Today I had a really interesting conversation with one of my stay-at-home-dad friends. He is born & raised in Hong Kong, and is Hong Kong Chinese. This makes his staying at home with his child super crazy as it is definitely not common for a man to stay at home with their child here. So, he’s already outside of the traditional “box” for a dad. But I suspected it was not as far away from the box as he thought. And although I am American, I am definitely not a traditional American in how I raise my child, either. So it was an interesting conversation.
We were talking about letting the little ones, especially at this age, learn. For me, this means letting the little guy sometimes fall, drop something, or otherwise do things that could potentially hurt him – but not harm him (if that makes sense?). In other words, if the little guy wants to stand on a toy that will fall over, causing him to fall, then I will warn him, and then if he still wants to do it, my logic is to let him do it so he can learn for himself. If however there is a table corner right there, I’ll put my hand over it so that when he falls, he won’t harm himself.
For my friend, he would prevent his son from doing the above example altogether. So, the toy would be taken away, or the child would be taken away from the situation, thus saving any kind of predicament at all from happening. I can appreciate this, of course I do not want my son to hurt himself. However, my logic is, if you wrap your kid in bubble wrap (theoretical or real), you do not really let them learn – and they can learn so many things from you not interjecting. For example maybe they learn that you, the parent, are not an idiot and your warnings are good advice. They might also learn how to fall, or that the world does not end when they fall and it hurts. They might also learn how to be careful. And so on. If you interject all the time, I feel that the main thing they learn is that they do not have responsibility for their own actions, and it can hinder their learning about real life stuff.
One thing that I mentioned while talking is that I had noticed that my friend is a lot more hands on while his child is playing, and he interjects much more with his son while he is playing than the other parents – who are all European. He said that it is not like the Chinese parents, who do not let their kids do anything, and are so worried they really protect them from everything. He said he believes he must wait until his kid is developmentally (mentally, emotionally, and fine-motor skills-wise) ready for things.
I countered that if you always are waiting for them to be “ready” for something – for example walking down the stairs or running around an open space without your guidance, maybe you are not allowing them to become “ready” because you keep interjecting. If I were to keep putting my son in the stroller every time that he was walking because he was not walking very stably, then how is that helping the development of his walking? Seems to me that you should simply let the kid learn how to walk, which involves falling – a lot – and they will figure it out much quicker than if you interject all the time.
I also made a point that I think is huge: people baby their kids too much. Especially toddlers. Toddlers are not babies. They are smart. They learn a lot every day. They are not babies. So, when I see people treat their kids who are 5, 4, 3, 2, or even 1,5 years old as if they are babies, it really drives me crazy, because I believe this is a really detrimental thing to do to them – and it happens because people are not moving on while their child moves along in their development. As a parent, we need to keep moving with our child. You don’t keep feeding them puree for dinner once they are eating solid foods, right? Then the same applies to how you treat them as they get older, too.
In the end we said that there are many paths to the end-point. Everyone has their own logic, and they make the parenting decisions based on what makes sense in their logic. Super interesting to think about not only cultural difference when raising children, but also simple individual differences that are based on a person’s world view.