Friday, May 02, 2008

Exuberant Affirmation

This must be my lucky time of year for getting parenting wisdom from those who were raised in the Eastern world but are now raising their children in the West. This time it comes from a Korean mother of twin kindergarteners. She grew up in Seoul and came to the States as an undergrad and went on to complete that, a related masters and finally an MBA. She's been in the workforce for about six years now and has this interesting observation.

In her culture it is normal for parents not to praise their children for a job well done. So if she scored a 90%, her father merely acknowledged it. For a 95% or a 100% he might he less perfunctory in doing so. Her parents would never tell her that she had done a great job and they were very proud of her. This is completely in line with what I have experienced growing up in India. As a student you are expected to deliver excellent grades as a matter of course. That is business as usual. It's only when you fail that parents get involved and give you the kind of attention you really don't want.

K contends that our culture's refusal to affirm kids lavishly has a downside. Right from her undergrad days in the States, she noticed a significant difference between Asian and Caucasian students in the style and substance of their presentations. A lot of the Asians would have unbeatable content but their delivery lacked confidence and panache. With the Caucasians often the reverse was true.

She believes this has everything to do with the how their parents treated their achievements since childhood. According to her the exuberant affirmation that the Asian kids never received made all the difference – despite their considerable talent and ability, their self-worth remained somewhat lacking. The Caucasians won hands down in that area.

I have to agree with K’s analysis and think have taken the middle ground here. I never praise J for the outcome of her work but do compliment the tenacity, the focus or the desire to learn that helped her achieve that outcome. Whether my efforts will make J the confident and outgoing young person that K longed to be in her undergrad days only time will tell.

1 comment:

as said...

There was an article in the New York magazine which suggests the same idea: