Editor’s Note: In China, there is a saying that goes, “Grades, grades, grades—a parent’s reason for living.” The words “high grades” exert a strong pull on parents’ hearts. To enable their children to stand out from the crowd and to bring honor to their ancestors, more and more parents are drawing up strict study plans for them. The protagonist of this article was no different, but does this kind of high-pressure education really benefit the child? Let’s look for the answer together as we read through her experiences …
I Put a Lot of Pressure on My Son to Improve His Grades
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Wang, Wang Dong’s grades are: Math 60%….” As I read the message sent to my cell phone by the teacher, I became a little angry and a little worried, and I thought to myself: “My son’s grades are so poor, how will he ever get into a good college in the future? And if he doesn’t get into a good college, how will he ever find a good job? Now is the critical time for him to lay foundations for his own future. I mustn’t mollycoddle him anymore. I must tutor him in his studies and sign him up for extra lessons. I have to get his grades up!”
After that, every day after school, I would give him extra lessons, and I would supervise him as he read his study books and learned the texts by heart. I didn’t let him slack off even in the slightest, and every evening I stayed with him as he studied into the small hours, before finally allowing him to go to sleep. One time, he was messing about and not revising his lessons very attentively, so I told him off, saying, “Dongdong, if you keep on like this, not studying very hard, then you won’t get into a good college in the future, and then you won’t be able to find a good job. All you’ll be able to do is earn money through manual labor, and then no one will respect you! Look at me and your father. Neither of us are educated and so we suffer and feel exhausted every day and still we don’t make much money. You’ll only have good future prospects if you knuckle down and study hard now and get into a well-known college….” My son seemed to understand when I said this to him, and he nodded, and obediently went back to doing his homework.
My son was soon to have a mock exam, and because the grade from this exam would form part of his end-of-term exams, I took an even firmer grip on his studies. I was afraid that watching TV and playing on his computer would interfere with his studies, so I disconnected the internet in our home. When my son got home from school, I made him study and refused to allow him to go out to play; when his classmates came asking if they could come in to play, I refused to let them in, fearing that they would be playing too long and that it would interfere with his studies. Besides having to complete the homework that his school teacher set him, he also had to do the homework the teacher of his extra-curricular class gave him. As time wore on, my son began to develop a rebellious attitude. Whenever I asked him to do his homework, he would give excuses, saying he was too tired and that he would do it after having a sleep. Whenever he said something like this, I would give him a stern talking to. Sometimes, when I saw that he was not in the mood to do his homework, I would speak nicely to him and buy him some treats to eat in order to coax him along. In this way, I tried everything I could to get him to study hard.
After a period of hard work, I took my son through the revision questions on every subject and we practiced them many times over. He had it all down, and said to me, “Mommy, don’t worry. I’ve memorized the entire book. This exam will be a breeze!” Hearing him speak so confidently, I felt much more at ease.
On the day of the exam, I cheerfully took Dongdong to school, thinking to myself: “There’s no way all our efforts could have been in vain! If my son doesn’t get the highest grade, then he’s sure to get the second highest. At the very least, he’ll be amongst the top grades. As long as he gets a good grade now, then there will be hope for him to get into college!” My expectation that he would get a good grade grew and grew …
The exam was about to finish. I’d gone early to the school and was waiting anxiously at the gate for him to emerge. The bell rang, and I saw him at a distance coming toward me, his head down, and felt an irresistible tightness in my chest. When he got to me, I immediately asked how he had found the questions, but he just kept his head down and replied in a low voice, “Mom, I didn’t do so well this time. There were lots of questions I couldn’t answer.” I felt so disappointed, and I couldn’t help but give him a scolding. “You’ve been revising for so long, how could there be so many questions you couldn’t answer? What’s wrong with you? …” His eyes filled with tears and his little lips stuck out miserably, but he kept silent.
The next day, the teacher released the grades to our WeChat group and, to my surprise, my son had scraped through by the skin of his teeth! I thought of how much effort I had put into getting him to score a good grade, but in the end all my hard work had been for nothing. I felt so upset, and I couldn’t help but worry about my son’s future. I fretted, thinking, “With grades like this, what will he do in the future if he can’t get into college?” The more I thought about it, the more concerned I became, and I just didn’t know what to do for the best.
At a church gathering one day, I told the brothers and sisters about these difficulties, and a sister found a passage offor me: “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite always rushing and busying about for himself, man remains incapable of controlling himself. If you could know your own prospects, if you could control your own fate, would you still be a creature?” (“Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination”).
