The best parenting style?

First off, I don’t know what it is. I don’t have kids, don’t particularly like them, and am not hugely familiar with parenting. However I’ve seen some parenting stories online and found the contrast to be worth bringing to people’s attention. On one side we have extreme, and abusive, parenting as promoted by a Chinese women and on the other end we have a Canadian study showing that physical punishments cause long-term harm.

The abusive incident occured in New York, where a Chinese couple forced their, almost naked, son to run around and lie down in the snow. The video got onto Youtube and attracted a huge amount of attention. Just as terrifying as the parents actions were the rationalisations which includes trying to give the son a “masculine temperament” and claiming that the child’s intense training, of which this snow incident was just one aspect, had cured his health problems. The first reason is sexist and contains harmful gender stereotypes while the second can’t be claimed from the available evidence.

Unfortunately, this harsh style of parenting is actually advised by Amy Chua in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It’s quite distressing that she is both a law professor and promotes what is essentially child abuse, forcing the child to suffer mostly for the parents benefit. This can have serious consequences, even for the mother, such as when a Korean teenager killed his mother because of her constantly telling him to get better marks. Admittedly, that is fairly rare.

In Canada we have some much more humane parenting advice. Don’t hit your children. The Canadian study found that corporal punishment causes long-term developmental damage to the child. Corporal punishment is being phased out at least, although some people are resisting. Partly that’s no doubt to exercise personal autonomy but it could also be ignorance of the possible risks. Few parents will probably have heard of medical studies on various parenting techniques, and indeed a lot of books are probably not based on any sort of science whatsoever, like Amy Chua’s.

On a side note the article on the Canadian study includes this little tidbit.

Canada is one of more than 190 countries to have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 1989 treaty that sets out protections for children.

The treaty – which has been ratified by all UN member states except for the United States, Somalia and South Sudan – includes a passage stating that countries must protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence”.

I don’t know why it is but the US seems to always take a different route to the rest of the world, not always for the better.

There is another parenting book I’ve heard of, and that doesn’t appear to advocate abusive methods, this time following the French example. French Children Don’t Throw Food is undoubtedly a better book than Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and appears to be promoting a parenting attitude where children are important, but not the most important, part of the family. It does seem to make some sense but, again, I’m not a parent. Perhaps this information was of some use to someone else though. Just remember that forcing your child to run naked through the snow is not an acceptable parenting style.


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