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As the one-child-per-household policy was coming into existence in the 1980s, I was born alongside it in China. During these 20 years, large-scale economic reform in China initiated massive changes in many aspects of the society. On one hand, China features a deeply rooted and extensively influential culture change. In the Chinese culture, there is a saying “wealthiness comes from having elders and newborns in a household.” The typical view of a Chinese family used to be that of a large family, whereby a few generations within a large family setting live together, thus taking care of both elderly people and babies and children, in the daily chores. On the other hand, Chinese child development has been well situated in the transforming economical and ideological system. Market economy has increased potential development level of people, strengthened people’s sense of competitions and also made parents pay more attention to investment in childhood education.
Shinyoung, my interviewee, was born in South Korea in 1991, and she grew up there. Since Korea split into two countries, in 1948, the industrial development of South Korea had a significant impact on the lifestyle of Korean people. Consequently, these changes led to population residing in cities, thus, breaking up the traditional family ties and bonds. As people know, order and authority are the hallmarks of Korean society. Fathers are responsible for their families and the elderly must be both obeyed and revered by every family member. The custom is called filial piety. When I look into Chinese and Korean culture, there are some similarities and differences existing in these two cultures. Both cultures emphasize family as the most powerful bond of society and the elderly are treated in the highest regards by every member of the family. In contrast, children are also considered the center of the family in the Chinese culture. In this paper, I will illustrate how the transforming cultural values have brought about changes in parenting beliefs and practices which lead to significant changes in child development outcomes in both countries. Finally, I will talk about the way I want to raise my children in the future.
Since my parents were always busy with work, my retired grandparents took care of me. There were four characteristics, which identified their parenting style. First of all, all of family members are extremely close to one another. Before middle school, I lived with a three generation family including my grandparents, my parents, and myself, and we took quality time out to play or travel together, on most weekends and holidays. Secondly, grandchildren were spoiled by the grandparents. As long as I received excellent grades in school, they would buy me almost anything I wanted, including awarding extra allowance behind my parents’ backs. When I used to make a mistake, my parents would scold me while my grandparents would try their best to protect me, which sometimes led to arguments with my parents. This was mainly how my parents interacted with my grandparents. Thirdly, children were constantly being compared to each other. Since I was the center of my grandparents’ lives, they loved to compare me with other kids in the community. When I did well on a big exam, they would be extremely proud and bragged about me to everyone they saw. When I did not do so well, my parents would get sad. Finally, parents placed a lot of expectations and requirements on their children. Like many other Chinese parents, my parents always required me to attend events or additional study groups during the weekends. I remember having to attend a math study group every Friday after dinner. Besides math, I also participated in singing, dancing, drawing, acting, piano lessons and foreign language classes.
According to Shinyoung, there are four characteristics to describe Korean parenting, as well. First, children have to work diligently in order to obtain excellent grades in school, because schools in Korea are extremely demanding. Korean society regards education in the university to lay out the basis for a successful career in the future. Second, children need to obey family elders. Traditionally, elders are with accorded honor. For example, at dinner the person who is the eldest, sits down first, before anybody else can start eating. Third, each family member has a responsibility to protect their family in regard of social status, dignity, influence and reputation. Otherwise, “losing face” will lower children before their peers. Lastly, family members have to keep proper decorum among family members. For example, bowing to elders is the traditional way of greeting.
In comparison, Chinese and Korean parental styles have similar foundations. Both styles insist on close family relationships with other family members, saving “face” and support an environment where kids are stressed with school work and forced to achieve higher goals than before. However, there are some differences between the two parenting styles. Koreans tend to respect the opinions of their elders greater than the Chinese. Korean children cannot doubt the opinions made by their elders. In addition, Chinese children are more likely to be wild at home and not punctilious in manner.
