Chinese Parenting Styles

When it comes to parenting in china, the idea of absolute control springs to mind. While different parents have their own beliefs, in general, Chinese parenting is very different from that in the west.


In my opinion, the way that Chinese bring up their next generation is greatly rooted to the Confucian philosophy. In a dictatorial country and society where everyone finds their position and responsibilities in a family, a company, an institution and a government, how much and when to obey play key factors to succeed. The Chinese are trained to comply from the time that they are born and later that is heavily emphasized in school, where teachers become the absolute authority. In other words, to survive in Chinese society, one has to learn to obey and fit in because the Chinese society rarely rewards standing out. Keeping your head down is the safest way to thrive.

But this old style of parenting is certainly changing. Many new parents aren’t planning on spending too much on their kids after they grow up.

Chinese parents tend to have high and specific expectations for their children. It makes sense considering the fierce competition that children will face in every step of their education and the job market. A mother may sign her daughter up for dance or piano classes at the age of three, yet it would be frowned upon for her daughter to claim to be a dancer or musician when she grows up. Chinese parents think highly of professions such as government officials, doctors and lawyers, but not the ones in show, sports and art fields because they are neither respected traditionally, nor making steady income.

Chinese students often rank best in the world in math. Of course, the education helps a bit. By the end of grade one, students are expected to handle plus and minus within 100, way ahead of many countries. But the most important reason is the diligent practice on a daily basis under the supervision of parents and teachers. Parents won’t accept grades less than 90 out of 100 points for the first three grades and the expectation only drops 10 points for the later three grades. A full mark is often secured by more than a dozen students in a normal elementary class.

However, focusing on results and neglecting the fact that during the process, efforts should be valued as well, sometimes leads to an undesirable outcome: they flop when facing opportunities, especially challenges. They are so afraid to fail that they don’t even dare to try.

Chinese love their children. One expression for their love—at least that’s what they proclaim—is that they will arrange everything they think is best for their kids, from hairstyle, what to eat and wear, after-school classes; to big decisions such as majors in universities, a profession to choose and whom they get married to, regardless of their age and maturity. They are very generous in buying cars and apartments for their sons, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them. And because of this unhealthy give-and-take relationship, the young feel obligated to let their parents decide their lives on top of the traditional filial obedience. To some extent, they use their freedom in exchange of an easy and comfortable life.

But this old style of parenting is certainly changing. Many new parents aren’t planning on spending too much on their kids after they grow up. And they are starting to think about saving money for their retirement instead of relying on their kids.

On the other hand, some parents can be cruel to their children. They worship a hardworking stereotype and glorify enduring hardship. They believe it’s the necessary sacrifice and way to succeed. That’s why parents feel they can justify their seven-year-olds burying their little heads in piles of writing, reciting and calculating every night and even on weekends.

Sometimes inhumanity is necessary. One time, a friend of mine aborted her unborn baby only a couple of months before the labor was due, only because she discovered the child would be born with a cleft lip. There was a chance that it was only a minor case and that one operation would cure it, but she didn’t want to take the risk. The burden to raise an imperfect child seems unbearable to a middle-class family in a society with very little public resources in the handicap area. Now two years later, she has delivered a healthy baby boy whom I’m sure she will give everything for.