When I was studying for my master’s degree in education in the United States, one of the lectures touched upon how parenting is shaped by culture.
I conducted field trips in different neighborhoods, observing how parents interacted with their children.
I found a boy rolling on the floor of a fast-food shop, begging for french fries from his strict mum.
At a coffee shop, I met a mother talking to her son in whispers about the dishes he would like to have.
And I met a parent tossing his son in the air at a park.
Both the father and the son laughed happily.
By observing others in a foreign land, I rediscovered the beauty of the Chinese culture.
I particularly love the idea of eating with your family and relatives at a big round table, enjoying the lively conversation involving every family member.
Filial piety in Confucian philosophy — respect for one’s parents, elders and ancestors — is also deeply rooted among the Chinese.
That strengthens the adhesion of the whole family.
However, there’s something I dislike seeing Chinese parents do when talking to their children – making humiliating, ridiculing comments.
It is not unusual to hear, “How can you possibly fail to do something that simple?”
Or, “Why can’t you behave as nicely as the neighbor’s kid?”
Or, “Better to have given birth to a piece of barbecue pork than you!”
These are often words spoken in anger, but they could leave permanent scars on the children.
Now, that doesn’t mean good parenting avoids all scolding for fear of hurting a child’s ego.
However, humiliating your child is simply not teaching.
Children’s abilities shouldn’t be compared, as everyone is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses.
Instead of criticizing your kid for not being able to do this or that, you should show your affirmation of him or her by saying: “I know you can do it. Give a try once again.”
Or, when you believe your children are not working hard enough, you can say: “You can do better than that. Keep it up.”
If they misbehave, you can show your displeasure by telling them: “I don’t like what you’re up to right now.”
Let your children grow with respect and appreciation, not humiliation.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 9.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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