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I want to be an Asian parent!

June 28, 2011

I have a little girl who wants to do it herself.  It doesn’t matter what the task, she can figure it out.  She thinks!  I don’t have any clue where this fierce independent streak comes from in her.  Her mother is perfectly happy with letting things fall in to her lap and never really exerting herself, so this is quite a departure for the female of the species in our home.

Seriously, Chris and I had many long conversations about what kind of parents we wanted to be, even before we decided to get married.  One thing that he has brought to our parenting plan is what he terms “Asian parenting”.  He read an article or saw a documentary or listened to an audiobook about some primary differences in American parenting vs other countries, particularly Asian countries and this is what he took away:  American parents do for their children, Asian parents let their children figure it out.  I have no data to back this up nor have I researched it on my own, but I trust Chris.  His mind is a steel trap.  So we have been trying to have a very Asian philosophy when it comes to letting Miss A “figure it out”.  It is incredibly frustrating for Mommy especially because Miss A has the patience of Job and will sit for much longer than I would have ever anticipated working out a solution. 

 I was recently reading a post from another mom-blogger who was having a similar epiphany with her own daughter who was older and taking piano lessons.  The teacher was being very patient in letting her daughter figure out the notes and the sequence and the daughter was surprising the mother at both her lack of frustration and her persistence in attempts to “figure it out”.  The piano teacher said to the mother that she must be home schooled because most other kids lose that drive to “figure it out” somewhere in the first grade. 

That is the thing that I am surprised at with Miss A–I was fully prepared to be an Asian parent and just wait for her to get it right and encourage her to keep at it until she got it.  I was prepared to sit back and endure her frustration, let her fuss, maybe even endure some fits because I wanted her to figure it out by herself.  That is what is surprising me–SHE HAS SO MUCH MORE PATIENCE THAN I DO.  There must be some phenomenon that exists in children that I had not witnessed before.  Something there that this piano teacher sees in enough of her students that she recognizes and anticipates its departure.   I am ready to jump in and help far sooner than she gets frustrated and wants help.  At least at this point (I know it is still very early on this journey)!

So now the next step.  How do I keep it there?  How long can I keep this intact?  We have already had the conversation at daycare and our provider is a willing accomplice.  She enjoys watching her figure it out.  What else do we do to foster that thing that I have been calling independence?  I think patience is key.  Being encouraging without being distracting is another.  Did I mention patience?   Beyond that, I am at a loss. 

More experienced parents:  Have you seen this in your kids?  Have you noticed that it diminishes over time?  Are you doing anything to foster this behavior?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    June 28, 2011 10:57 pm

    Hmm…well not having children of my own, I can only draw comparisons based on what my parents have shared with me …. and the behavior I see in my dog….oddly enough – the two aren’t that different! I’ve been told I was a very inquisitive and independent child as well. I remember LOVING algebra and having to figure out proofs (I mean, seriously? Who else ENJOYED that? I’m not sure what was wrong with me). I enjoyed going through the process, and reworking if I didn’t wind up at the result I expected. It was something tangible I could look at, check through, find the error, and ultimately arrive at success. Same thing with our dog….she has a toy that doles out treats if it turns just right. She comes at it from various approaches – each time building on the last ‘theory’. Once she gets it just right, she finds her happiness while chomping away at her treat. If I just give her the treat – it’s just a moment of enjoyment – she misses out on the excitement of figuring it out on her own. I think it’s all about the ‘process’ and ultimately the feeling of success when YOU figure it out on your own. I think, though, that this process only works when the result is defined. With algebra, I always knew the end result would be proving the theorem. Ally’s result is yummy in the tummy. If the end result is vague or not defined at all, I can imagine losing interest quickly and just wanting someone else to give you the answer.

    That’s my two cents and I’m sticking to it 🙂

    Hugs to everyone (furry and otherwise!)

  2. July 3, 2011 6:15 pm

    I remember this all too well! “I do it” is so fascinating to witness. It can also be very frustrating when you’re late to get somewhere and they’re insisting they tie their own shoes or dress themselves. Fun and trying times! As with all things, there’s a fine line between what’s good and what’s too much. Fostering her independence is definitely best for her, even if it’s hard for the parents to let go. Sometimes you don’t realize you’re doing it until you look back 20 years though! I did see a young mother in Wal-Mart the other day that had let her 3 or 4-yr old girl take the “I do it” too far. She had let her out of the cart and let her push the cart and of course it was too big for her to control and the little girl was running into everything! The mother was trying to regain control, but the little girl had had her taste of independence now and she was insisting “I do it!” The mom would make one feeble attempt to grab her arm and make her stop pushing and the little girl would scream out “I do it!” and the mom would go back to looking for that certain jar of pickles. The very, very, very hardest thing to maintain besides your composure is consistency! We don’t all feel the same way every day – we’re not in the exact same circumstances every day – and a child changes and grows every day so maintaining consistency is the absolute hardest thing to do, but really is the best!

    But back to Miss A’s independence – another sign of her superior intelligence if you ask me! I read a TIME article about the woman who wrote the book on Asian parenting and she had some good points about making school work come before friends, tv, and anything else. She made her kids study music and practice what seemed like unusually long hours and insisted they be perfect at it and accepted nothing less. She was pretty much a tyrant, but her girls are grown – or nearly grown – and they love and respect her, and they admit it was a tough way to grow up but they are thankful to their mother for the work ethic and drive she instilled in them.

