Does Parental Permissiveness Affect
Who Is to Blame, Mimi, or Her Parents?
I always thought Xiao Hong a sl;oilt and wilful child,
but today I met a girl a hundred times worse. Compared to her, Xiao Hong
is an angel!
Uncle and Aunt Liu came for a visit and brought their
darling girl Mimi with them, a girl of five and their only child. The
first sight of her disgusted me. She was dressed and made up like nothing
on earth. I always hated the sight of Xiao Hong when she got all painted
up on C:hildren's Day or on other festive occasions. But this Mimi was
painted up for no reasons at all..
And even worse,
she had her hair permed too. It' s bad enough to see grown-up women perm
thei.r hair into all sorts of shapes and styles - haysacks, loosewires,
bird-nests, cock-tails, name what you will,but it's their own funeral. If
they want to abuse and spoil their own hair, they are welcome to it, but
to do it to their chilren is really awful. As though that' s not enough,
the Lius had Mimi's ears pricked too in order that she may wear ear-rings
... What next? They?woulci have her feet bound too if footbinding should
suddenly become fashionable.
The way she was made up, bad as it
was, was nothing compared with the way she behaved. When Mum offered her
some sweets, she grabbed two handfuls, and refused to say a "Thank
you! " when gently reminded by her mother. "Dear girl! She is
always shy before strangers and forgets her manners! " What a
bare-faced lie! By no stretch of imagination could Mimi be described as a
shy girl . Anyway I don' t think she has had any manners to forget.
When she played
with Xiao Hong's things, her only pleasure seemed to lie in destruction.
When she started to tear up Xiao Hong's picture books, it was really too
much and Xiao Hong tried to rescue what remained by snatching them away.
Obviously Mimi had never been crossed by anyone like this before and she
started to howl like a pig being killed. Her parents rushed up to her, as,
though their darling daughter was in mortal danger.
"Horrid Xiao Hong! Spank her! Spank heri "
Mimi kept screaming. Without finding out what it was all about, and
without a single word of reprimand, the Lius were all out to mollify her.
"There, there, don' t cry my precious! Auntie will spank her later!
" But Mimi was not so easily mollified. "No, no! Mammy spank her
now!" Her mother really went up to Xiao Hong and clapped her hands
behind Xiao Hong's back, pretending to be spanking: "See if you dare
to make Mimi cry again! " This sort of farce went on and on.
Lunch was an even more hectic affair, either because
she had too much sweets in her or she was over-nourished anyway, she just
refused to eat anything. All the same she insisted on having all the best
dishes in front of her and dipped her spoon into every one of them at
will, while all the time her parents, one on each side of her, tried their
best to spoonfeed her. They coaxed and cajoled, and for every occasional
mouthful Mimi took, they cheered and praised as though it was a remarkable
feat by their darling daughter. They expected cheers and praises from us
too. More often than not, Mimi would spit out what she had just taken, and
the table was littered with her spilt and spat out food. She spoiled the
whole meal for everybody.
At last we had a moment of peace and quiet when Mimi
dozed off after the meal. But it was only a lull before another storm.
When the Lius tried gently to wake her in order to leave, she got into a
tantrum because they had disturbed her sleep, and
she kept raining blows ori her father all the way he carried her
downstairs. Serves him damn well right, I said to myself in secret
delight. At last Mimi was doing something with my full approval. I would
love her even more if she did the same to her mother.
When the door finally closed on them, Mum and Dad
looked at each other and burst out laughing. Soon we were all laughing.
Read the following passages. Underline the important
viewpoints while reading.
l. The Growing up of a Black Boy
One evening my mother told me that thereafter I would
have to do the shopping for food. She took me to the corner store to show
me the way. I was proud. I felt like a grown-up. The next afternoon I
looped the basket over my arm arid went down the pavement toward the
store. When I reached the corner, a gang of boys grabbed me, knocked me
down, snatched the basket, took the money and sent me running home in pamc.