By reading God’s words, I began to realize how I’d gone wrong. “Yes,” I thought. “God arranges our fates and He predestined them all long ago. Whether my son will get into college or not, what kind of job he will get and whether or not he will have good future prospects is all in God’s hands; it’s not something that I can change no matter how much I go out of my way to make plans for him and no matter how hard I strive. But I just don’t recognize God’s sovereignty. Instead, I always want to plan my son’s future for him, to make him do as I say, to force him to study hard so that he will make good in the future. By doing this, am I not trying to break loose of God’s sovereignty? I’m just a created being who can’t even change my own fate, so how could I possibly change my son’s? I’ve really overestimated myself!” Just then, I finally saw that I believed in God and yet had no place for God in my heart, and that I was educating my son by relying on my own hard work. All this had done in the end was to cause both him and me a lot of pain. I decided that I could not force him to study any longer, but that I must instead commit him into God’s hands and submit to God’s sovereignty and arrangements. Once I’d come to this understanding, my heart felt a tremendous sense of release.
The Pressure to Study Made My Son Want to Harm Himself
Though by reading God’s words I came to realize that our fates are ruled in God’s hands, I still had no understanding that my views on what to pursue were wrong. When I saw my son not studying hard, I once again couldn’t help but discipline him just as I had done before.
One time, my son came home from school and began to play instead of doing his homework and his extra-curricular exercises. No matter what I said to him, he acted as though he hadn’t heard a word, and I lost my temper and yelled at him. To my surprise, he said he wanted to leave home and was so angry that he started to bash his head against the wall. In fright, I dragged him away from the wall. Seeing him react so extremely, I felt both angry and upset and I thought he was being so silly. His grades were always pretty average and he was a stranger to hard work, so what could we do? Unknowingly, I began once again to worry about my son’s future prospects.
Because I was afraid that he would have another extreme reaction, I no longer dared to reprimand him. But sometimes, when I saw that he was not doing his schoolwork very attentively, I couldn’t help but give him a talking to. One time, he said he was too tired and that he didn’t want to study, and I said to him, “You’ll only be able to find a good job in the future if you study hard now. If you don’t, you’ll just end up a doormat….” Before I’d even finished speaking, he rode off in a huff on his bicycle and went to his grandfather’s house. I was worried that he would have an accident along the way, so I hurried after him. When I got to my father’s house, I saw my son there watching TV and ignoring me. I was so angry I vented my frustration on my father and complained that he just didn’t care about his grandson. He tried to advise me, saying, “Dongdong is under a lot of pressure to study at school, and when he gets home, he also has to do so much homework and extra-curricular exercises. I can see the poor boy is exhausted. You have to let him play as well as study! Don’t be so hard on him. He’s under so much pressure both at school and at home, so now he’s developing a strongly rebellious attitude. In recent years, some children have died due to the pressure to study and there are far too many cases of children jumping off of buildings and killing themselves. Don’t pressure the boy so much that he ends up doing something stupid, as then it will be too late for regret!” As I listened to what my father was saying, I thought again about the way my son had banged his head against the wall and I couldn’t help but feel afraid. If something bad really did happen to Dongdong, our family would be ruined. But he wasn’t studying hard right now, so wouldn’t that have an effect on his prospects for the rest of his life? As I battled with these conflicting thoughts, I felt very anxious and sad, and I had no idea how I was supposed to be educating my child.
I Seeked Through Adversity and God’s Words Revealed the Source of My Problem
After I returned home that evening, I told all my troubles to God and asked Him to guide me to understand the truth and to resolve my difficulty. One day, I read God’s word saying: “Some people choose a good major in college and end up finding a satisfactory job after graduation, making a triumphant first stride in the journey of their lives. Some people learn and master many different skills and yet never find a job that suits them or find their position, much less have a career; at the outset of their life journey they find themselves thwarted at every turn, beset by troubles, their prospects dismal and their lives uncertain. Some people apply themselves diligently to their studies, yet narrowly miss all their chances to receive a higher education, and seem fated never to achieve success, their very first aspiration in the journey of their lives dissolving into thin air. Not knowing[a] whether the road ahead is smooth or rocky, they feel for the first time how full of variables human destiny is, and so regard life with hope and dread. Some people, despite not being very well educated, write books and achieve a measure of fame; some, though almost totally illiterate, make money in business and are thereby able to support themselves…. Regardless of differences in ability, IQ, and willpower, people are all equal before fate, which makes no distinction between the great and the small, the high and the low, the exalted and the mean. What occupation one pursues, what one does for a living, and how much wealth one amasses in life are not decided by one’s parents, one’s talents, one’s efforts or one’s ambitions, but are predetermined by the Creator” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). As I contemplated God’s words, I came to understand that how my son’s future would be was not up to me to decide, neither was it something that could be changed by him getting into a well-known college. It all rested with the sovereignty and predestination of God, and none of it could be changed by our own human efforts or by any objective factor. I thought of the people I knew: Some had attended college and had even gone on to do postgraduate degrees, but after they graduated, they still couldn’t find good jobs, and instead had to settle for doing odd jobs here and there or just being unemployed at home; some, on the other hand, were not terribly educated, and yet they had their own businesses or they worked well in some industry or other and their businesses were booming. These facts show that we cannot change our fate through our own efforts, and that no knowledge or diploma can determine our fate. The future and the fate we shall have rests entirely with the sovereignty and arrangements of God.
