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Cultural Traditions Continue to Ring True

November 04, 2019 - 3 minute read

Woman in red dress holding yen.

Read this article in Mandarin

Ever since I was a small child, I’ve often heard my mother utter the words, “A good ethical family upbringing is most important to a person”. She thought that the most insulting criticism one could receive would be being viewed as having had no ethical upbringing at home. An ethical family upbringing is conducted through home education.   

Six decades passed, and I became a grandmother.  It is in my grandchild that I clearly see the meaning of my mother’s teaching. 

I remember clearly the year my grandson turned one, wobbling and stumbling, just learning how to walk. On his nanny’s birthday, his mom taught him a precious lesson. She bought a little pot of flowers, a small cake, and prepared a red envelope (red envelopes are monetary gifts presented at social and family gatherings such as weddings or holidays such as Chinese New Year. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is a symbol to ward off evil spirits). My grandson and his mom hid in the corner of the dining room where they could see the nanny working in the kitchen. My daughter in law put the little pot of flowers in the baby’s hands and whispered in his ear of what to say.  The little one, holding the flowers, teeter-tottered up to the nanny. He tugged on her clothes, stood on his tippy toes, looked up to the nanny and said in his soft child-voice, “Happy boday” (happy birthday). 

I saw the surprise and joy in the nanny’s eyes. The little one then went back to where mom was hiding, and this time, came back with the cake. On the third trip, he presented the red envelope. 

The nanny embraced him with love, expressing her adoration, happiness, and gratitude. The little one knew that he did something good and he was just as thrilled as she was. 

In this encounter, although the little one was too young to verbally express himself, he experienced wonderful feelings brought on by the spirit of caring, generosity, gratitude, respect, and equality for one another (values highly respected in the Chinese/Taiwanese culture).

The little one is now a first-grader. The feedback the parents receive from the teachers is that he is an intelligent, studious, responsible, polite, and helpful child. He is popular and well-liked by his peers, and his friends enjoy playing with him. The latest feedback from teacher was that he is a little gentleman, opening and closing the doors for teachers who have their hands full. 

When my husband and I visit him at home, he always comes to the door cheerfully to greet us with hugs. He always thoughtfully prepares indoor slippers for us by placing them right near our feet. 

I can clearly foresee that my little grandson will grow up to be a well-mannered and sophisticated adult. His mother has given him a perfect foundation of an ethical upbringing at home that will help ground him in how he conducts himself in the world and how he pursues academic and professional goals.  

I firmly believe in my mother’s philosophy: “Education starts at home”.  

Joannie Yang immigrated from Taiwan in the 1970's. She taught elementary-age children in Southern California at the Cerritos Chinese School for over 20 years. She has written articles in the World Journal Newspaper, the largest Chinese language newspaper in the US, regarding parenting and has also been interviewed on the local Chinese radio station regarding her professional and life experiences. She was also a successful real estate agent for many decades. She is a mom to three grown boys and proud grandma to four grandchildren. She is dedicated to self-growth and considers herself an avid reader and life-long learner.

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