Home » Uncategorized » Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

I actually had another blogging topic in mind but was inspired to blog about this after reading “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”.

All parents love their children but because of our cultural backgrounds and upbringing, we tend to express this love a little differently. In 2011, Amy Chua (an Asian American Law Professor from Yale) wrote a book titled “Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother” about her experience bringing up her 2 daughters and how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. The Wall Street Journal published an article under the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” on January 8, 2011, with excerpts from her book. This sparked off a whole debate all over the world about how the “Demanding Eastern” parenting model is better than the “Permissive Western” model of bringing up kids. Read the full article here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

She talked about how she never allowed her 2 daughters to: attend a sleepover, have a play date, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin and not play the piano or violin. She also called her daughter “Garbage” (apparently her dad called her that when she was young and she was somehow inspired by it to do better). Amy Chua received death threats and many people accused her of child abuse.

Her older daughter, Sophia (18 this year) is a piano prodigy and made her Carnegie Hall debut at 14. She is now attending Harvard. She also started a Blog in defense of her “Tiger Mom” and said how thankful she was to have such a mother.

Earlier this year, Norway & India got into a diplomatic spat after Norwegian social workers took two young Indian children into care because they slept with their parents and their mother fed them with her fingers – both widespread and normal in India but considered unacceptable in Norway. The parents were told the children will remain in foster care in Norway until they are 18 and that they will only have occasional contact with them. The full article can be found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/9035776/India-and-Norway-in-diplomatic-spat-over-children-taken-into-care.html

Some questions which came to my mind after reading “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” and the 2 incidents above:

  1. To what extent should the government “interfere” with how parents bring up their children?
  2. Do you agree that parents should use the rod to “discipline” their children?
  3. Do you think that parents should enforce a strict routine for their kids (because kids won’t know what is best for them, are inherently lazy and will need a push from their parents) or allow them to explore their individuality and develop at their own pace?
  4. Would you praise your kid if he/she got a B+ in school or would you push him/her to strive for an A the next time?

Would love to hear all your different views on the above!!

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18 Comments

  1. Laura Chechette says:

    1. I think that the government should only “interfere” with how parents bring up their children when a child’s physical or mental well being is negatively impacted. While I don’t agree with the author calling her child “garbage” I don’t think this one instance would have harmed her, but if every day the child was called garbage and other negative names then that could be considered mental abuse.

    2. No. I disagree with using the rod to “discipline” children. I think their are other more effective methods that can be used as opposed to physical ones. (i.e. time outs, taking away activities or toys, etc.)

    3. I think parents should enforce a routine of some sort, but also allow their children to try out different activities. I don’t think that it is fair to not expose the children to other activities and not give them a chance to find a potential passion. That being said I also would not let my child sign up for an activity and quit the next week. If I signed my child up to play soccer I would make him/her go to every game and practice and not let him/her quit even if he/she begged. I would make my child complete his/her commitment until the end of the season and then revaluate next year.

    4. I would do both. I would congratulate him/her on doing well, but also review the test, classwork, etc. to find out what he/she was getting wrong and work to improve it. I want to think that I will push my child to do they best they can and hopefully that will be an A, but I will also praise them for their effort and their hard work if I know they did everything they could. I am curious how children with learning disabilities are treated by this always get an A attitude.

  2. sonigreca says:

    Boon Han, this is a really interesting topic. It’s funny because some Chinese parents thing that Americans have a better way to raise their kids… I couldn’t open the first link though, but I’ll try to answer your questions,
    1. To what extent should the government “interfere” with how parents bring up their children?
    I think government should interfere only when parents are not doing a good job raising their kids. But when you mentioned the Norway & India issue, it reminded me a Chinese movie 10 years ago called The Treatment. It’s about the Chinese parents use traditional Chinese Gua Sha treatment to treat their sick kid. They were in America. And the American government did not know this Chinese medical treatment and accused the Chinese parents for abusing their kids… There is no rules to frame how parents should bring up their kids. And when it comes to a cultural aspect, it is hard to judge whether or not parents are doing a good job.

    2.Do you agree that parents should use the rod to “discipline” their children?
    Well, as a Chinese kid and whose father was an soldier, I was disciplined by the rod when I was a kid. I hated it… But I have to say, when I look back now as an adult I’m actually thankful to my parents… I think there should be a boundary and a bottom line to “discipline” kids… My parents did not beat me to death or what. But they made it hurtful enough to make me remember that there are certain things that I should not to do… When you feel the pain, you do remember deeper. But again, there is bottom line…

    3. Do you think that parents should enforce a strict routine for their kids (because kids won’t know what is best for them, are inherently lazy and will need a push from their parents) or allow them to explore their individuality and develop at their own pace?
    Routine for kids is necessary. But I would say that parents should make it fun or creative to make kids like to follow those routine. If you push them to do things, they’ll just go against you…

    4.Would you praise your kid if he/she got a B+ in school or would you push him/her to strive for an A the next time?
    I’ll definitely praise my kid… I know how stressful when adults push kids to strive for an A. I’ve been there. And because my mom was a teacher at my school, everybody in that school was watching my grades…. So, if I have a kid. I will never push him/her. It’s highly competitive in China. Kids in this generation are like studying machines…. It’s horrible… I don’t want my kid to be like that. If he/she has to face the fierce competition at school and the pressure from other kids and teachers. The least thing I could do is to praise and encourage him/her when he/she comes home….

  3. zhoulinjolin says:

    It has been a long time since Chinese scholars criticize Chinese education system and Chinese style parental way. Chinese students love the social topic which is promoting western permissive style. So when the news came as western world is talking about “Why Chinese mother are superior”, I think Chinese students will fall into deep desperation.

    1 To what extent should the government “interfere” with how parents bring up their children?
    I think if it is believed that parents are maltreating there kids instead of simply educating them with a “rod”, and if it is demonstrated that the kids will be hurt physically and mentally, then the government should interfere with the family and protect the kids. Otherwise, the government should respect each way parents choose to bring up their children.

    2 Do you agree that parents should use the rod to “discipline” their children?
    I agree, especially when children are relatively at their young age, because hurt is the only direct way for children to remember which thing is forbidden to do. But the way of “discipline” children using a rod is not to hurt them, but to punish them because of their fault. The way should be disciplined as a rule in a family, like where to bite them using the rod (hip or palm), and how many times to bite them, etc. But when children grow up and are in the process of shaping value, I believe communication is more important.

    3 Do you think that parents should enforce a strict routine for their kids (because kids won’t know what is best for them, are inherently lazy and will need a push from their parents) or allow them to explore their individuality and develop at their own pace?
    I think that at the early stage, it is important for parents to help their children form a good habit, which could be an earnest and diligent attitude towards school works. When they take such an attitude as a habit, they will treat other things in such a manner too. So at this stage, I believe parents need to enforce a strict routine because kids are usually inherently lazy and need a push and guide from parents. But still it is also critical to explore their individuality which is the thing Chinese parents usually ignore. Chinese parents usually put themselves and their children in a competition, if they know the kid of neighborhood is learning piano, they must let their kid to learn an instrument, or they feel their kid will fall behind by his/her peers. So almost every child is learning more than one “extracurricular interest” classes, but few of them take the class because of interest. Children usually resist these classes, and even lose interests to seek their real interests. Even a kid does find his/her interest, if it is regarded as useless by parents, they do not support their kid to develop either. In this way, all children are trained to be the same and are educated that following trend is more useful than developing one’s own interests. I think that is the reason why Chinese children are much less creative, because even they have good ideas, they do not have time and do not get support to do.

    4 Would you praise your kid if he/she got a B+ in school or would you push him/her to strive for an A the next time?
    I think I would do both and I agree with Laura. I will praise for what they have achieved in their work, but still encourage them to find what they are still missing and can do better in next test. It is not to say that the kid has to get A in the next test, A is only a object for a student. And I think object is important for everyone.

  4. drcookejackson says:

    Really – you are going to take children out of the home because the children slept with their parents and were hand feed! “India and Norway are embroiled in a diplomatic row after Norwegian social workers took two young Indian children into care because they slept with their parents and their mother fed them with her fingers – both widespread and normal in India.”

    This is so fascinating… I guess my first thought was who disclosed this information about this family practice… my second comment …an observation is that these children aren’t being physically harmed – beaten, isolated etc.

