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Parents' must let kids leave the nest   2012-07-02 11:27:00

  US journalist Roseann Lake has investigated the phenomenon of "leftover" women in China. This refers to a woman who is supposedly "too old to marry". In her research, she found that many of these women are actually rather young and provoked into a frenzy to marry by their paranoid parents. Lake wondered what gives parents such power over their children's lives in China.

  In the United States these parents are called helicopter parents, because they hover over their children. China is probably the world's largest producer of helicopter parents, some of whom are actually hawks hovering over their children before suddenly swooping down to send their children into a panic.

  In many societies, such parents would be cautioned or have learned in earlier years not to interfere in their children's lives. However, in China these parents are masters of manipulation and too successful at their black arts to be kept at bay. Unfortunately, such parents fail to raise their children to be mature adults. Slavish obedience in children is lauded as "filial piety", and few people dared challenge it until very recently. The writer Peng Xiaoyun has voiced her concern that Chinese society teaches filial piety without teaching "parental mercies". But such dissenting voices are few and far between and soon drowned out by the mainstream voices promoting filial piety as the bedrock of society.

  While parents in the US focus on parenting skills that nurture their kids' development and abilities, in China parents focus on practices that give power to age. This is not healthy, because it does not prepare young people for the future.

  As Peng has pointed out, traditional Confucian values advocate some kind of balance in the reciprocity of duties and good will. Today, while there are indeed children who avoid their duties toward parents, few people dare criticize those parents who mess up their children's lives.

  Admittedly, many parents have good intentions, and only want to help their children, but they may prove to be more of a hindrance than a help. Even the most well-intentioned parents can soon become a nightmare if they try to dictate their children's lives.

  It may shock people outside China to learn that many parents still make decisions for their married children. It is true that it takes wisdom to make good decisions, but not everyone becomes wiser as they grow older. Often parents take their duties too far, forcing themselves into the subtle dynamics of a marriage like a bull in a china shop, often unaware of the havoc they are causing. They may be intending to help, for instance by taking care of their grandchildren, however, their belief that they know all the tricks about parenting sabotage the efforts of their kids to function as parents. And manipulative parents often have weak children incapable of making their own decisions.

  In complex multi-generational families, relationships can easily turn sour, because filial piety means it is difficult to confront parents. This inevitably takes its toll on relationships. What starts as a little misunderstanding between in-laws can soon escalate, ending in a couple's divorce.

  Blind obedience to parents not only puts pressure on relationships, but also prevents young people from making necessary changes for their future or that of their own children, as older generations tend to be more conservative. (I wonder if this kind of reverence toward the older generations has something to do with the lack of creativity in the Chinese society.)

  Senior citizens in the US traditionally value independent living. We used to laugh at the "cruelty" and "indifference" of such independent living, yet it is reasonable to live under different roofs at a safe distance, while still visiting once in a while. This may make the relationship more healthy, as both the children and parents preserve their dignity, privacy and the integrity of the family.

  I have heard that more US families now have three generations living under the same roof because of the economic situation. I worry about this. You may save a few bucks here and there, but what is the use of saving small amounts of money if you lose the joy of living?


source : China Daily     editor:: Diana
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