Published on Friday, 19 July 2013 00:00
Disciplining a child is a combination of emotional and mental wellness. The kind of disciplinary action carried out on a child might make or break his/her emotional and mental state of mind.
Be it by authoritative parenting or permissive parenting, every parent just wants the best for their child, but the right type of disciplinary method a child should receive is very ambiguous. If the type of disciplinary technique fails, it can result in temporary or permanent negative psychological impacts on the child which they will probably have to live with as they get older, it can inconvenience themselves and other people around them.
Asian parents raise their offspring with a whole lot of physical discipline and an abundance of tough love. Disciplinary ideas in Asian families differ very much from mainstream American views. What might be considered as child abuse amongst Americans, is simply regarded by Asians to be the most efficient way in inculcating good values and ethics in their children. Asians disregard how their kids feel towards something in particular, as far as they are concerned, their children have to carry out their directions whether the kids like it or not.
There’s an old Chinese saying that dates back to ancient China that goes, “To be beaten is a sign of affection, to be scolded is a sign of love (打是疼，骂是爱).” I got that line from my parents a number of times after being taught a lesson the Chinese way.
Sometimes it would be accompanied with, “It hurts me more than it hurts you.”
The line Asian parents love to use best on their children is, “It’s all for your own good.”
In a way, it is all for our own good; aside from the real abusive, sadistic and mentally-unstable parents that viciously attack their children for no apparent reason at all. For the others it is just a cultural practice of instilling appropriate behaviour in their kids, in the hopes of them growing up to be a person of admirable character. Asian parents vigorously believe that their children can achieve anything they desire, just as long as they set their minds to it.
The author of the article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, is able to relate with these Asian parents, having raised her two daughters in a strict Chinese fashion;
“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.” (Chua, 2011)
To assist their children to reach their full potential, Asian parents subjugate their children with different methods of physical discipline (ranges from a light smack on their buttocks to canings), verbal discipline (reprimanding the child or even insulting him/her as a form of reverse psychology), and behavioural discipline (which includes kneeling facing the wall to reflect upon their actions for an extended period of time, or sending them off to their rooms without a meal). Their word is the final say; the children will never be allowed to repudiate it.
American parents take precedence in the happiness of their child. They focus on their child’s emotional and mental well-being, and are extremely sensitive to their child’s self-esteem. Instead of the Asians who order their kids to get something done right, Americans will sweetly ask their kids to do their best. Discipline for them is primarily based on positive reinforcement.
American parents are very nurturing and loving towards their kids. They behave like a friend to their children instead of an authoritative figure, having casual interactions all the time, and working things out between themselves when one of them is unhappy.
Author of Supporting Parents : Improving Outcomes For Children, Families And Communities, considers permissive parenting to be a non-punishable, accepting, and affirmative approach towards the kid’s desires, impulses, and actions.
She [the parent] consults with him [the child] about policy decisions and gives explanations for family rules. She makes few demands for household responsibility and orderly behaviour. She presents herself to the child as a resource for him to use as he wishes, not an ideal for him to emulate, nor as an active agent responsible for shaping or altering his ongoing or future behaviour. She allows the child to regulate his own activities as much as possible, avoids the exercise of control, and does not encourage him to obey externally defined standards. She attempts to use reason and manipulation, but not overt power to accomplish her ends.
Loving mummies and daddies who care about a child’s feelings in comparison to over-bearing mummies and daddies who force success upon a child. Who has the shorter end of the stick? Don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.
Americans live in a society that values freedom of expression and opportunity, choice and diversity. Their style of discipline reflects the society they live in. Disciplinary methods are often passed down from generation to generation, in this case, American parents actually follow their country’s example of how all Americans should live.
Negative Consequences of the Asian and American Parenting Models
A lot of factors have to come into consideration when parents decide to administer either an authoritative or permissive rule over their children.
The most important question to ask is if the child is suited to receive such extreme disciplinary actions, or will it affect his/her mental well-being? Here are some repercussions from psychological impacts of a child being brought up in the Asian context:
- The child might follow his/her parent’s example in the future and resort to aggression and provocation as a means of achieving what he/she wants.
- By constantly berating a child, he/she might grow up with low self-esteem issues.
- The child might burst out in violent fits of anger from being slightly irked by something or someone.
- It could result in the development of a phobia, an anxiety disorder, or an obsessive compulsive disorder, due to a hypersensitive amygdale (“fear centre” in the brain).
- The child might be an introvert and find it extremely difficult to express his/her feelings, or to trust people.
- It could cause depression which could lead to suicide.
- Children by nature are very active, curious and creative. Curtailing a child’s freedom and expression could cause him/her to snap and go insane.
- Older children might turn to drugs, alcohol, or sex for a brief moment of escape from the stress back home.
