Saturday, October 22, 2005

Korean child raising techniques

Don't tell us we didn't spoil you.

That was the email my mom sent with this link about these insane Korean girls who wrote this book on how to raise your kids as Korean overachievers.

October 16, 2005
Item: Sisters Think Parents Did O.K.
WHEN they were growing up, Dr. Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Kim used to sit, like many children, in the shopping cart next to the candy racks at the checkout line and wail loudly, hoping that their humiliated mother or father would cave in and shush them with a Snickers bar.

But their parents, who were hard-working middle-class immigrants from Korea, had other ideas. Eventually they set a rule: Read one book from the library this week, receive one candy bar the next. Looking back on it, the sisters are not complaining. Instead, in "Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers - and How You Can Too" (Berkley), to be published Nov. 1, they applaud their parents' coercions. "We read the book, and we got the candy," said Dr. Abboud, 32, who is a surgeon and clinical assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. "We didn't go without."

Go without what? A normal childhood? Yeah right. Basically these kids were raised like pavolovian dogs. I bet every time they pass a bookstore their bloodsugar goes up. What if these kids read too many books? Then they would be obese.

I took a psychology course in college and what these sisters are promoting sounds like is this scientist named Skinner who pioneered this philosophy called behaviorism. From what I remember it had to with negative and positive stimulus.

In "Top of the Class" the Kim sisters advise parents who want successful children to raise them just as the Kims did - in strict households in which parents spend hours every day educating their children, where access to pop culture is limited, and where children are taught that their failures reflect poorly on the family.

WTF! Failure is a part of life. It happens to all of us. Look at the cast of Desperate Housewives. If you have watched the E True Hollywood story you’ll know that Teri Hatcher had a string of failures but she kept on going and got a gig at Radioshack in order to maintain her name in the public. Failure is the name of the game. I’m learning about it everyday.

But while this approach is common in many Asian countries and among many immigrant groups in the United States, it runs counter to an American culture that celebrates if not venerates self-expression and the freedom of youth. (This is, after all, the country that invented the teenager.) And some educators believe such a single-minded focus on achievement can be harmful. "Often I will see Asian-American kids become lost when they get to the university," said Kyeyoung Park, an associate professor of anthropology and Asian studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who teaches many first-generation Asian students. "They feel disoriented, because they realize they've been sheltered and the world is not as their parents said it was."

Asian American kids are not lost. Trust me. When they come to college they are set free.

Still, the sisters insist that in an age in which competition to succeed has never been greater and American parents are spending thousands of dollars on tutors and counseling for their children, traditional Asian methods are proven to work. They note that students of Asian descent make up about 25 percent of undergraduates at top universities like Stanford and Penn (and 41 percent at the University of California, Berkeley), even though Asians are less than 4 percent of the population, and that as of 2002 Asian-Americans had a median household income about $10,000 higher than the national average.

Part of their motivation for writing the book, the sisters say, was to counter the assumption that Asian students perform better simply because they are smarter. "My sister and I are not exceptionally gifted," said Dr. Abboud. "We're O.K. This is something anyone can do. It doesn't take a lot of money or private schools just to get kids learning on a daily basis."

Their right. Anyone can do this. Anyone who wants to give up having a life. But maybe that's what you have to do. Maybe these sisters are onto something. Maybe I am completely wrong about this.

As children the Kims were not learning on a daily basis, but an hourly one. One daughter's C-minus in biology could cast shame upon them all, so the Kim family reviewed each report card as a group in order to strategize about how each child could address weaknesses. The Kim parents also insisted their daughters come straight home to study after school instead of hanging out with friends (whom they could see on weekends only), and limited each girl to one hour of television a week and 15 minutes on the phone a day.

What kind of f**ked up family is this? Did the Kims parents also time their bowel movements? My parents would never ever do something so anal. If they did my sister and I would rebel. My parents philosophy with us was to pretty much let us figure out what to do. They figured that by bullying us into doing something would only piss us off and rebel. It was up to us to find out what we wanted to do with ourselves. If we were messing up in school, they would let us know what was up. One time I had to miss one of the biggest parties of my junior year in high school because my French teacher told my mom that I would fail the semester if I didn’t pass the final.

Every night the girls would complete hours of homework assigned by teachers and then do more lessons with their parents. Even artistic pursuits were approached with achievement in mind. Both girls played the piano and won several prizes.