That evening I told my mother what had happened, but
she made no comment. She sat down at once, wrote another note, gave me
more money and sent me out to the grocery again. I crept down the street
and saw the same gang of boys playing down the street. I ran back into
"What's the matter?" my mother asked.
"It's those same boys," I said. "They'll
beat me. "
"You've got to get over that," she said.
"Now, go on."
"I'm scared," I said.
"Go on. Anct don't pay any attention to
them," she said;
I went out of the door and walked briskly down the
that the gang would not molest me.
But when I came abreast of them, someone shouted,
"here he is."
They came toward me and I broke into a wild run toward
home. Thev overtook me and flung me to the pavement. I yelled, pleaded,
kicked, but they rinsed the money out of my hand. They yanked me to my
feet, gave me a few slaps and sent me home sobbing.
My mother met me at the door.
"They bea... hea... beat me, " I gasped.
"They too... too... took the mo... money . " I
stamed up the steps, seeking the shelter of the hcuse.
"Don't you come in here! " my mother warned
I froze in my tracks and stared at her. "But they
are coming after me, " I said.
"You just stay right where you are," she said
in a deadly tone. "I'm going to teach you this night to stand up and
fight for yourself." She went into the house and I waited, terrified,
wondering what she was about.
Presently she returned with more money and another
note. She also had a long heavy stick. "Take this money, this note
and this stick," she said. "(Go to the store and buy those
groceries. If those boys bother you, then fight." I was baffled. My
mother was telling me to fight - a thing that she had never done before.
"But I'm scared, "I said.
"Don't you come into this house until you've
gotten those groceries," she said.
"'rhey'll beat me.
They'll beat me," I said.
"Then stay in the streets. Don't come back
I ran up the steps and tried to force my?way past her
into the house. A stinging slap came on my jaw. I stood on the sidewalk,
crying. "Please, let me wait until tomorrow!" I begged.
"No, " she said. "Go now! If you come
back into this house without those groceries, I'll whip you. ?She slammed
the door and I heard the key turn in the lock.
I shook with fright. I was alone upon the dark, hostile
streets and gangs were after me. I Have the choice of being beaten at home
or away from home. I clutched the stick, crying, trying to reason. If I
were beaten at home, there was absolutely nothing that I could do about
it. But if I were beaten in the streets, I had a chance to fight and
I walked slowly down the sidewalk, coming closer to the
gang of boys, holding the stick tightly. I was so full of fear that I
could scarely breathe. I was almost upon them now.
"There he is again," the cry went up. They
surrounded me quickly and began to grab for my hand.
"I'll kill you." I threatened.
They closed in and, in blind fear, I let the stick fly,
feeling it crack against a boy' s skull. I swung again, landing another
skull, then another. Realizing that they would retaliate, if I let up for
but a second, I fought to lay them low, to knock them cold, to kill them
so that they could not strike back at me. I flayed with tears in my eyes,
teeth clenched, stock fear making me throw every ounce of my strength
behind each blow. I hit again and again, dropping the money and the
grocery list. The boys scattered, yelling, nursing their heads, staring at
me in utter disbelief. They had never seen such frenzy. I stood panting,
egging them on, taunting them to come on and fight. Wben they refused, I
ran after them and t.hey tore out for their homes, screaming.
The parents of the boys rushed into the streets and
thieatened me. And for the first time in my life, I shouted at grown-ups,
telling them that I would give them the same if they bothered me. I
finally found my grocery list and the money, and went to the store.
On my way back, I kept my stick poised for instant use,
but there was not a single boy in sight.
That night, I won the right to the streets of Memphis.
