School or labor: Hangzhou father’s unique parenting approach wins Chinese netizens’ support
Published: Apr 15, 2021 07:35 PM
Experts say that it is unnecessary to spend so much money on parenting and the cost can be significantly lowered. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Experts say that it is unnecessary to spend so much money on parenting and the cost can be significantly lowered. Photo: Li Hao/GT

A short video of a father teaching his teen son a lesson about the importance of school has stirred up hot discussion on Chinese social media about liberal and respectful approaches to parenting in today's China. 

The less-than-20-second video shows the father, Ying, asking his 14-year-old son Chenchen "which do you choose? School or manual labor?" 

"School," responds the young man, who is covered from head to toe in mud after working on a construction site on a blistering hot day in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. 

The video was posted by Ying on Douyin, the Chinese regional version of TikTok. It quickly got netizens talking about Ying's parenting approach, which many found effective, and the "reverse thinking" he used by allowing his child to make his own mistakes and learn from them. 

"Once bitten twice shy. It is way more effective for a child to realize the negative consequences their choices bring them than to tell them a thing is no good. The dad's approach is clever, not only because of that, but also because letting him do something his father doesn't want him to do, is a gesture that his kid has freedom, is respected and has the right to make his own choice. This can work particularly well with rebellious children, teens in particular," Xu, an educational expert in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

In the description for the video, Ying explains that his son began hating school eight months before. And because Ying didn't want to force his son to go to school nor did he want to belittle the value of manual labor, he decided to let his son choose for himself… after a day of hard work that is. "Education gives you more opportunities to choose what you want to do," Ying says in the video. 

Some netizens shared their own examples of this "reverse parenting," showing how parenting in China has been transitioning from power struggles between parents and children to more friendly relationships that emphasize mutual learning and growth.

"The dad is courageous to allow his child to make mistakes. I'll have to learn from that. This makes me realize I might be too hands-on with my children, like I'm their nanny or a "walking alarm" and not a cool woman they would like to share secrets with," a 42-year-old-woman in Beijing told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"Allowing them to make mistakes is an art. This does not mean you let them take risks with everything as some consequences cannot be taken back. A parent needs to supervise the process, and hit pause if their actions get too wild," warned Xu.  

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