Is There A Free Choice To Raising Children? (Part 2)

With two gifted daughters, Chua is determined to reverse one of her fears: “A remarkably common pattern among Chinese immigrants fortunate enough to come to the United States as graduate students or skilled workers over the last fifty years” (p. 25). A perfect example of a parent doing what she is supposed to do: “Saving your children from your fears and to get them to turn out the way you want them to turn out.” Chua went on to say that the first immigrant generation (like her parents) sacrifices all for children’s education, and extremely strict and rabidly thrifty; the second generation (like herself) will “typically high-achieving” but less strict; the third generation (like her two daughters) is “the one I spend nights lying awake worrying about”, Chua says, “they will feel that they have individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and therefore be much more likely to disobey their parents”–leading to disrespect and generational decline. “Well, not on my watch”, she claims. “From the moment Sophia was born and I looked into her cute and knowing face I was determined not to let it happen to her, not to raise a soft, entitled child–not to let my family fall”; “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.” (p. 26). So, off she goes… “Working hard [exerting effort (intense force)] to avoid what you are afraid of, to instill and perpetuate your personal beliefs, opinions and points of view in your offspring, including the need to be well thought of”.

Such default condition doesn’t just impact immigrant families. All the rules and the punishments they had in place were simply a demonstration of what every parent would do: arming me with disciplines, skills and work ethics, so their first-born-daughter would turn out.

We can judge and assess what Chua or my parents should do, or shouldn’t do all we want. It would’t change that very default condition of parenting or make it go away. Tiger Mothers or love-unconditionally-with-logic-mothers, rich or poor, Chinese, or Caucasian, as long as you are a parent, you are going to be affected by it. No parent is immune from it.

Does that mean being a parent is a bad deal? Doomed? A green light for anyone hitting a child, or calling a child “garbage” (Although, I found it strange and disrespectful at first to call a child “little monkey”, “weed”, “stinker”, or “pumpkin”–but we do it, even myself after 14 years of cultural assimilation, in American-kind-of-everyday-conversation)?

It is rather to uncover the prevailing notion that shapes our thoughts, actions, and experiences of being a parent. I have since developed a sense of compassion for all parents–yes, even for those behave abusively that I used to point finger at. It allows me to appreciate how any culture (or anyone) sees the world, and not quick to judge. Please don’t mistaken this as a permission or an endorsement for any parenting strategy. What parents do to their children, for them, the bitter sweet, the good-bad-and the-ugly are not personal phenomenon at all. Maybe they are a function of the default ordinary way that we have been related to parenting for thousand years. Maybe it is an unexamined everyday of thinking about parenting we have been unwittingly entrapped.

How about that question of is there the right way to parenting?

I don’t know if there is THE right way. Parenting is not a subject of Math. It is BEING in a relationship with another person. And relationship is not a cookie-cutter, cause-effect, linear-matter. I invite you instead of looking for an answer, creating opportunities for you to explore your relationship to parenting:

ex.plore (ik splor”) vt. [L. explore, to search out : ex-, out + plore, to cry out, wail] 1. to look into closely 2. to travel in (a region previously unknown or little known) in order to learn about its natural features, inhabitants, etc.

I like the number two definition!!  You?

Something to consider:

In our “I-based world”, we often forget that every matter consists of at least two points of view, and that they cannot be exactly the same. We see/hear things differently from each other. To simply listen to the other’s point of view, and even to ask them to share more of it, without trying to get them to have your point of view, takes you beyond the ordinary and into extraordinary relationships (Taken from CONNECTED! January, 2011, e-newsletter).


7 responses to “Is There A Free Choice To Raising Children? (Part 2)

  1. Very very interesting, well she does her own parenting.

  2. Hello Ms. Dawson:
    Another great post. Keep them coming. I do want to make a few assertions however. There can be no wrong, if there is no right. OR an up if there is no down. Basically, we live in the world of duality. So on many occasions, it is comforting for us to spin into the world of ‘relativity’ for the purpose of escaping the curse of judgment. In my experience, it is appropriate for a healthy dose of compassion and empathy before one directs judgment of another actions. Of course, we can all make the assertion that holding your hand in a fire will get you burned. And therefore, since burns are unpleasant, and worse, hurtful, they are thus bad. So, we teach our kids “don’t put your hand in the fire/on the stove burner because you will get burned”. But, perhaps teaching them such lessons, is best left to the universe or experience? Words are cheap substitute for experience. So maybe it is better to let them simply burn their hands? And then we as parents can avoid the obligation of having to teach such an obvious lesson, and are thusly relieved of the challenge of sorting out our preconceived notions of fire being hot, and burning flesh, and even nicer, we are released from the obligations that having experience and knowledge that may in fact be incorrect to share.