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Influence on Parenting
“My grandparents took care of me by spoiling me” took up most of my childhood memories. They lived with us until I was twelve. They did so based on four factors: first, they had lots of kids, resulting in increased living burden. They suffered that they could not provide the best for their kids, so they took care of me, as a way to make up for what they were missing in their earlier times. Second, they loved to compare me with other neighbors’ kids in the community, so as to increase my reputation and further spoil me. It was an extremely amusing relationship between my grandparents and my neighbors: on the surface, everyone seemed to belong to the same large family, but they were all secretly highly competitive and always thought that they were better than the rest. Third, there were not too many opportunities for education in the past, because most schools in a small village were close during the war. As a result, grandparents expected that I could fulfill their dreams; thus, living vicariously through me. Moreover, I was the only child in the family, as a result of one-child-per-household policy started in the1980s. Lastly, my parents were separated when I was two years old. Therefore, grandparents were trying to give me more love and double the attention.
Examining Shinyoung’s four most prominent Korean parenting characteristics through the ecological model lens, there are many connections between the way she was raised and how these factors affected her. As of the microsystem, the role of elders in the house was highly emphasized, and this was a crucial part of raising children in Korean homes. For Shinyoung, her grandmother was a classic example of microsystem parenting, as her personal psychology and style dominated the household rules and Shinyoung’s parents’ styles, as well. The characteristic, which fits with mesosystem, is the educational requirements and pressures placed on children by the families; families work with the schools so as to affect the child’s future and academic standing. The families and the schools have an interlocked relationship, which mutually affects the child either negatively or positively. From an exosystem perspective, family members have to rely on each other’s social standings, in order to raise or go down the social status ladder. In a chronosystem, proper decorum among family members is necessary; if a transition of events is not followed, there will be chaos in the house.
Looking at the microsystem first, I noticed that both Shinyoung and I had one family member, who was the strongest in his rule, strictness and who affected our thought patterns. In my case, it was my mother and, for Shinyoung, it was her grandmother. In the exosystem, both families relied on the family members, in order to achieve day to day results, especially in parenting, asking for advice and disagreeing, at other times. For macrosystem, our cultural communities highly influenced our personalities, and what were expected of us; we both had to avoid disgrace, at all costs. Finally, for chronosystem, a daily routine of events was essential to upbringing, which symbolized discipline and decorum.
My parenting in the future
Based on the four characters, by which I was raised, I agreed to establish a close relationship among the family, because the family is an essential support group that creates joy and a sense of belonging, also providing assistance in the later life stages. Also, I agree that kids need to attend additional classes during the leisure time, in order to achieve success in a highly competitive society. On the other hand, I disagree that parents should spoil and compare their children with others; when the parents spoil their child, the child learns to expect that someone would solve his problems, instead of learning to do it on his/her own. Additionally, parents should not compare their child with others, because it will result in their lost self-confidence in the future.
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As I mentioned before, my grandparents would use the money to express their approval and encouragement. However, providing children with money without corresponding consumer education and financial guidance may easily spoil them. Big money may translate in higher levels of consumption, blindly vying with those who are better-off than themselves and forming the unhealthy habits of spending money lavishly, all of which will do immense harm to their development. If I have children in the future, I will teach them not only save money, but also how to earn and manage money. I believe that providing children with an appropriate amount of pocket money from their childhood can, through their independence money-management, help them learn to treat and spend money properly, form their value judgments and raise their moral standards. Learning to manage money properly can also build up their self-esteem, self-dependence, a sense of responsibility; thus, lay out a foundation for a better adjustment in the adult life.
Culture is not only country where one is born. Each family has its own culture, which is part of the country’s culture and which highly influences children growing up. There are many positive and negative sides to all cultures, which are essential features. I learned that one needs to keep the positive, morally strong values of a culture, while disregarding its negative and unfair aspects. This way, there will be a unique culture for each family, free from previous ignorant mistakes and bonds. My interviewee and I were significantly influenced by cultural teachings; however, I think that a blend of cultures helped us to separate the negative aspects from the positive and adopt the ones that were beneficial. As a future parent, I would like to instill the same core values, which I was taught, in my children. These values include features, such as elderly respect, polite manners and etiquettes for studying; however, I will surely do not make my parents’ mistakes and rather go my own way, from which a new family culture will evolve.
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