2. Parents Are Too
Permissive with Their Children Nowadays
Few people would defend the Victorian attitude to
children, but if you were a parent in those days, at least you knew where
you stood: children were to be seen and not heard. Freud and Company did
away with all that and parents have been bewildered ever since. The
child's happiness is all-important, the psychologists say, but what about'
the parents' happiness? Parents suffer constantly from fear and guilt
while their children gaily romp about pulling the place apart. A good
spanking is out of the question: no modern childrearing manual would
permit such barbarity.
The trouble is
you are not allowed even to shout. Who knows what deep psychological
wounds you might inflict? The poor child may never recover from the
dreadful traumatic experience. So it is that parents bend over backwards
to avoid giving their children complexes which a hundred years ago hadn't
even been heard of. Certainly a child needs love, and a lot of it. But the
excessive permissiveness of modern parents is surely doing more harm than
Psychologists have succeeded in undermining parents'
confidence in their own authority. And it hasn't taken children long to
get wind of the fact. In addition to the great modern classics on child
care, there are countless articles in magazines and newspapers. With so
much unsolicited advice flying about, mum and dad just don't know what to
do ariy more. In the end, they do nothing at all. So, from early
childhood, the kids are in charge and parent.s, lives are regulated
according to the needs of their offspring. When the little dears develop
into teenagers, they take complete control. Lax authority over the years
makes adolescent rebellion against parents all the more violent. If the
young people are going to have a party, for instance, parents are asked to
leave the house. Their presence merely spoils the fun. What else can the
poor parents do but obey?
Children are hardy creatures (far hardier than the
psychologists would have us believe) and most of them survive the harmful
influence of extreme permissiveness, which is the normal condition in the
modern household. But a great many do not. The spread of juvenile
delinquency in our own age is largely due to.parental laxity. Mother,
believing that little Johnny can look after himself, is not at home when
he returns from school, so little Johnny roams the streets. The
dividing-line between permissiveness and sheer negligence is very fine
The psychologists have much to answer for. They should
keep their mouths shut and let parents get on with the job. And if
children are knocked about a little bit in the process, it may not really
matter too much. At least this wilt help them to develop vigorous views of
their own and give them something positive to react against. Perhaps
there's some truth in the idea that children who've had a surfeit of
happiness in their childhood emerge like stodgy puddings and fail to make
a success of life.
3. Parental Piety Is Taken to Extremes
The dictionary defines "filial piety" as
"a son's or daughter's obedience to and respect for parents". It
is a pity that in reality the implication of this expression has changed
in China, a nation so proud of this virtue.
It so happened in a department store that an old
couple, after careful
selection and much hesitation, fumhled 600 yuan from their pockets for a
quality down quilt, smiling wi.t.h content when. the package was handed
over the counter.
"It's so good to see the elderly spend their
savings for their own sake. There aren't many old people who buy
expensi.ve commodities for themselves these days," commented a.
"We really should be a bit hedonistic, shouldn't.
The old couple's smile froze on hearing the words.
"It's actually for my youngest son. He's getting married soon,"
sighed the old man.
The passer-by nodded understandingly, "Show filial
piety to your son, eh?" she said half jokingly. Her words were
greeted by a fit of hollow laughter.
This role reversal-piety to one' s children-is not
uncommon, in rural areas and cities alike.
Parents save every penny for a child to enter a
self-paid college if he or she fails university entrance exams. They empty
their pockets for a son or daughter's wedding. They do all the household
chores for a child living together with them.
Without exaggeration, Chinese parents are the most
thoughtful and considerate of parents in the world. Just visit an
amusement park on Sunday and you will see how true this statement is.
When Chinese parents, or grandparents, accompany their
children to amusement parks, rarely do they ride the roller coaster or the
wonder wheel; not because they are too timid, but because they are simply
too busy queuing up for their children.
In much the same way, they would sacrifice their own
interests for the happiness of their offspring.
A 1990 survey in Bengbu, Anhui Province, found 62 per
cent of the younger families owned colour TV sets; compared with 23 per
cent in older families.
