From a “Bad Indian Girl” who has become a “Bad Asian Parent”

A colleague recently sent me an article article from the Wall Street Journal about being a Chinese mother. He recommends parents give it a read. Essentially, the author states that shaming a child (for their own good mind you) is cultural, successful, and much preferred to the Western style of parenting. This no hold barred article makes the point that learning should not be fun but hard work, and given hours of practice, memorization, and parental tutoring, all kids can be the best in the class. The author also includes other Asian and some African cultures in her diatribe.

As a kid, I was considered a “bad Indian girl.” I didn’t go to Indian school the two weekend days other kids had free. I didn’t take dance lessons and didn’t stay on the “women’s side” of the house during the endless Indian parties weekend after weekend. Instead, I wanted to discuss literature and politics and business with the men. The Indian men didn’t know what to do with me, but my father always welcomed me with open arms. He let my natural curiosity lead my desire to learn.

Was I pushed to succeed in school, yes. Nothing was as difficult to handle than the pressure I put on myself, however. I started things and stopped things (not easily as my parents wouldn’t let me give up too easily) as I discovered myself and my calling. Why am I telling you this? Apparently I’ve evolved from a “bad Indian girl” into a “bad Indian mom.”

I believe that my kids should be, and can be the best. I work with them on their homework, their music lessons, and yes, on the plays in which they choose to take part. Even wrestling (be still my heart) is an acceptable pursuit. I also think that every child has a unique gift and through persistence and self-awareness he or she can make a difference in the world.

I reject the authors claim that “Chinese” parenting must be so severe that the world must revolve around the wishes of the parent, that learning must be a battle, and only then is success achieved. Instead, this “bad Indian mom” believes in unconditional love, delayed gratification, and working hard for what you earn. I will love my children without limit, but I won’t stand for laziness.

I’m an instructor of business for juniors and seniors in college. I get the value of education. I’m also compulsively driven in my work and education. I don’t like getting less than an A+. So why, with these traits, would I encourage my kids’ teachers to give them harder work so they no longer get perfect scores on their tests? Why do I prod them to take on the challenge words and leadership roles in their classrooms? Learning should be fun at times, yes, but it should also be a quest. It should be hard and messy and frustrating at times.

We don’t learn purely for satisfaction or recognition. I believe we strive to settle an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. If my kids make a mistake, my first question is, “Is it because you didn’t understand or because you made a careless mistake?” If the mistake was preventable we work on strategies to make sure it never happens again; we also practice and practice until the skill is second nature. If they forget their work at school there are consequences until organization and responsibility are reinforced.

Now, if they didn’t understand, that’s exciting! We work on learning the concepts, strategies, practice–rinse and repeat. If they get perfect scores they are the top of the class, but that’s not enough. Their main competition should always include themselves. Where is that in the Chinese model? When do the children of the author take on a difficult task when mom is not there? Why would they?

My kids don’t like to get things wrong on tests. They try to hide it because they know what’s coming…work and more work. However, when they get stuck on something they never hesitate to come to me. Why? Because we embark on the quest together. When the questions get harder the fire is lit.

This “bad Indian mom” will stand by her claim that pull will trump push in motivating kids, employees, team members…etc…every time. Pull them into wanting to succeed by lighting their curiosity. Support their efforts with love and work. Their quest to improve should never end, regardless if it’s “perfect” or not…that’s not really the point. The journey is the point.

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You’re a great friend, even though…

I was at a seminar where the speaker said something interesting.

He had a best friend in college who is black. He said to the friend that he didn’t even think of him as black, like that made their friendship better. The friend turned around and asked him how he would feel if he said the reverse. That he was a good friend, even though he was white? They discussed it; yes, they are still friends to this day.

That reminded me of the time I told a good friend (male) once that I didn’t even think of him as a guy, that he was like one of the girls. What do you think that did to his conception of his male identity?

When people say that “race shouldn’t matter” in hiring, what are you saying about what is acceptable in terms of identity? What affect do comments such as this do to an individual’s development of racial identity?

