Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend a parenting workshop organized by COMPASS – acronym for COMmunity & PArent in Support of School. The title of the seminar was Parenting For Resilience. (If you like to read more about the details of the workshop, go to ClementiTownSS-PSG on Facebook.)
I was most impressed by Dr Josephine Kim, the Korean – American speaker who is a licensed Mental Health Counsellor. She defines resilience as the capacity of individual to overcome difficult and challenging life circumstances and risk factors.
What I found interesting in her speech is her anecdotes of American Asian parents who constantly push their kids to succeed. If you think Singaporeans are ‘kiasu’, Asian American parents are worst.
A widely heard quote from parent to child is :
‘You are not C-asian, you’re not B-asian, you are A-sian.’
The standard for Asians to perform in school is such that there is an ‘Asian – fail’ standard – 98% and below.
What is the first thing you say to your child upon his return from school? She asked.
OK, I admit it, and so did the rest of the 500 parents in the hall. The first thing I ask Aaron is, ‘Any homework?’ The most frequently heard words from a parent to a child is ‘Go study.’
She told a story of how a young Asian teenage male decided one day to tell his father ‘I love you.’ He approached his father, who was reading the newspapers, anxious and heart thumping. His father did not even look up from his reading when he approached. The boy said loudly, ‘I love you.’ The father dropped his papers, looked at his son, stunned, and then replied, ‘Go study.’
Dr Kim was trying to bring home the point that the father had just lost his chance to connect with his son emotionally. Most Asian culture exhibits implicit communications – my action implies my love. Whereas Western culture uses more prolific communication like hugs and kisses and words of love and affection.
She asked a little boy, if his mother was an animal, what animal would she be. He said, ‘A lion.’ Dr Kim showed him a photo of a cute lion ‘Leo’ . He shook his head, and found a ferocious photo of a lioness baring its teeth instead. When Dr Kim asked the mother what animal she thought her child described her as, the mother replied, ‘A rabbit.’ She felt that as she would do everything for the son and was there to be controlled by him, he would think her as a rabbit!
I returned home that night, only to read more about Asian- American parenting style in the newspapers. More specifically, about Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.
To all those who had thought I was a strict mother, I am positively a rabbit as compared to Amy Chua.
Andreas had complaint recently that I had deprived him of TV when he was younger. If that was his regret, I am sorry he felt that. I asked, instead of lamenting his loss, has he wondered what he has gained from lack of TV? Now that he is almost 19, he watches video on his laptop non-stop despite my disapproval. (Would we have purchased the laptop if it was going to be used for entertainment 90% of the time?)
Western parents are more concerned about their children’s self-esteem than Asian parents, although more and more Asians are catching up on this esteem issue.
There is a fine balance between raising children who are resilient and training them to their fullest potential. Given the choice, most kids would prefer to watch TV and play computer than to practise the piano or do their homework. Of course they would have no interest in music or any other activities which requires effort from them. I had a hard time pushing for this balance.
Yesterday, my friend Miss Teh paid me a compliment. She said that if she was born again, she hopes to be born into my family, where the parents help the child to his full potential. She never had that opportunity in her family.
Isn’t that what all parents are supposed to do?