    From my perspective the extent to which the govt. should become involved in how I raise my children is the point at which I have physically harmed them – how that looks is difficult to explain… I am a product of a household – parents – that were very comfortable with spanking and rigid discipline when necessary. I am grateful as an adult because I feel it was always done with great regard for my spirit as a child. I am also grateful because it kept me out of things I didn’t need to be involved with. Using the rod… “don’t spoil the child” was something that I heard on multiple occasions during my childhood in my household! Routines – yes – by all means! I think children need structure and direction! I don’t know that I feel kids are inherently lazy but I do know that they need environments that aren’t ambiguous! That’s my 2 cents…

  5. Boon Han says:

    @Laura, Sonia, Lin & Dr. CJ

    I am also a product of tough discipline and caning as I grew up, for which, like Dr. CJ, Sonia & Lin, I am also very thankful to my parents for enforcing that kind of a regime on me and kept me out of trouble. I was a really rebellious kid and when I got a little older, I even retaliated by snatching the cane from my mum and breaking them into two. I remember hating my parents at some point in time when I was young too. However, in retrospect, I know my parents never caned me to vent their anger or frustrations and I deserved every single one of those beatings. I might even be in jail today if my parents had not been so tough on me… 🙂

    I agree with you that the Government should intervene when the child is physically hurt but the problem is really how to define that point… Should it be when the child has some visible redness/tenderness on their bodies or when they have a broken bone or are left bleeding? I think it is really tough for someone from the outside to discern if the caning was done with love or simply done indiscriminately.

    Also, you will find that almost every state or country will have varying standards and levels of tolerance for the kind of discipline considered “acceptable”.

    A family friend from Singapore who settled in Canada once complained to my parents that they have problems reining in their kids in Canada when they are naughty. While they used to be disciplined with the cane back in Singapore, they somehow “gained” an edge over their parents when they interacted with the kids in school and came home to tell their parents that they would lodge a report with the children welfare department and get them arrested if they were caned!!

    @Lin, I share the same sentiment with you about the creativity of Asian kids being stifled because of the methods of teaching in Asian schools.

    A famous chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: “He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.” This seems to be the mindset of many Asians….

  6. KSA ROCKS! says:

    Hey Boon- I love your article choice it is very insightful.

    1- To what extent should the government “interfere” with how parents bring up their children?

    There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much a government should “interfere” with how parents bring up their children, because every country has different standards concerning government’s role in enforcing laws dealing with the personal lives of citizens. Governments have an obligation to ensure the safety of any vulnerable population like children. In many Western cultures, social services exist to investigate and protect vulnerable populations from abuse. In countries such as the United States, professionals such as doctors, teachers, and counselors are required by law to report suspected abuse to authorities.

    Natural citizens of a country are usually aware of acceptable parenting standards. The article in The Telegraph about the Indian family and Norwegian officials demonstrates the difficulty of dealing with different ideas about child-rearing techniques in countries with multicultural and immigrant populations. Governments have an obligation to make sure child abuse does not occur and uphold their laws. Nations with multicultural and immigrant populations need to maintain sensitivity toward other cultures’ standards when it comes to bringing up children. However, immigrants must also be willing to understand and adapt to the standards of the country they choose to live in.

    2- Do you agree that parents should use the rod to “discipline” their children?

    Assuming “the rod” is a figurative expression for very strict discipline, I believe there are times that it is necessary to use it in bringing up children. Amy Chua’s article Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior appears to have shocked many people, but if all parents were honest about the methods they have used to discipline their children, most of them have probably used discipline measures that would shock people as much as Chua’s techniques did.

    There is a big difference between strict discipline and child abuse. A mouthy child who receives a slap or a beating by an angry parent is not going to understand why what they did is wrong, but instead will develop fears and maladaptive behavior resulting from the out of control behavior of the parent. This is child abuse, not discipline. In order for any discipline to be effective, parents must use it with forethought and reason, not with anger.

    3- Do you think that parents should enforce a strict routine for their kids (because kids won’t know what is best for them, are inherently lazy and will need a push from their parents) or allow them to explore their individuality and develop at their own pace?

    There are many articles in mass media today about the “over-scheduling” of children’s lives. Contrary to Chua’s idea that Western parents are coddling their children and letting them run wild, it appears that Western parents are keeping their children on very tight schedules with very little time for free play.

    The big difference between this alleged over-scheduling and Chua’s strict routines for her children is the amount of parental engagement involved. Chua appears to have been minutely involved in managing her children’s activities, often spending hours to personally drill and supervise her daughters. Many parents do not involve themselves as intimately in their children’s activities as Chua does; other children are constantly being shuttled to play dates, after school extracurricular activities, tutoring sessions, community sports teams, and so forth where the parents merely drop them off to be supervised by others.

