I doubt China would take me though.
Actually, I just read a Wall Street Journal article about the differences between American (Western) and Chinese (non-Western) parents and I’m thinkin I’ve had this parenting thing a little off all along. One of the key things that hit home with this article was the author’s statement, speaking about Chinese parents’ belief in their children: “They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”
Us American moms and dads think of our kids as fragile, easily broken. We assume that by protecting them from struggle, failure, and discouragement we’re somehow building them up. But I really like the idea of assuming my child has strength beyond what I see, resilience, courage.
Sure, there are parts of that article linked to above that I’m not totally on board with. But there are other aspects that I wholeheartedly admire. Like pushing a child to persevere through the tough parts of piano lessons – because the enjoyment will not come until they get through the hard, unforgiving, and joyless bits at the start.
And the idea of demanding more from our kids – demanding excellence because we truly believe they’re capable of it. And because we know that striving harder today will bring character development and long term opportunities for success. What if we saved our praise for truly praiseworthy accomplishments? And got honest with our kids about their non-successes? What if we stopped the “everyone’s a winner” rhetoric?
Let’s take a minute to look at a few of the values I want to teach my kids:
Strength That surely won’t come if I pamper and coddle them.
Courage Again, not gonna happen if I always protect them from falling. They have to earn that on their own.
Respect Hmm… Based on their current level of disrespect, what I’m doing isn’t delivering.
Compassion I think this comes from seeing compassion in action, and the ability to see things through others’ eyes. In other words, it’s not related so much to parenting style, but to lifestyle.
Faith Along with compassion, it comes through experience, and that in any environment, but most effectively in a loving, faithful community.
And finally, I’ve always wanted to give my children that elusive “happy childhood.” Like I had. Like so many people I know had. And like others wish they’d had. But let’s face it. Happiness doesn’t come from hours in front of a TV screen, or even from riding bikes and playing Barbies all day. Lasting happiness is found where we feel we have purpose, are needed, and where we meet challenges. That isn’t the sheltered ‘extended’ childhood most of us strive to give our children. We try to keep them away from anything unpleasant as long as possible, cherishing the innocence of childhood.
I’m just thinking. Maybe our kids would be happier if we pushed them to achieve more. If we didn’t try so hard to keep them happy with ‘stuff’ and lack of responsibility.
Then again, maybe we, as grown-ups, would be happier if we didn’t strive so hard for the white picket fence with 2 luxury cars parked in the garage and a 56″ flat screen hanging on the wall and annual vacations to Cabo…
Note: Don’t be offended by my ramblings. I’m on the verge of changing my parenting style and that makes me feel a little like I’m perched precariously on the edge of a cliff. While balancing on the edge I’m sharing my random thoughts with the whole world. Call me crazy.