The afternoon of June 4, 2019, hundreds of people gathered on the United States Capitol West Lawn to attend a rally of remembrance for the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
A Stepmom’s Parenting: Indulgence or Discipline?
By Zhang Hui
At the mention of stepmother, it is synonymous with malice, callousness, and badness. Every time I saw a stepmother abused her stepchild, I always felt very miserable. These children were pitiful enough when they lost their moms, while they had to suffer the stepmother’s abuse. Then I thought: If I were a stepmother, I would never act like them. Even though I don’t like the stepchild, I’ll certainly not harm him. I’ll absolutely not be synonymous with a malicious stepmother but show everyone a totally different stepmother.
Acting as a Stepmother in a Blended Family
Due to my remarriage, I unavoidably had the title of a stepmother. Although my friend told me that it wasn’t easy to be a stepmother, I firmly believed that as long as I treated the child with a true heart, he could feel my love.
On the first day after remarriage, I brought the child to my room and let him sleep with me and told him many stories. Even though he always wet the bed, I didn’t dislike him, nor did I allow my family to reproach him. I saw him as very important in my heart. No matter what he wanted, I would satisfy him. Moreover, I often accompanied him to amusement parks. I remembered one time when I brought him to an amusement park called Taoqibao. Several children, who were three or four years older than him, bullied him because he was young. My son said to me with a grievance, “Mom, they bullied me.” I got so saddened by seeing him crying out in grievance that I educated those children. And then they all apologized to my son and shared their toy cars with him on their own initiative. What’s more, they said to me, “Aunt, don’t worry. We’ll protect him.” Seeing my son turn from weeping into joy and having fun together with them, I felt happy in my deep heart.
In this way, he quickly accepted me. Wherever he went, he would say to others, “This is my mom.” At that time, other people would speak in chorus, “Oh! Is this the best and most beautiful mom whom you often speak of?” My son replied proudly, “Yes! My mom is the most beautiful.” Seeing my relationship with my son was so friendly, my family flashed uncontrollable smiles and praised that I was sensible and clever. My husband also praised me as a good mother, so did my neighbors. Furthermore, my son stuck by me every day and asked me to accompany him wherever he went. He also said, “I’ll never part from mom.” After hearing this, I was really overjoyed, feeling that my efforts had been rewarded. So, I increased my efforts to be a competent good mother.
Encountering My Son’s Disgust for My Severe Education
One day, only my child and I were at home. I asked him to do homework set by his teacher. However, not only did he not listen to me, but he let me play games with him. I said, “Son, do your homework quickly. You’ve spent too much time playing games today.” He replied, “Mom, I’ll do homework after playing games.” I said, “If you don’t finish your homework, I won’t play games with you.” At that moment, he, with dilated eyes, said sharply, “If you don’t let me play games, I won’t acknowledge you as my mom.” I thought: I shouldn’t overindulge him anymore, or else his study will be delayed. Consequently, I pretended to be angry, ignoring him. Unexpectedly, he said to me, “This is my home. I’ll put you out. You aren’t my mom at all.” Hearing his such cruel words, I felt so much pain as if a needle had stabbed into my heart. My heart suddenly felt cold. I thought: After all, he isn’t of my own flesh. No matter how well I treat him, he’ll turn hostile as soon as I don’t do things as he thinks they ought to be done. How am I going to educate him and get along with him in the future? It’s really not easy to be a stepmother. I couldn’t help but shed bitter tears.
Even more absurd was that he, seeing me crying, was afraid to be disciplined by my family, so when they came back home, he cried and said to them that I didn’t want him and he even lied to them that I spanked him. Before I could explain it, my husband said, “He is only five years old. Could it be that he lied?” My heart was completely broken for my husband’s distrust. I had paid so much effort for our child, but in the end, they treated me as an outsider. I wanted to run away, but then I thought if I went, how would other people see me? Would they say that I mistreated our child? Would my neighbors say what I did in the past was fake? Seeing my son still incessantly cried no matter how my family coaxed him, in order to protect the image of good mother in everyone’s mind, I, clearly knowing that I had been wronged, still apologized to him.
Later in life, I no longer dared to say any words of blame to him, fearing that I would lose the image of good mother. Although I knew he couldn’t eat cold things, I would secretly buy them for him as long as he wanted. As a result, he had a high fever at midnight and was taken to hospital. Facing these unexpected situations, I was caught in a dilemma. If I didn’t submit to him, he would get angry and wouldn’t acknowledge me, saying that I was a bad mother. But if I continued indulging him, he would have more and more bad habits. How difficult it was to be a good mother! In this way, the summer vacation exhausted me mentally and physically. And then my husband and I returned to our hometown, leaving our child in his grandparents’ care.