While 61 per cent of younger families possessed
refrigerators and 80 per cent had washing machines, relevant percentages
from the older families were 19 and 35.
Apart from the older generation's habitual thriftiness,
the survey said the aged spend much income on their children. Their
savings were further diminished by entertaining their extended families on
In Tianjin, a survey of 100 newly-weds found
expenditure for the occasion averaged 11, 380 yuan ( $ 2, 147 ) . Among
them, 93 per cent were "sponsored,?by parents, partiaily or totally.
That explains, to a large degree, why the homes of most
Chinese parents are rather plain, with furniture bought in the 1950s and
1960s. In sharp contrast, the homes of young couples display matching
furniture, video cassettes and audio systems. Therr houses are usually
carpeted and decorated with wallpaper.
When young people do not have houses of their own upon
marriage, their parents readily give up the best space in the house, and
retreat to smaller north-facing rooms.
When grandchildren are born, many grandparents
volunteer to be baby-sitters, caring for and bringing up the third
generation without complaint.
This "piety" towards sons and daughters is
very moving indeed. But I can't help thinking that it is more natural for
children to leave their parents and live on their own as is the practice
in other countries.In this way, children can better develop the habit of
working and living independently. The older generation, on the other hand,
can enjoy their later years in a more relaxed way.
Occasionally, parents may extend financial help to
their children if the latter are really in need of it. But they need not
lavish care on their grown-up children. It is the children who should
practise the virtue of being filial to their old parents. In this way,
society would follow a more healthy path of development.
4. Bringing up Children
[Extract from an interview.]
"One reason why the family unit is crumbling is
that parents have relinquished their authority over children. The
permissive school of thought says, "Let the child do what he wants to
when he wants to, no matter what it is, don't warp his pecsonality, don't
thwart him, you'll ruin him for life.?Because of this we've got a
generation of spoilt selfcentred brats with no respect for their elders.
Children always push to see how much they can get away with; if you give
them nothing to push against, there are no moral limits,no moral
convictions will develop in the children. We have this in the
schools-children have much less respect for their teachers nowadays.
How do you define respect?
"Realizing that someone else might have desires
also. Respect doesn't mean that when someone in authority says
"jump" you jump--that's the military approach-but young people
today, if they have an opinion that's different from yours, then you re
the fool and the re right, even if they don't have enough experience to
How do you feel about children using stwearwords?
"I never hear them swear, but I saw one of my
daughter's diaries and it was fuil of a word that I'd have spanked her for
if she'd said it aloud. Swearing goes against my sensibilities. It's
mental laziness. If people aren't allowed to swear they use their brains
to find a better word."
Do you think it's just a matter of convention or do you
think there's a deeper moral objection to swearing?
"I think it' s not done. It' s taboo in nice
society. We' ve been taught not to swear, and I think well-brought-up
people should avoid it. If I ever hear a woman use "s-h-i-t" I
think a lot less of her." (Margaret, 43, American)
Hard-working Dads Miss Seeing Their Kids Grow up
Dear Ann Landers: A number of my friends work so many
hours that they rarely see their children. When they finally make the
time,they discover that their children are grown up and have no time for
I wrote the following piece and you are welcome to
share it with your readers if you think it's good enough. Sign me-Lonely,
Dear Lonely: It's excellent. You've zeroed in on one of
the principal problems of parenthood in the ,80s. Thanks for tossing it my
Where Did the Years Go?
I remember talking to my friend a number of years ago
about our children. Mine were 5 and 7 then, just the ages when their daddy
means everything to them. I wished that I could have spent more time with
my kids but I was too busy working. After all, I wanted to give them all
the things I never had when I was growing up.
I loved the idea of coming home and having them sit on
my lap and tell me about their day. Unfortunately, most days I came home
so late that I was only able to kiss them good night after they had gone
It is amazing how fast kids grow. Before I knew it,
they were 9 and 11. I missed seeing them in school plays. Everyone said
they were terrific, but the plays always seemed to go on when I was
traveling for business or tied up in a special conference. The kids never
complained, but I could see the disappointment in their eyes.
