Who Would Like to Be Insane?

In the past six years, I have had the privilege of meeting various people to counsel them.  Some are individuals facing challenges at work, others in school, while some are couples or spouses.  I also get to meet families where the parents are having trouble with their children, either in their behaviour, studies or both.  This reminds me of my earlier mentor-counseling days back in mid-late 90s from my final year in university to my work life before I left for monkhood and began training in Fa Yun Monastery in New Mexico, US.  The key difference was that back then, I was there as a befriender and the teens were referred to me through the school and counseling centre.  Now, they come with their parents.

While they all have different background and face different difficulties, they have a similar disdain for one thing that practically all teens simply cannot stand:  Nagging parents.

It is amazing how parents I have met, can bring themselves to repeat themselves again and again and again.  One mother shared that she would repeat herself at least 10 times before something happens, and by something, she meant either she lose her marbles and goes bat-shit crazy or she get her husband to come and get the child to do as told.

Maybe 10 times is an exaggeration.  But wait, she says that sometimes she goes beyond that.  One thing is for sure, over the lifetime of a child, I’m pretty sure that one’s mother or father may have repeated themselves over and over and over again.  Why do they do that?  They hope that the child would change.  Great idea!  But to the child, it becomes nagging, it just becomes background noise.

Giving a reminder is one thing, giving 10 reminders or more is another.  We think that children are the ones who need nagging, oops, I mean reminders.  The thing is, if there are no consequences to ignoring reminders, people in general will just ignore them.  The parking “aunty” may annoy some people and do not strike most people as a profession of high standing, this person is part of a critical part of the civil servants in Singapore who enforces the law or
regulations.  Without the parking aunty, there would be no consequences for illegal parking.  Without consequences for illegal parking, then the very law on land use is moot.  As much as lawyers and judges run the show in courtrooms, the ground law enforcement officers represents the law and delivers it in your face.

So what does that got to do with nagging and parenting?  You see, if we just start nagging and deliver no consequences to a no-show, then the nagging is the warning and consequence.  If the punishment for parking illegally is to get a parking ticket that simply ‘fines’ you with more parking tickets, who would care?  Just more scrap paper maybe?

The flow-chart above is an example of the “communication” (or nagging) process.  In some cases, parents get tired of doing it, and they simply do it for them.  They become the ‘maids’ while the kids become the boss.  They do so until they get sick of it and they start nagging their kids again.  Rinse-and-repeat.  Sometimes, they would discipline their child, other times they would just do it for them.  You will notice in the image, a big cross over the “do it for them” bubble.  While it does ‘solve’ the dishes, dirty clothes, dirty room etc problem, the child gets a free room service.  Do it a few more times and we accidentally teach the child that ignoring the naggings may well get the job done or disciplining.  Hey, might as well take my chances!

When getting children to do their chores, it is useful to stop their activity and have their full attention first.  But have a bit of reasonable buffer and not expect your child to give soldier drill precision results at your beck and call.  Remember that you are trying to nurture your child, not train a soldier as well.

Some time back, I heard of a line “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”  Today, after a google search, I found that this quote is from the author Rita Mae Brown in her book Sudden Death on Pg. 68 from 1983 [1]

Sounds familar?  When parents nag and nag and nag, hoping to get different results, they are really exhibiting some level of insanity.  Is that what is meant by parents being driven nuts by their kids?

Our parents, with their incessant nagging, do seem like lunatics sometimes.  I mean, what makes them think that we are going to budge* and suddenly change with the next gentle reminder?

No one in this world, in their sane mind would do that, surely.  No one.  No one but our dear parents.  For us, they are willing to be insane.  For us, they are driven to their wits end.  For us, they are willing to nag again and again and again.  They just hope that we will change the next hundredth time they nag.  They just hope like crazies.  For even if there is one strand of hope, they will be willing to be crazy, to act like lunatics, to nag at us just one more time.

There is no special celebration today for mothers, fathers or parents in general.  But to all parents, care givers, mentors, and teachers!  Thank you for being crazy for us!

PS: In a somewhat poignant way, today I kinda understand how it must have felt for my mom when a long time ago, I forced an apology out of her.  While I think I was right back then, I now understand how she felt when she said “I’m your mom, do you really need me to apologise to you?”.

Sorry mom! *weep*



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