Child-rearing puzzles expectant parents in China

By Li Aixin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/6 0:18:39

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

A friend of mine who is roughly eight months pregnant told me that she has already started saving money for her child's future tutorial classes. "Can you believe it?" she asked, "I was told that if I have not sent my child to classes for Math Olympiad training before fourth grade, he could never be a candidate for the competition and his chances to go to a distinguished secondary school and top university will be slim."

Since I became an expectant mother myself, I have heard quite a few education theories for the next generation. Sending children to after-school classes is definitely one of the hottest topics of discussion.

Those who haven't become parents seem to be more rational. "We all went to a variety of extra-curricular classes when we were little, what difference does that make? Most of us ended up being ordinary, so why not make our children's life easier and let them decide what they want?"

Despite that all these views sound reasonable, I am still confused about what is the correct way to raise our children.

When Chinese pop legend Faye Wong was asked "how do you balance disciplining your children and giving them freedom," she said she communicated with her daughters as if they were independent adults.

I am sure she was telling the truth. Wong's eldest girl, who is in her early 20s with short hair, tattoos, smoky eye make-up, is constantly found smoking and drinking in her photos. She dropped out of school and formed her own band years ago. If Wong is a strict parent who sends her daughter to all sorts of classes, the young lady could hardly live a life like that.

The girl seems happy when pursuing her dream in a leisurely and carefree environment. But if she was born in an ordinary family, which cannot afford her sky-high tuition fees, would any parent be so laid back in watching their daughter drinking, smoking and dropping out of school?

It is the same reason Chinese parents cannot accept their children falling in love at an early age. There is nothing wrong with puppy love. However, quite a few stories have proved that once young boys and girls are attracted to someone, they can hardly think of anything else, which would eventually lead to drastically falling grades at school and possibly a bleaker future.

Most parents are filled with expectations. That's why they are sticking to the philosophy that the best love they can give to their children is tough love. In this case, sending them to all sorts of classes to absorb as much knowledge as possible has become the best way to help the next generation to succeed in life.

No one wants their children to suffocate under academic pressure. But few would want to see their descendants run themselves haggard over poor salaries, not being able to afford a house, a car or even a cup of coffee in this highly competitive society when they grow up. Living in a country where exams are still the relatively fair ticket for most young people to a better life, a majority of parents would try anything to prevent their children's deviation from their pursuit of good grades.

But just because we seldom question our own way of life, can we force our values on our children? Will we wipe out their dream, enthusiasm and creativity during the process? Shouldn't we allow them to focus on what they are interested in and encourage them to make decisions on their own? In the end, what is the right way to live life?

Honestly, I do not have the answer. But I know being a parent would be the hardest life-long test for me. For the moment, being healthy is the only hope I have for my child. As for tutorial classes, we'll see when the time comes.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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