Parents Zone Parents Zone

Encountering a ‘mismatched’ child is an opportunity for parents to grow

June 2024

Written by: Lai Shun Mei, Family Dynamics Counselor and Global Career Developer

When a child is born, people like to discuss his appearance, using his resemblance to his parents as a topic of conversation, and talk about which attractive features he has inherited from them. As he grows older and his temperament begins to show, they also like to explore whose personality he resembles.

It is generally easier to get along with someone who has a similar temperament because similar personalities and preferences make it easier to connect. If a child has a temperament similar to their parents, it seems to make parenting easier. However, it often seems like God enjoys playing jokes on us by giving us “mismatched” children: an outgoing and lively mother ends up with a quiet and introverted daughter; a hot-tempered father faces a sensitive and sentimental son; a mother who doesn’t understand fun encounters a hedonistic son.

Parents who seek help often share the common issue of having difficulty getting along with their “mismatched” child. They cannot accept the child’s nature, do not understand the child’s behavior, and do not know how to properly guide their child.

The outgoing and lively mother “complained” to me: “My daughter dawdles, is hesitant, and doesn’t dare to make friends outside.” She couldn’t understand: “What’s so difficult about brushing teeth? What’s so scary about attending English class? What’s there to be shy about when meeting other kids?” Why is her daughter nothing like her but instead resembles her indecisive, introverted, timid, and unambitious father? As she spoke, she indirectly revealed to me that her problem was not accepting her spouse and projecting her dissatisfaction with her spouse onto their daughter. Therefore, the issue was not with her daughter but with their marital relationship.

The hot-tempered father had to come for advice because his son only got along with his mother and not with him. He deeply loved his son and did not want him to grow up being overly sensitive and tearful like a girl. The older the child got, the more anxious the father became. However, under insults and strict orders, the child did not become stronger but instead became more withdrawn, clinging to his mother and refusing to leave her side. It was only after understanding the situation that it became clear that this father had grown up amidst beatings and insults. He believed his own strength came from such an upbringing, not realizing that those painful experiences had become implicit memories affecting his relationship with his son.

The mother, who claimed she did not know how to play and did not need to play, was at a loss with her son, who was solely focused on playing. She said her son was careless with his studies but persistently focused on play. How could she change her son’s attitude towards his studies? I was curious about this mother’s claim—who wouldn’t like to play? Seeking happiness is human nature, so why did she insist she did not need entertainment? It turned out that she was also playful as a child but was strictly disciplined by her mother, who did not allow her to “waste” time. Gradually, her life lacked playmates, and when she played with her mother, her mother remained serious and uncompromising, often causing her to lose and feel sad. Over time, she grew to dislike playing games. Her mother “successfully” shaped her into someone who “did not like” to play, someone who appeared strong and focused on studies but was also rigid, insecure, and lacking in joy. No wonder she did not understand how to get along with her naturally joyful son.

It turns out that God “mismatched” children for us with a purpose. He wants us to reflect on our relationships with our spouses and parents, and our own growth experiences through the frustrations of interacting with our children, thereby sorting out these relationships and resolving these emotional knots.


Parents’ lack of acceptance of their children is a reflection of their lack of acceptance of themselves. A lack of confidence in their children is a lack of confidence in themselves. By taking care of “mismatched” children, parents feel challenged and then become aware of their own pain points. With the help of a therapist, they begin a journey of self-exploration. They clarify and straighten out their family relationships, gaining rebirth and growth in the process. Children are born as they are, and there is no mismatch. Let us make good use of this opportunity for growth!

We should be grateful to others for being willing to ‘offer help’

June 2024

Written by: Dr. Cheung Kit

In this era, parents’ protection of their children surpasses that of any previous generation. This may be due to the decrease in the number of children and the improvement in living standards, leading to parents spending more time and providing more comprehensive care for their children. Under such (possibly excessive) protection, children often become very self-centered and disregard the importance of others. From the parents’ perspective, they are inevitably biased and more tolerant of their own children. When faced with their children’s inappropriate behavior, parents tend to make excuses for them. This common human behavior, however, may lead to children becoming unruly. Therefore, in the difficult situation of balancing right and wrong, if someone is willing to “offer help and guidance,” parents should be grateful. The following are “important figures.”

