Parenting Evan

Several days ago I came across the now controversial article of Amy Chua in WSJ on why chinese mothers are superior. I was troubled after reading it and thought of posting a link on Facebook but eventually decided against doing so. I was familiar with how the chinese take being number one in academics seriously because back in grade school the two classmates who were intensely competing for the top spot in our class were of pure chinese origins (Chua’s parents interestingly comes from the Philippines). While I was pretty sure it was something I didn’t want for Evan however like Chua I could see why she sees western parents are too soft on their children. While I strongly disagree with her on not doing playdates, think she puts too much emphasis on school grades and the  I-am-the-parent-you-listen-to-me behavior for me is limiting children their thoughts, opinions and training them to become good, docile yet outstanding employees instead of encouraging individuality, creativity and their potential of becoming trailblazers however I do feel that Chua does make a point on a few things: how the chinese makes a premise that children are strong not fragile (western), how perfection can be enjoyed as a reward for unrelenting practice (playing that difficult piano piece), how watching tv or computer games should be banned, or how your child getting an “extra” role in a school play which would require after school hours and being driven around on the weekends isn’t really practical for both the child and the parents.

There may be a lot of western influence in my parenting (using the naughty corner, a lot of praising, getting down on his eye level to talk to him when he misbehaves, emphasis on play during school etc.) I was also a disciplinarian in the filipino way – although not as close as Chua. So did that mean I needed to be even stricter than I was already? Evan is pretty much a laidback kid (taking his medicine, eating his vegetables, playing by himself, getting a shot from the nurse – no problem) but there were a few times in a day when he can really be trying therefore leaving us all, including him, stressed out. These were oftentimes when he is told to stop playing and do something like eating, or getting ready for bedtime, putting his coat and shoes on, or going home from school.

Then the following day I found the book “Positive Parenting for PreSchoolers” by Nelsen and I immediately tried some of the techniques on Evan that night and it worked like a charm even if my version was far from perfect. I was now able to get my 4 year old to do something without the crankiness, defiance/making faces and shouting from his part by taking out scolding, adding more patience and creativity on my part. None of the strict parenting that I thought was needed for a small child to obey me, just a lot of kindness, firmness and respect. So I knew Chua’s way wasn’t for me.

Then the other day I came across another book “Nurture Shock” and I have never been so excited about a book in a long time (finished reading this in 2 days). It has many of the techniques of “Positive Discipline” but it mostly talks about how classic western parenting strategies could also be backfiring. On the chapter of over-praising the child here is an excerpt that compares the chinese mom to western in the positive way. In a University of Illinois test among a group of 5th graders, mothers interacting with their children/students for 5 minutes was recorded by a hidden camera. The mothers were told that their children were failing the test and during the break the parents were allowed to talk to them:

“The american mothers avoided making negative comments and remained fairly upbeat and positive with their child. The majority of the time were spent talking about something else rather than the test at hand…But the chinese children were likely to hear, “You didn’t concentrate when doing it,” and “Let’s look over your test”. The majority of the time was spent discussing the test and its importance.
After the break, the Chinese kids scores on the second test jumped by 33%, more than twice the gain of the americans…while their words were firm, the chinese mothers actually smiled and hugged their children every bit as the american mothers…”

The book discusses also on importance of sleep (6th grader will perform like 4th grader if the child lacks sleep), how lack of sleep is the really the culprit in childhood obesity than watching tv, why race should be discussed as early as preschool age, how we currently deal with lying would just make our children better liars, why 99% of the kindergarten children passing gifted program tests may not really be gifted as they grow older, why educational tv programs could lead to more aggressive behavior compared to movies like Star Wars, how teens would lie less with a strict parent compared to lenient parents. All these are based on studies.

It’s really a page-turner and an eyeopener of a book. I have given up reading parenting magazines and books a long time ago thinking I would raise Evan according to my experience and instincts but I am really glad that I followed my instincts by getting these two books =)

As for Amy Chua apparently for people who has read the entire book say that it really is a “coming-of-age” memoir and the author does say she wished she had done some things differently and that the publishing company chose to lift the more controversial parts of the book to create publicity – successfully I might say. But in a way she is responsible for convincing me that punitive discipline common in filipino parenting is not the way to go and neither is treating them with kid glove, no pun intended.

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8 Responses to Parenting Evan

  1. Ed says:

    My wife just finished reading that book on her iPad and basically said that the last paragraph of your post is correct and that all the negative publicity can only be by people who read only the first two chapters.

    With that said, I try to discipline by being positive and not scare into my daughter discipline by threats of spanking or verbal abuse. It is hard especially when she frustrates me but it does work. I think the number one rule I have learned is to not back down. For instance, if she ignores my demand to do something, I count down from three and if I reach zero, I don’t restate my demand and count again as I have seen people do. If I reach zero, I carry through with what I said I would do which is either a timeout or loss of some favorite possession. After a couple of times of that, my daughter now almost always gets to what I asked her to do before I get to two. She can still be stubborn and this weekend she lost all her games for a day when I reached zero. I could go on and on but I won’t. This is your blog and I’m just commenting. I should elaborate in a post someday.

  2. MC says:

    This is very interesting post. I’ll see if I my pub library has that book so I’ll see what’s the hullaballoo is all about.

    Hope youre not too cold out there.

  3. geri says:

    Ed, I look forward to that post. It took some practice for me but now I can discipline Evan without raising my voice and wonder of wonders it works better that yelling at him! I think my son is very sensitive and his defense mechanism is to rebel. But when he sees me very calm it gives him a sense I am the one in control of the situation. If he still has meltdowns and when he has those I ask him to choose of calming down or me carrying him to his room until he’s ready. So far this is working very well for us now (maybe because it’s a new tactic), no more naughty corners or even counting. I think the biggest factor is for me not to lose my cool – I like this new me and I hope I can follow this through =)

    MC, no doubt Chua’s book will be a very interesting read (I will borrow it when it’s available in our library) but I do think Nurture Shock will be more worth the money since it is based on scientific studies rather than the viewpoint of one parent.

  4. Loraine says:

    this is inteersting. thanks for the post…

  5. geri says:

    Loraine, I think you might want to read this article written by the Nurture Shock authors http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/tips-toddlers-develop-language-skills/story?id=9491324 This was also discussed in the book – many new things for me =)

  6. emilie says:

    It’s funny how you mention Amy Chua’s book, I was wanting to read it after reading a review about it on the nurture shock website. I’m still wanting to read it now, for a lot of reasons. Fear of becoming like one, is one of them. :)

  7. Loraine says:

    I printed the article. I’ll read it ASAP. Thanks, Geri…

  8. geri says:

    Em, I don’t think you are going to be an Amy Chua hahaha But I saw an interview of her and she does admit that she wished she had questioned herself more AND she also does playdates and sleepovers now too =)

    Loraine, of all the articles I read about helping toddlers to talk this made sense. But I also have to say I didn’t chat to Evan much when he was smaller but he still turned out okay – even more talkative than the average kid his age. His teacher says his communication skills are pretty good =)

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