Feb 14, 2011

Raising dolphins

AMY Chua's latest book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother may have parents in the West up-in-arms about her supposedly-"Chinese"-style parenting, but the concept of the over-invested parent is unlikely to be too foreign here. The idea that parents must do everything to prepare their children for the world, and that children are indebted to their parents to their dying day, is not strange at all. What may be an area of contention, however, is the intensity of parenting that is invested in the child.

Whether intensive helicopter-parenting is considered acceptable or not, depends on a parent's definition of what a child is, and whether the child is an entity independent of the parent -- a separate individual with inherent human rights, including the right to self-determination. For the most part, the world is no longer made up of parents who think that "children should be seen, and not heard". For the most part, children are generally expected to spend some of their childhood playing, and being merely children.

The debate is about the best way of bringing up a child. It is a debate that caring, conscientious parents have all the time; even Chua had with herself. For, although she aspired to give her children what she thought was the best, in the end, even she had to admit: "When Chinese parenting succeeds, there's nothing like it. But it doesn't always succeed." The individual child's character comes into play into what is the appropriate and inappropriate level of pressure and expectation that needs to be placed on a child. A truly sad example of when tiger-parenting doesn't work is that of Sufiah Yusof, who went to Oxford at the age of 13, rebelled against her rigid upbringing, dropped out of university and briefly became a sex-worker.

Admittedly, anyone who wants to be great at something has to work very hard for it. And a good work-ethic is something that all children must learn. But socialisation during childhood is crucial if the child is to grow up to be a socially-functional member of society. It is during childhood that people learn what it means to be human. It is during play (and fight) with other children that they learn to adapt, compromise and forgive. Children learn to apply ethics and morals. 

A childhood that excludes play and socialisation is one that disconnects the human from the world. Being brilliant, hardworking and successful in one's endeavours is important, but people should be valued primarily for their humanity -- which also needs a lot of intelligence. Tiger cubs may be brought up to win wars; but what this world really needs are people who can avert wars in the first place.

extracted/taken from : http://www.nst.com.my (14/2/2011) pictures credited and taken from 123rf.com and myktis.com


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