Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Chinese For Me, Please

After reading this article:  Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, I realized I am not the meanest mommy in the whole wide world, as I so often tell my children.  Perhaps it’s my Western mentality, but I still believe that children should be allowed to be children, not miniature adults. 

Yes, excellent grades are the expectation in our household, much to the Prince of Distraction’s consternation.   And I completely agree that repetition helps children to learn.  But expecting kids to spend all their time out of school being drilled on their school work and practicing whatever instrument/skill the parent has decided the child should play seems almost cruel. 

I’m also not in favor of insulting a child as a means of motivating them.  Yes, I let my children know when they haven’t met our expectations—in spades.  But as long as I know they’ve put their best effort into that endeavor, I will acknowledge that effort in a positive way. 

I believe in the power of positive reinforcement, as I’ve seen the difference that can make, both with my students and my own children.  Most people seem to like feeling appreciated.   Some people do force themselves to improve after being continually insulted, but I think it happens more out of self-defense. Do they really feel better about themselves once they’ve improved, or do they feel like no matter what they do, it’s not good enough?  I fell into the latter category, as a child, and it was not productive.
I think our kids need us to be their coaches in life, not their task masters.  We need to teach them the rules of the game, encourage them to go out there and try their best, and show them where they went wrong.  That may mean yelling, that may mean benching them, but not belittling them because they’re not naturally the best players on the team.

Logically, it’s not even possible for every kid to be the best at everything, anyway.   So by shaming their children for not having the highest grade in their class, or getting first place in competitions, Chinese mothers teach their kids that it’s only the destination that matters, not the journey.  Never mind that the kid made friends on the soccer team or that they had fun playing the sport. 

Oh wait.  Chinese kids aren’t typically encouraged to play team sports, act in plays, or have friends.  To me, that’s an incredibly sad way to grow up, and I would think the lack of social skills would hinder them as they get older. 

While I recognize that Chinese kids blow U.S. kids away academically, and that their methods obviously yield results, I think the cost is too high for my taste.  I want my kids to enjoy their childhood and learn how to make the most out of their lives.  Feel free to remind me of this when my son forgets his homework again.