Then I read these words of: “People know that they are powerless and hopeless in this life, that they will not have another chance, another hope, to stand out from others, and that they have no choice but to accept their fates. And so they project all their hopes, their unrealized desires and ideals, onto the next generation, hoping that their offspring can help them achieve their dreams and realize their desires; that their daughters and sons will bring glory to the family name, become important, rich, or famous; in short, they want to see their children’s fortunes soar” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). “As far as children go, all parents hope that their children will receive higher education and that they’ll someday get ahead, have a place in society as well as have both a stable income and influence—that way they can honor the family line. Everyone has this point of view. Is it the right viewpoint to hope that ‘the son becomes a dragon, the daughter becomes a phoenix’? Everyone wants their children to go to a prestigious university and then pursue advanced studies, thinking that after getting degrees they’ll stand out from the crowd. This is because in their hearts, everyone worships knowledge, believing that ‘The worth of other pursuits is small, the study of books excels them all.’ On top of that, competition in modern society is particularly fierce, and without a degree you’re not even guaranteed to be able to put food on the table. This is how everyone thinks about it” (“Only by Knowing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself”).
God’s words spoke directly to my heart. I’d thought myself uneducated and unknowledgeable in life, that all I could do was some hard manual work and that no one respected me, and so I hoped with all my heart that my son would study hard and get into a well-known college so that he would have a successful career in the future and bring honor to our ancestors, and so that he would make my own dream of standing out from the crowd a reality. I therefore expected high standards and made strict demands of him and wanted with all my heart for him to get good grades in his exams. I forced him to study all day long, either tutoring him myself or making him attend extra classes, and not letting him go out to play. When he didn’t want to study, I was both harsh and soft by turns with him, thinking of every possible way to make him study. By doing this, I had put too much pressure on him which gave rise to him developing a rebellious attitude, so much so that he even started to display self-harming behavior. Only through the revelations of God’s words did I finally come to understand that I had been living by such satanic axioms of logic and heretical fallacies as “To be a scholar is to be at the top of society,” “Knowledge can change your fate,” and “One should bring honor to his ancestors.” I’d believed that, only by my son cramming himself with knowledge and getting into a well-known college could he be successful in his future career and be somebody. I had therefore constantly put my son under pressure to study and had not let up on him even for a moment. I’d caused him so much harm, both physically and mentally, and had driven all his youthful joy away. We, mother and son, had become estranged. As I pondered all this, I finally realized that these views that Satan instills in us are meant to deceive and corrupt us, and by going along with these views in the way we educate our children does nothing but oppress them and cause them pain. I knew well that God rules the fate of mankind and that my son’s future was in God’s hands, and yet I had still wanted to rely on my own methods to force my son to study in the vain hope that, by doing so, I might be able to change his fate. Without even being aware of it, I had been following the wrong path, and had been toyed with and harmed by Satan, living in a state I could not escape. Once I’d seen through to the corruption and harm Satan causes, I felt that I owed my son an apology, and I no longer wished to live by Satan’s axioms of logic and heretical fallacies, putting my son under tremendous pressure to study. Instead, I wished only to commit my son’s studies and his future life over to God.
Under the guidance of God’s words, I began to train putting God’s words into practice. I gave up my past wrong views and I no longer forced my son to study. After he finished school, I allowed him to play appropriately for a while, and then I tutored him to finish the homework that his teacher had given him. Once the pressure to study was relaxed, his mood got a lot better and he was smiling once again, and this made me happy too.
