My daughter Hao Hao was once a timid child who cried at every little thing. She even got kicked out of sports camp because she dissolved into a flood of tears every time she got "out" in softball or tag. Once when she was at Leslie Science Center, she cried on a hike through the woods because she was afraid of the spider webs on the trail. Instead of giving in to her tears as the teachers and moms at Chinese School tended to do, the Leslie Science Center instructor simply handed her a butterfly net to empower her to wave away the spider webs as she marched down the trail, head and butterfly net held up high.
In that transformative moment, I realized that I had to figure out how to select the best from each of the many cultures we had before us, rather than all of one or the other, and that I had to prepare my children for their future lives as adults in America, sometimes even mainstream America.
Many cultures, not just Asian ones, reward the “good girl” who is nice and quiet and obedient. As a parent, it can be a huge pain to have intelligent, articulate girls who question everything you say (I know, I have three), but in the long run, I know those are characteristics that are critical to their success in America. They need to be able to think independently, speak their mind, articulate their reasoning, and back it all up with research and evidence. So they are not really “talking back” (for which I used to be scolded), they are “practicing” or developing their public speaking skills. (When I cannot take it anymore, I try to get them to speak up more in school rather than home—just kidding, teachers!) (click on link for more)
A different kind of Mother's Day gift: watching kids compete at Chinese speech tournament - AnnArbor.com