my teen son, without the interruption from his chatty little brother who is always fighting for attention. That's our mother-and-son- dates. That's our time alone. No screens, no other family members present.

We usually go to his favorite snack bar, to have a snack and a cup of his favorite tea, and sit and chat. Sometimes we go walking. There's something about favorite food and drink, and music TV in the background that appeals to teenagers. The environment is conducive for him to want to talk. I like to choose Friday afternoons because that's when we are both more relaxed.

Just last Friday, I went to pick him up after school, brought him to the cafe, and started spending high quality time having conversations, discovering his thoughts and feelings.

We talked about many things. First, as soon as he got into the car, he was excited about how he did a Math proof that got him a special compliment from the Math substitute teacher.  I was listening carefully, looking into his eyes, showing lots of interest in my body language. But, frankly, I had returned a lot of my algebra back to my teacher from so many years ago. While he was talking, I wasn't really paying attention to what exactly he said about the Math facts. I was carefully thinking about how should I craft my response to this conversation? Do I praise him? Do I encourage him? Do I ask him to tell me more about the different Math topics that he knows?

I reminded myself that my husband kept telling me that "you can't compliment him too much for results, have to praise him for efforts and hard work; or better still challenge him to do better". I also went through my mind what I learnt from reading about Professor Carol Dweck, Stanford University, Mindset, and re-affirmed by Trish Shaffer's "Raising a Resilient Child".

After all that has gone on in my mind, I delivered a positive response, "That's great. That's because you always work hard and interested to learn more".

Before I picked him up, I was thinking about what topics I should be talking about. I had opened my Povi app, and picked one question. Well, my memory now can only memorize one thing at a time. The question I memorized was "How're you silly?"

He was nodding and thinking about my response, while I started on the next topic. "Do you have any teachers in school this year that act silly or funny in class? ". He then told me about his Language Art teacher who likes to joke a lot. He then started sharing with me that he had written an essay recently that he thought was awesome.

It was about "Sexism against boys". He felt that in today's world, boys and girls should be equal but girls are given too much advantage that's it is unfair to the boys. An example he gave was with physical fitness education grading scale in schools being different for boys and girls. The grades of girls on the scale, are one entire one above the grades of boys with the exact same performance, on the same scale.

The next example he told me was that it’s considered immoral for a man to evacuate a sinking ship before all the women and children are off. “If a man is ever out on the water on a large boat, there's a chance that boat might sink, and if that happens he might be encouraged to wait before he gets on a lifeboat.”

Another example he gave was that most war and work casualties applies to male soldiers. According to American government statistics: “Men accounted for more than 97 percent of the combat deaths and
a similarly high proportion of combat injuries.” Furthermore, “93 percent of workplace fatalities are males.”

I listened carefully to all his points, nodding my head. Once in a while, I added positive comments like you do seem to have done a lot of research on this topic, I believe in the facts you have provided, but I disagree with you. I think there are bigger problems that cause inequalities against women that you haven't seen from your viewpoint.

This subject is interesting to me. I am a 'feminist'.  I turned this conversation into an active debate. I gave him a lot of my own examples including women get paid less for doing the same job, women are expected to do more household chores even if they work etc.

It got pretty heated, but was a lot of fun. In the end, I have taken this opportunity to tell him that, "I respect your viewpoints. I also appreciate that you have listened to my views as well. Everyone has their own opinion. It is important that you respect other's opinions because you can always learn from them. Taking other's perspective is a critical skill you can learn."

It was time to go home. We went back to the car.

He said, "Mommy, you had really changed. Now I find that I can really talk to you without you getting mad, or surprised, or negative about what I tell you. You are calmer, positive and receiving about everything. Can you tell me what made you changed?"

I took this opportunity to tell him, "It is because of you. I had spent more time with you. I had read a lot of parenting books. I want to make sure that I am open enough to have conversation with you like this so that you would continue to share your thoughts and opinions with me. You have improved greatly. I prefer to let you fly".

He replied: "Mommy, I think your expectation of me has also changed. You used to just want me to follow a very strict schedule before. It was really stressful. Now I get a lot more time to do a lot of things that I really enjoy."

I took the opportunity to ask, "Are you happier now?"

"Yes, I think so."

That made my day.

* Lim is the CEO and founder of Povi.me.

I would love to give you a heads-up that we will be running a Kickstarter campaign on Tue, May 24, 2016. We would greatly appreciate your help to be one of our early backers to make Povi a reality.

You can choose to back our project for your family, a school, your team members at work or even non-profits.

We would greatly appreciate you also sharing this important message with whom you know will benefit from joining our community!

Thank you very much! Do email me at seowlim@povi.me to catch up anytime!

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