I kept promising that I would have more time "next
year? But the higher up the corporate ladder I climbed, the less time
there seemed to be.
Suddenly they were no longer 9 and 11. They were 14 and
16. Teenagers. I didn't see my daughter the night she went out on her
first date or my son's championship basketball game. Mom made excuses and
I managed to telephone and talk to them before they left the house. I
could hear the disappointment in their voices, but I explained as best I
Don't ask where the years have gone. Those little kids
are 19 and 21 now and in college. I can't believe it. My job is less
demanding and I finally
have time for them. But they have their own interests and there is no time
for me. To be perfectly honest, I'm a little hurt.
It seems like yesterday that they were 5 and 7. I'd
give anything to live those years over. You can bet your life I'd do it
differently. But they are gone now, and so is my chance to be a real dad.
6. Parents Go back to School to Teach Children Better
Having abandoned cl.asses for more than 10 years, many
citizens in Beijing have returned to school only because they have become
They seek help to tackle a thorny problem: the
education of their "only child". Some people call these children
the "little emperors of China" .
"Many parents, either doting on their children or
behaving badly towards hem, know little about home education and thus make
errors, " said Ding Rong, a teacher from the Fourth Middle School of
After a pupil was beaten to death by his mother Last
year in Northwest
hina's Qinghai Province, a survey was made in a Beijing primary school. Of
the 36 parents surveyed, everybody knew of the incident yet none were
aware of any defects in their system of home education.
Surprisingly, some said they would follow suit if their
children failed to study properly.
"In this sense, parents' schools are badly needed,
" said Zhen Yan, deputy general-secretary of Beijing Research
Association of Home Education, which is in charge of more than 3, 500
parents' schools in the city.
The purpose of the schools, she said, was to help
parents to establish proper position for their children in a family and
society and treat them in a more enlightened way.
The schools provided a series of lectures on "how
to educate your child properly? advice given by experts and "Fumu
Bidu" ("How to become good parents") and a monthly magazine
published in Beijing with a circulation of 600, 000.
"I never thought I would re-enter school, ?said
Xiao Chengjun, a 40-year-old woman worker, "I was taken aback when I
was first asked the question 'Do you really know your child?'"
Jiang Bo, her 14-year-old son, was a second-year
student of Hujialou Middle School in Beijing's Chaoyang District. Of six
courses, he failed three of his first term exams. Xiao got angry and beat
him, but he showed no improvement.
It was not until she took courses in a parents' school
that she realized beating is pointless. The following term, Jiang Bo
succeeded in all his lessons and helped teach his mother English.
"Children are easily affected," said Ding
Rong, "the disharmony, and often the disputes in a family places the
child in an awkward position. "
Parents, who are the first teachers of their children,
need not only to instruct, but to.be educated, even by their children,
said an expert.
One pupil complained in a composition that his father,
a chain smoker, always left the smell of smoke in the living room and he
could not do his homework there.
Another wrote that his father often played mahjong and
the noise kept him awake most of the night.
"It's the father's fault not to educate his son
himself," is an old saying. "But, it's also the father' s fault
if he sets his son a bad example, " said Zhen Yan.
Since China pursues the policy of "one child for
one couple", many parents are expecting too much from their children.
In Taoranting Primary School, Beijing , s Xuanwu
District, 423 parents, over 87 per cent of the total surveyed, wanted
their children to become university students. About half of them
threaiened to punish their children if they did not pass their exams.
A parents' school set up by the First Experimental
Primary School suggested that parents allow their children to take over
some household duties on Sundays to build up their sense of
Some parents admitted they ignored the physiological
and psychological changes in their children and thus treated them with
beatings and scoldings.
A parent said, "After attending the class, I
know more about my child and she also understands me more. "