Putting your house in order

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Wednesday August 20, 2014

If we were to save Confucianism today, we will first have to put ourselves and our house in order, just as Hezekiah was instructed by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 38:1).

Confucius believes that the strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of the home. Hence he taught that love and virtues begin at home, a thought echoed by Mother Teresa: Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.

Confucius asserts that a sense of filial duties and respect for elders is the root of all virtues, and this begins at home. With the birth of a narcissitic generation which we have come to label Generation Y, how do we raise future generations to be caring and respectful of their parents? Let us examine some obstacles to saving Confucianism in the 21st century.

Confucius believes that in order that children can learn virtues, they have to be taught and instructed as principles are not innate. It is time spent conversing with them that their characters can be molded, for them to speak a language of respect and gratitude. William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 to 1944 believed that the most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home. In spite of modern technological advances which have enabled us to have more free time, time spent at home with children remains on the decline, especially when both parents are at work. With 24 hours in a day, time is finite and is a constant. It is therefore not time that needs to be managed but priorities. In order to raise and nurture children, parents need to manage their priorities. Priorities not just with time but also finances.

It is not uncommon to hear parents say that because they have so little time with their children, the precious little time they spend is quality time. Quality time perhaps refers to the lavish gifts they spoil the children with to assuage their conscience. Time is time and there is no such thing as quality time. Nurturing children is the consummate duty of parents and there is no substitute for spending time.

Prioritizing finances is another challenge that parents need to consider. Apart from situations where the mother is widowed, or divorced, is there a real need for the mother to work and leave the children to maids and childcare agencies? Compensation by way of lavishing them with expensive toys and holidays has inadvertently replaced proper home upbringing. Any stay-home mother will attest that a child is most active and receptive to learn in the mornings, a time when they are abandoned by their parents and left to strangers to mind. It is therefore no surprise that values are missing.

The American academy of pediatrics has published a paper to discourage parents from allowing media time for infants under the age of two. It warned of the deletrious effects of media exposure both in content and time.

The language used by Confucius was unequivocal: To love your children you should not pamper them.

Therefore, to raise a generation of children who are grateful and respectful instead of being unfilial and entitled, will require a change in mindset. Current dogmas will have to be challenged. Priorities will have to be managed. If not, Confucianism cannot be saved if we continue to have our current mindsets trapped in a revolving door. We will go around in circles and not find the way out of this quandary, especially when the solution seems so obvious.

The discussion continues………