More than just being about visitations, feasting and the giving and receiving of red packets, Chinese New Year and its traditions give us a great opportunity to express beliefs and values worth passing down to our children.
Through the years of parenting our growing children, my husband and I try to reinforce these values, especially around the festive season. We find it important that our little ones appreciate what it means to be part of a family and community.
The Value of Hospitality
Chinese New Year gives us the opportunity to catch up with relatives and friends. When I was young, the first 2 days were extremely busy for us as there was always a constant stream of visitors to our house.
As a child, I learnt to serve and interact with relatives I saw only once a year. Hospitality does not come naturally. It takes a deliberate effort to sit with visitors, converse with them and show an interest in their lives.
My husband and I feel it is important to teach our children to exercise hospitality, as we have enjoyed opening our home to others. I joyfully recall friends and family who have come through our door — seeking advice, friendship or just a listening ear. In recent months, we’ve also welcomed children in need of protection, attention or companionship.
It’s heartening to see our boys learning to be good hosts and looking forward to having visitors in our home.
It takes a deliberate effort to sit with visitors, converse with them and show an interest in their lives.
The Value of Money
In previous years, when my oldest son received red packets, he would gladly pass all of them to me. He hardly took a second look at them, much less peeked at what was inside.
This year will be different. When my son started primary school this year and — for the first time — had to handle his own money, he suddenly realised the value of money.
It became crucial that we taught him to attach the right value to money. So I hastily put together three coin boxes and labelled them “God”, “Others” and “Me”. Each day, my son will return home with the remainder of his pocket money and decide which box he will drop them into. This simple exercise has motivated him to spend only on the food he needs and saves the rest.
With greater awareness of what he can do with his money, he’s saving up for things to buy for himself. To help him avoid getting too caught up in this, we challenge him by asking him to consider what he can give to others too.
The Value of Sharing
Children fighting or snatching toys, and using words like, “That’s mine!” is a familiar scene in our home. In times like these, we remind our children that their hands are meant for sharing, not snatching.
We challenge our kids by asking, “Who wants to be the first to share?” or “Who wants to be the first to show love?” In our culture, being first means getting to the front of a queue, or getting into a popular school, but we need to remind our children that being first in doing good is a far more excellent objective.
Chinese New Year and Christmas are seasons of sharing and giving. This Chinese New Year, we’re bringing our boys to distribute festive food to bless some families who stay in one-room flats. The saying that “values are caught, not taught” is very true. When our children see our values in action, they will believe and live out those values themselves one day.
In our culture, being first means getting ahead, but we need to remind our children that being first in doing good is a far more excellent objective.
The Value of Forgiveness
For most Chinese, the reunion dinner is an important tradition for the entire family. Those who live overseas endeavour to return to gather for reunion dinner. Recently, a close relative shared that a huge family squabble had soured relationships so much that it’s hard to look forward to the reunion dinner.
In our little family, we have three boys and trust me when I say that they squabble a lot. Wives and husbands can squabble a great deal too! Teaching our children forgiveness and practising it in the family is the first step towards building a strong, connected family.
There was one morning when my husband asked for forgiveness over his short temper amidst a very hectic week at work. My boys witnessed the apology, picked it up, and started asking one another for forgiveness. My two-year-old boy, who may not have fully understood what was going on at first, was only too happy to say yes when his older brothers asked if he would forgive them for hitting him.
Teaching forgiveness and practising it in the family is the first step towards building a strong and connected family.
It may sound trite to say that teaching our children to appreciate values is important, but even the very successful founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma once said that children should learn values and to care for others as these can never be replaced by machines.
This Chinese New Year, teach your children the values that you hold dear as a family. These may just be what they need for a purposeful life, and make positive contributions to society in the future.
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