Beliefs, Values and Customs of Chinese Parents

What a parent believes strongly affects her parenting style and her framework for raising a child. Because different cultures value different concepts, Chinese and Western parents naturally differ. Not only do Chinese parents differ in family customs, but they also differ in the goals they set for their children. Understanding Chinese culture can give Westerners insight into the palpably different style of parenting of Chinese parents.

Parent-child Dependence

In Chinese culture, parents and children are mutually reliant, with each one taking more responsibility at certain times. Parents take on most of the responsibility until the child has found a husband or wife. Depending on the age of marriage, this could mean the child relies on her parents up to the age of 30. It is not uncommon to find a 30-something proudly admitting that she lives with her parents. This cultural aspect gives Chinese children the expectation that they can virtually always rely on their parents, both financially and for moral support. Chinese children are therefore less independent than their Western counterparts, who tend to leave the home in early adulthood and find work even earlier. Overall, a Chinese parent sees her job to last well after the child has reached the age of majority.

Academics Come First

Unlike their Western counterparts, most Chinese parents emphasize academic skills above all other skills, including interpersonal skills, according to parenting scholar Yan-Mei Yang, author of a Chinese parenting book that compares the parenting styles of Chinese and Western parents. Because of this, to Westerners, Chinese children might seem less mature in their interpersonal communication and relationships. However, Chinese children tend to perform well in school and have a strong drive to gain high grades, because doing so would please their parents. The Chinese parent’s desire to see his child perform well in school often is related to their hope for a child’s success at an older age. As the care-taker role switches from parent to child after a child marries, parents want their children to earn a successful living to support the family.

Parenting Style

A parenting style is a general scheme of how much control and response a parent gives her children. According to the McClelland Institute, Chinese parents are more likely to use a more controlling and less responsive parenting style 3. This parenting style puts the parent as a strong authority figure and the child as something of a subject to the parent. A Chinese parent, for example, will put an expectation on her child without explaining why, such as by saying, “You must declare a pre-med major when you go to college.” Children are unlikely to question their parents’ expectations or rules, accepting them without conflict.

Specific Cultural Aspects

The Chinese culture contains many concepts that do not exist in Western culture. To the Western world, many of these concepts are so obscure that English translations for them do not exist; they are simply written in Romanized Chinese. But these concepts pervade the thought style of the Chinese parent, guiding many of their actions. The concepts of “guan” and “xiao shun,” for example, teach that parents are the rulers of the family and that children should follow the orders of the parents due to rulers being naturally benevolent. In addition, traditional Chinese folk religion includes the worship of one’s ancestors and the belief that your ancestors are still watching you even after death. In this way, children have the pressure of not only their parents’ wishes but their parents’ parents’ wishes.

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