7 reasons the way my parents raised me just won't work for my kids

Kristie KamThe author, Kristie Kam, as a toddler.
  • Parenting looks different in various cultures around the world.
  • Living in Hong Kong, my parents emphasised obedience and rules.
  • Some research suggests that this is a parenting style common among Chinese parents.
  • After moving to New York at 15, I realised how my parents raised me left little room for self-expression and creativity, so I plan to do things differently.
  • Here are seven ways my parenting style will look different from my parents’.

I grew up in a Chinese family, and undeniably, my parents set high expectations for me to do well in school. Though the pressure to succeed was heavy at times, I would never blame them for being too strict. Their parenting shaped who I am today and still motivates me to be the best in everything I do.

Chinese parents are often associated with authoritative parenting style, which emphasises obedience and success in the classroom, according to research published in theInternational Journal of Behavioural Development.

“Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently,” Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor, wrote in her controversial book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”

Of course, Chinese or Chinese-American parents are not a single entity, but I believe I was raised in this style. It was not until I moved to New York at the age of 15 that I realised I had only been doing what I was told, with minimal room for creativity and self expression, back in Hong Kong. The way I was raised had its limitations, and there are certain things I plan to do differently when I have kids of my own.

Here are seven ways I plan to raise my kids differently than my parents:

1. I won’t limit my children’s social circles

Robert Kneschke/ShutterstockChildhood friendships can have a positive influence on children.

My parents always made sure that my friends were the “right” group of peers who studied hard in school. They also believed that befriending classmates of the opposite sex would hurt my grades (which may be true, according to research reported byThe Economist).

Childhood friendships can have a positive influence on a child’s development, and parents play an important role in nurturing those friendships, according to a 2011 study published inECRP.

“Friendships contribute significantly to the development of social skills, such as being sensitive to other people’s viewpoints, learning the rules of conversation, and learning sex and age appropriate behaviours,” Paul Schwartz, PhD, professor of psychology at Mount Saint Mary College, wrote inHudson Valley Parent.

I plan to encourage my kids to make their own judgments and find a group of friends that fits them. Don’t get me wrong – I want to ensure that my kids have supportive friend groups, but they will have a say in who they want to spend time with.

2. I won’t doubt their academic abilities

Herrndorff/ShutterstockI won’t judge my kids’ performance on exams based on the letter grade, but on their effort.

My mum used to help me with school work by making lists of practice questions to help me study for exams. For questions I answered correctly, she never really complimented me – which a Chinese mother noted in a previous Business Insider article can be a difference between Chinese and American parenting.

But since “Good job,” and “You did great!” are not in her dictionary, I was never confident in my performance in school. In order to make my kids feel confident about their academic abilities, I’ll always encourage them to explain how they come up with certain answers.

Instead of shutting them down by simply marking their answers wrong, I’ll give them an opportunity to express their thought process. I’ll never judge my kids’ performance on exams based on the letter grade, because their efforts mean a great deal, and simple encouragement can go a long way.

3. I’ll relax on rules to encourage self-reflection and creativity

LightField Studios/ShutterstockI’ll have discussions with my kids to see what they enjoy outside of school.

When I was in elementary school, I had a fixed bedtime and study schedule – all I knew was to stick to the rules.

While kids need structure, overdoing it with rules can be counterproductive. Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania,wrote in The New York Times, “By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves.”

I won’t over-discipline my kids by making a fixed schedule for them. Instead, I’ll have open discussions with them to see what they enjoy doing outside of academics, like playdates with friends or extracurricular activities when they finish with their schoolwork.

4. We’ll have open communication

pixelheadphoto digitalskillet/ShutterstockI will spare some time to ask my children about their days.

There were times when I wasn’t allowed to watch TV for a week because I didn’t perform well enough on a test. This “tough love” has had a lasting impact on my relationship with my parents.

After moving to New York and starting to live independently, I still can’t bring myself to talk about problems openly with my parents in our countless video chats and phone calls. I can’t see my parents as friends or people to confide in. Though I am certainly grateful for how much they have done for me, I still haven’t learned to express my gratitude fully.

As Michael Thompson wrotein his book “Raising Cain,” “We often make an assumption that our kids understand. But then we wonder, ‘Why didn’t they do what I said?'” Arguments and miscommunication arise as a result of those misunderstandings. As a result, children may be less inclined to open up, as I was.

I will definitely spare a few hours every other night to have discussions with my kids to learn about their days and any troubles they may have at home or in school. I will try not to turn a conversation into a lecture. Instead, I’ll listen to them attentively and try to put myself in their shoes.

5. I’ll teach my kids to be considerate of others

Lorena Fernandez/ShutterstockI’ll teach my children to be considerate and respectful toward others.

As an only child, I wasn’t the best team player in group settings. My parents had put me before themselves in a lot of situations, often prioritising my choices when picking restaurants or going on vacation.

As a result, I never realised the importance of putting other people’s needs and wants before mine. To a certain extent, I still feel entitled to get whatever I ask for.

Though I plan to prioritise my children’s needs above my own as a parent, I want to teach my kids to be selfless by nurturing empathy.

My children should understand that their peers may have had a different upbringing and come from different backgrounds. As their parent, I will teach them how to try and see from other people’s perspectives and consider the thoughts and feelings of others so they are respectful and compassionate.

6. My kids will be able make their own decisions and take risks

Petr Bonek/ShutterstockRisky activities can help teach children overcome fear.

As a child, my parents were always concerned about my safety when I went on outdoor playdates. I once fell at the playground and didn’t notice a bruise on my knee until a few days later. In my mind, it was just a tiny bruise that caused little to no pain, but as soon as my parents found out about my injury, they became very concerned.

Overprotective parents often avoid their children becoming injured at all costs. However, “risky” activities like monkey bars or tall equipment at playgrounds allow children to experience and then overcome fear, according to a 2011 study published inEvolutionary Psychology.

I won’t limit reasonable risks for my children, like climbing playground equipment when they are in my sight. My kids will feel like I trust them if I give them more freedom to explore, which may in turn make them behave more responsibly.

7. I’ll teach my kids how to budget

paulaphoto/ShutterstockI’ll give my kids an allowance and teach them about budgeting.

I wouldn’t say my parents spent a large amount of money on my clothes and gifts, but I never made any spending decisions, which is an important money lesson for children,according to Forbes.

If I give my kids a weekly allowance, I will sit them down and have a discussion about spending it wisely. I want to hear their thoughts about how they plan to spend the $US10 bill given weekly and suggest splitting the bill into three ways – saving, spending, and donating.

But ultimately, it will be up to my kids to decide how they want to spend their allowance. That way, they can start learning to make their own financial decisions.

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