  1. Teachers

Teachers are among the people who spend the most time with children. We would prefer teachers to directly point out the rights and wrongs to children during their daily interactions. This direct message can effectively “sink in” for the children. Sometimes, facing negative criticism, children will naturally feel unhappy, but it helps them understand the boundaries. Therefore, parents should appreciate the strict guidance of teachers and avoid casually complaining about their efforts.

  1. Elders

Many elders may be very strict with their own children but tend to be much more lenient with their grandchildren, sometimes even more so than the children’s parents. However, the status and life experience of elders are actually superior to anyone else’s. Therefore, their “one word of praise” can be more effective than others’ advice. The question is whether they are willing to play the role of the bad guy. If they are, parents should be grateful for their assistance.

                 3. Medical Personnel

Medical personnel have always been relatively respected. However, children often have an aversion to medical procedures. Therefore, during consultations and treatments, children’s reactions often present a good teaching opportunity. If medical personnel (including doctors and nurses) are willing to provide guidance when children exhibit uncooperative behavior, the children will likely understand better. Although they may not correct their behavior immediately, it will certainly help in their life learning process.

                 4. Passersby

Sometimes, unrelated bystanders can immediately point out inappropriate behavior in children, which can have a startlingly effective impact. For the parents present, this might be a bit embarrassing, but thinking it through, it is beneficial for the child’s behavior.

Children in their growth and learning phase need proper guidance, especially when their behavior deviates. Therefore, if parents are unwilling to play the “bad guy,” we should be grateful and appreciative if others are willing to speak up and correct the child.

Parents Zone

Obsession: Separation Anxiety

June 2024

Written by: Hong Kong Registered Psychologist, Ching Wai Keung

Around nine months of age, babies become unusually clingy. Even if the mother goes to the bathroom, the baby may appear extremely anxious, clinging tightly to the mother and even crying loudly.

Separation anxiety can lead to two different types of reactions. In some cases, when separated from the caregiver, the baby will exhibit attachment-seeking behaviors, such as clinging to the mother, trying every possible way to find the mother, or crawling wherever the mother goes (Ainsworth, Bell, & Stayton, 1971). Separation can also result in behaviors such as despair, resistance, and detachment, depending on the duration of the separation (Bowlby, 1960; Robertson & Robertson, 1989).

A child’s reaction to separation can also change depending on the environment. For example, in a familiar home environment, the child will exhibit less anxiety compared to being in an unfamiliar environment (Ross, Kagan, Zelazo, & Kotelchuck, 1975).

Around seven months of age, the concept of object permanence begins to emerge in children. They understand that even if they cannot see someone or something, it does not mean that the person or object has disappeared. When children are able to establish this concept, their separation anxiety will relatively decrease. If the mother can frequently communicate with the child, express positive emotions and feelings towards the infant, and provide appropriate stimulation and assistance, the child will more easily grasp and apply the concept of object permanence to both objects and people (Chazan, 1981).

Helping children cope with separation anxiety requires a certain amount of time, allowing the child and caregiver to develop a close, attached emotional relationship (Attachment), and waiting for the child’s own development to mature before it can be effective. For a two-year-old child, they can use photographs to alleviate their feelings of sorrow when separated from their caregiver (Passman & Longeway, 1982); a three-year-old child can even stay overnight at their grandparents’ house without their parents being present.

Whether a child can develop this kind of “resilience” depends on whether the caregiver and the child can establish a close emotional relationship. Once the mutual relationship is established, the child can soothe their anxiety caused by separation by imagining the image of their parents and recalling their parents’ love (Development Through Life, Barbara M. Newman, Philip R. Newman, Wadsworth, 2003).