Finding Balance in Parenting

Updated on January 16, 2011
A.C. asks from Keller, TX
14 answers

Ok, so I've read the article that's been getting so much attention: "Why Chinese Moms Are Superior" in the Wall St Journal (not titled by the author, but by the Journal). I've been thinking on it and going round and round in circles. A former classmate who is 1/2 Chinese is touting it hard on facebook, especially proud of his Chinese wife and obviously she is "proof" that this is the way to raise children. I know that there is something to it, to a point, but OBVIOUSLY there must be some balance, right? And who / what is to say what "success" is, anyway? While things like playdates, sports, sleep away camps, and school theater are frowned on in this author's home, I have actually sought these out as ways to enhance my own childrens' experience and education. But how much is too much? How much is enough? Does anyone want to share their thoughts on this article and on finding balance in, let's face it, a Western country?
One thing that is sticking out in my mind: we read an article about 6 months back about a jet propulsion lab looking for engineers. They actually had it in the interview where they specifically asked "What did you do as a child in your free time?" They were actually looking for children who did NOT have every minute of every day planned out and filled with activities. They were wanting to hire people who had free time in their childhood, to learn how to imagine and invent and think outside the box! I'm interested in exploring this a bit more, and finding a balance that works best for my boys. Any thoughts?

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Thanks for your answers. I enjoyed the article in that it did make me think. I enjoyed seeing your thoughts as well.

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answers from New York on

My sister saw an interview with the author of the article. I didn't realize her kids are now much older or grown. Apparently the younger one really rebelled and the mother now wishes she'd taken more of a middle ground stance in raising her kids... I think that's very telling.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I read the article I thought it was sad really, this woman is so proud of herself because she is raising " superior" children that have zero social activities, zero interaction with kids their age accept the few hours they are allowed to escape her and attend school. Personally I think that you have a kid with good friends, does well in school and has extracurricular activities they are a fairly well rounded person.

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answers from Washington DC on

With our older kids, we encouraged them to do SOMETHING, be it a theatre show, a sport, a hobby. At least one thing a year. If they really got into it, they might do it longer. If not, it's one show, one semester, one year. Enough that they got an experience, but not so much that they were drowning in "requirements".

You also need to balance other things, like family activities, school load (AP students have a LOT on their plates), etc. I think some families get too caught up in making sure that Johnny and Suzie do 15 things a piece and no one has time to breathe and just "be". Not everything needs to be organized, scheduled, and scripted. Friends of ours also toss schedules out the window if it's been a bad week. Sometimes it's best to go, "Okay, maybe we won't do x tonight. We'll just stay home." Just because Suzie plays 3 sports and Johnny speaks 4 languages doesn't mean they're any better than another kid.

The question also becomes - is it for THEM, or is it for YOU? Are YOU trying to live vicariously or is it really something worthwhile for them to do?

I do a few things a week with my small child - a play date, a special event, the library, the nature center (not usually all in one week). Things that give her/us an opportunity to get out of the house but not so much that we feel oppressed by them. I do enough that she's socialized and has new experiences and learns something I might not have thought to show her.

And other times I just let her stick crayons in play dough.

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answers from Peoria on

OK, I just tried to read the article and got about 1/4 of the way through before I could not read anymore. I sensed a lot of judgment in the article, and, frankly, it offended me a little. I am not saying that her parenting style is wrong - it has obviously worked for her. However, we are also talking about a cultural difference, not just a difference in parenting style. Growing up in China, maybe all the things on her list were things that were frowned upon, but here those things are considered a fun part of growing up. I have a hard time believing that if I banned my child from play dates and sleepovers and forced musical training down their throats for 3 hours a day they would turn out to be the next president, and if I didn't do those things, they would turn out to be less of a person. If your child is always the one that can never go to parties and sleepovers and playdates, they will start to develop a reputation as the odd one out, and will start to be ostracized from their peers. This can do damage in itself. There is nothing wrong with raising your child in a strict household that values education above all else, but you also have to let your children be CHILDREN.

