Feb 25, 2011 - Culture, Food, Life, Parenting    3 Comments

My Many Faces of Parenting and a Parenting Compass

As Georgia progressively interacts with more and more with people outside of our home and our immediate circle of friends, I have become more aware of how many different ‘parenting faces’ I have and which I call upon depending on the situations.

It often feels as if we have an embedded inner compass of actions, reactions and culture that unfortunately, unlike a true magnetic compass that points due North; this inner compass often flip-flops between East or West (cultural influences) and all points in between.

Parenting Compass

I have often attributed a large part of this, to the fact that we are parenting and raising a child in a culture and environment so completely different from the one we were raised in (being immigrants).

Beyond cultural influences, however, it has also occurred to me that technology, the changes of societal demands and simply how things have changed over a generation is reason enough to continuously reflect on and question the decisions we now make, or have to make, as parents.

The oft-heard cry of ‘Back in my day…’ is universal; we have added recently though a ‘We do not do that…’ to our arsenal of reasons or excuses, often, rightly or wrongly (any thoughts would be welcome here!) with a cultural implication.

An example is saying ‘Yuck!’ to food.

Perhaps because we are natural indigenous foodies (all Malaysians are!) the idea that food can be ‘Yucky’ is almost incomprehensible, but in addition to that, the fact that there are millions upon millions of  hungry starving people and what is ‘Yummy’ to someone might be ‘Yucks’ to another, makes ‘Yuck’ an unacceptable description of food in our house.

So, Georgia has been told, that ‘We do not say ‘Yucks’ to food’. She is allowed strongly encouraged to say if she does not like it, but it is unacceptable to say ‘Yuck’. This is in contrast to most of her friends or peers who seem to say ‘Yucks’ to anything and everything food-wise that they simply do not like the look of.

Perhaps it does not help that most, have teenage siblings for which ‘Yuck’ is communication enough, but what I find interesting is that most parents here simply shrug and put up with it. Consequently, almost five year olds vehemently say ‘Yuck! I’m not going to eat that’, and get their way.

On the other hand though, the self-assurance and confidence that allows a five-year old to voice so passionately and convincingly, often vehemently, their views and opinions can only be attributed to the open liberal ‘Western’ parenting that accepts and encourages each child to be themselves.  

As with all experiences, time is a great teacher, and I find myself in a slightly better, less conflicting view of the choices I am to make to try to steer that middle path between Eastern values and Western culture. (This is in comparison to my ‘conflicted’ self of almost 4 years ago) deciding which ‘face’ I put on for which situation and deciding which direction to travel further along.

From our own Eastern culture, I hope we can pass on to Georgia a sense of respect for everything and everyone and as an extension to that, the grace of humility without the burden of guilt. I hope we can encourage her to work as hard and as smart as she always can and to always be the very best that she can be.

 Within the Western culture that we are surrounded by, I hope that she will continue to be confident to speak her mind and voice her opinions, and at the same time learn to accept that other people are entitled to their own opinions. We want her to know that, success, is not always defined by money, popularity or achievement and that it is a lot more important to be content and happy in life.

 Do you have a list of ‘must have’ values for your children? What are they informed by?

© 2011, Li-ling. All rights reserved.


  • I agree with you completely with regards to thinking food is “yucky”. If I’m offering it to you to eat, then it must not be that bad! It seems better to begin from the premise that whatever your mother serves you is at least edible, and then if you happen to like it, bonus!

    I wish I’d never asked my kids what they want or like as far as food goes. I know that sounds terrible from the Western perspective, but my desire for my kids to enjoy and appreciate food has spiraled into some of them deciding on a whim what they “feel” like eating for a meal, and pitching big fits if they aren’t going to get it, when there are six other people in the house I also have to feed who probably “feel” like something different. I should have left meal selection to our rare restaurant outings. Now I feel like a short order cook, trying to figure out what everyone will eat.

    • Reading your comment, made me realise, most Asian-Chinese families probably to have hints of this problem too, I think the difference lies mainly in the fact that a typical Chinese meal would consist of a staple of rice and at least 3-4 other dishes (a soup, a meat, a vege and a fish) and within this choice there would usually be at least one thing that a child would eat/tolerate, so the fussiness over food probably isn’t magnified quite so vastly as a typical western family meal.
      Your children are so lucky though! Would creating a weekly menu/food schedule help? At least you’ll know what to cook and they’ll know what to expect.

  • I should try the schedule again, I haven’t done that for years. At least that way they could get used to the idea that there was going to be something “yucky” for dinner and not have an upsetting surprise as I’m fixing it! And maybe I’ll hang the schedule at the other end of the house, so I can’t hear their disappointment when they read it! 😀 Thanks for the suggestion.

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