Punishment on Child: Chinese and American Approaches to Discipline

free essayChild disciplining is a combination of mental and emotional wellness. The type of disciplinary action taken might influence the mental or emotional state of mind of a child strongly. Whether the parents are authoritative or permissive, each of them wishes the best for their kids but the right method of discipline the latter should gain is ambiguous (Halfon, McLearn, and Mark 34). If the mode of discipline applied fails, a child can develop temporary or permanent negative psychological effect, which he/she will probably have to live with as he/she grows; it can highly inconvenience them or people living around (Stearns 41).

Research Method

In order to analyze the subtle differences between methods of instilling discipline in China and America, the questionnaire created comprise of questions that would reveal key information relating to the subject matter. Most of research students were the ones who study at college and, on overall, 100 of them were interviewed (50 Chinese and 50 American’s). However, the interviewer approached the respondents differently basing on their background.

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Chinese Approach to Discipline

In China and the whole of Asia, parents often raise their children under a whole range of physical discipline methods, which usually blend with abundant love. The ideas of discipline among Chinese families greatly differ from the mainstream American views. What the Americans consider child abuse is regarded as the most effective Asian method of inculcating ethics and good values to their children. Chinese disregard how their children feel towards particular things, and as far as they are concerned, the kids have to follow the directions of their parents whether they like it or not (Foner 45). The practices of instilling discipline in China base on Confucian ethics and the belief that children arrive from gods with inherent good nature, which ones have to respect.

There is an old Chinese saying dating back before the Qin’s Dynasty, which goes, “To be beaten is the best sign of affection while being scolded is a sign of love.” Parents often remind their children that indiscipline hurts them more than the pain the child suffers. Thus, in this way, it is all for the good of the society and his/her future. The Chinese believe that to hit a child means to show a sign of love and the more a child is hit, the more love is portrayed. Apart from the sadistic, abusive, and mentally unstable parenting that poses vicious attacks on their children, there is no apparent reason not to punish Asian kids at all. For most of parents, it is just a social and cultural practice of instilling the right behavior in kids hoping to make them more reliable people in their adulthood (Chan 54). Chinese parents believe that their children have the ability and capacity to achieve anything they want in life as long as they have mind to do so and the right discipline. These beliefs foster a system of interdependent families that requires elders to be responsible for training, educating, disciplining, and governing children in the society.

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One has to know that Chinese parents believe in their kids and always help them in realization of their full potential. All of them also subjugate their children to a whole variety of available methods of physical, verbal, and behavioral discipline. That is the reason why parents do not accept excuses to substandard performance. According to Brettell and Carolyn (21), the Chinese conceptualize children under two distinct periods. At first, there is the time of innocence where the mother is responsible for nurturing the child and tending to each of its needs. This stage would be considered lenient or indulgent under the western standards because they believe that the kids lack the cognitive competence and are unable to learn effectively. The second stage is the age of understanding, which ranges between the age of 5 to 7 years. During this period, the stricter methods of training and disciplining are applied because the kid has the capacity to understand (Mitchel 33). The factors that greatly contribute to the acceptance of child punishment as a form of disciplining are cultural practices, religion, creative arts that require physical involvement as well as lack of erosive regulations that undermine child disciplining.

American Approach to Discipline

The American parents preside on the child’s happiness and focus on his/her mental and emotional well-being. They are also extremely concerned about the child’s self-esteem. In most cases, the Americans would sweetly ask their kids to show the best results in everything. This type of discipline is basically founded on positive reinforcement. The parents nurture and love their kids in a manner that they behave with them like friends rather than authoritative figures (Chen, Sheying, and Jason, 29). The parents and children have casual interactions, and they often prefer to solve all the problems when they are unhappy.

The parents often consult with their children on policy decisions and explain them the rationale of family rules. The parent often states fewer demands on household responsibilities and does it in an orderly manner. Parents present themselves to their children neither as useful resources and ideals for them to emulate nor as an active agent with the responsibility of shaping their future behaviors. The children are allowed to regulate their own activities with fewer control; parents also do not encourage them to obey externally imposed standards because they are taught to reason.

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This mode of interaction between parents and their children can basically be attributed to ones with dissolved traditional values and lack of societal pressures. Living as a social unit is no longer the case in America because the social and cultural fabric is already dissolved. The society is quickly adopting the practices of modern parenting as a critical component of raising emotionally and mentally healthy children. This is the result of shifting from the paradigm of authoritarian techniques to the one incorporating compassionate and reasonability on the part of the child. In addition, the concept of interdependence and allowing the law and human rights to influence has reduced the impact of parents to their children.

