So the conversation went a little something like this.

“I find you’re too lenient with your kids.”

“Yea, I tend not to sweat the small stuff.”

“No I mean like manners…”

“What, you mean the Ps and Qs?”

“No, not so much Ps and Qs. Respect.”


“Like when kids do something bad, you have to acknowledge it. Nobody likes it when a kid misbehaves. I tell my kids that it’s because I love them very much that I punish them.”

I can’t, for the life of me, imagine what this woman is talking about.

As far as I can remember, neither Skyler nor Raeven has ever done anything wrong that I’ve not acknowledged or made them apologise for.

Not. One. Damn. Thing.

This woman is implying that MY KIDS HAVE NO MANNERS.

That they’ve done something bad and that I’ve NOT made them apologise. Some time before or in MARCH 2007, which was the last time I saw this woman and her family.

And that my TWO-year old does not know respect.

And that because I’m Chinese, I have to make sure I pass on my Chinese traits, that not everything American is good, and that everything I learn here in America, no matter how scientific it may be, counts as American and therefore cannot be trusted 100 per cent.

Which means I have to YELL and SCOLD and BEAT the hell out of my kids to SHOW them who’s boss.

I cannot tell you how fucking furious I am right now.

I confess. I am a proponent of using a fusion of ideals to raise my children. I am not 100 per cent pro-Western or 100 per cent pro-Asian. I take what I think makes sense and I think, compared to a lot of people who have never lived away from home, I am very, VERY lucky to be able to do that, to have such information available.

For instance, I think the American sense of individualism is a little overrated – and dangerous. I believe that children need to understand that they are a part of a family and a community, and that what they do or don’t do, affects their environment. As such, I believe in teaching my children responsibility from a very young age. That they cannot draw on walls and waste food and scream in a public place because it creates work for mommy, and wastage costs money, money that their father works very hard to earn, and that when you make it unpleasant for people to be around you, then you have nobody to blame but yourself when nobody responds.

I also believe that pain and violence – a long standing Asian disciplinary strategy still widely practised in many Asian countries today – is not ideal for dealing with children. I have in the past succumbed to meting out pain as punishment, and the feeling is horrible. I spent weeks wallowing in shame for slapping my child’s behind because I thought she needed to understand the gravity of her actions. It was not worth it.

But you know what? With all that I know or think I know, I know next to nothing about raising children. And still I think I’m doing a pretty darn good job because at the end of the day, when I hear words like, “Mommy, I love you and you’re the best Mommy in the world!”, I know that I have done right by the only two people who matter.

My unwillingness to discipline my kids the Asian way IN FRONT OF PEOPLE has nothing to do with my not being Asian enough. In fact, it’s about giving them face even when they’re not frigging dinosaurs.

And the last time I checked, that’s as Asian as rice.