Be a Role Model by Example

By Xiao Li-juan (蕭麗娟)
Abridged and translated by Kim Ning (甯素青)

Be a Role Model by Example

By Xiao Li-juan (蕭麗娟)
Abridged and translated
by Kim Ning (甯素青)

"Mom, why on earth did you tell my children about my past? How can I expect them to listen to me anymore?" Xu Ling-ling (許玲玲) yelled at her mother and stormed away without waiting for an explanation from her mother.

When Xu was 14 years old, she eloped with her boyfriend. Her mother worried and missed her so much that she fell ill. One year after Xu ran away from home, at her family's persuasion, she returned to her parents. But not long afterwards, she fell in love with a man 16 years her senior. They soon got married and started their own family.

Young Xu Ling-ling (right) with her parents and older brother. (Photo provided by Xu Ling-ling)

One day, Xu ran into her elementary school teacher, Lin Li-zhen (林麗珍), who invited her to teach at her kindergarten. As Xu was very hardworking and responsible, Lin recommended Xu to go to Taiwan in 2000 to attend a Tzu Chi's program on teaching children Jing Si Aphorisms (靜思語).

During that trip, Xu visited the schools that Tzu Chi helped rebuild after the 921 Earthquake and was very moved by Dharma Master Cheng Yen's compassion. After she returned to Malaysia, she did take part in Tzu Chi's activities for two years. But due to work and family duty, she eventually stopped.

One day in 2008, Xu came across a Tzu Chi Monthly magazine on a cab and saw an invitation for teachers to take part in a program organized by Tzu Chi Teachers' Association. As a kindergarten teacher, Xu was eager to recharge herself, so she signed up for the program.

Through the program, Xu learned many tips on how to better interact with her children. But the real test came when her teenage son was expelled from school due to several misconducts. At first, she didn't know how to communicate with her son, and their relationship became very tense. But after she came across a Jing Si Aphorism (靜思語) that says, "If we don't focus on the chipped part of a cup, the cup is still perfect," she changed her perspective.

Xu Ling-ling teaches her younger daughter how to use chopsticks. She's now learned to listen to her children and guide them with patience. (Photo by Zhu Guo-cai)

She began to spend more time with her son and listen to what he had to say. She even said to her son, "I'm sorry that I didn't believe in you and had handled things improperly." To her surprise, her son replied, "Mom, I know you have a reason for everything you did. You don't want to see me get hurt." Her son had softened because Xu had become gentler too.

Xu went through the same ordeal in 2013 when she learned that her 14-year-old daughter had a boyfriend. What she dreaded the most was for her daughter to tread in her footsteps. But when she tried to interfere, her daughter said to her, "You did the same thing when you were 14. Why can't I?"

Xu Ling-ling takes her two daughters to attend a Tzu Chi event. By example, she hopes that her children can follow in her footsteps on the correct path in life.

"Is this karmic retribution?" Xu asked herself.

She then patiently shared her own experience with her daughter and told her how she didn't want to see her regret later all the things she was doing now. She learned to be her daughter's friend and invited her to take part in a Tzu Chi's parent-child activity with her. After the event, surprisingly, she received a letter from her daughter telling her that she loved her.

Instead of trying to control her children, Xu had learned to change and humble herself first. "If it were not for Tzu Chi, I'd have broken down a long time ago," said Xu. With love, Xu has brought her children back to her.

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