Even while I was pregnant, I started to think about how to tackle behavior and discipline during parenthood. I was a rebellious teenager, so the thought of raising children who are disobedient was distressing. Ironically, even though I can still remember and relate to the young me, I think I’ll probably be quite a strict mother in many ways. Time will tell!
While discussing this topic with my colleague Jasmine from Indonesia, I was so intrigued to hear about how many Asian families take an incredibly tough stance on discipline. I hope you find her story an interesting read…
Growing up, my mum was the epitome of a Tiger Mom. She had high expectations and constantly pushed me to be the best. And to enforce this, she used the one method that seemed to keep me from deviating from my path to perfection; corporal punishment. I didn’t know that there were other alternatives to discipline back then. To me, not getting hit was a foreign concept. I wasn’t aware of any parent that let their kids off the hook without at least a good slap. Maybe in Hollywood movies, but even then, the concept of grounding as the ultimate punishment was laughable to us.
My mum was tough, both in love and in discipline. Anything short of perfection could incite a long tirade of blame and a good beating. Even when I brought home a report card with As and A minuses, I was asked why I didn’t have any A pluses. I had friends who endured the wrath of leather belts or wooden sticks after making minor mistakes, and those produced much bigger bruises (and scars) than my mum inflicted on my sisters and I. As students, we joked about what happened at home, laughed it off and went about our day. After all, they were still our parents, and we loved them without question.
That kind of discipline enforced a boundary between parent and child. They were not our friends; that they made clear. We were to respect them and do as they say. Many Asian parents use corporal punishment to keep their kids under control.
Amy Chua, the author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, explains it perfectly. ‘In the West, obedience is associated with dogs and the caste system, but in Chinese culture, it is considered among the highest of virtues.’
People think that corporal punishment will prevent their children from making the same mistake twice – to teach them a lesson. It may work if done sparingly, but make it a habit and it develops into something more; it becomes about doing what they are told for fear of punishment. For instance, the reason why the majority of Asians play instruments, achieve higher than their peers and major in business, medicine, or finance; isn’t because we want to, but because we see no other choice. The respect and fear we have for our parents override our own desires. Through years of physical discipline, we have learned to nod and do as we’re instructed.
Because we grew up always being reprimanded for our errors, we end up never seeing the point of making mistakes at all. So as adults, we become too afraid to make mistakes. Stepping out of our comfort zone is a feat not worth exploring. Instead of quitting our stable jobs to start an exciting new venture that we are genuinely interested in, those who were raised with that fear of making mistakes might end up sticking to what’s safe. And sometimes, what’s safe isn’t always what’s best.
Some may argue that hitting kids is never acceptable, but regardless of where you stand it’s wise to consider the potential outcome. I guess the question is this: just how obedient do you want your children to be?
How do you discipline your kids?