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answers from Denver on

Well, I think that article looked at a culture from "the outside looking in" and I suspect it left out a lot to focus on the "hard core" bit (not sure, but I think co-sleeping & baby-wearing are also common in China). Update: Apparently, it was an EXCERPT from a MEMOIR:

I think the main thing we need to give our kids is an age-appropriate balance of choice, responsibility, and play. They are all different, so if we pay attention, we'll know who needs more "free choice" and who needs more structure. And I believe that if my kids are kind, self-sufficient, and HAPPY when they are grown, then they are, as far as I'm concerned, successful.

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answers from Spokane on

I read an article where a professor teaching med students (in the US) was so frustrated because these young adults didn't understand the mechanism of the heart because they had never played in the hose in the backyard! Really, that is sad. Honestly, my daughter is more creative and patient, and will work longer and harder on frustrating tasks than my son, and I'm sure it's because I haven't spent as much time "hovering" over her as I did with my son as a toddler. I DO think (in MY home anyway), that because I am in charge of most childcare tasks and discipline, that my children are over coddled and too much emotion goes into planning just the right everything (from what they eat to where they go to school), and sometimes I just need to back off and let my husband be the dad. Dad's are seen as incapable or too harsh, or not emotional enough, but I'm seeing that my kids need that in their life to be balanced people. It's not all about "how they feel" about a situation, sometimes they have to do something they don't like - this will carry throughout life. I, as their mom and emotional provider, want them to be happy and fulfilled in life. My husband, as their dad and financial provider, wants them to grow up to be capable of taking care of themselves and their families. In life, you have to be able to make money (whether you want to measure that as success or not, it's a neccessity to live), and you also have to have self confidence and be able to love people around you to avoid becoming a complete recluse. Yes, there is a balance, and I think most of us are trying very hard to find it for our children, and I also think they will grow up and recognize that as love.

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answers from Honolulu on

**Adding This: Here is a good link, on over scheduled kids:

To me... it is too much... when the child then becomes like a "robot"... and is doing things ONLY because of the parental pressure & expectations..... and when the child 'loses' their OWN identity and dreams and creativity...... and their own, selves. AND when the child... loses the whole idea, of 'who' THEY are.... or cannot even think of that themselves... without their parent answering that for them. And when the child is not.... "allowed" to be age appropriate.

Remember, a child is an 'individual.'
BUT.... in certain cultures, unlike our own Western Culture.... the norm is.... "group" consensus.... or filial piety... or family honor and obligations... not the individual.

Remember: it is ....the cultural construct and ethos.... of a particular culture. Not... a homogeneous.... application of... parenting.

all the best,

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answers from Philadelphia on

That article was actually a much edited excerpt from a book by Amy Chua called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom" about THAT particular author's journey through parenthood. Jeff Yang on wrote a piece about the piece in the WS Journal and asked her about her reaction to the WS Journal printing THAT obviously divisive and explosive excerpt. I don't think I can post the link here, but it's worth looking up and reading. Anyway, re: differences in parenting. We all do the best we can. I try not to judge others and hope others don't judge my parenting skills. The best parents can produce absolute monsters and some of the most wonderful people I know are products of terrible parents. We just do the best we can. I push my kids and yes, I have made them cry in frustration, because I KNOW they can do it. But they also go on playdates and have plenty of free time. They know I love them unconditionally and I would give my life for them. Being totally secure in my love, they are able to withstand the pressure I sometimes put on them. I expect a lot from them and so far, they have made me proud. And we do an awful lot of laughing, joking and cuddling around here, too...

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answers from Milwaukee on

I haven't read the article, but why would things like sports and school theater be banned?!

Aside from that-I think it is just about balance. I was listening to NPR earlier and they were talking about how as an increasingly technolgy driven society we are losing our personal/emotional contact. Parents (and kids) on their smartphones during dinner or during whatever family time. Doesn't that also lend itself to the need for balance?

I would NEVER keep my kids from sports or the arts, etc. There is to much to be gained from those interactions..especially if we are losing the personal communication touch! But-yea...a kid who's entire week is a schedule of this activity to this activity to to much.

It's just like everything else-balance is key.

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answers from Albany on

Someone mentioned this article in a post a few days ago. For some reason it was pulled.

I DID respond to the post disgustedly, saying I actually know a number of Chinese families, and they would be mortified to think their fellow Chinese Mothers felt superior to Americans based singularly on race alone.

Then I read a few other responses that suggested the article was meant to be satirical.

Wish I remember the name of the poster, does anyone else?