- A person could have developed a mental illness from the psychological damage caused by the infliction of physical and emotional hurt in their childhood; it could go unnoticed for a long time but flare up out of the blue. In worst-case but very common scenarios, they could turn out to be serial murderers with a perverted fetish of torturing people before murdering them.
Likewise, for permissive parenting, too much liberation of a child’s freedom could result in penalties to pay for the lack of self-regulation on the child’s part:
- The lack of control of the child could result in them turning wild like untamed animals and running amok, getting into trouble and creating trouble for other people.
- Spoilt brats – They’re used to all the freedom they want and getting anything they desire.
- They do whatever they want. They know that even if they did something bad, they would not be harshly punished by it.
- Allowed to give up without persevering – American parents are anxious about how their children will feel if they were to score badly, or fail a test. They reassure and soothe their children, telling them that it is alright and they can do better the next time. This does not provide adequate motivation for the child, and the child will think that it is alright to fail and give up, since there is no pressure on him/her to do well.
- Fraternising with less than desirable characters – Too much freedom can result in kids turning to juvenile delinquency under the influence of friends, thinking that it is cool to be bad, and eventually criminal activities.
- Children might turn out to be rude and insensitive towards others. They might disregard other people’s feelings given the illusion that only their feelings matter.
Success of the Asian and American Parenting Models
While both parenting models have their disadvantages, they could prove extremely effective in cultivating favourable habits and promoting mental wellness for many children.
What Asian discipline can give rise to:
- Indomitable spirit – The child would come to realize that he/she could obtain desirable results just as long as he/she works hard enough.
- While one of the disadvantages of Asian discipline is low self-esteem issues, ironically, if kids are able to respond positively to this kind of punishment, they would most likely develop a high self-esteem for themselves. Learning that they could do something that they initially thought they couldn’t, would build up their confidence.
- Asian children could grow up to be hard-working adults.
- Fast learners – Their minds have been trained from young to work fast; therefore they are mentally very intelligent, being able to understand and learn at a quicker pace compared to their peers.
- Filial piety – Kids brought up might be very filial towards their parents, having realized all the time and effort their parents have put in to properly educate them.
What American discipline can give rise to:
- Free, creative spirit – Since children are allowed to think for themselves since young, their creativity level knows no bounds.
- Independence – Children would grow up to be extremely street-smart, they’ve not been protected and hidden away in a house, lessons of self-independence have been taught unconsciously in the playground, in school and at home.
- Learn from their own mistakes – The child would know how to rectify problems that he/she have created due to a similar incident that could have happened before.
- Strong, healthy, trusting relationships between parent and child – They learn to recognize, trust and manage their own emotions.
- Freedom of expression is very much encouraged in American households. Parents sit down and talk with the kid whenever the kid is throwing a tantrum at them and tell the kid to voice out his/her displeasures. This gives form to American kids being extremely eloquent in speech.
- Children brought up the permissive method might settle their problems amicably instead of resorting to violence, just like how their parents have raised them.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Discipline in Asian families can be likened to military training; the child is constantly under close scrutiny and pressure to obey the commands of his/her parents.
Discipline in American families can be likened to summer camp; where the child can have fun under the sun anytime he/she wants, and is politely asked to get something done.
They are very much similar, but at the same time, the direct opposite of each other. These parents all just want their kids to be happy and successful. Asians believe that being successful would bring happiness, while Americans believe that being happy would bring success.
The author of the article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, also wrote a book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she stated that the difference between Asian and American parents is the type of virtues they wish to educate their children;
“Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.” (Chua, 2011)
Asian and American parents are consistently engaging in the constant battle of claiming that their own style of disciplining their children indisputably yields the best results. Asian parents think that American parents are too soft with their children, allowing them to climb on their heads, while American parents think that Asian parents are inhumane in disciplining their children.
In my opinion, these two contrasting parenting models are neither right nor wrong. Each culture has its own methods of bringing up their children. The two unalike cultures should stop being at loggerheads with one another over the way children should be raised, live and let live, and just chill.
The Little Ones
Everyone is born different, therefore the disciplinary action taken on a child should be adjusted accordingly to “tailor-fit” his/her personality. Parents should pay specific attention to each child and their demeanour to understand to a further extent of which type of punishment would serve to be the most effective to him/her, shortening and strengthening the learning process, and preventing any psychological damage down the road.
The author of the book, Parenting Stress, agrees that parenting can affect children in powerful ways;
“These are described as “parent effects” on children’s behaviour and development. At the same time, some children are more difficult to care for than others, and the “child effect” on parents and their parenting stress can be equally strong.” (Deater-Deckard, 2004)
There are a lot of things that could go wrong with parenting but nobody ever said that raising these cute little monsters into respectable adults would be easy. Discipline should be taken one step at time, evaluated and then re-evaluated again to determine if it is working on the kid and how it might affect his/her mental and emotional well-being.
The future belongs to these little ones. Let’s shape the future with our own hands.