Saturday, January 15, 2011

A "Happy" Childhood, A Successful Future and What Happens in Between.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article entitled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior", with a sub caption of "Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids?"

Before I read this, I wanted to make sure I knew the proper meaning of "happy", so I looked it up on the online dictionary.
Happy, by Meriam-Webster's definition means "characterized by well-being and contentment".

Okay, now that we know what "happy" means, let’s see if  a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice creates happy kids.  As I read the article, it seems that "happy" is being redefined by a model of success as the parent sees it - excelling in school, performing at recitals, being the best in the class, and other future goals.  It is focused on preparing the children to become adults and does not focus on the enjoyment of the journey, the happiness of childhood.  The children must meet the high expectations of their parents in subjects of the parents choosing, or be faced with being called "lazy", "garbage" or worse.

Where is the well-being and contentment?

There is an overarching message of negativity and distrust in the children:
"children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences."

When we first think of our children in this way, it affects the very way in which we respond to them.  This basis sets up a relationship based on struggles, battles, competition, winning.  Where is the compassion, the trust?  If the parents do not trust the children, do the children trust the parents?  Who can they trust? 
Do they keep any feelings that will bring themselves or their family shame inside, afraid to express themselves, until they cannot handle the pressure anymore?
I have no doubt that these parents love their children as much as I love my own, but I worry that equating a person's value with conditions of success and not separating the person from their actions has detrimental consequences.
Asian Americans are more likely to commit suicide than blacks, whites, and Hispanics. 
Over 60% of Cornell student suicides from 1996-2006 were Asian or Asian-Americans while only 14% of the total student body are self-identified Asian-Americans.

The article states "the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be 'the best' students, that 'academic achievement reflects successful parenting,' and that if children did not excel at school then there was 'a problem' and parents 'were not doing their job.'"

To me, it reads that the motivation for the child's success is the parents own fear of failure.  The cycle seems to be self-perpetuating and blaming in all regards. 

The online pole asking "Which style of parenting is best for children?" and giving the options of "Demanding Eastern Parenting" or "Permissive Western Parenting” implies that if one isn’t demanding obedience, coercing, spying, limiting activities, promoting competition over cooperation, then they are permissive, a word when coupled with parenting has obvious negative connotations.  Where is the option for being respectful to others, teaching children this respect through modeling the behavior, communicating in a compassionate manor and cultivating a love of learning that comes from inside the individual?  Where is the option for a parenting style that focuses on the child's destination to adulthood, trusting them enough to allow them to choose the paths they need to ensure current and future well-being and contentment?