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answers from Dover on

I believe that children (like adults) benefit from lots of varied experiences. That said, they do still need time to be a child, to play, imagine...that is how they learn. But what works for one family may not for another. What works for one child may not for another even within the same family.

My son didn't/doesn't like to read (never has) and really only enjoyed sports and scouts and other related hands-on/physical activities/camps but not school or other things like plays etc. When he was almost 17 he went to China as a student ambassador and LOVED it and really got a lot out of the experience. He likes to join in more varied but still same types of activities now. Well rounded but w/ the scales tipped towards physical activites than educational ones but he is in college (as a Sports Management major) and is an Eagle Scout.

My daughter is just 4 but she loves reading, musicals, art, and activity. She is more of a less structured kid so we go with it. My nephew of the same age is not into the same. Each kid is different.

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answers from San Francisco on

I read the article. I liked some of it. I am a firm believer in balance. I think kids need time to play. I think America has traditionally excelled at innovation and we are in danger of losing this. The theory goes that play time lets you think, experiment and try different things. Important ideas for innovation. Kids work out a lot of things during play. I know of non-Chinese kids with activities always planned out for them. On average they are not good at thinking for themselves. The description in the article of the style of learning is mostly by rote. This style diminishes creativity for most kids. On the other hand, I think that many parents let their kids "give up" when things get hard. My kids have mainly played on soccer teams. I am often amazed that parents let the child quit in the middle of the season. Where is the concept that when you make a commitment to something you stay with it? Where is the concept that sometimes life is hard? Many times life's hardest times are when you learn the most. If you don't let your child work through the difficulties they think life is supposed to be easy and miss out on many life lessons. My experience in the work place has shown me that we have many young adults who feel entitled to things. How they were raised taught them this. Most things in life that are worthwhile have included hard work. Most/all of the successful athletes, etc have put in long, hard hours to get where they are. Most kids don't see that aspect.
My kids know we work hard to give them a good education. Therefore they must work and get good grades. They know we also support my husband's parents. An expectation he grew up with since he is the oldest son. We are not raising our oldest son with that expectation, but we do stress how important family is. I am often amazed at parents who can't wait for their child to grow up and leave or whose reason for putting the young child in kindergarten is to get them out of the house or to have more "me time". On the other hand I know of parents whose child never leaves. I want my children to grow up and leave because that's the stage of life they are in, not because I don't want to be bothered by the child. I also think we have made mistakes by being overly concerned with the child's self-esteem. I don't believe in calling a kid "garbage" as is discussed in the article. I do think too much emphasis on self-esteem is creating kids who don't have an internal sense of how they are doing. They always need an outside source to give them that sense. I found the article thought provoking. An article that makes us feel uncomfortable can be a good thing. It allows us to pause and think about which parts we agree with and which parts we disagree and why. It think the why is very important.

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answers from Amarillo on

I have tried several times to answer this question and it seems like I push a button or it gets stuck. So here it goes.

The interpretation I got from what the author wrote was the way people from Europe and Asia thought education should be at the beginning of the last century. You should learn all you can and be good at it. Do the best you can or don't do it at all because someone would have to come in and redo what you did and it would cost twice as much. Get the knowledge in your head so that if something should happen and you lose everything you could still start over. Playtime was something that was done after all chores and homework was completed and before dark or dinner. If you were lucky you attended scouts, took dance or music lessons.

We fast forward to the middle of the 70s and things change and we become more social oriented with playdates, sleep overs, camps and organized sports/clubs/whatever for child. Mom has to keep a running day planner in order to make sure everyone is where they should be on time and everyone is exhausted at the end of the week. Education is learned but does not have the same meaning as it does in other countries where competition to enter a school is fierce. There may be 10 to 30,000 people for each slot so you have to do your best. I really wonder if we are preparing our children to compete in the new global work world?

Sorry if I went off on the deep end. I will get off my soapbox.

Just try to give the kids some down time with some outside activities but don't overbook them. Spend a few minutes outside drawing figures in the clouds or making pudding and using it for fingerpainting.

The other S.

We need to emphasize more on math and science so that we don't fall further behind European and Asian countries and lose our edge. The industrial revolution is over and we are now a service oriented society.



answers from Charleston on

Balance is your decision for what is best for your child.

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