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Monday, February 8, 2016

The One Mistake Many Chinese Parents Make

There is one thing that Chinese parents do that really hurt their kids in life.

Something worse than the feather duster...
Don't worry this has nothing with Chinese parents hitting their children with a hanger or a feather duster ("tun teal" in Cantonese).

It's much worse.

Child: Look mom, I got a 98 on my exam.
Chinese Parent: What happened to the other 2 points? You should have studied harder.

Child: Hey dad, I'm going to major in Art History.
Chinese Parent: What is Art History? (after explanation) You can't make any money with that? Get a real major like engineering or go to pharmacy school. Your cousin went to pharmacy school and they are making 85K a year.

Child: Hey mom, I want to become a singer.
Chinese Parent: You can't become a singer. You're not good enough and you're going to end up on the streets. Stop dreaming and start studying.

These are the types of conversations that go on in almost every Chinese household and even though Chinese parents have great intentions, they don't realize they are hurting their children by lowering their self esteem.

Chinese parents hurt their children's self esteem in three major ways:

Downplaying Achievements
Chinese parents are always looking for perfection in their children. When a child gets a high but not perfect score, instead of celebrating, they criticize. They'll bring up the fact that the child could have studied harder and done better. I understand their reasoning for tough love but this conditions the child to feel that they need to EARN the love and attention of their parents and that their self worth is based on their performance. The child begins to learn that bad performance = bad person and that is the guarantee formula for creating an inferiority complex.

Comparing to Others
One of the favorite past time of Chinese parents, besides Mahjong (click here if want to learn how to dominate in Mahjong), is comparing their children to other children who are better. Growing up, all I heard of was how so and so was better than me in this and that. When I asked why they didn't compare me with the children who were doing worse than me, the reply would be "You should always compare yourself with people who are better." Again, the good intention is there to motivate the child to do better but the real effect is that it makes the child feel that they are never good enough. This can only lead to low self-esteem.

Belittling their Dreams
Growing up, I thought there were only five professions in the world: Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer, Accountant and Pharmacist. Other professions were for other people. How many parents try to "help" their children by shooting down their dreams and telling them they can't make it because they'll never be good enough, strong enough, tough enough, etc. (good thing Jeremy Lin didn't listen). What Chinese parents don't realize is that they instilled the belief of "I can't" into their children which is one of the worse things you can do for anyone.

Now I understand not all Chinese parents do these things but from what I observe many still do. They don't do it with the intention to hurt their children, I think they are just doing what they know and using the method that was used to raise them. The only solution is to educate parents to encourage and not criticize, stop comparing and to support and not belittle their children's dreams.

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