Photo: XiXinXing/Shutterstock

How to Parent Like the Chinese

China Family Travel
by Yilin Wang Apr 24, 2015

Make education the top priority.

At age four, start teaching your kids to count to one hundred, do basic arithmetic, and memorize the multiplication table. Simultaneously, ask them to remember and recite ancient Tang dynasty poetry. And don’t forget to arrange music lessons as soon as possible, but know that the only options are piano and violin.

When they get older, make sure to arrange private tutoring and intensive summer classes. Parents push kids to study hard in a fiercely competitive environment, first to get into “key” junior and senior high schools, and then to earn top scores on the gaokao exams, so they can study Medicine, Law, Engineering, or Business at elite universities.

Be a helicopter parent.

Forget about the Tiger Mom; instead, take it up a notch by “hovering” over your kid like a helicopter. Some Chinese parents spend a fortune and fill their kids’ after-school, weekend, and holiday breaks with music, art, and dance lessons. Other parents forbid computer games, disallow sleepovers, and require kids to be home by dinnertime.

Also, make sure your kid is always warmly dressed whenever they leave the house. Even if they have become an adult, encourage them to live at home until they’re married. And when they finally do move out, begin each phone call with “Have you eaten?” and ask questions about minute details in their day.

Talk about the past, family honor, and Confucius.

To deal with kids who are picky eaters, begin talking about how the older generation grew up during famines, with rice, meat, and oil all carefully rationed. Remind the children about how their relatives used to work fifteen hours day in a factory or on a farm. Chinese parents also teach kids the proper way to address their aunt’s cousin twice-removed, and regularly refer to xiaoshun, filial piety towards parents and elders. And if you ever want to share a nugget of wisdom, there’s always Confucius.

Change your attitudes on dating.

Most Chinese parents forbid their kids from dating until after high school. They view zaolian, “dating early” before graduating high school, as harmful, distracting from schoolwork, and a waste of time. Some would even refuse to discuss dating, and there’s no Chinese equivalent for “the bird and the bees” talk.

But once kids become adults, become very concerned: “Why don’t you have a girlfriend/boyfriend yet?”

Give your kids tough love.

It’s rare for Chinese parents to tell their kids “I love you” or “I’m very proud of you”. Instead, show tough love by telling the kids bluntly to work harder, change bad habits, and lose weight; after growing up with the same comments, you know kids can handle criticism and grow from it.

If you’re a Chinese parent, you’ll make your kids’ favorite dishes after a long day at work, use your life’s savings to give the kids the best upbringing, and even immigrate to another country to provide them with a better life. And when your kids succeed at something, you’ll definitely show your pride by humble-bragging to all their friends and relatives.

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