Sunday, 16 January 2011

Does parenting the popular way have to oppress kids?

An astute friend on an email list reminded me: 
Amy Chua, Chinese mothers, enslaved children, western parenting, wrong parents, child hate, oppressionEver tried re-framing 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?

Amy Chua's tempest-in-a-teacup book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother seems to be the whole opposite: treating children in a way that she absolutely refuses to be treated: with contempt, superiority, intolerance and raging entitlement. For more about that, see this post: Why One Chinese Mom is NOT Superior...

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?

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, 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? 

More to the point, relating to Chua and her controlling and demanding schedule: is it really supposed to matter to me to the tune of a 4 hour power struggle?

arbitrary dinner hour, dinner time, hungry kids, respecting children
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? 

a million wrong people, head-shots in hockey, Amy Chua and Chinese parenting, being wrong as a parent

As I have said ever since Ford came up with it as a slogan: a million people can absolutely be wrong, and 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 to them (or their future), what they are allowed to do, what is valuable for them to do with their free time --if they are even deemed to have any?

a billion Chinese, everyone makes mistakes, parenting choices, attachment parenting, popular parenting styles
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 else agrees with Amy Chua...maybe because she's wrong.

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!