    I am not of this camp. I think the single most important attribute a parent can share with their children is love. And I honestly think that wrapping your own personal fears into a sort of “for your own good” because I love you thing, is just simple case of a parent needing their own therapy/therapist. So although the intentions of Ms. Chua is “X”, and perhaps it is even coming from a perfect love, no self loathing, no self fear issues, place… It could still be utterly misplaced…BECAUSE it might be that piano players of the future may be most worthless, and of relatively meaningless value, but kids that practiced digging in the dirt, are the ones that are of real value in the future. If you were hammering on your kids to be “buggy whip” professionals, and trained them to be artisans of the buggy whip, and the big and very important, generational, familial and all the rest of the ‘buggy whip’ famalies of old…and then 15 years later as they are getting ready to bury you…the only buggy whips are in ‘museums’…you will have wasted not just your own experience…but potentially, handicapped your child.

    However if you loved them, allowed them to do their own exploration, and kept your ‘demands’ to the standard minimums that help create a culture in your home of shared responsibility, shared support and empathy, and individuated support and exploration. Which I think comes from love and RESPECT, then Ms. Chua isnt threatening, but more like a curious bear on a circus motorcycle. And her over the top critics? Roughly the same.

    • Hi Keith,
      The discourse of “Parenting” affects us in a way that we don’t even notice. I used to think that he notion of “wrapping your own personal fears into a sort of “for your own good” because I love you thing” is just an excuse that parents use to justify their own doing. However, as I discover the power of the “default condition”, I realize there is no way any human being can escape it, includes me, who comes from love and respect–it is simply just another form of “saving children from my own fears”–fear of disrespect and tough love would ruin their life, or the fear of them not be able to reach their true potential if I don’t allow them do their own exploration.
      I don’t have the answer of getting ride of fear. The bad news is fear would never go away (well, unless you die), and the good news is fear is just fear, and when you acknowledge the fear, it lose the power over you without changing or fixing it. I know for myself, when I realized what I was doing or saying to a child is because of my own fear/point of views, and wanting him/her to turn out the way I want him/her to turn out, it’s easier for me to step back and bring compassion to the relationship (not just to me personally).
      Another point you made about the world of duality, I would suspect that it is more of a language phenomena. It only occurs in the world of language, like a position, or comparison. In the world of reality (or say physic), there is no “up” or “down”. It is just IS. The example you used about being burned is “unpleasant, hurtful, thus bad” is our interpretation of an experience, and we then decide is “bad”. Now, that doesn’t mean I have put a child’s hand over the stove so he/she can learn for him/herself. Though, it is a prefect example to demonstrate how our own fear guide our actions.
      Thank you, Keith, for making me think, and share!!

  3. Dear Hsiao-Ling,

    I just read your blog. I loved it – very well written, well argued and full of love & compassion. I never knew (of course) what it was like for you growing up –
    and I love that you have no bitterness towards your Mum & Dad.

    John Fichter called me tonight to enroll me in the Discourse Calls. I thought of that while reading your blog – parenting as a Discourse that’s taken thousands of years to develop and mature.

    Anyway, I’m proud of you. I love you,

  4. Thank you for sending me what you blogged. I really liked what you had to say, and I agree with you. I bought the TIME magazine at the store the other day. There is an article about what Amy Chua wrote in the WSJ. It is interesting to see the commotion that Chua’s book and article brought to the American parenting way….

  5. I think a lot of the uproar was caused by the poorly written WSJ post. I’m always surprised to see how upset people get by reading excerpts or interpretations, without even reading the book. For me personally, Chua’s methods were too extreme, after all I’m a typical white male European and I have a bad experience of an abusive father. It was so extreme, that I left home at age 18 and don’t speak with him anymore. That’s why I’m most sure I will be a different father that he was. But I don’t judge Amy Chua, they are her kids and if they still love and respect her, then she’s been a good mom. Kinda hard for outsiders to judge that family, I think.

  6. Hey Ms. Dawson:

    Come on! Give us some more Blog action!


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