"Our parents viewed competition as a necessary and unavoidable part of life," explained Ms. Kim, 29, who has a law degree from Temple University and works as an immigration specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "They wanted us to embrace, not fear, it."

Ok. Your going to school. Not training for the freaking Olympics. These parents are turing competition in heroin and forcing their daughters to snort and shoot. Where's the boyfriends? Where's the dating? Where's the time to hangout at a cafe wiht

Dr. Abboud and Ms. Kim, who were educated in public high schools, believe that Asian-Americans succeed in part because Asian parents are willing to sacrifice their own leisure time to micromanage their children's educational progress. While neither woman has children - Dr. Abboud is married to an orthopedic surgeon, Ms. Kim is single - they don't hold back from prescribing parenting advice. "It's tough, because parents are so much more busy now," Dr. Abboud acknowledged. "Not many could do the three hours of teaching that we had. Even we couldn't do that. But you can still do 45 minutes."
Ok. First off that is such bulls**t. I know many people who are non Asians who are willing to sacrifice for their children. All parents sacrifice for their kids. Why is it that everyone thinks it is the Asians who are the only ones who think about their kids?

They are less understanding about what they view to be a particularly pernicious form of American overindulgence. "Too many parents now are into positive reinforcement for everything," explained Dr. Abboud. "In America people are so scared about doing anything that might negatively impact their children that they applaud every little thing they do. In Asia they expect both effort and results."

Well expecting effort and results all them can also mess up your kids too. I mean how would you feel if your parents love was based on your report card or SATS?

Both Kim sisters recall struggling at times with their parents' discipline and expectations. Dr. Abboud said she felt alienated and lonely at times during high school in Raleigh, N.C., and Ms. Kim, who was more gregarious and rebellious, initially wanted to be a writer. Her parents gave her a year after college to pursue it, but after Ms. Kim's efforts to find a job at a magazine foundered, she agreed to go to law school. Today she is happy she did. "American parents will say, 'Do whatever makes you happy, even if the talent isn't there,' " Ms. Kim said. "You need a reality check."

The reality is this. Sometimes you do want and sometimes you what your parents want. It either works out or it doesn’t. There are no guarantees in life. That's why you have to just go for it. Do your own thing. We only come around this world once.

For immigrants like the Kim parents, pursuing a life organized around the single principle of career achievement makes a certain sense because their children will be rewarded by better lives. Still, the relentless pressure to succeed can backfire. Peter A. Spevak, a psychologist who runs the Center for Applied Motivation in Rockville, Md., where he strives to help patients build career success, says that children who are pushed too hard may eventually prosper but can end up being "very frustrated" adults who feel like they "missed their own childhood."

"They can become a successful attorney," Dr. Spevak said, "but there's an emptiness to them."

I understand what they are trying to do. I can respect that. I really do. They want thebest for their children. Every parent wants that. But you can only push someone so much until they break.

The authors themselves acknowledge that Asian career values can be hazardous to one's health if taken to an extreme degree, as in Japan, where pressures to excel in an exam-focused educational system have been linked with high dropout rates, social withdrawal and suicide. "That's one stereotype we don't want to perpetuate," said Dr. Abboud, who said rules of the house should be strict but not oppressive.

Without even considering the psychic costs, American readers might find the book's narrow definition of success myopic in a country with such a vast plate of career options to sample from. Even some first-generation Asian-Americans do.

One such person is Minya Oh, a host for the New York radio station Hot 97 who goes by the on-air name Miss Info. Ms. Oh grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where her Korean-born parents owned a toy store. Like the Kims, the Oh parents pushed their daughter relentlessly and hoped that the academic intensity found at the nearby University of Chicago would rub off on her. They tirelessly attempted to steer her toward a career as an architect, she said, even though she had no interest in math or buildings.

Unfortunately for her parents, it was the rap music she heard around the neighborhood, not the hushed conversation on the campus, that made Ms. Oh prick up her ears. Her parents, she said, were gravely concerned when she decided to pursue her love of hip-hop as a career. They still are. After a decade of writing for magazines and appearing on radio and television, Ms. Oh still must endure her mother's reminders that it is not too late for, say, law school. The needling still rankles Ms. Oh, who said she considers herself a rebel against the old-world Asian success ethic.

I see Miss info all the time on VH1. I had idea she was Korean. No wonder she is a badass. Her parents should be so proud. She is like a really big deal. I mean if she was my daughter I would be bragging to all of the Korean parents about my daughter the hip hop dj.

