Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Debate: Parental expectations

(China Daily) Updated: 2011-05-30 07:53

Debate: Parental expectations

Parental expectations, if realistic, can help the development of children, says one scholar, but an-other says parents should not use it as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives.

Lu Shizhen

Realistic expectations needed

The upcoming Children's Day on June 1 has focused people's attention on the lives of the nation's children. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences published the Blue Book of Social Mentality 2011 earlier this month, which found one of the strongest motivations for Chinese people today is their high expectations for their children.

Considering China's social reality, culture and traditions, parents whose main motivation in life is their children's development are beyond reproach, and in fact, parental expectations, if appropriate, are beneficial to a child's development and social progress.

This is because to Chinese people, children are not only the bearers of DNA they are conveyers of the philosophies and values of older generations and represent the whole family.

In this sense, parental expectations for their children reflect a unique Chinese approach toward children's development that emphasizes social development more than individual development. This is different from the Western concept of self-realization.

When Chinese parents' have high expectations for their children, it suggests a sense of social responsibility and positive pursuit of the future. But more than that, high expectations for their children's development means parents will make relentless efforts to provide parental guidance and implement supervision, which will help children cultivate good study habits and overcome inertia and other growing pains. Parental governance, although not always to the same degree, is indispensable for children.

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Parental expectations can motivate children to build a strong mind and encourage them to achieve their best academic performance. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with parents who pin expectations on the development of their children. However, such parental expectations should be realistic.

Chinese parents attach overriding importance to education and the combination of individual development with social realization is the foundation for children's education.

But nowadays, many children get depressed and stressed by the fierce competition to enter elite schools.

In fact, students all over the world have to survive fierce competition before being admitted to elite universities. However, compared with developed countries, where educational resources are comparatively fairly distributed among the primary and secondary schools, China has huge gaps in the distribution of educational resources even in the kindergarten stage among different schools and between the rural and urban areas.

And the brutal truth is: not every child is extraordinary. The extraordinary ones comprise only 1-3 percent of the child population. That is to say, most children are ordinary and should seek an ordinary development path. Sadly, many parents have unrealistic expectations for their children.

Even worse, quite a number of parents confine children's development merely to academic performance. As is known to all, children's comprehensive development involves both physical and psychological development, and also cognitive, intellectual, emotional and moral development. This requires not only personal efforts but also a favorable growth environment. If parents restrict their expectations for children's development to the intellectual level, mostly revealed as scores, they will actually undermine the comprehensive development of their children.

To set parental expectation for children's development as one's top life motivation is beyond reproach, but it is time for some parents to curb their expectations and keep them realistic.

The author is a professor at China Youth University of Political Sciences.

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