Monday, March 2, 2015

Eastern Vs Western Parenting Styles

Recently, I got into thinking about different ways of parenting a child and how the country's culture makes a big impact in parenting choices. I came up with some important differences between parenting in India and in the Western countries. During my research on this topic, I came across a book written by a Chinese mother about how she raised her kids - Battle Hymns of the Tiger Mother. This book taught me that Chinese are not so different from the Indians when it comes to parenting. So instead of naming just India, I guess I can generalize it as the 'Eastern' parenting style. Also, I am not saying that any particular style is better than the other as both have their pros and cons. Well, not to forget that I am no expert and I am merely struggling with parenting my own kids! Also, there are exceptions in both Western and Eastern parents- especially in case of a lot of Indians/Chinese who have migrated to the West and adopted the western style.

An ideal Eastern parent is expected to be strict with their children or else is considered to be "spoiling" them. Parenting children is considered to be a lot of emotional and physical "investment" by the Asians - they emphasize academics and skip on arts and sports. They are ready to spend more time and money for their education and take extra tuition classes for tutoring their kids. They are ready to sacrifice anything to get them to good college and obtain good grades. And in most cases, many of them end up in well paid Technology/Medicine/Management jobs as well. And in the end, the child is expected to pay them back by looking after them in their old age and is indebted to them forever. Parents, especially those with sons, who come from patriarchal families rarely have a pension plan and expect to live with their son and daughter-in-law- although this is changing gradually. Eastern parents do all the thinking and make all the choices for their children. They don't respect the preferences of their kids and "override" with their own interests as they think that it is good for the children. They try to make their kids as an "idealised version" of themselves. As a result, children are curbed from thinking independently when it comes to making important choices in life.  So the children are used to taking assured path with lesser risks. But this technique works well if the child is not self-motivated - and let's face, not many children are that self motivated. But some parents don't know when to stop and keep controlling their kids even when they turn adults or get married and this causes a lot of tension in case of many families.

The Western parents tend to be placing rules for children, although many of them tend to be permissive when compared to the Eastern parents. The parents permit children to choose their own interests and pursue them as they continue to do their own as opposed to Eastern parents, especially mothers, who stop living their own life for the sake of their kids. A lot of kids are more creative than their Eastern counterparts and they choose careers not just in Technology, but in all possible fields. The parents try to treat their kids as adults and give a lot of freedom in making decisions for themselves. So even if they make wrong choices as adults, the children don't tend to listen to their parents as they are not used to being controlled. So the parents tend to just hope that their children would learn from their own mistakes. And the Western parents don't expect benefits from children like the Eastern parents and also expect them to be independent. I like this quote about how Western parents view about their children, from the book "Battle Hymns of the Tiger Mother" -

"Children don't choose their parents," he once said to me. "They don't even choose to be born. It's parents who foist life on their kids, so it's the parents' responsibility to provide for them. Kids don't owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids." 

 Well, the ideal style would be to balance between both the styles- permissive in some cases so that the child learns from making mistakes and strict in some cases so that you teach them that choosing the right path is not an option but the default. Also, parenting is a tough job - there is no single book to say what is right and what is wrong. Some things work fine for one kid which may not work for another. And it is a no-brainer that one must choose what is good for their own kid and family.