I have only just picked up on all the hype about an article in the Wall Street Journal regarding a Chinese woman who was explaining, and defending, a different style of parenting. The question she was addressing was why are Chinese kids so advanced academically than other American kids?
The answer was that they are put through an incredibly tough regime. Her kids cannot have playdates, sleepovers, take part in any plays, watch TV, play computer games, not play the piano or violin or play an instrument other than the violin or piano. They were even forbidden from getting anything less than an A in their academic pursuits.
Here is the bit I, and I think most western mothers, struggle with…if they screwed up she called them ‘garbage’ and freely admitted to forbidding her child from getting up from the piano to use the bathroom or get a drink – for hours… She argued that she was motivating them, that allowing children to manipulate the parent with excuses was setting them up for failure in the future.
Here is where I differ from most western parents – I kind of agree with her! I would never call my children garbage, although I have referred to the work they produce as trash from time to time. I do allow my kids to use the bathroom, BUT, I never tell my kids they are smart, even though they are…all of my girls are in the talented and gifted program, none of them score less than an A in any subject, but I do not praise them for that. I don’t, but I do praise them for the effort in getting there, I praise the process, not the end result. I believe that a kid who is told they are smart grows up believing that they are intrinsically smart and don’t have to study etc. and when they screw up – and they will screw up – they fall to pieces, screaming that they can’t do it etc. My kids know that they will screw up some times, they also know that if they don’t shake themselves off and try again, I will be after them. I tell my girls again and again that if they try and try and still fail, they will not hear a negative word out of my mouth. If they don’t try it is a different matter!
I do have a problem with this woman’s complete rejection of all things American…guess what? She is raising her kids in America! They are, like my kids, growing up in 2 cultures…I like to think that it is an advantage for my children to be at home in both England and America. I am also acutely aware that I need to make concessions when an American standard is not quite the English standard…that, I think, is a big factor in my children’s comfort level. I think at some point, this woman’s children will feel the pull of two different cultures and it will not sit comfortably with them.
I’m also bloody glad that she lives on the other side of the country to me and we will never meet!