    Children excel when parents create a reliable routine for them, which gives them structure and a feeling of safety. Balance can exist between children’s personal interests and goals required by parents, but parental interest and involvement is essential in making sure the routine is useful, healthy, and progressive for children.

    4- Would you praise your kid if he/she got a B+ in school or would you push him/her to strive for an A the next time?

    Assuming my child is of at least average intelligence, I would always encourage my child to strive for the best grade possible. If the B+ were an improvement over a previous grade, I would ask my child how it is she managed to improve her grade, and help her set goals to continue that trajectory of improvement. Therefore, my child would receive a positive feeling for having improved and a demonstration of my belief that she can do even better.

    My goal would be to instill excitement in my child toward positive progress in her academic achievements. It is not simply the grade that counts, but the pleasure gained in understanding what quality academic work is and how to attain it.

    Children often have many other things on their mind besides academics, leading to rushing through assignments and substandard work. Taking the time to discuss with a child the work they have completed, offering constructive criticism, and promoting the idea that you know the child is capable of better results offers positive encouragement without praising their work when both parent and child know the child is capable of much better work. ^_*

    • Boon Han says:

      Hi Maha,

      Thanks for your detailed reply… I agree with you that there is definitely no one size fit all model to bring up children as every child is unique and so are parents. Even within the family, there could be very different ideas on how the child should be brought up. At times, one parent may adopt the disciplinarian style and the other may adopt a more laissez faire style to allow the child to develop at his/her own pace and according to his/her preferences.

      I feel that Asian families normally have a very clear hierarchy in the family and children are expected to respect their elders and the hierarchy. Whereas in western culture, it is common for parents to treat their kids as friends and equals… They will take time to reason with them (we all know how difficult it is to try to reason with a 5 yr old with a string of endless whys) and some kids even call their parents or parents-in-law by name. In Asian culture, this is unfathomable…

      My parents never really sat me down to explain things to me… They simply told me that I had to study hard and score As in school or I will end up becoming a garbage collector… And when I asked my Dad why I had to do things his way and he didn’t have a ready answer, his reply would simply be “Because I am your FATHER… ” And I think my experience is a rather typical one amongst the community which I grew up in…

      I have even heard from some of my friends that when they were young and naughty, their Dads would belt them (with their leather belts), rub chili into their eyes and lock them in the storeroom in pitch darkness and only let them out when they stopped crying… None of them turned out emotionally scarred and grew up stronger and more disciplined….

      As Singapore has a conscript army and every male citizen of the country has to serve in the military for a period of 2 years when they turn 18, I guess this is a consideration for parents to toughen up their sons to prepare them for military service, where worse things happen…. :):):)

  7. grabernieto says:

    Very Interesting article, I dont know if any of you are aware of a recent book called “Raising up Bebe”. Its a book that teaches American parents to raise their children the french way. Again, this book received its critics from Americans parents who loathed the idea of detaching emotional feelings towards the children. The book’s main argument was that American parents are too attached to their children and give up to their demands. The book demanded parents to be more disciplinarian, to let their children cry and to avoid snacks. It seems everyone these days have an opinion on how to raise a child. Raising a child is difficult task regardless of culture, and I think all the cases brought up just exemplifies how different it is in the nurturing of a child in different cultures.
    I believe, that the government should interfere in parenting in extreme matters that involve physical/sexual/psychological issues with the children. I think in those extreme matters governments and people should have a say on how to raise children. Other than that, I think is its a private matter and its up to each parent to raise their children their way. I am a strong believer of discipline, and I believe that children do need some boundaries growing up and thus their is need for strict routines and rules. I think any individual needs to grow up understanding rules and respect. There is one thing to be strict but another to let children be themselves, letting pursue their dreams, that to me is okay, not cool is children misbehaving lol. Of course every parent want their children to be successful in life, and thus you see parents who push their children to strive for perfection. I think this harms the children intellectual and creative development, even to some point emotional. Parents who do this are training their children to embrace stress at a young age, and it ultimate cripple their development as adults. I think it is fascinating how in different cultures child nurturing and parenting differs, ultimately I think It should be to people to respect others way of parenting and set aside cultural differences.