Questionnaire Analysis

The following are the results obtained from the research conducted among Chinese and American public in order to understand how parents from these countries discipline their children. The survey also sought to explore how information is passed from parents to their children or by family members. A hundred respondents participated in the research.

Demographic factors

Gender distribution was unequal among the participants. There were slightly less males (48) than females (52) participating in this research. More Chinese men wanted to participate in the research than women while among Americans, there was an opposite tendency. Age of the respondents is demonstrated in the Figure 1. It shows that majority of the respondents were in the age range between 19 and 30 years old. This is important because most of them are in the child-bearing age and may provide the crucial information required about discipline of children from experience or their society.

Marital status is illustrated in Table 1. It shows the marital distribution of the respondents, and the majority of them are already parents or aspiring to be them. This means that they have the right knowledge and experience for understanding parenting issues. The data about the highest verifiable education level was also collected. The aim of collecting this information is to establish the respondents’ knowhow about various social, cultural, and environmental issues relating to child discipline in different parts of the world.


Table 1

Marital Status

Chinese (number/percentage) American (number/percentage)
Single 8 16 15 30
Married 15 30 16 32
Single with a child 7 14 11 22
Separated 18 36 4 8
Divorced 2 4 4 8

Response to Child Indiscipline

There was a need to understand the individual statuses of respondents in regards to being a parent or waiting to become one. The Chinese appear to bear children at a younger age than the Americans. There were more single Americans than the Chinese. This information helps in understanding the personal attitude towards parenthood of the respondents.

Another point that the questionnaire revealed is the methods of punishment used. The Table 2 shows that most Americans prefer talking to their kids when they are wrong rather than punishing them. However, the Chinese would choose to talk less and rather scold and punish their children for wrongdoing.

Table 2

Mode of punishing/disciplining of children

Chinese (number/percentage) Americans (number/percentage)
Scolding 18 36 15 30
Talk 13 26 27 54
Punish 19 38 8 16

The results show that most Chinese parents find nothing unusual in a parent disciplining his child in public while the Americans find it inappropriate (see table 3).

Table 3

How would you reason if you saw a father physically discipline his own kids in public?

Chinese (number/percentage) Americans (number/percentage)
Can’t accept 13 26 17 34
It’s fine by me 25 50 11 22
Not my business 12 24 22 44

The result shows that physical abuse is the preferred mode of discipline among the Chinese while the Americans may not choose it (see table 4).

Table 4

Use of physical abuse as a form of punishment

Chinese (number/percentage) Americans (number/percentage)
Never do that 2 4 26 52
Depends on specific situation 19 38 16 32
Always do 29 58 8 16

The Table 5 shows that the mode of approach to discipline when the kid is wrong differs slightly as the Chinese prefer instant punishment while the Americans wait for things to solve by themselves.

Table 5

Actions taken when kid is wrong

Chinese (number/percentage) Americans (number/percentage)
Get angry and abuse him/her 2 4 2 4
Be tolerant and teach him/her how to fix the problem 27 54 10 21
Depends on each specific situation 18 36 16 32
Bother less and let it go 3 6 22 44

The Table 6 shows that more Americans despise physical abuse as a form of punishment as opposed to the Chinese.

Table 6

Perceived impact of abusing child/children

Chinese (number/percentage) Americans (number/percentage)
Might be good 14 28 3 6
Instilling discipline 20 40 4 8
Not useful 7 14 20 40
May make the child produces negative mentality 9 18 21 42

Finally, Table 7 shows that more Chinese are less willing to provide their children with freedom of doing what they want but to follow their parents’ guidelines while the Americans provide more liberty to children in pursuit of wealth and education.

Table 7

What type of a person would you wish your children to be in their adulthood?

Chinese (number/percentage) Americans (number/percentage)
To be wealthy 27 54 10 20
To be educated 20 40 14 28
Allow them do what they want 3 6 22 44
It doesn’t matter 0 0 4 8

Basing on the analysis, the Chinese parents exercise authoritative laws and methods of discipline on their children while their American counterparts use persuasive rules over their kids. While the Americans value diversity, choice, freedom of expression, and opportunities, the Chinese stick to the traditions in administering discipline to their children. The advantage of the Chinese method is that it maintains the cultural heritage and values whilst in America, the child is left to discover his/her own identity. Too much freedom can also ruin the society, and there is a need to check it constantly.