Parenting has changed a lot since we were kids. For instance, parents and teachers are now very careful about meting out punishment and criticizing children. On the other hand, there appears to be a shift towards fostering the child’s independence and self-esteem. Moreover, the traditional family model has changed – from a stay-at-home mom (and dad as breadwinner) to dual-income families; in some countries, even single-parent or same-sex parents’ families are acceptable. Technology has also changed the activities that a child engages in, as well as familial interactions.
Amidst all these changes, there are certain “traditional” parenting practices which studies or parenting experts have increasingly encouraged modern parents to consider. Well, let’s explore 10 of these practices and why they work!
#1 Control and Demand
You have probably heard of the “authoritative” versus “authoritarian” parenting style. The former relates to parents being firm, willing to set boundaries and discipline their children while also responsive to their children’s needs and enjoy a close relationship with their children. The latter refers to parents who are demanding, strict, employs parental power but do not respond to their children’s needs. Studies on authoritarian parenting associate this parenting style with poorer academics and emotional intelligence. When we think of traditional parenting style, those of us in Chinese culture may think of traditional as being authoritarian.
However, studies that look into why Chinese students fare better academically than their western counterparts note that the traditional Chinese parenting style does not conform strictly to the authoritarian parenting style. Although Chinese parents demand a lot from their children, they enjoy a close relationship with them and the controlling tactics to get the children to do what the parents want may be viewed by their children as well-meaning or loving.
Physical punishment or caning is less acceptable these days as increasing studies point towards adverse impact such as caning can easily cross the line to become an avenue for the parents to vent anger or even abuse. Moreover physical punishment may instill fear, reduce trust and set a poor parenting model that certain situations can be resolved by physical punishment. On the other hand, the unwillingness to punish a child can easily cross into permissive parenting – the modern day parenting style where parents are very responsive to the child’s needs but do not discipline the child.
Permissive parenting is linked to ill-behaved children, who may grow up lacking the ability to deal with disappointments. Measured punishment therefore has its place and parents can choose to enforce other forms of punishment such as the removal of privileges, giving additional responsibilities or chores for the child in place of caning.
Another controversial topic is how to encourage the child to work better – praise or criticize? Traditionally, there was less emphasis on praising a child but more on admonishing a child for not working harder. Affection and a sensitivity towards a child’s feelings were less of a concern for parents. Today, more parents believe that positive rewards bring about better outcomes while negative rewards may discourage the child. But hey, everyone needs a reality check at some point in time. A parent who criticizes lovingly and spurs the child to work harder could be more effective than one who praises the child and afraid of hurting the child’s self-esteem.
#4 No Pain, no Gain
Working hard is not an option and traditionally, we expect hard work, well to work! Today with technology, more varied career paths and young millionaire entrepreneurs, we sometimes think more towards working smart (or being smart) rather than working hard. While it is not emotionally healthy to force a child to work hard at what he hates (say a sports), there is no excuse for not working hard on what is expected – school work, a co-curricular activity or outside class that the child has committed to.
#5 Independence can wait
For babies or even toddlers, it would be traditionally acceptable for them to sleep beside their parents. However, there is a gradual shift towards sleeping separate rooms and “training” the baby to be able to sleep on her own. Attachment parenting advocates being close to the baby, such as through co-sleeping, baby-wearing or generally being close and attentive to a baby’s needs. Contrary to perceptions that this will lead to clingy kids, attachment parenting helps to build trust early in a child’s life and greater independence later in life.
What is the right amount of attention to give to a child? The answer to this question can lead to very different parenting style. For instance, the helicopter parenting style refers to constant interference in a child’s life and “hovering” to ensure a child’s safety. Parents who believe that a lot of attention is required may opt for one parent to quit his/ her job to focus on the child.
However, this may not be synonymous with the traditional stay-at-home mom. A stay-at-home mom traditionally is one who is at home, but has other duties and responsibilities and does not hover around her child. The benefit on having a stay-at-home mom may have less to do with the mom being at home, but more to do with knowing that she is around and can be counted on. As such, parents should not feel guilty if they choose to have their careers but dedicate sufficient time to communicate and bond with the children.
The adage that it takes a village to raise a child can indeed be helpful. For instance, a few families who share the same values can help cultivate an environment for their children to thrive. Expectations to be polite, to greet elders, to be disciplined are reinforced in group settings. A child can benefit from being taken care by another adult for a few hours, and observe how the other children behave and are disciplined by the adult.
#8 Peer Group
Being in a peer group can help. Similar to the traditional community interaction, children can encourage each other to work hard and not be afraid to excel. Older children can also impart skills and experience to younger children. There are not many opportunities to interact with older children in school or classes, but an informal group with a few families can offer that opportunity.
#9 You Owe Me
Traditionally, the Chinese expects the child to take care of the parents at old age. This mindset can be part of a parenting style where children are not raised to feel entitled. Instead, children are aware that they are “borrowing” the parents’ resources when the parents are able to provide, and later in life to “return” by being filial and provide financial and physical support for the elderly parents. In some ways, there are potential benefits as the child is not raised feeling entitled and more aware of the need to excel given the sacrifices made to provide for him.
While children are still expected to obey, parents’ expectation of the child’s obedience may vary. Sometimes we may not strictly enforce the expected behaviors and then have to deal with the consequences when our children stopped behaving well. Instead, not tolerating bad behaviors and setting very clear boundaries are useful, even if they sometimes seem harsh.
No matter which the parenting style you choose, or what you practice, the relationship with the child should be close. Love and trust remain the foundation, and there’s no parenting practice to speak of if the parent is not available! Also don’t beat yourself up, all parents make mistakes.