    I had a friend who was so over-protective, she wouldn’t let her kids out of her sight, wouldn’t let them ride bikes, or climb trees, or go down the street to a friends’ house unless she DROVE them and walked them to the door! This same friend used to use a hand-held vacuum to clean her son’s highchair – WHILE HE ATE – and wash his mouth off after every bite! She would freak out when they’d come play with my kids because I’d let them all play outside and they’d get dirty. Actually, the little boy (who had his highchair tray vacuumed) would spaz out if he got dirt on his hands and was constantly coming in to have me wash him off! The other kids were having an absolute blast though! Different styles! Our kids had skinned knees and elbows and some great memories of a fun childhood.

    If you continue to let Amelia know/feek like she can do anything and she should always at least try, but you’ll be there to support her if she asks, you’re doing what a good parent should!! It doesn’t have a name per se – call it “Chris-Mareeka’s” own style. I didn’t have my mom to turn to on what to do or how to handle parenthood and being the youngest of older parents, they were tired by the time I came along, so their parenting style with me wasn’t really a good model for me to use with my kids. Besides, mine and Bob’s relationship was a partnership and my parents was very, very much the old-fashioned model. I read book after book, subscibed to Parents Magazine, Family Fun Magazine (which I do highly recommend for great ideas!!) and watvhed everything I could about parenting tips. You know what I figured out? Nobody knows you and your kids like you do! Sure a little bit of this book or that article might help – maybe one line combined from each of 100 things – but nothing compares with your gut feeling. All those books, articles and now the internet stuff will do is make you feel guilty or inadequate which you will never EVER be!!!

  3. Melissa Meadows permalink
    July 26, 2011 3:34 am

    Amelia’a “I do it” stage is a bit frustrating for parents. You have to find an IMMENSE amount of patience to let the child figure things out and do it on their own (because it takes so much longer than what you know could be accomplished), but this stage is also a really a great base for good things to come. Like all things, it does have to be in moderation. I agree with the above post that their are times that kids should not do things on their own. It may be dangerous or disobedient… but you’ll know those times. Right now, when you are patient with her doing things on her own you are fostering a confidence, a curiosity, a work ethic, intelligence, independance, and so much more! And, it will only be a few years down the road that the time factor (the fact that if you do indeed let her put on her own shoes it could take 15 minutes, instead of you doing it, which would take ONE minute) will diminish and you will just have positive things left. My boys often fix things in my house that I’ve deemed unfixable. I threw Kirstin’s nightlight (a larger fishtank type light/sound thing) in the trash. Micah got it out, took it all apart… and fixed it! And, they are always helping me with things that THEY are now faster at than I am. 🙂 I was struggling the other day getting my refrigerator drawers pushed back in right. He wanted to help, and I told him no “because I didn’t want him to break it.” I gave in, he figured it out in no time…and he popped it back on the track in a second! They both have a huge desire to figure things out. Another thing that I am now seeing a lot of at 10 and 11 is that because we have always let them (and encouraged them) to be curious and figure things out… they now know that we will be helpful and encouraging with new tasks/situations and they rely on that. They ask for help when they need/want it, and then go way beyond our expectations. Just today Jonah asked me to teach him how to make an omlet. (not something we usually eat in our house, but we recently stayed in an Embassy Suites on vacation… and they serve up made-to-order omlettes every morning. Jonah has found a new breakfast favorite). Instead of asking me to make him an omlette (which I wouldn’t have thought anything about, and would have done), he wanted to do it. I stayed with him at the stove and talked him through what he needed to do… while he did each part. He then went on to make one for everyone in the family… without being asked to. He wasn’t sure how to flip the first one… (neither was I!), so I tried to show him that part. Mine looked crazy, so he insisted on doing the next flip himself, and by the end was doing a much better job than i had! 🙂

    So, this was a book (sorry!), but I wanted to say that I do not see my kids willingness or desire to do things by themselves diminishing… just improving. It is growing and becoming a piece of who they are. And because you are someone who has initiative to figure things out, you will figure out how to encourage your kids to do the same! Last spring I decided I wanted new kitchen flooring. James happened to be out of town that weekend, so I did it myself! I’m not sure MY curiosity and ability has diminished yet. 🙂 And I know you well enough to know that yours hasn’t either. 🙂

    The only other thing I will say is that in order to get this quality built into your children you may sometimes have to encourage them in this even when they don’t WANT to do something on their own. Today Kirstin decided to take each and every one of her books off of her bookshelf in order to find one she couldn’t find. What was left was a HUGE mountain of books that took up her entire room! I asked her to put them back, and she launched into this whiny fit about “not being able to.” (the first few books were falling over before she could get others on the shelf). I knew she could do it, gave her some pointers, and told her she needed to figure it out. Of course she did, and she was proud of herself.

    Have fun with even the harder things about this stage. Before long, it will be gone an you’ll be on to the next challenge!

  4. July 26, 2011 8:54 pm

    I appreciate the book! Seriously. This blog is my hope to garner knowledge as much as it is just an outlet for me to write. It is nice to hear from those that have been there, done that, and are on the other side!

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