  8. Alex says:

    I have a few insights on this topic, some in response to others’ comments. In regard to what type of parenting standards are best or are acceptable, it seems to me it would greatly depend on the culture. What is acceptable in one culture is certainly not acceptable in another culture. The way that parents in one country raise their children may be dependent on the society in which they are bringing up and sending their children into.

    I had friends when I was young from a few different cultures and backgrounds. I recall one friend who, whenever I asked her, was never allowed to come out and play because her parents required her to stay home and practice the violin. The only time she left when invited was when I had a birthday party. Did this regimental method benefit her? Maybe. She went on to be very successful in her education. I had other friends who used to yell and swear at their parents and I remember thinking that neither of my parents would tolerate that, and that I would not be inclined to speak to them in that way anyhow. Did their parents’ tolerance of this arguably disrespectful behavior damage the kids growing up? I have no way of knowing.

    There are other things I have seen parents do that are harmful that are independent of punishment or lack thereof – for instance, spoiling children to the point that they have no means or desire to do anything for themselves. I have observed this with some of my Italian-American relatives. The mothers become obsessed with providing as much as possible to please the child, all the time – food, clothing, resources, that the kids grow up not knowing how to do anything on their own, which harms them in life.

    I perceive the U.S. to be strict in terms of using physical force on children, as parents can be charged with child abuse and have their kids taken away. I think because of this control over what people can and cannot do, it seems it has become less acceptable to use the “rod” in the U.S. Then again, it may vary in different parts of the U.S. which may be charged by certain ideals.

    Although parents may be turning away from physical methods, I don’t think the frown upon the “rod” has fully taken away all parental methods which could be harmful. When I am out and about, I hear parents say things to their children that are very derogatory while trying to negate their bad behavior. These things may damage the child’s self esteem. But is it verbal child abuse? I don’t know. This further relates to Boon Han’s question about when to take a child away from the parents.

    I do not believe it is necessary to use the “rod” in order to discipline a child properly or to force the child to remember the event. There are other methods that can also cause a child or teenager to modify behavior – taking away something that was a privilege, depriving of something that was an expected event or favorite thing.
    In terms of grades, for instance, I would not degrade a child for getting a B+. As others stated, I would encourage the child to do as well as possible, and brainstorm with the child ways to improve and what things are working, in order to encourage continued success. I don’t think it would be beneficial long term to berate a child for doing less than excellent in school.

  9. andreslmc says:

    Boon Han—Interesting topic. I think that government should interfere as little as possible in family life. Government should only interfere to protect children from physical abuse. On the other hand I think that government should aid parents and families who face economic hardship. For example I think that it’s important for government to fund public schools, public libraries, public parks, and public health care programs for children.

    I think that using a rod or any other physical instruments to discipline a child is barbaric. I think that parents who use physical instruments to discipline their children are simply giving up on their children.

    I think that parents should absolutely teach their children the value of discipline and hard work. However, parents should also allow children to freely develop their personalities. I think that children need to learn how to make choices and develop their critical thinking skills before they are taught discipline. For instance if a child freely chooses to play the piano, play football or read voraciously, I think that a parent should support his or her child while also teaching the child the value of discipline in pursuing any artistic, athletic or intellectual endeavor.

    I wouldn’t punish my child if he/she got a B+. I would never solely rely on teachers to evaluate my child’s intellectual abilities. Rather I would find out why my child received a B+ and would figure out how to best support my child so that he/she could get a A.

  10. Ji Li says:

    1. From my perspective, although some parents are using some “inappropriate” ways to foster and educate their children, it is still awkward and difficult for the government to take any action to interfere such behavior. Family issues are always, complicated, which involves a lot of factors such as the family’s background, knowledge, economic conditions, etc. No one can judge any kind of behavior rashly without knowing and understanding a family, neither can the government.

    2. I don’t agree that parents should use the rod to “discipline” their children. Some parents, especially in China, believe that if they don’t take such action, their young children will not know where to go, what to do, what is “good” and “bad”…But from my own experience, my parents had never punished me for doing anything wrong, nor they had ever beaten me since my childhood. All they chose to do was talking to me, trying to figure out what I was thinking and told me what they thought I needed to correct or pay attention to. I really appreciated their ways of education and their respect for me. I didn’t grow up under any “discipline”, but I still grew up as a good and happy person.

