When Amy Chua published a book that describes her parenting style that seems inhumane to many people, but gets her the good results she wants from her children, it reopened a debate on which type of parenting type is best. There are two extreme parenting styles. On the one hand, there is the authoritarian parenting which is stereotypically practiced in China and the East. Then there is the permissive parenting (also known as “indulgent” or “nondirective”) which is the style commonly practiced in the West (This is different from uninvolved parenting which is hardly parenting at all).
Parenting style has a profound effect on the kid’s brain. Understandably, it is one of the major influences on a child’s future well-being. The brain is molded by how parents treat their kids, and the parent’s style of “managing” their kids affects their academic achievement, self-confidence, aggression, psychological strength, and capacity to cope with real-life challenges.
Below are characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of these two types of parenting:
Authoritarian, Strict & Demanding Parenting (Eastern)
- Authoritarian parents are the ultimate authority. They have complete control over their children. Children are not allowed to question the parents. Defying parents lead to terrible consequences like the kids being lectured, insulted, shamed or punished. Amy Chua narrated in her book that her father angrily called her "garbage" in her native Hokkien dialect.
- Authoritarian parents think they know what is best for their kids; therefore it is up to the parents to dictate what the kids really need. Authoritative parents limit or ban most of the things that their kids enjoy because these will distract the kids from their best academic performance.
- Authoritarian parents strongly believe that their kids can be the best in school. Not being able to make their kids the best means the parents are not doing their jobs.
- Authoritarian parents are not concerned about their children being emotionally hurt. They believe that treating their kids in a tough way will make the kids strong, not weak.
- Authoritarian parents assume that their children are strong, and not fragile.
- Authoritative parents have strong fortitude against their children’s rebellion or resistance to work.
- If the child fails to do what is expected of her, authoritarian parents will do everything in their power to push the child to make up for the failure. Authoritarian parents would subject the child to relentless drills and tests to take the child’s performance or grade up to where it should be.
- Authoritarian parents demand perfect grades because they believe that the child can get them. If the child fails, authoritative parents believe that it is not because the child is not inherently intelligent, but because the child did not work hard enough.
- When the child of authoritarian parents perform well or meet their high expectations, the parents give ego-inflating parental praise.
- Authoritarian parents believe that nothing is fun unless you are good at it. The reward of being good is admiration, praise and personal satisfaction. This makes what was once just hard work is now fun.
- Authoritarian parents believe that nothing is more important than preparing their kids for the future. The kids are trained to work hard, demand more of themselves, have great study habits and skills, and have inner confidence that no one can take away.
Test results seem to indicate that children with Chinese or Asian background outperform their peers from Western background. This is attributed to their parents’ authoritarian parenting style:
- A recent PISA international standardized test, kids in China ranked on top in all three fields (reading, math and science) and by a wide margin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment; Within the participating American students, Asians performed the best: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011004_1.pdf
- Chinese and Asians seem to produce many math whizzes and music prodigies.
- Great artists like Mozart and Beethoven were known to be subjected by their authoritative parents to countless hours of drills, making them great artists and performers. This may not have been possible is they were allowed to just do what they want as kids.
Research shows that kids who are protected from difficult problems and tasks do not develop what psychologists call "mastery experiences". Kids who have these experiences tend to be optimistic and decisive and think of themselves as being capable of overcoming great challenges.
- Some kids who are pressured by parents to perform perfectly in school eventually end up hating school.
- Many kids who are raised by authoritarian parents show sign of psychological problems like depression and anxiety, and some even resort to suicide.
- Kids who are raised to be submissive tend not to form their own ideas and opinions, and have a subservient attitude.
- Kids who are trained to have high grades in school as their primary objective only becomes good in rote learning, and lacks creativity and imagination.
Permissive Parenting (Western)
- Permissive parents are lenient, avoid confrontation, allow considerable self-regulation from their kids.
- Permissive parents believe that stressing academic success is not good for children and that they should let children feel that learning is fun.
- Permissive parents are very concerned about their kids’ self-esteem. They need to constantly reassure their kids of their self-worth, and if the kids fail at something, it is okay, and they are still good. They will never call their kids ego-deflating names such as “stupid” or “worthless”
- Permissive parents acknowledge and give value to their kids’ individuality. They give them freedom to pursue their own passions and choices in life. Permissive parents support their kids’ endevors and provide positive reinforcement and nurturing environment.
- Kids who are raised in the culture of permissive parenting grows up with the ability to think creatively and be innovative. Being free to pursue what they want, they are able to think outside the box. It is this culture that produced Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.
- Permissive parenting kids tend to be more assertive and aggressive because they grow up not as blind followers but persons who are masters of their fate.
- Kids who are raised by permissive parents are happier and tend to have less psychological issues.
- Kids who are not pushed by their parents to work hard tend to grow up to be underachievers or slackers.
- Kids who are coddled and overprotected become weaklings and unable to handle challenges and hard work needed to survive in a tough world.
Balanced Parenting Style
Both parenting style have good benefits to offer, but they can also give rise to problems. As parents, you do not have to choose between both extremes. You can enjoy the benefit of both, and avoid the problems associated with either by finding the right balance between the two extremes.
But where do you find the balance? A lot seems to depend on the personality of your child, and the values you place upon the child’s happiness vs. her future “success”.
The following guidelines from child experts could help you decide which parenting style to adapt:
- Amy chua actually believes in combining East and West form of parenting: more structure when kids are young and still listen to their parents, followed by increased self-direction in their teenage years.
- Take stock of your child’s personality as accurately as you can. Does your child exhibit passivity or apathy? Does he show talent but is not a self-starter? Then maybe you need to be more controlling for him to build strong habits and develop his talent. If your child seems to know what he wants to do in life and does things for himself, then it is best to set him free.
- Is your child showing the potential that you expect from her? Wait for your child to show some signs of talent or interest on any activity before you force her to work hard on that activity. Without genuine interest, you will make your child miserable by forcing him to do something he does not like. This may result in psychological problems as he grows up or when he becomes an adult.
- Do not raise your child by making her main goal is to please you. This happens when you show affection when she performs to your expectation, but withdraw your love when she is underperforming. Again, this might give rise to psychological problems in her adulthood.
- Do not impress on your child that mediocrity and average success is all that is expected from him.
- Nurture your child's emotional, social, intellectual and physical worth. Children supported with well-balanced parenting are the ones who acquire a genuine sense of self-value.
- According to various studies, parents who are nurturing, and those who set and discuss with their kids age-appropriate limits, help their kids become independent, self-controlled, and self-confident as they go through middle childhood and adolescence.
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