By a Chinese father

I have a son in second grade. Once he was playing with a group of children, including a cousin, when his uncle came along and scolded his son in front of everyone. My son was disturbed to see his cousin being reprimanded like this, and told me about the incident.

“Of course you would feel bad to see your cousin scolded,” I told him. “But knowing how to handle scolding is also an art!”

My son was skeptical, but intrigued.

“Think about it,” I said. “Has daddy ever scolded you?”

“Of course you have, sometimes even several times a day.”

“Then have you thought about why I was angry?”

“Yes—I always think about what I did wrong so that I can do better going forward.”

I laughed. “See, you already mastered the art of it. Actually, you really should be grateful to the person who roasts you — only those who care about you and want to see you improve would take the time and energy to do it. Look at all the strangers walking down the street, would any of them stop to criticize you? Only be your relatives, friends, or mentors — people who have higher expectations for you — would say anything. Otherwise, why would they bother?”

Seeing that he grasped the idea, I continued:

“Consider another situation. If the person who criticized you was wrong and you weren’t actually at fault, but they did it out of misunderstanding, then that person would owe you. If you knew that you weren’t in the wrong but managed to stay calm, then it was a practice of patience/forbearance.

Just the opportunity to forbear is enough to be thankful for.

“Further, if you could explain to them and make them understand why you weren’t actually at fault, you would resolve the conflict and learn interpersonal skills at the same time—that’s several birds with one stone.”

“Some people are well-behaved prodigies as children, but are seldom scolded. As they get older and end up making mistakes, they can’t take the negative pressure. Some even commit suicide over it. Isn’t learning to be criticized something that takes practice?

“Very true,” my son said.

Trying to end things more lightly, I said: “If you follow what I just said, then you have mastered the art. But still try to do things correctly the first time. You don’t want to become too skilled at becoming someone everyone blames!”