1. Maintain Close Family Ties
Differences. While Westerners teach their kids to be highly independent, thinking individuals from an early age, Asians often tend to view family members collectively rather than as separate individuals. This value can go both ways: A child’s ‘success’ is considered by the family as “ours” but then, so is his ‘failure and shame’ owned by the entire family.
This could explain why failure is more noticeable in the Asian household, where the effort to avoid failure is more than a single person’s responsibility. This would also explain the more conservative behaviour of most Asians, and why Asian mothers are more prone to poke their noses into their children’s business than Western mums are.
But the fact is, as Asian family members are raised to be extremely close knit, cousins up to the second — even third — degree of consanguinity or affinity would treat each other as brothers or sisters; this means that a child raised in this environment would have a large support group within his reach.
What’s There to Gain? According to Jennifer Trachenberg, from her book ‘Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to raising Healthy Children,’ “Very confident children come from strong, united families. Good communication within a family encourages feelings of self-worth and helps children maintain good relationships with others. Even small families can have close bonds with each other, but that’s not discounting extended family members. A closeness with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends helps give your child a sense of security and a source of love and acceptance.”
A child raised to think collectively would, it seems, turn out to be more caring and responsible and less self-serving than others raised to think and behave more independently.
2. Respect for Elders and Authority
Being Respectful. Showing respect and having a high regard for one’s elders is thought to be a distinctly Asian trait; sometimes to the point where being respectful takes precedence over progressive thinking. Even when presented with a good idea or given a practical solution, if an elder has opposing views, the younger family members rarely speak up against them. Asian TV dramas will often depict sons — heirs to conglomerates — being respectful by patiently waiting for an elderly father to finally give up the reins (or give up the ghost, whichever comes first).
The truth is, raising children to be respectful is not the same as blind obedience, especially in the context of Asian parenting. Break this stereotype by teaching your children about respect by example, i.e., through practice. The best way to get respect from your children is by showing them and reciprocating respect as well. Respect, in this case, being “the act of taking into consideration, giving worth and value to one’s feelings, thoughts, ideas, and needs, by acknowledging them, listening to them, being honest with them, and accepting them.”
Teaching Them the Importance of Respect. Showing your children that despite their grandparent’s senile state, you still give value to their thoughts and feelings, you teach them compassion. By showing them the right way to act or react in a situation that is not agreeable or convenient to you, you teach them about patience and tolerance. Let them know that even though your point of view may be different from theirs — and despite them not being able to get their way — it does not make their opinion less valid or unimportant.
3. Dare to Discipline
Sparing the Rod. Perhaps, in terms of discipline methods, Westerners are known to be more conscious of their children’s emotional quotients and they often practice positive reinforcement or the rewarding of good behaviour; on the other hand, Asian parents are known to have a reputation for giving corporal punishment for bad behaviour. Asian parents are notorious for imposing a strict “listen and obey” behaviour toward their children.
Whichever method you choose to practice, (so long as it’s not against the law), you neither need to be lax with discipline nor, on the other end of the spectrum, be so strict as to border on being cruel. Remember that the purpose of disciplining your child is to teach him the right behaviour. Never discipline a child out of spite or anger; instead make sure that their punishment is just for their mistake, and always use the situation as a learning experience.
Do as You Preach. To do this, Jim Fay, co- author of Parenting with Love and Logic, suggests that you “buy yourself some time” to calm down before you deal with the situation. In this manner, as you keep your emotions in check, you are able to express empathy for your child as you deliver the consequences. By doing this, you in turn allow your child to connect his behaviour to his punishment. Fay also suggests that you ‘steer clear of no-win arguments’, and refrain from nagging, as sometimes, saying less allows your point to come across much clearer.
Raising good citizens begins at home. If your child cannot manage to follow rules you have set for them, they would be in a lot of trouble outside. Disciplining a child does not necessarily mean you pick up a stick to whack them with. Just have them know that any deliberate action to break the rules result in an unpleasant consequence. What is important is for you to be clear about your rules, that you stick to your word and be consistent.
4. Teach the Value of Hard Work
Striving for Excellence. We often hear the saying that you “reap what you sow”, and this is something that Asians very much take to heart. In the Urban Dictionary, pertaining to level of expertise, there is said to be those whose skills are good, great, and then there’s “level asian”– pertaining to the ridiculously talented — such as the 4-year-old pianist featured on the Ellen show, or some 5-year old olympic gymnastics champion.
