I was interviewed for this yahoo.com article posted today about the opinion of one “Chinese mother” (her label) on the difference between Western parenting and Chinese parenting. How self esteem is really cultivated is certainly in question.
“Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches,” Chua wrote in her recent Wall Street Journal article. “Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently…. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”
What do you think?
I think it’s important to note that according to recent studies, Asian-Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest suicide rates of all ages in that age group. They have the highest rates of depression as well. “Model minority” and the intense pressures to achieve are often cited as factors of the suicides.
While we all have a lot to learn from one another—perhaps Western parents allow their children to quit too easily and may not push hard enough and Chinese parents (as defined by the writer) push too hard and use too many radical methods to ensure achievement—we know that self esteem, sense of self, and individuality develop throughout childhood.
How should success be defined within families? How do we know how hard we must push?
“If you look at the suicide and depression statistics of Asian-Americans, I think they contradict her assumption that this kind of verbal abuse has no effect,” says Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-development expert and professional speaker. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Asian American women, ages 15-24. Asian American women, ages 15-24 and over 65, have the highest female suicide rates across all racial/ethnic groups…and family pressures are often cited as factors.”
The child may not protest the parents’ actions, but that may be because protest isn’t permitted. Many Asian cultures teach children not to admit weakness or criticize their parents, Dr. Silverman points out. “So it might be assumed that these kinds of parenting techniques don’t impact the child, when it actually does.”
Chinese mothers, as defined by the writer, spend more time in academic activities and more time on schoolwork and less time on social and self-propelled creative endeavors. School and academic achievements are central to many Asian children but even more so, it is one of the most important aspects of the Asian concept of success. The external rewards and external standards of grades, academic accolades, admission to prestigious colleges are central to judging the success of that child—not IN SCHOOL but IN LIFE. Meeting these expectations and standards are vital to avoiding feeling of shame and pleasing others—often their parents. How might this affect creativity and individuality? What I glean from the article is that there is a mold they need to fit—and if they don’t, there are consequences for both them and the family.
Western parents have a wider definition of success. While some families go too much to the other extreme, refrain from teaching their child good study habits, allowing their children to quit prematurely, refraining from pushing their child to achieve their best, many western children who are allowed to engage socially, artistically, kinesthetically. They have more room to develop their creativity and individuality. His motivation, in this case, is intrinsic— and his source of “rightness” “fit” “fulfillment” comes from his gut and his mind rather than external expectations. They can develop mastery in what they love rather than in a narrow definition of success. Of course, if parents are too lenient, they miss out on building their children’s sense of confidence and self reliance which is detrimental as they grow from child to adult.
What’s the answer?
Perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle. A lot of parenting success lies on a continuum. There needs to be a nod towards the individual’s needs, personality, and learning style. There needs to be a desire to uncover that child’s gifts and personal assets. There needs to be, what I call SPARK- (Support, Passion, Action, Reason why, and Knowledge/Skills)—a parent’s decision to encourage and support their child’s passions, help, encourage, and keep them on track to take consistent action on their goals, uncover the intrinsic reason why they want this goal so badly, and exposing them to people and programs that allow them to access to skills and knowledge they need to succeed in this manner.
Sometimes our children want to quit, but parents need to help their children stick with what is healthy for them even when it’s challenging. Part of this is because they need to practice achieving their goals early so that they don’t create a pattern of quitting when stakes are high as an adult. Part of this is because our children aren’t always going to love everything they do—but they need to do what is necessary (school, brush their teeth, refrain from throwing food at a restaurant).
Well, what’s your parenting view? Do you push too hard? Not hard enough? Are Chinese parents superior? Western parents? Or must we learn from one another? Please write your comment here or on my Facebook fan site!
Is the “Chinese Mother” superior? Are Western Parents missing the boat? is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System