If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend the book, “Why do all the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria?” It’s great book that deals with, among other things, the development of racial identity.

My kids, both boys, are 1/2 East Indian, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Scandinavian. We get into interesting discussions about what it means to be “them” and how others perceive them. There are times when people ask me who’s kids they are. (They are lighter like their father, olive skinned I guess.) If you know my husband and I, you can tell they are our kids. Naturally my kids want to know why they are asking. I let them ask that person the question. They never do get a straight answer.

Once another child told them they couldn’t vote for our current president (in elections at school) because they are white. We talk about these instances. Why people say these things, how they feel about it, what they’ll do going forward. It’s a tightrope we walk, and although it’s kind of scary, it’s also exhilarating!

I invite your comments.

Not all ethics are created equal

When deciding to do business in other countries to perform well, and ethically, business people must understand that they are doing business with people in a country and not an impersonal entity.

There are some basics of humanity that don’t change. You are going to read a lot, and have probably read, about the differences inherent in doing business abroad. In fact, differences dominate most discussions about diversity. (Sorry for the alliteration, I couldn’t help myself.) I agree understanding and respecting differences between people here and China, for example, is a crucial part of working with other cultures. I’ll argue, however, we must simultaneously focus on similarities.

People in India also want to provide for their families and themselves. They want their children to be better off than they are, and they want to pass on the values that made them successful to future generations. All human beings deserve and crave dignity and the feeling of being valued. One way to ensure doing this when you are working with other cultures is to learn more about them before you begin business. Did I just shift to differences? Yes, but hear me out. In appealing to differences aren’t we also addressing the need to be heard and understood at the same time?

Assumptions and stereotypes can get in the way of dealing with people. What do you think about when you consider doing business in Mexico, France, or Vietnam? How did you form these assumptions? How do you check them? In a study called, “Ethics Perceptions of the U.S. and Its Large Developing-Country Trading Partners” the author, Inder Khera (2010) reported in the Global Management Journal that when a sample of Mid-Western business students were asked about a variety of scenarios, the assumption was that Americans will act more ethically than their counterparts in Mexico, China, or India.

If you are a manager of a division in another country, maybe Mexico where study participants assumed ethics would be at its lowest (Khera, 2010), you might make different decisions. Would you be as quick to promote Mexican employees? How much money would you spend on their training? Would you invest the same time in coaching them for management? There is a bright spot that Khera’s (2010) survey showed that Americans are starting to attribute higher percentages, and therefore, more propensities, to be ethical to these trading partners. More important is that people in Mexico, India, and China are not necessarily less ethical than Americans. How does perception become reality?

 

Khera, I. (2010). Ethics Perceptions of the U.S. and Its Large Developing-Country Trading Partners. Global Management Journal, 2(1), 33-41. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

 

Being a Man in a Female Dominated World

Really, this is not a spoof. Have you ever observed the phenomenon of a man providing feedback in a female dominated profession? I have, and it opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of diversity.

I now work in a female dominated industry, teaching, but I came from a predominantly male profession, business. I am a woman used to giving and receiving feedback in a man’s world. What happens when a man gives feedback in a woman’s world?

The instance I am thinking of is not the best example of acceptance in diversity management, but it shows a great opportunity for growth in my adopted profession.

The men in the group offered their feedback, but feelings were hurt. I was asked about this meeting later, and I couldn’t remember any personal attacks. I thought about what was and what wasn’t said and realized that the problem might be with the way the feedback was coded and decoded differently between genders.

The men were very straight forward and task oriented in their feedback. Did the lack of a relational message affect the way the message was decoded by their colleagues? I have to admit, I have to make a conscious effort to start with a relational message in a mixed group because I’m a very task oriented person as well. did the task oriented message play a part in the hurt feelings?

A better understanding of this issue can create positive change in so many management areas: performance evaluations, coaching, job satisfaction and much more.

I invite your comments.