autumn days

Thursday, February 3, 2011

parental expectations & culture

My friend Alice emailed this article to me (Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior), as my husband is Taiwanese and may have interesting opinions on the subject of parenting that differ from a Caucasian parent's perspective.  This was my response.
our two beautiful Eurasian children

Dear Alice,

No worries about offending by asking for his advice because he's Asian.  He says as an Asian person, he is able to speak for all Asians... and then made a joke about Asian dads being better than moms; he's such a funny guy.  It was an interesting article.  He said there were a lot of generalizations, and he's didn't have Chinese parents, but Taiwanese parents.  He said he watched television and played video games and could do anything he wanted, other than go out to play on weekdays, even after finishing all his work.  The expectation was he'd get no less than perfect and that he'd go through graduate school. 

And my Caucasian family rule was I could go out to play after my homework and chores were done.  The expectation was to try my best, whatever that was.  I had to focus on my tasks until I felt I had done what I could.  In my family there wasn't necessarily an expectation to go to college, nor the funding, yet both my brother and I received good grades and eventually paid our own way through college and masters degrees.  My husband had his college paid for and is the only child in his family NOT to have a masters degree.  So this article gave us much to think and talk about.  Which way is best?  Is there a way to have firm expectations and still allow your children free time and space to have say in their activities (which activities and how often)?

Now I am wondering if I should raise my expectations of Hannah instead of giving her so much independence and so many choices in her daily life.  I didn't have so many choices to make when I was a child and then found later I had trouble making my own decisions.  I believe giving my daughter freedom to find her own answers by listening to her own heart and instincts will serve her well in the long run.  I do feel I make decisions for her when it's necessary or when I just can't accept another alternative.  An example is she wants to stay in jammies at home all day every day and I just need to get out of the house after being home-bund with an infant for a couple months.  I try to provide choices for Hannah whenever I can, to let her feel her own empowerment and to shape her own environment, even if the choices are, like my husband says, the same two things said in different ways: "brush teeth now or in one minute."  I am more of a stand back and keep them safe mom.  I love allowing time and space for free exploratin and learning, as long as it appears safe and respectful.  I can find a way to give Hannah choices that I can live with while also encouraging her to put all her effort into the activities of her choice.  She can choose the activity from our shared list, or I can.  She can put all her effort into that activity and try her best and practice, or I can choose a logical, natural consequence or another activity for her.  There are ways for both parties to get what they want, I believe.  It seems to me a child comes with particular interests and talents and it is our job as parent to help them to grow to the best of their ability into healthy happy adults.  But that's just me, the parent of a preschooler.  I am sure my philosophy will be quite different when my daughter is a young adult.

We've had a student-nanny in our home for a couple weeks (I went through the same nanny school 15 years ago,, and I've found laying down rules and boundaries and reasonings and lists of parenting techniques has really helped me evaluate my parenting choices and style.  What a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my parenting while my children are young, so I can still make changes.  So on days when I feel I am going stir-crazy or just crazy because there's not much time left within the day for myself, I can breath and reflect and learn and grow, and be thankful for that time to process my parenting before my children are adults.  I feel so privileged to have that luxury of reflection when looking back at I and my parents and grandparents were raised.  Hopefully I am growing into a parent with clear expectations, high standards, yet time to run and play and enjoy time with my beautiful growing-so-fast children.

This article got me thinking.  We will have more structure within our day now: more home school activities, scheduled classes here and there, more of a routine, once again host regular preschool book club parties, and more frequently visit with our home school (and other) friends.  What did you think of the article?  No offense was taken and we appreciate the conversations this article has opened.

Warm regards,

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