China's 'Little Emperors': Children in country tend to be indulged by families | Speaking of China

14 Responses

  1. Michael Haggqvist
    Michael Haggqvist October 11, 2009 at 5:57 pm | | Reply

    You can see the results of this upbringing in the streets of Beijing…. The young teenagers more or less all smoke, making out in public and so on. Many older Chinese is horrified by this behavior.

    Could this “little emperor” behavior, especially among boys, be the reason why China has the world record for girl suicide?. “China is the only country where suicides among women outnumber men,” Yang Fude, vice-president of Beijing Hui Long Guan Hospital According to the news (cctv) the nr.1 reason for suicide among girls is stress, depression and a broken heart….

    I know many older Chinese that thinks Chinas future is looking bleak when put in the hands of spoiled children. But I think everybody can change so I have high hopes for China.

  2. Roadblock
    Roadblock October 12, 2009 at 5:03 am | | Reply

    This is interesting. And It’s great to see you citing scientific surveys in your writing.

    I wondar what happened to nannies, boarding schools, spanking, school bullying, and so on. I survived all of that through the late 1980s to early 2000s. And I felt it was the standard thing for me and my peers growing up. I guess China has changed so fast that, even though I’m less than a full generation older than your nephew, there has been a significant gap.

    I, for example, never lived with my grandparents. I remember having a nanny until maybe 3 years old. She was much older than my mother, came from the rural south, and got hire when my mom was pregnant. But then my parents moved, and stuck me in a daycare center. It was a fairly pleasant place, except for one abusive old women that I still remember. My biggest concern at the time was in fact my parents. They both had full-time jobs, but still managed to find time to spank the crap out of me from time to time. After that, I was a day student in a couple of boarding schools. My parents moved long-distance once, so I transfered. I never boarded at school. But a lot of my friends did. So they seldom met their parents, not their grandparents. Some teachers were particularly abusive and vicious. Some nasty ones would even stood you in a corner for hours, or run you around the soccer field, or slap you in the face, etc. And there were quite some bullying that went around, especially among us boys. But I never got into anything much worst than fist-fights and nosebleeds. Some other kids did some real crazy stuff, like drinking and pulling knives on each other. After surviving all those years of school, I ended up receiving a scholarship from a serious New England boarding school for a “postgraduate” gap-year. But I thought I had had enough of it as a child, and went straight to college. Most of my friends went straight on as well. But one girl did go to that school in New England, and spent another year “growing up”. She applied for college a year late, and is now in arguably the world’s best undergrad program. So perhaps an extra year of boarding school was really helpful for immature young adults. But I skipped it anyway.

    I suppose the problem with kids like your nephew is that they are not undergoing enough “character-building.” I remember a peroid of my childhood when almost every other day I would get spanked by parents, or verbally abused by teachers, or physically beaten up by older bullies. Those were stressfull and depressing experiences. But I felt I learned a lot (e.g. self-protection, social skills, parenting skills, hazing techniques to be used on freshman pledges… no, I’m just kidding!). So, maybe those abuses were a necessary evil for children.

    I think psychologists are overrated. What we really need, in my opinion, is some old-fashioned spanking and bullying, which seems to have been sidelined not just in China but around the world. Even the most conservative fraternities in American colleges no longer openly and publicly haze their pledges. There is a gerneral trend toward non-violence which we all should welcome. But it also seems to encourage cowardliness.

  3. Roadblock
    Roadblock October 12, 2009 at 5:20 am | | Reply

    Michael, you seem to harbor some unhealthy and irrational resentment against Chinese men. Maybe I could remind you that all your male in-laws in your wife’s family are Chinese men, that your future sons will all grow up to be half-Chinese men, and that almost half of your neighbors are Chinese men.

    Your claim is absolutely preposterous that the elderlies in China are all “horrified” by the misbehavior of the young generation. Please keep in mind that those older Chinese are the people who lived through the Cultural revolution, and witnessed (and maybe participated in) the red guard movement. Whatever crazy things the teenagers are engaged in today are no comparison to the insanity of 30 or 40 years ago. Perhaps a few old people would agree with you. But they must either be hypocritical, or have extremely short memory.

