In defense of brutally harsh traditional Chinese fathers

With a revamped Chinese study routine, I’m trying to consume as much Chinese content as I can. My teacher had me subscribe to a Weixin reading account, and I quickly found an article that’s valuable to foreigners, IMO, especially foreigners who have kids in China and Chinese friends.

The author defends the traditional harshness of Chinese fathers (as today’s 30-somethings might have experienced it) from a couple different angles. Describing common methods of forcing kids to study, some which would result in neighbours calling the cops in North America and which some Chinese parents say are “the obliteration of the child’s innate nature” (对孩子天性的泯灭), she takes aim at rising Chinese parenting trends associated with “respecting” and “accommodating the innate nature of children” (尊重/顺应孩子的天性), “free development/childrearing” (自由发展/养育), and “happy education” (快乐教育).

One of my brighter former students — she’s around 30 years old now and relatively accomplished — told me, “My father has never praised me, not even once.” To better understand her kind of experience, or people who advocate for that kind of parenting, or people who have to put up with relatives who think this way, I recommend reading through this: 你越弱,越没有人宠你 (pro tip: read in your browser with the Perapera Chinese plugin installed). The author would use my former student’s case as a point in her favour, like she does with the story of the Indian wrestling champion who forced two of his daughters to become wrestling champions (movie pictured above).

This article also demonstrates the advantage of reading “real” Chinese. When you read something written by Chinese in Chinese for Chinese you get exposed to Chinese ways of speaking, composing, arguing and thinking — you can’t get much of that from reading translated content.

For more about harsh Chinese parenting, see:

When you dare take your week-old infant to the neighbourhood vegetable market in China

The days following a birth are up and down, so Jessica tells me. Some days it’s all, “I love my baby!!! I love my kids!!! I love my husband!!!” while on occasional days the smallest criticism can provoke tears. Jessica was feeling good and feisty today. She was also tired of sitting inside and so decided to brave our neighbourhood streetside vegetable market for the first time since giving birth — with our 9-day-old son in a Ergo carrier.

baby_in_the_marketShe knew it’d be pushing the buttons of every Chinese auntie and grannie in sight and generate non-stop commentary from the moment she stepped out the door (because she’s done it before), but she didn’t care. Besides, it’s not like she hasn’t already been accused of being an evil stepmother. ;)

Here’s what she was repeatedly criticized for during her fifteen minutes in the market:

  • being outside
  • bringing the baby outside
  • wearing short sleeves (it’s 20’C and sunny at the end of May)
  • buying tomatoes (they’re a “Cold” food, as in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory “Cold”; eating “Cold” things is exactly what post-partum women aren’t supposed to do)
  • being so thin and losing weight since the birth (how much weight exactly?)
  • being too active during pregnancy and not eating the right things (and that’s why he’s so small) (he was 3kg at birth)

She opted not to mention that we’d already been to Beijing and back for an embassy run. ;)

This is our third time to have an infant in China, so none of this is a big deal and it’s completely understandable. It’s certainly not our first time to draw a crowd with a foreign baby or receive well-intentioned-but-unsolicited-and-annoyingly-personal criticism (criticism often conveys concern or interest in China; it’s not usually meant to be mean). But it’s still kind of funny, especially because her sister-in-law is here from the States to help out — a ‘fresh’ foreigner encountering China for the first time.

Way back when we were preparing to bring our first infant to China, Australian friends who’d had their kid in China around the time ours was born in Canada sent us a list of everything we had to look forward to/brace ourselves for. It’s still funny (and full of valuable information)!

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