January 12, 2011

Parenting, "Chinese" Style

Hat tip to Black and Married with Kids

Writer Amy Chua, on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, attempts to quantify what makes the Chinese mother superior to Western moms.

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out…
Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.
 BMWK asks whether black parents need to take a cue from the Chinese.

My take: The black family is in tremendous distress. We don't have to engage in cultural comparisons to highlight the problem, though sometimes there is value and insight to be gained from them. I read the article as more descriptive of cultural parenting style and method.  Families that are engaged with their children, set boundaries, limits, high expectations and enforce them with their kids achieve better results, period.  You can get there the way the Chinese do (heavy duty coercion) or coerce more gently.  Either way, when our families do those things, we get the same good results too. 

Many of us can clearly talk about the way we were parented and it being strict and we often lament about the degree to which black families have departed from "old school" parenting.  So this style is not the issue, but rather, are we engaged in the first instance?  We have too many single parent households where this ability to engage with our kids is compromised by the lesser capability of one parent to do all for a child that needs doing.  We have reached a point where we almost openly disdain marriage and "in order" family formation as the appropriate approach to rearing children.  We're paying a price for that in the diminished capacity of black families to rear children in a healthy way to become self sustaining and contributing adults.

We don't have to take a cue from Chinese parents.  They aren't doing anything new or different or that is unfamiliar to us where coercion is concerned and we all know some parents that do it "Chinese" style.  We just have to get back to prioritizing marriage, family and child rearing the way we should.
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