Tag Archives: Adolescents

Confucianism and the Drive for Self-Cultivation: Parenting Without Borders, Part 7

[Note: This series started two years ago! I had hoped to finish it last summer, but packing/moving made that a bit more complicated than I thought. I finally finished reading this book this past weekend, so I’m confident that the last several posts in this series will be published in the coming weeks. Thanks for sticking around!]

In the Introduction, we broached the idea that the way other cultures parent might be more “right” than the way that the culture in North America parents, as discussed in the book Parenting Without Borders. In Part 1, we looked at some of the different cultural thoughts around sleep. There was also that stunning example of how it’s normal for babies in Scandinavia to be found taking a nap on the terrace in the dead of winter! In Part 2, we explored “stuff” and how having more of it might not be best for our children. In Part 3, we looked at how different cultures relate to food in the context of parenting. In Part 4, we looked at how saying “good job” to our little ones might not have the effect we think it does. In Part 5, we talked about the virtues of allowing our little ones the space to work through problems on their own. In Part 6, we examined the importance of unstructured “play.” In Part 7, we’ll explore what education is like in East Asia.

Early on in this chapter, Gross-Loh explained that Confucianism has a big influence in China and South Korea. In particular, learning isn’t seen as a means to an end, necessarily. Rather, learning is a way to better one’s self through self-cultivation. While my understanding might be somewhat limited to my experience, I don’t know that I’ve met many people through my extensive education in North America where the goal was self-cultivation and not a means to an end (i.e. get the degree and get out). That’s not to say that that’s necessarily a bad way of looking at education, but just to highlight possible differences.

There’s one passage that emphasizes this ideal of self-cultivation. Gross-Loh is visiting an elite boarding school in China. As her trip is wrapping up, she was meeting with some of the people at the school:

On our last day in China, I met with Gao Chen, head of the entire school, with two teachers and interpreters. After our conversation, something happened that really surprised me. Gao Chen asked my advice, my thoughts, on learning, on how to raise children to become successful in life. The moment I began to cobble together a hesitant answer, every person in the room bent her head down to the table and began writing down every word I said. No one, not even the illustrious head of one of the most elite schools in China, was going to let a potential opportunity for learning and self-improvement pass by.

Even these experts in education, at a well-regarded institution, thought that they could still learn something from their humble guests. How wonderful!

Earlier on in the chapter, we learn the importance that East Asian cultures place on learning “skills.” For instance, in the school discussed above, every student must be skilled in Chinese, math, and science. This ideal is shared amongst East Asian cultures, too. The quote that hammers home this idea of the importance of skills:

No one thinks it’s interesting if a calligrapher breaks rules of calligraphy that he has not totally, and utterly, mastered. Once he has mastered the rules, that’s when thinking outside the box is interesting.

There’s certainly merit to that. Sometimes, it takes knowing a topic inside and out before you’re able to see it from a different angle and appreciate that different angle.

As the chapter comes to a close, there’s a discussion about the level of children’s responsibility through adolescence. In North America, children feel a decreasing sense of obligation to “hang out with their family,” whereas in East Asia, this doesn’t happen. In thinking about the two different cultures, there appears to be a logical reason.

North America tends to be “individualistic” and so it’s natural that as children make their way through adolescence, they would stretch the boundaries of the individualistic culture. Similarly, East Asian cultures tend to be “collectivistic,” so you’d expect that there’d be a strong sense of family and community that continues as children mature.

The key difference in the research shows that this hands-off approach in North America might not be what’s best for children still trying to internalize goals and expectations:

Research on American adolescents’ drug and alcohol use shows that teens who are emotionally close to their parents and know they disapprove of substance use are more likely to abstain.

The researcher quoted goes on to note that there’s a dearth of research on what happens to children after early adolescence who’ve had a closer connection with their family.

“I think we could use a little Chinese parenting, and they could use a little American,” she said with a laugh.

Coping Strategies Used by Teens When Criticized by Their Peers for Their Brand Choice

Remember back in high school, middle school, or elementary school when you were worried to go to school because your jeans weren’t Levis, or Jordache, or Lucky, or whatever name brand was popular when you were an adolescent? A couple of researchers from Paris decided that they were going to take a closer look at this phenomenon. That is, how we coped (or cope) with being criticized for not wearing the ‘right’ clothes.

Their results revealed that we have five main coping strategies for these situations: justification, revenge, denial, self-reproach, and making the criticizers feel guilty. Can you remember how you reacted (or might have reacted) if you were in one of these situations? Personally, I have a hard time remembering what I might have said (or did say), so let’s take a look at some of the responses.

In justification:

I tell them why I bought this particular brand.

I justify my choice, explaining why I picked this brand, the circumstances of my purchase, etc.

I explain what are the reasons that pushed me to make this brand choice in particular.

In revenge:

I no longer bother to criticize their clothes.

I try to get my own back by criticizing their clothes.

From now on I’ll carefully take note of how they look and won’t hold back from criticizing it.

In denial:

I act as if I hadn’t heard what they said.

I act is if nothing’s been said. [sic]

I imagine that they haven’t said anything and that’s enough to fix the problem.

In self-reproach:

I bear a grudge against myself: why did I choose this jeans’ brand? It’s rubbish!

I think that I wouldn’t have to buy an unknown brand for my friends.

In making the criticizers feel guilty:

I tell them it’s not cool to criticize people about their appearance.

I tell them it’s not very nice for one’s friends to make comments like that.

After reading the responses under the five strategies, do you think adolescents would be more inclined to use one strategy over the other? What about in girls vs. boys? It turns, that’s the case.

The researchers found that the emotion-centered coping strategies (denial and self-reproach) were the strategies that were mostly influenced by “perceived controllability,” which is, “evaluation of the capacity people believe they have to do or not do something when confronted with a situation.” This runs opposite to previous theories, with regard to coping and so the researchers advocated caution when examining coping strategies from the perspective of major dimensions and that more care should be taken to include context.

One last piece that I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls. That is, the researchers found that girls, more than boys, were more likely to make the criticizers feel guilty. This made me wonder about this whole idea of girls developing emotionally before boys and that girls are more empathetic. I wonder if we looked at boys when they reached the same “level of maturity,” would they begin using this last coping strategy more than the others?

More than this, though, I wonder about the cultural effects on coping strategies. I continuously refer back to the documentary Miss Representation and its soon-to-be released brother, The Mask You Live In. The perspectives presented in those documentaries highlight the importance of culture and media on our youth, too. Maybe our adolescents wouldn’t have to develop coping strategies for combatting criticism about their clothing, if kids didn’t even think it was “cool” to criticize someone for the clothes they wear.

ResearchBlogging.orgSarah Benmoyal-Bouzaglo, & Denis Guiot (2013). The coping strategies used by teenagers criticized by their peers for their brand choice Recherche et Applications en Marketing DOI: 10.1177/2051570713487478