    3. When children are really young and don’t have a clear idea about what they really like, I think parents may choose to introduce some “good activities” and encourage their children to try different activities until they find out what is interesting. However, most children still prefer playing all the time and don’t want to do any “significant” things. Under such circumstances, parents may add some pressure on children in order to keep them doing something besides playing, but not push/force them or make any schedule for them. Parents need to observe children’s reactions toward certain activities. If children have shown really high impatience or dislike for a long time, then such kind of activities may not suitable for them, try some others.
    Some children know their own interests and preference since very young. For example, some boys show great interest in sports while some girls show great interest in reading or singing. From my point of view, any kind of interest needs to be encouraged that parents need to leave a rich space for their children to develop their own interests.

    4. I will praise my child if he/she has gotten a B+ in school, but I will also tell him/her that if he/she could do better next time, there will be a reward waiting for him/her. I think that grade in school is not a really big issue but I may draw a bottom line for my kid which he/she can’t go under, such as B-.

    • Hi Ji/Boon-

      I really agree with much of what Ji says and was specifically interested in what our Chinese classmates thought of the Tiger Mom article as I was obviously raised in a “Western” way. The article really got me thinking about parenting and the type of relationship I’d like to have with my children. Even as Western parents, my own were very tough and strict, but not in all the ways cited in the article. Ji- I love how you described what your approach would be to activities. I agree that a 3 or 4 year old does not know the breadth of activities available and only a parent can introduce a child to these activities. I wish I was introduced to more as a child myself, as I only did danced, had a VERY mean teacher (from what I remember at the age of 3) and begged my mother to let me quit. (I returned to dancing at a different school about 4 years later and absolutely loved it.)

      I also have a strong opinion about grades. I’m not sure how it began as my parents never pressured me as some of my friends’ parents did, but I always strove for As, even as a young child. I’d like to instill this determination in my children as well and am not quite sure how I will react if they don’t seem as eager as I would like. Maybe I’ll read Tiger Mom’s book for tips 😉 While I can’t imagine calling my own child garbage, I can believe that some negative words could motivate, but most of all it is important to pull out of the article how dedicated Tiger Mom felt as a Chinese parent that she is responsible for her child’s success and will work just as hard to make it possible.

      I think there are many different ways to parent that are all acceptable. I’ve heard a lot of Western parents in Generation X are opposed to any sort of “rod.” I think we may see that change in Generation Y as many of us were raised that way, but not perhaps to the extreme that Generation X was so that we do not have such an aversion. This part of the topic is very controversial here and I much agree with Lin that young children may not understand much, but they understand a little hurt means not to do something again. I also agree with Ji that keeping that to a very young age is best and once you are able to have full conversations with your child, that showing them the respect of a conversation makes sense. I don’t think that the government should interfere unless the child is in imminent harm. In the case of “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” I’m still not sure if the government being involved made sense or not. We see it had “somewhat” of a positive impact on the situation, but didn’t altogether resolve it.

  11. meredithmckenna says:

    I think it is difficult to take an absolute side on the parenting debate this is going on, simply because cultural norms are so different. I think that children can excel in a nurturing, positive environment as well as in an environment that is more demanding and uses negative re-enforcements.

    I think that governments should get involved in parenting only when the child is in grave danger. In addition to cultures having different viewpoints on parenting, individuals have different views as well. What may seem acceptable to one person, may be completely unacceptable to another. Unless the child is in clear physical or mental harm, government should have no business interfering in the family life.

    I grew up in a household where physical discipline was seldom used (my brother and I received the occasional spanking). I think that light physical reprimanding is not harmful, but I too often hear stories of children who were reprimanded physically growing up and having violence related issues later in life. I also think there is a fine line between physically discipline a child and flat out abuse. I think there are less potentially damaging ways to discipline a child that can be just as effective (denying privileges, enforcing stricter rules etc.)

  12. Kristina Coppola says:

    Parenting discussions are incredibly complicated, regardless of cultures, and at least in my experience, its one of those things that is relatively easy to have an opinion on (since we all remember being kids). However, it is one thing to have an opinion about how children should be raised and quite another to be in the trenches actually raising kids. In my own life, I’ve come to realize that before I had two kids (now almost 3 and almost 5), I was considerably more judgmental about how other parents disciplined and cared for their children. But, when I’m in the store and I hear that Mom being short tempered with her kids (though yes, it certainly can be indicative of a much bigger problem of verbal abuse, etc), I try to empathize with her because even parents who work really hard to instill discipline and good manners, etc still have times when they’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and make mistakes! The key in my mind is what they do after, and frankly, the vast majority of parenting scenarios that we see are merely snippets of that parent/child relationship, so we don’t see that follow up apology or the snuggle time and reading before bed.

