Parenting is extremely hard, especially for a first-time mum.

Although I had read many books about parenting and relationships before becoming a mother, I still felt overwhelmed as a first-time mum. At school, you need a year in prep to become familiar with the alphabet and learn to read a few simple words. Likewise, you need a few months of training before you can participate in a soccer match. You need to study at least three years at university and then be in training for six months, depending on your choice of career, just to get an entry-level job.

But you don’t receive any training or have the opportunity to gain practical experience when you raise a human being. You take care of all their needs, and you’re responsible for their growth and thriving. Unless you work with children for your profession, most parents do not study parenting or have real-life experiences with other children before the birth of their own. We think parenting comes naturally; we have seen our parents do it, and we assume we can just follow the same path.

We have usually seen only one method of parenting and consider that we have all turned out fine. It dawned on me that as an immigrant that I had experienced two cultures and two different parenting approaches. I was confused. I was raised by strict, fear-based parenting in Vietnam, and my daughter expects me to raise her using nurturing, love-based parenting here in Australia.

I believe my parents love me unconditionally, but because of their generations, there was not much focus on parenting, and they were raised in fear and in a judgement-based culture. They passed their approaches down to me. I found it extremely stressful when I had my first child. All the time I felt like there was internal conflict when my instincts told me to use threatening, strict punishment to discipline my daughter. I was more worried about the judgment that I was not a good enough parent than I desired to treasure the time enjoying our bond.

Then I read a parenting book, and I tried to use connection and love to raise her. I felt guilty when sometimes natural instincts still won the day. It took a lot of effort and tears to make the change. Today, my daughter still complains to me, ‘Mum, you’re the strictest of all my mum’s friends,’ or ‘Mum, you talk a bit loud. Don’t raise your voice.’

When I had my second child, I was better at regulating my emotions, becoming calmer, thanks to the training with my first child. And I can feel the difference between my first daughter and the second. My first one is a bit more worried and anxious, while the other one is more relaxed and expressive. There can be a difference in the child’s personality, but I believe the way we raise our child also has a tremendous effect on their mood and behaviour.