Finding the Root and Solving the Problem
I led a church life in my hometown. I saw God’s words saying, “If you don’t have a proper relationship with God, no matter what you do to maintain your relationships with other people, no matter how hard you work or how much energy you exert, it will still belong to a human philosophy of life. You are maintaining your position among people through a human perspective and a human philosophy so that they will praise you. You do not establish proper relationships with people according to the word of God. If you don’t focus on your relationships with people but maintain a proper relationship with God, if you are willing to give your heart to God and learn to obey Him, very naturally, your relationships with all people will become proper. … A proper relationship between people is established on the foundation of giving their heart to God; it is not achieved through human effort. Without God, relationships between people are merely relationships of the flesh. They are not proper, but are indulgent of lust—they are relationships that God detests, that He loathes.”
After reading God’s words, I couldn’t help but reflect: Am I not the person revealed by God’s words who used Satan’s life philosophies to get along with my son, instead of practicing the word of God? Directed by satanic views and thoughts, “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” “Do not hit the smiling guy’s face,” and so on, in order to maintain a harmonious relationship with my son and to be a good mother in everyone’s eyes, I always submitted to my son no matter what he did. Though seeing him do something wrong, I still blindly indulged him, resulting in his uncontrollably playing games and becoming a finicky eater. At this time, I thought that in the past, when my husband taught our child for his mistakes, I used to blame my husband in order to maintain the image of good mother in my son’s heart. The result was my son believed what he had done was correct and that it was his dad who was to blame. Gradually, as long as his dad taught him, he would be angry with his dad. Even if he made mistakes, he still wouldn’t allow anyone to reprove him because I would support him. Now I realized that it was all because I blindly gave him free rein in order to protect my image of good mother and not to be synonymous with a malicious stepmother, causing my son to get things completely backward, fail to distinguish right from wrong, and become peremptory and unreasonable.
During the time when I was in my hometown, my son often had video chat with me, saying that no one but I treated him well and that he really wanted me to return home. At that time, I felt deep self-blame. It was I who brought him the idea “Disciplining him is a bad thing.” When feeling that he was in the wrong, he would get me to support him. It was I who hurt him. So I came before God and prayed to Him, “God! In order to maintain the image of good mother in my son’s heart, I blindly indulged him. This failed to bring him benefits and assistance, but caused him to be peremptory and proud. God! I’m no longer willing to mask myself and live by satanic philosophies of life. May You lead me to put myself aside and practice according to Your words and truths.”
Finding Ways of Educating My Child
The winter vacation arrived and my son would come back to the hometown. I knew that I should no longer indulge him as I had done in the past. One time, he was made to do some after-school reading by his teacher. In order to play games as soon as possible, he read so quickly that he frequently made mistakes. I got him to reread it but he didn’t do. I didn’t pass him, with the result that he flew into a shameful rage and said that I was a bad mom who intentionally made things difficult for him. I didn’t want to indulge him again. Hence I laid out the facts for him and talked sense into him. As a result, he said, “If you continue scolding me, I won’t acknowledge you as my mom. I’ll cast you out.” When I heard he say this, my resolution to practice the truth was slightly shaken. If he said that I abused him for his being forced to do homework then what should be done? How would my family think of me after knowing this? Would they say that I was a malicious person?
At that moment, I realized that I was protecting my image and status, so I hurried toasking Him to protect my heart. Then I recalled some of God’s words, “Do not do things before men; you should do them before God. By accepting God’s observation and inspection, your heart is set aright. If you are always concerned with acting for people to see, then your heart will never be set aright. Also, when you act do not act for yourself. Do not take into account your own interests. Do not take into account the interests of man. Do not take into account your own position, face, or reputation.” Yes! No matter how my son treated me and no matter how everyone saw me, I must harbor right intentions, do things before God, and ask God to scrutinize me. I immediately prayed to God, “Oh God! May You lead me! I’m no longer willing to rely on Satan’s philosophies to live. No matter how my family think of me, I’m willing to practice Your words and do things before You.” Then I firmly said to my son, “Even though you don’t acknowledge me and say something bad about me, you still need to carefully read texts and do homework. I’m doing this for your own good.” Seeing that my attitude was unyielding, he had no choice but to redo his homework.