    All this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have things that we believe are right or wrong and that we shouldn’t seek to protect children whose parents are legitimately neglecting or abusing them – just to say that perhaps there is more than one way to raise a happy, successful child.

    So, off my soapbox and on to answer Boon Han’s questions:
    To what extent should the government “interfere” with how parents bring up their children?

    This is a very personal topic for me because I actually had to take my brother and sister-in-law to court for neglect of their children of whom I now have permanent guardianship. And, while I don’t think the government should interfere in many cases, I also think that there needs to be some avenue to help children who truly are being neglected/abused. In my mind families, churches, etc need to be doing a lot more to help and support families that are at risk/struggling and the state needs to empower them to do this instead of having the court system get involved. But there are times when people will not/cannot change, and there needs to be recourse to help children in those cases. In our case, we proactively worked with the courts to take guardianship rather than reporting them to DCF and letting the courts make the decisions. Still, our lawyers tell us that almost regardless of what the parents have done/not done to their children, if they ever petition to get them back, the judge will have to give the kids back because children are considered a right….I have a REALLY hard time with this concept.

    Do you think that parents should enforce a strict routine for their kids (because kids won’t know what is best for them, are inherently lazy and will need a push from their parents) or allow them to explore their individuality and develop at their own pace?

    I think this varies greatly based on the age of your child. I think exploring in the early years is very important (ie. free play with educational toys, being outside and developing gross motor skills and positive association with healthy exercise, etc). But, I also think that a schedule is important. We operate by a schedule at our house, but I wouldn’t call it rigid. We have blocks of time for various activities, but the times can vary by an hour or so depending on the child/day. (Ie. Nap time might usually be 3pm, but if they’re tired, we might lay them down at 2pm to avoid a preventable meltdown/confrontation. Or, if we are going to the park with friends, we might eat lunch at 11:30 so we can have a picnic with them, rather than wait until the usual 12:30). To me its about living an organized/structured life to prevent confusion and help create positive expectations and still being flexible enough to optimize opportunities as they present themselves. I have little kids now, but I’m guessing when they’re older they’ll have busy schedules like I did, filled with studying, music lessons, sports practices, part time jobs, and church activities.

    Would you praise your kid if he/she got a B+ in school or would you push him/her to strive for an A the next time?

    Again, I think this is depending on the child, the subject, the teacher, the curriculum, etc. So many things go into the arbitrary grade we receive in a course that don’t indicate a child’s intelligence and certainly not their worth. However, working hard in school is a matter of character, and I think that it’s imperative that we have high expectations of our children…educational psychology suggests that people meet the expectations that others have them, whether high or low.

  13. tjglover23 says:

    First, I think that the way Chinese race there children is a reflection of their culture, just as how American parents are a reflection of our culture. America in “The Culture Code”, was coded as being an adolescent. Meaning we are free and discovering ourselves, so it would make sense that we raise our children that way. But back to your questions.

    To what extent should the government “interfere” with how parents bring up their children?
    I think that the government has a hard enough time taking care of itself and the land it governs. I also think that in the case of the parents from India that the government was acting out of ignorance to the Indian culture. They had not yet sidled up to difference. I think if the child his being mentally or physically abused and that the parents are causing harm to the child or is allowing the child to become a harm to others, then the government should step in. But until that time the government needs to step back, educated themselves, until they are asked or until they see it necessary.

    Do you agree that parents should use the rod to “discipline” their children?
    I was raised with spankings. My mom used to walk around the house with a belt around her neck. I have been hit. I am not ashamed of it nor am I mad at my mom about it. She did not leave welts or bruises or marks anywhere on my body ever and my dad was never allowed to hit me nor my sisters. I believe in what the Bible says, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” This may not be politically correct but it is what I think. I do think that parents take it to far and that there can be negative effects to using the “rod” but I believe it. I mean, I think I turned out pretty good.

