Fusion Parenting: East Meets West in Child Rearing
Celebrating and embracing diversity may also apply to child rearing
Posted Jan 24, 2011
Professor Chua is a law professor and not a psychologist or parenting expert. Yet her compelling book and particular point of view brings up many issues that most American parents chronically struggle with: How do we raise successful, competent, happy children in a modern, competitive, and diverse culture without driving ourselves (and our children) crazy in the process? Additionally, what is the best way to raise our children when parenting styles and experts contradict one another? Part of the answer to these and many other parenting questions are dependent on what our goals are for our children. What is the outcome that we want from all of our parenting efforts and how much control do we have in securing these outcomes?
In my experience as a college professor and a psychologist who has been in clinical practice for more than 25 years, a blend of Eastern and Western approaches (high expectations with plenty of love and support) is likely the best way to go. Too strict and demanding and children will likely rebel against your demands, hate you in the process, and be grateful for the day that they can get away from you. Yet, too lenient and they likely won't succeed or accomplish much, as well as quit at the first obstacles they face that might frustrate them. There are risks at being too Eastern or too Western in one's parenting approach in our society and many of my clients over the years have struggled with finding the right balance for them and their families. Perhaps this is yet another reason why we have much to learn from those different than ourselves and why celebrating and embracing diversity may also apply to child rearing.
Professor Chua now admits that her parenting approach didn't work with her younger daughter, who rebelled, and that she ended up using a hybrid of Eastern and Western styles. In a more homogenous society such as China, Korea, and Japan, where most children face such pressures, anything less than an A and no TV may seem rather normal. However, when children are growing up with peers who are allowed to have sleepovers and who don't have to practice playing the piano and violin until mastering a piece, they immediately recognize that their world at home is different and perhaps unfair in their view, making it difficult for them to understand the intentions of their parents. Maybe teenagers like Chua's younger daughter faced another kind of peer pressure of her own-to assimilate by being able to talk about the latest movie they saw over the weekend or by discussing the new video game their parents recently bought them.
While wanting children to focus on their studies is understandable, Professor Chua can learn a lesson or two about putting children in sports, scouts, and allowing them to play with friends, as many Western parents do. Being on a sports team or in scouts can teach important lessons about social relations, team work, responsibility, achievement striving, and mental and physical perseverance. Play time with peers can teach children social skills, nurture productive hobbies, and allow for useful stress management opportunities. So, in a nutshell, fusion parenting thus blending Eastern and Western approaches may better than either approach in their extreme.