Which African child doesn’t have a story or two to tell about their mother’s strict ‘no nonsense’ attitude? Who didn’t receive those well planted knocks on the head or had an instant feeling of dread seep into their stomach at the loud screeching of their mother’s voice? African mothers! We love and celebrate them!
Truth is there is no school that teaches women how to be ‘good’ mothers and with the effects of globalization becoming more prominent, we now see first hand how different cultures reflect different parenting styles. Recently, various news and social media have been set alight by Amy Chua’s recent book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mum”.
The book which essentially is Chua’s biography contains several references to her strict traditional Chinese parenting style. In her article titled “Why Chinese Mums are Superior” published in the Wall Street Journal, Chua lists a set of rules which she enforced on her children. According to her, her 2 children where NOT allowed to;
- attend a sleepover
- have a playdate
- be in a school play
- complain about not being in a school play
- watch TV or play computer games
- choose their own extracurricular activities
- get any grade less than an A
- not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin.
While Chua’s book and strict mothering rules has attracted great criticism in the West, we in Africa are no strangers to the harsh realities of ‘strict’ parental guidance. I remember when I was growing up, one of our family friends, who was a single mother, never needed any excuse to beat her child. It was almost like a daily habit. If she didn’t eat properly with her knife and fork she would get flogged, if she didn’t wash the car early enough another flogging would ensue. Even her visiting uncle would contribute to the regular flogging process. While my mother never hesitated to put me right when ever I was going astray, I did find our family friends parenting techniques a bit harsh and more akin to the days of slavery!
So when does parenting become too much? Are all forms of discipline good for a child, after all the poplar saying does say ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’! Does the Tiger Mum have a point? Are we in our bid to adopt more flexible ways of parenting becoming lax and thus producing children who lack disipline and are therefore unable to excel in their chosen fields?
Or is ‘strict’ discipline over rated? Does it do the younger generation more harm than good? Should we adopt a more flexible posture were we allow our children to express themselves and perhaps use more conventional methods of parenting? Will this produce more socially adjusted and confident children?
Photo Credit: http://images.nationalgeographic.com