I recently travelled to China and was amazed at how children are treated over there. Chinese parents are a lot
more tolerant and, for the most part, let the kids do what they want. There’s no helicopter parenting in Guangzhou.
I asked my interpreter friend about this and she informed me of a Chinese philosophy of children having two states: one of innocence which is followed by one of understanding. Once they hit the latter state they’re subject to very strict discipline and expected to accept responsibility virtually overnight. But during the former parents tend to
pamper, indulge and have very few rules. Kids are allowed to be kids with virtually no parental discipline. You’re probably reading this shuddering at thoughts of anarchy and toddler revolution, but the kids aren’t actually too bad at all. If I’m honest there appeared to be fewer tantrums than what we have here.
I was particularly struck by the tolerance shown by non-parents. At one point I was in a restaurant and two children were being a bit boisterous. Louder than would be acceptable in our culture, but there no one batted an eyelid. Not the businessman who was obviously on a deadline. Not the young lovers right next to the ruckus. Not even the cranky old man who was impatient with the waitress but didn’t give the squabbling siblings a second glance. How delightful. Yet such a contrast from our attitudes. And it left me wondering if we overparent. And what else was done differently elsewhere. I remembered my shock in Copenhagen when attending a parent gathering how the mothers left their infants in their prams in the backyard. In the snow. 10 below zero. They were rugged up but we’re talking very cold and very young. But apparently it’s standard in Denmark. Mind boggling to me.
During trips I’ve seen Polynesian parents spend little direct time with their toddlers once they start walking, preferring to ensure their kids spend most of their time with their peers, learning and exploring from and with each other. We talk about attachment parenting but this could only be described as DEtachment parenting.
What else is out there? Well I did some more research and discovered that traditional Bulgarians will spit on
stranger’s babies (or at the very least pretend to) and make a wish that birds will defecate on the kid. Apparently too much praise for a child will make the devil jealous and draw his attention to the baby in question. Oooookay.
In the Yucatan, children as young as two are hunting and helping with hardcore household chores. I don’t know about you but there’s no way I would have let my girls near my dishes at two, let alone a weapon. And returning to China, most kids are toilet-trained between six and nine months. Yes, the country that produces the most disposable nappies has very little use for them, preferring to put the kid in crotchless pants and holding them over toilets. Apparently kids are conditioned – often by cues as such as whistling – to control themselves very early. And while accidents inevitably happen, parents make no fuss and don’t even raise their voice let alone enforce discipline. All of which hastens learning. Calm understanding and letting the kids be kids. I’ll be honest and admit I don’t know if I
could do it anywhere near the level I saw in China and it’s partly my temperament, but a lot to do with our culture and customs.
But I wonder if I could take some of these lessons and ideas and introduce the concepts into my parenting? After all, my twins are now four. That’s more than old enough to send them out hunting and foraging for my dinner, apparently.