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Letter from My Teenage Self: How to be a good parent

I wrote this thirty years ago, on September 13th, in the age of Flashdance, Material Girl, and Ronald Reagan, in the roaring eighties before anyone had heard of the Internet or shared their lives on Facebook. In these pointers to my future self, I tried to meld the best of Confucius and Plato and Piaget, while declaring independence from the dysfunctional parts of my family history. Now thirty years later, I see the wisdom that my fourteen-year-old self was imparting to the older woman – the one who is learning to accept white hairs and Legos scattered everywhere.



  1. Treat all my children equally concerning opportunities and punishment.


  1. Give them the full chance to develop their talents. Let them experience all the skills they can.


  1. Encourage responsibility in school and everyday life.


  1. Let them learn by experience, and offer initiatives, e.g. allowances for doing chores.


  1. Be interested in their daily activities and always be ready to offer motherly advice and sympathy.


  1. Consider the children when arguing with your husband.


  1. Be a strict and stern disciplinarian, yet not domineering and cruel.


  1. Strive for improvement, not perfection. Accept and work on your shortcomings when your teenager criticizes you.


  1. Buy them things by merit of behavior.


  1. Encourage friendships with a wide range of people, yet make them aware of one-night stands.


  1. When you feel like taking it out on the family during a bad day, think about trying to cope and adjust instead of making things worse.


  1. Remind them of the Chinese culture, but let them appreciate the fashions of the day.