However, again, Westerners are sometimes suspect of witnessing such talents in children so young. Some people even go so far as to compare the extraordinary talent to that of a famous cute poodle on youtube that can walk on two hind legs — whose talent is, unfortunately, apparently motivated by fear of abuse. People mistakenly conclude that these extraordinary children may very well be raised in similar conditions of abuse and fear.
Perhaps what the rest of the world does not see is that in some Asian countries, the reality of over-population and the lack of economic opportunities is probably why Asians tend to raise their kids to be highly competitive–for survival. Competitions are taken rather seriously; medals of participation simply don’t count for much in the “real world.” Being an overachiever is, in itself, not the issue; rather it’s the idea of being forced into striving for excellence.
Asian immigrants who seek to adapt and find a sense of belonging within a new culture and environment must learn to accept that raising their kids to be ‘asian level’ competitive is unnecessary and may be seen it as similar to their children being bullied or unloved.
Provide Support and Motivation. The bottom line is, it’s really all about your approach to teaching your child. What is important is that they understand that by being strict, what you are providing them with support and motivation; it’s not so much about you wanting to be in control.
In a study conducted by Stanford researchers Alyssa Fu and Hazel Markus, they explain that culture-centric approaches as such can be effective. They try to compare the upbringing of Western children and Asian children based on how they are motivated to perform well in life.
While Western children see themselves as independent individuals, Asian children, they say, are more likely to find their strength in parental expectations — and either way is equally effective. Fu’s explanation, “while European American parents give their children wings to fly on their own, Asian American parents provide a constant wind beneath their children’s wings”.
Jessie Tang, an A-level student at Watford Grammar School for Girls, whose father arrived in England from Hong Kong, believes that, “Chinese parents tend to push their children a lot, and have really high expectations because they did not have the opportunities that we have these days, and they want us to take advantage of them”.The way she understands where her parents are coming from, she knows that her parents have her best interests at heart because she is loved, and she does not take their being strict against them.
5. The Virtue of Being Frugal And Humble
On Frugality. ‘Cheap, cheap Asians’ never buy anything not marked down. They make pretty awful friends, because despite the fact that they’re earning six digits monthly, they most probably will not lend you a penny. They rarely eat anywhere nice, they never turn up the air conditioning, and they probably just use their dishwashers at home as drying racks.
First generation immigrants most probably left their home country because of economic restraints and lack of opportunity, which is the reason most older Asian family members grew up being thrifty. They got so used to saving up for the winter, because they understand the consequences of not doing so.
In Asia, haggling is also a way of life and is not something that’s frowned upon. However, later generations — who grew up enjoying the fruits of their parent’s or grandparent’s labour in the West, who never in their life experienced starvation — might see this behaviour as simply being ‘cheap’ and unfair.
Eyes On the Important Things. Have your kids understand that you are not merely depriving them of things they feel they deserve. Living a frugal lifestyle has little to do with saving money as compared to teaching good values to your child. Raise your children to understand that happiness is not achieved through material things, and finding and keeping friends should never be about how much money they have in the bank. Make sure they do not measure their success monetarily. Have your children understand what things are really important–family, friendship, responsibility, and love.
So, What exactly does it mean to be Asian parents?
Despite the manner of upbringing, every parent simply wants the best for their children and has their best interest at heart; Asian parents are no different.
As an Asian parent who wishes to raise their child ‘traditionally’, be brave. You know what is best for your child. So don’t mind the labels and the stereotypes or the critics, whoever they may be. Laugh off your frustrations with ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ episodes instead. “Tiger Parenting” may have a negative connotation attached to it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true — or, at least, it doesn’t have to be.
The key idea is to be able to instill good moral values in your children, in a manner that is both familiar and yet open for improvement, with an understanding that this new generation has its unique needs and may view the world differently from you.
In her book Battle hymn of the Tiger Mom, Amy Chua explains that her parenting style, which promotes achievement in her children, “is not really about grades or Ivy league schools. It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else – more than they believe in themselves – and helping them realise their potential, whatever it may be.”
On her blog, she says, “I genuinely believe that there are many ways of being a good parent. We all want our kids to grow up happy, strong, and self-reliant. But different cultures have very different ideas about the best way to do that. And we should all be able to learn from each other.”
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