But she is not sure her voice would be heard daily by 2.2 million listeners without it.

"Even when you rebel as a Korean-American child, you can only rebel so much," Ms. Oh said. "You have no option of absolutely falling off the overachiever wagon and being a schlump."

I am pretty harsh about this whole Korean overachiever thing but I have first hand experience in this situation. When I was looking at colleges in my Junior year I ended up going looking at Ithaca. I had this really cool orientation leader who showed me the best bars in Ithaca and introduced me to the sorority scene. Anyways she took me to this sorority party at Cornell. After a couple of Heinies my OL and the sorority sisters were talking about freshman year and started talking about roommate stories. One senior Lisa had the worst story. Her roommate was this Korean girl from Jersey who was going pre-med. It was hot and cold with her all the time. She was either never in her room studying or she would be banging some guy she picked up at a party. The girl was really suppressed. As Lisa put it “She was like a Catholic High School girl with chopsticks”. It got to be really annoying living with her because she would borrow Lisa’s clothes and Lisa never knew what to expect. One time a bunch of jocks were hanging out in her room doing shots with her Lisa’s roommate. Lisa found out later that they were members of the football team and her roommate joked that her goal this year was to do the starting lineup. There was also tons of drama with the guys she would be dating. Then her roommate would either be crying and screaming in Korean with her parents. The irony was that Lisa was able to pick up some Korean from listening to the conversations. Sophomore Lisa’s roommate dropped out of the first semesters after she tried stab her boyfriends with a steak knife at a restaurant. The funny thing is that from listening to Lisa screech on the phone with her parents, Lisa picked up some Korean, went to Korea for her Junior year and this 6ft blonde from Montana even had a Korean boyfriend at that time.

I am not trying to be prejudice. I am saying what I have heard and I don’t think these sisters have it right. Think about it. First of all none of them have kids. Second of all They are both in their thirties. (As far as I am concerned 29 is 30.) And one isn’t married.

Raising successful kids is not as easy everyone thinks it is. I'm not a mom yet but I know enough all parents can do is the best they can and hope for the best.

I do now that I will never pick a fight with Korean girls. They could probably kick my ass with all that luggage they are carrying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are one dumb fat pig.

11:19 AM  
Blogger bubbles said...

I think this article raisies some interesting points, but I think it comes across as csaying that a good education is the be all and end all for achiving something. Just because you have fantastic grades and attend ivy school, doesn't necessarily mean you are all around wonderful, it just means you have achieved certain academic achievements.
I think that people need to have a 'social' education as well, being able to forge relationships with friends and have social skills is sometimes just as important as having the 'book' smarts. I have met so many pre med students who can hardley hold a conversation about anything but upcoming exams, I mean, these people are going to make horrible doctors!! I want a GP who can actually atlk to me and make me feel comfortable, as well as being knowledgable! If that means they were down at the pub a few nights of the week and had slightly lower grades, then so be it!!!
I must say tho that I don't think this is simply a 'korean' or 'asian' issue, it can apply to anyone really!

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bubbles, you are as dumb as the fat pig.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prada Princess,
You may not agree with Korean upbringing and your parents may not either, but look at the mess you've become.
With that in mind, maybe the Korean (Asian) way isn't so bad? Do you want to have a kid who is going to grow up to be like you?

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Ole said...

I agree with the first poster. Whether or not you raise interesting points, you do it in a way that makes you sound a) ignorant b) bigoted and c) stupid.

If you're going to talk about topics as serious as behaviourism and racial identity, do yourself some favours. Check that spoiled upbringing at the door, and use a fucking spellchecker.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this korean chicks are crazy.
but the american system of educating a kid is not good either.
im from colombia and i went to a not so good private school. while still in high school , i went to the u.s to live whith an uncle and i got into this nice high school that was supossed to be the best in the state. i was not a very good student in colombia , but then in this american high school, by doing nothing , i got straight a`s ,every one was incredibly lazy.., and it was more than common to hear 7 year olds telling to their moms things like." shut up you bitch.."
i think good education has to focus in lots of aspects and if america wants to keep the life it keeps , they have to change their ways raising kids.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I would prefer to turn out like the Korean sisters rather than the arrogent, close-minded person that you have shown yourself to be in this article.

12:05 PM  
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