    Do you think that parents should enforce a strict routine for their kids (because kids won’t know what is best for them, are inherently lazy and will need a push from their parents) or allow them to explore their individuality and develop at their own pace?
    I mean this can go two ways. Joe Jackson held the Jackson 5 to a strick routine and Michael Jackson became the King of Pop. Michael was also punished harshly and exposed to the horrendous world of celebrity, fame, and hollywood before he hit puberty. So he had a lot of issues going on. But the point is in structure and hard work you can gain great success but what you find once you gain that success may not be so great for you. I want my children, when I have them, to find what makes them happy. How I will do that, I don’t know yet.

    Would you praise your kid if he/she got a B+ in school or would you push him/her to strive for an A the next time?
    It depends, if I know that my child studied and worked hard and really put forth effort and they EARNED their B+ then, yes I would praise them. If I know that they did nothing and just went to class and hoped for the best and got a B+ then, no that would not be a celebratory moment. I don’t think that anyone can always be great and excel all of the time. I mean you have to know how to win and loose, so I dont want to put the idea in my kids head that they have to be perfect because perfection just does not exist, unless your Jesus.

  14. lisamedina says:

    Interesting topic Boon! It’s been really interesting to hear everyone’s perspectives on parenting from their cultural perspective. I have mixed feelings about the way different cultures discipline their children. Growing up my parents never spanked me, but used to “snap the belt” as a form of discipline. The fear alone of spanking/any discipline was enough to keep me in line. Every child is different and responds differently, so there’s no telling how they may interpret their parent’s discipline in the long run. While I don’t think I will spank my children, I do think parents have the right to discipline their kids as they choose, as long as they aren’t physical harming them. Only if a child is in real danger (mentally or physically) do I think that the government should interject, which is easier said then done. Even if I did feel the government should interject in a parent’s disciplinary actions, this isn’t a feasible task. Most of time discipline is done behind closed doors and out of the public eye.

    As far as implementing a strict routine, I do think parents should set certain standards and activities in place as “roots” for development. Had I not been forced to stick with my many extracurriculars when I was younger I wouldn’t have been able to explore my interests and later disinterests. I did however have the flexibility to quit or stop whenever I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore as long as I stuck with it for a while. At least now I know I’ll never be a piano prodigy.

  15. Boon Han says:

    Hi Everyone… Thank you for all your insights and sharing on the topic…

    In summary, I think we can see from this discussion that there can be no absolute consensus when it comes to how children should be brought up. Our cultures do play a big part in deciding how we bring up children but the overriding consideration still seems to be more closely related to how we ourselves were brought up.

    Taja grew up in the US but she believes in the judicious use of the rod to keep children in line because she was brought up this way and it worked!! On the contrary, Ji who grew up in China doesn’t believe in using the rod because her parents never used it on her and she doesn’t believe that it is necessary. Andres believes that using of the rod is barbaric.

    The reality of the world is that one cannot act with impunity. There are very real consequences to our actions and children must be made to understand that. Society has very clearly spelt out guidelines which we call laws to dictate the levels of punishment to be meted out depending on the crime committed. From fines to community service to incarceration and even the death penalty.

    If time outs and withdrawal of privileges do not work and the child continues to be openly defiant and refuse to listen to reason, what should you do? Should we not do whatever it takes to teach a child to respect boundaries before he/she becomes a juvenile delinquent and the state has to step in to impose the above punishments?

    The methods and choice of the parents will ultimately have a huge impact on how the child turns out.

    I think the one point that we all agree on is that bringing up children is largely a private family matter best decided by the family themselves and that government intervention should only be a last resort when the mental and physical well being of the child is being threatened.

    @Kristina, I really liked your insights from the perspective of a mum and I think you really hit the nail on the head. You have so effectively verbalized the internal struggles that a parent goes through.

    We all have opinions on parenting and ideas of what “works” based on our own experience with our parents. But as Kristina said, its really “quite another to be in the trenches actually raising kids”.

    I am a father of a 17 month old boy and he means the world me. I have always been an advocate of using the rod to discipline children but emotionally at this point in time, I cannot imagine ever having to use the rod on him. I hope and pray that he will grow up to be sensible and well adjusted so that the use of the rod is totally unnecessary. However, if despite our best efforts, he turns out to be a brat (like those that appear on the Jerry Springer Show), I think I have a responsibility both as a parent and as a member of society to use the rod to help him grow up right and not be a liability to society.

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