Sunday, 16 January 2011

Further to Chinese Vs. Western Mothering...

An astute friend on an email list reminded me: 
Ever tried reframing a parenting decision by imagining whether it would be okay to do to your spouse or another adult? Imagine an alternate version of Chua's book giving relationship advice: "[insert group/racial descriptor] Marriages are Superior", containing descriptions of the dominant spouse treating their powerless spouse in the way that Chua treats her children.... and imagine
that throughout they are touting themselves as the ideal that other's should strive to achieve. I doubt very much that any publisher would dare publish a book like that.
I do like to think of parenting decisions in that way, which is more or less just the Golden Rule. Would you like to be treated that way?

Would you keep a job after your boss called you 'garbage' or refused to allow you to use the washroom or eat until you'd performed a task the way s/he wanted you to?

Isn't this more or less why people are not allowed to own people?

Again, I am reminded of Alfie Kohn, and his ever-so-insightful ideas, from Unconditional Parenting: why should an adult's preference win? Sheerly on the basis that it is an adult's preference?

This is where I stopped short, when my children were really, really little: if it's only my idea of what's the right thing for them to do right now, not some real need or real emergency, why is it supposed to matter to my kids --to the tune of four hours or even just three minutes of torment and power struggle?

To me, it's obvious that dinner time is arbitrary. Sure, whole swaths of the population will agree that dinner time is 5pm or 6pm or 7:30pm or 8pm. What's that got to do with anyone's hunger? What's it got to do with any child? As I have said ever since Ford came up with it as a slogan: a million people can absolutely be wrong, why not? What possible force in the world can stop a million independent people from making the same erroneous choice, even if it's buying a Ford, driving drunk, or arguing in favour of head shots in hockey.

So what if, ostensibly, a billion Chinese agree that the 'right' way to raise children is to decide for them what is their art, which school subjects matter the most, and what they are allowed to do, what is valuable for them to do, with their free time --if they are even deemed to own any. Even if a billion Chinese people do agree (and I would expect that at least four probably don't) with Amy Chua, that doesn't make her (or them) right. It just means they agree. Perhaps they've been swayed by similar arguments. Perhaps they have been told, one way or another, for their whole lives that they must. Perhaps they haven't really thought about it and have never felt any pressing reason to think about it.

Or perhaps it doesn't matter, really, to any child growing up anywhere, who agrees with Amy Chua...

photo 'We're Just Little Children' by Matsuo Amon, used with permission: Creative Commons, attribute/non-deriv

1 comment:

  1. P.S. Forgot to mention: Thanks Gael, for the reminder of the importance of replacing another identifiable group for 'children' in any proposed method of childrearing!