After Committing His Studies to God, My Son’s Grades Went Up
In the blink of an eye, the countdown began to my son’s midterm exams. I thought of the last time he’d had a mock exam, when I had stayed up revising with him and his grade had only just been enough to scrape through. This time, if I didn’t make him do any extra-curricular exercises, how would he fare in the exams? I began to feel anxious again, and I really wanted to take advantage of this time to give him extra lessons again, but when I thought of how all the pressure I’d put on him to study last time had caused him nothing but harm, I let go of that idea. With my conflicted thoughts, I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to find the path of practice within His words. After praying, I read these words of God: “When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals of life that people pursue and their various different ways of living, you will find that not one of them fits the Creator’s original intention when He created humanity. All of them draw people away from the Creator’s sovereignty and care; they are all pits into which humanity falls, and which lead them to hell. After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you, try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to have no choice, and to become a person who worships God” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). As I contemplated God’s words, I came to the realization that, although I understood in theory that our fates are ruled in God’s hands, and that we cannot control our own fates nor change the fate of anyone else, those axioms of logic and heretical fallacies that Satan had instilled in me had taken deep root, and they were still firmly controlling and dominating my thoughts. Therefore, when it came time for my son to take his exams, I was still somewhat nervous and anxious. I saw that I had been corrupted so deeply by Satan and that, though I understood the truth and wished to submit to God, I still wasn’t able to attain to this and was still being involuntarily controlled by those fallacies and axioms of Satan—how pitiable I was! I thought of how I had lived by Satan’s fallacies and axioms and had caused both my son and myself pain. If I continued to put pressure on my son to study, I would no doubt fall foul once again to Satan’s deceitful schemes and fall into the trap Satan laid to toy with people. I could no longer afford to be blind and ignorant. God is the Creator and He cares in His heart for every single person; God makes suitable arrangements for the fate of every one of us, and only by committing my son’s fate into God’s hands and submitting to His orchestrations and arrangements could I be someone with wisdom and reason, and I would then be able to live freely and calmly. Once I’d understood God’s will and I’d found the path of practice, I thereupon said a prayer of obedience to God: “O God, I no longer wish to live by Satan’s fallacies and axioms. I wish to submit to Your orchestrations and arrangements and hand everything to do with my son into Your hands. His exam grades cannot determine his fate, and I believe that only You can lead people onto the right path of light. I wish to submit to Your sovereignty and arrangements.”
On the evening before the exam, Dongdong didn’t want to revise but made a fuss saying that he wanted to sleep. I thought about the fact that he had to take his exam the next day, and I wondered what we would do if we didn’t take advantage of this time to revise and he didn’t perform well at the exam. I felt a little anxious and I wanted to tell him off. Just then, God’s words suddenly came to mind: “Why don’t you commit them into My hands? Do you not believe in Me enough? Or is it that you’re afraid I will make inappropriate arrangements for you?” (“Chapter 59” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning). “Yes,” I thought. “My son’s life is entirely in God’s hands, and God always makes suitable arrangements. All I had achieved by relying on Satan’s fallacies and axioms in educating my child had been to increase the pressure on him and to cause us both to live in pain—I could no longer make plans and arrangements for him myself. As I came to this realization, I felt so much calmer, and I said to him, “Son, if you’re tired then go to bed and get a good rest, and tomorrow you’ll have all your energy back.”
The next morning, I checked over the articles my son would be taking into the exam and, laughing and chatting, I took him to school. When we got to the gate, I enjoined him, saying, “Son, don’t feel pressured during the exam. Just concentrate on reading carefully and answering the questions, and just do your best.” Dongdong nodded, and cheerfully went into the classroom.
Just as school was about to end for the day, I once again arrived early at the school gate to collect my son. I saw that he was the first to come running out of the classroom and he was humming a tune. He ran over to me and, his face beaming, said, “Mommy, I answered all the questions today. I also found that I’d answered three of them wrong, so I corrected them all. Thank you, mommy! You told me not to feel pressured so this time I felt a lot more relaxed during the exam, and it all went smoothly….” Hearing him say thank you to me made me feel a little upset, and I regretted having lived by Satan’s fallacies and axioms before and having harmed my son by putting pressure on him to study. At the same time, I gave thanks for the guidance of God’s words that had allowed me to see through to the absurdity of Satan’s fallacies and axioms, and that had corrected my wrong outlook on life and enabled me to put some truths into practice.
A few days later, the exam results were released. In jubilation, my son showed me his exam papers. My eye was immediately caught by the 99% mark on the math paper, and he’d also scored amongst the best for Chinese and English as well. He happily planted a kiss on my face and thanked me once again. I was so moved, but I knew that this improvement in our relationship was all down to the effect of God’s words, and that God was the One who should be thanked!
Now, my son and I are friends who can tell each other anything, and he can tell me anything he may be feeling. It is all because of God’s salvation that our relationship could get this close! I have personally experienced that, when I began to practice in accordance with God’s words, my son and I both obtained freedom and liberation. I only wish now to practice the truth more and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements in the days to come. Thanks be to God!
a. The original text does not contain the phrase “Not knowing.”