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*



Buddhist Library Family Day ~ Come Celebrate with Us!


The Buddhist Library Family Day is a celebration of the thriving Buddhist community that is learning the Dhamma and growing together in the Buddhist Library (BL).

A day of fun, food and togetherness, it is a time for everyone to come together to support the Noble and Worthy cause of Dhamma propagation initiated and led by Bhante B. Dhammaratana since 1984.

As a Buddhist resource centre, the Buddhist Library has a print collection of over 15 000 volumes, in English and Chinese. Working with a unique classification and cataloguing system, it aims to make the subject matter easily accessible both to the scholar and the novice. The centre offers a quiet premise for study and research while giving peace and tranquility to those who seek spiritual growth.

Presently, it has grown to become more than just a specialised library. It is also a place where all who are interested in Buddhist practice come to study, meditate, and learn to apply traditional Buddhist values to contemporary needs.

So come on down this Sunday to support this worthy cause with us! Come with your friends and family to enjoy the warm togetherness in the Dhamma that is uniquely BL.


20 November · 09:00 – 17:00
In front of Aljunied MRT, Singapore

Stop Putting Ketchup in Your Coffee or We Are No Mind-Readers

I have not met anyone who put ketchup in their coffee, but I know of people who put butter in their coffee.  My fav uncle did!  For a long time I did not know why he did that.  But being a kid, I tot my uncle should know better.  So one day, I started putting butter in my drink … milo!

I tried the concoction … a rich chocolaty drink now enriched with a creamy buttery goodness!  My!  I’m set for life, I must have thought!  This is life! Milo with butter … I’m living it!

After some years, I outgrew the milo-butter thingie though once in awhile, I would still indulge myself in it.  Then one day I happen to mention this to my uncle and asked him about it.  He replied that it had to do with him being a smoker and how the butter with coffee helped mask the after-taste or something.

We had such a good laugh!  To think that I had been putting butter into milo even though I was never a smoker and not even drinking coffee at that!

But thinking back, it didn’t really mattered for me.  Putting butter into milo was my way of connecting with my fav uncle.  It was what is said “The greatest flattery of all is emulation”.  We like emulating others, especially people we like or look up to.  Putting butter in my milo was perhaps my way of emulating my fav uncle.  It was perhaps also a literal way to be in his shoes, to know what or how he thinks.  On the other hand, it was also perhaps an unconscious way to tell the world that, heck, I have no idea why he did that with the butter, but I just think he is right, ‘cos he is my uncle!  Not exactly rational et al, but you gotta cut people some slack some time ya?  I mean, are you gonna fault butter-in-milo?

We are no mind-readers.  Most of us anyway.  So sometimes we like to emulate what people do so that we can appreciate better how they feel or think.  Or other times we ask them about why they do things a certain way.   But it cuts both ways.  Just as one may ask to know more because he cannot mind-read, like-wise the person being asked of, may not understand why the fuss over the question.  If only we are all mind-readers … then … wow … this world will be quite different huh?  No more lies, no more second-guessing, a lot less uncertainties.

But we are no mind-readers at the moment.  We can try to develop mind-reading skills.  But last I check, it’s difficult at best.  There is another skill that we can develop that can help here.  We can learn to be more understanding, in both counts.  The person who wanted to ask the question can learn to be more understanding (hmmm … but at the first place, the question is asked because he is unable to understand!?) … and perhaps be able to not have to ask at the first place?  Or the person being asked the question can be more understanding of the need to clarify?

So one day, if you see a person putting ketchup in his coffee (or laws forbid, milo!), be more understanding, maybe his fav uncle or aunty did that!  And for those who put ketchup in your coffee, do have the patience to explain your little story as to why ketchup in your coffee.

We need Understanding in our daily coffee and milo.  That’s what we need.  And if you will, a serving of ketchup and / or butter for those who may please.  Enjoi your Nutty Mocha Frappé.


Nutty Mocha Frappé photo courtesy of The Connoisseur Concerto   http://www.theconnoisseurconcerto.com/moby/cms/menu_gallery/index.html?.rand=kMBDQ1pB4W