Practicing the Truth Makes Our Relationship Harmonious
Then I thought of God’s words, “Describe something clearly and understandably, so that it can edify and benefit others, … is there any need to stand on high? Is there any need to use a lecturing tone? You don’t need to scold them, you don’t need to speak loudly, or shout at them, much less use words, or a tone, or an intonation that are blunt. You just need to learn to use a normal tone, commune from the position and status of an ordinary person, speak calmly, speak the words in your heart, endeavor to pour out what you understand, what other people need to understand, and speak clearly and understandably. When what you say is understandable, other people will understand, your burden will be released, they will cease to have misunderstandings, and you will see what you say more clearly; isn’t this edifying both of you? … And what is the purpose of speaking heart-to-heart? Is it to maintain a proper relationship between parents and children? Let Me tell you, narrowly speaking, the purpose of speaking heart-to-heart is for there to be normal human communication, having an exchange of minds. That’s narrowly speaking. Broadly speaking, it is for people to understand each other’s state, learn from each other, support each other, and help one another—that’s the effect. And thus, isn’t the relationship by which people interact with each other normal?”
It was the guidance of God’s words that allowed me to understand God’s will. The reason why my child was unwilling to accept my advice was because I didn’t know how to communicate with him. I, depending on my hot blood, taught him in a condescending attitude, forcing him to accept my advice. Even though he was obedient, he was not willing to do so. God’s words showed me the way to practice the truth. If I wanted to get along with my son, I should first learn to tell him what was in my heart and stand on an equal footing to communicate with him to know his opinions. After he finished homework, I calmly asked him, “Do you think that my teaching you means that I’m unkind to you?” He answered, “Yes!” I continued asking, “Your grandma blames your daddy because he smokes. Is what she has done wrong?” My son replied, “No.” I said, “Smoking is harmful to your daddy’s health, as well as ours. For his health, your grandma stops him from smoking. I educate you so that you could study hard and finish homework on time. Let’s look at how this is said in God’s words. God’s words say, ‘“You’re not to swim in the reservoir!” They may not tell you what might happen if you do, but you may have heard some things, say, a child that went swimming when the adults weren’t paying attention and drowned—things like that often happen. You don’t listen, you let their words go in one ear and out the other, and you sneak off to play at the reservoir. Having played there and not drowned, you return home and feel pretty pleased with yourself. “See how clever I am! My mom and dad didn’t find out, they didn’t tell me off or beat me.” Your parents might not tell you off or beat you, but they do say to you: “No dinner or sleep for you tonight. Face the wall and think about what you’ve done!” So you stand facing the wall, and spend the whole night hungry, cold, and thirsty, feeling hard done by. You say to yourself, “I just went to swim, to play in the water. Nobody died. Is there any need for this?” You don’t get it. You think things over, and say to yourself: “Was I adopted? They’re soundly asleep, they’ve eaten, they have a warm blanket, and they’ve made me stand here facing the wall. Why?” You can’t figure it out. Then you say to yourself, “My mom must not want me.” And you keep thinking about this. But what are your parents’ actual intentions? To make this stick in your mind. What effect do they ultimately want to achieve by doing this to you? Is it only to make you remember? The ultimate effect they want to achieve is not just to make this stick in your mind. The aim of making it stick in your mind is to make you listen to them, to make you do as they say, to make you live by their words, to stop you being rebellious against them, to stop you doing things that worry them or wear them out—only then will the effect have been achieved. Will listening to your parents allow you to make progress? And will it save them worrying? And when they worry less, will they be happy with you? Will they still need to punish you?’”
After reading God’s words, I asked my son why parents educated and chastened their child. He mumbled, “They are afraid that he might drown.” I said, “It’s not right of him not to accept parents’ criticism for his playing in the water. Should he be disciplined?” My son said, “Mom, I understand. I’m wrong. I shouldn’t have said anything like that about you. Please forgive me. You’ll always be my good mom.” When I heard my son speaking like this, I finally felt liberated and fully relieved. I no longer needed to disguise myself and care about other people’s gazes. At this moment, I was moved to tears. My son quickly wiped my eyes and said, “Mom, don’t cry. I’ll certainly be obedient in the future.” When my family saw that I had a heart-to-heart talk with my son, completely breaking the deadlock, and that my son totally didn’t treat me as a stepmother, their faces were wreathed in smiles of gratification. In the past, I lived according to Satan’s philosophies, fearing that I would lose the title of good mother. As a result, I was fooled by Satan, living in unbearable pain. After I went through these experiences, I finally realized that if we live according to mistaken viewpoints instilled in man by Satan, we’ll live more and more painfully. Only by practicing in accordance with God’s words and truths, can we live in release and freedom.
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