Chinese Mothers, Parenthood, Gurus and Disciples
The Wall St. Journal article by a Chinese Mother who proudly proclaims Chinese parenting as superior has been searing across screens leaving a trail of comments (over 7,000 at last check). Amy Chua writes that in her culture kids don’t get freedom because they don’t know what’s best for them, their parents do! She feels the free style of many western parents is lazy. She also says her Western friends try to rehabilitate her at dinner parties. Even Oprah interviewed her and, I think, wanted her to see the error of her ways.
Amy Chua is “happy to be the one hated” if it means her children will learn to excel.
Last week on Parenthood (the TV show), two parents forbid their 16 year old daughter from dating a 19 year old boy. When she got caught sneaking off to see him (surprise!) not only did her parents ground her they took the door off her bedroom until she regained her parents trust.
How Strict is the Right Amount of Strict?
In light of all this parental pandemonium, my last blog post about giving kids freedom seems a little oversimplified. Since teachers are stand-in parents while the parents are away, both teachers and parents must consider: How strict is too strict? How loose is too loose?
I often go easy on the kids I can admit it. If all the children ask for a particular yoga song, I usually fit it into my class plan if it wasn’t there to begin with. If they’re doing yoga then I’m happy.
I also let kids learn for themselves even when I know they are about to make a mistake. Experience is a great teacher.
Cultural Bias: Western Yoga vs. Yoga from India
But how many of my discipline choices are from my culture? Most of my choices reflect the western style of yoga. Am I actually making choices about my discipline style? I may think I am choosing but in fact I’m just choosing what makes me comfortable. Here’s the big question that all teachers and parents ask: Am I doing what is best for the kids?
Most adults know yoga comes from India but many kids don’t know it. In India Yoga was taught in a Guru/Disciple relationship. The word disciple and the word discipline share the same roots. The teacher’s job was to build discipline in the child. There are many stories about the strictness of Indian Gurus.
The Old Definition of Discipline is Obsolete
The word discipline derives from the Latin word “discere” which means to learn. But it now means “punishment” in Webster’s Dictionary. Discipline as Instruction is listed as obsolete. But this definition: “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” shows that it is the trainer who decides what is correct.
Yoga for children in the west reflects the value of developing imagination and creativity in a child, not being a disciple. Discipline is a secondary result. In my experience, western children aren’t used to discipline, they are used to creativity. So how do children learn discipline?
While the dust settles from the article from the Chinese mom I can see more clearly that discipline is very complex. The daughter on the TV show Parenthood, well, she ran away from home at the end of the episode. Too much discipline can be a punishment for children but sometimes those handing out the punishment learn the lessons.