  4. Michael Haggqvist
    Michael Haggqvist October 12, 2009 at 6:03 am | | Reply


    O.k sorry I said/wrote ALL, of course I would have to have statistic for that. But all older Chinese men that I have heard commenting the younger generation do so in a harsh manner. In fact I haven´t heard one good comment (except for family members) But I guess that would be normal for ALL older men speaking of the young generation….

    “Michael, you seem to harbor some unhealthy and irrational resentment against Chinese men.”

    Nope. Only agains one Chinese man; you ;.) your guess is all wrong. I feel no need to discuss that because…:

    Your off topic now! Hehe… something you love to point out if I do so, so i´m glad to return the favor… ;.)

  5. Susan Newman, Ph.D.
    Susan Newman, Ph.D. October 12, 2009 at 8:23 am | | Reply

    I’ve been studying only children since the mid-1980s and have many times refuted the “Little Emperor” attitudes that many, especially in the United States, use as their reason for having second children. In the US one can find as many children with siblings who act out and misbehave as only children. In my book, Parenting an Only Child (available in Chinese), I address how parents can get grandparents to be less indulgent and help parents raise only children who do not feel (and act) as if the universe revolves around them. Those with only children my also be interested in my Psychology Today magazine blog called “Singletons” which covers many aspects of raising an only child:

  6. Christine
    Christine October 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm | | Reply

    I don’t think that an entire family focusing on one child is a bad thing, nor the cause of your observations of spoiled children. Children are spoiled because they’re spoiled, period. Asian cultures are community based, and this includes raising children. I, for one, would prefer to see there be more collective responsibility for child rearing in the US than this idea that you are only responsible for your own child, and the only one responsible for raising your child. I’d like to be able to engage in a conversation with a child kicking the back of my seat about why that might bother me and not have their parents see it as me telling them how to raise their kids.

    When children are in school, they interact and are taught by many adults. Those same teachers discipline and teach children much like a parent would. This is rarely viewed as a problem or an issue of conflicting “parenting styles.”

    Perhaps the real issue are the grandparents not respecting the parents’ decisions or ideas of how their children should be raised.

    I have to say that this post and some of your others are tinged with a bias for western culture.

    And at Michael, it’s not that us Chinese can’t take anything negative about our country. It’s more that you often forgot to check your “west is great” bias at the door. Personally, I’ve found Europeans to be more sexist and racist than the Chinese I’ve met.

    For the record, I’m a Chinese American female living in the US, born in Taiwan.

  7. Money/status hungry
    Money/status hungry May 3, 2010 at 4:04 am | | Reply

    Many Chinese have the love of money.

  8. Nick
    Nick March 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm | | Reply

    I see nothing wrong with this. they gotta have a small hold of sanity in China SOMEHOW.

  9. ESL Teacher in China
    ESL Teacher in China April 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm | | Reply

    I am an ESL teacher for ages 4 and up. I can honestly say that discipline is a huge difficulty here. It all starts at home, if the parents spank their children every time that they do something wrong than they wouldn’t act out when the parents put them in an ESL class. If you go to an ESL class with students the same age in Mexico or Georgia the students do not act like they do here in China.

  10. Frances Lee
    Frances Lee March 10, 2015 at 9:16 pm | | Reply

    Family is a closed knitted concept in China. Family is not considered to be a one parent unit, but a multiple generation unit. Grandparents often feel that it is their obligation to help with caring for kids. It is not, at least in Shanghai, due to high child care costs, as Chinese people are very willing to send their toddlers or baby to daycare and both nannies and daycare cost much less than those in US. The other major difference is that Chinese care a lot about wearing a lot, eating a lot and sleeping a lot for toddler/baby. This is of paramount importance to them. In order to achieve that, they (parents and grandparents) often sacrifice other aspects such as independence. However, this is usually compensated by (1) the acceptance of spanking as a punishment, (2) school environment such as daycare. I, for most part, prefer the western way of bringing up children, which is why I married a Westerner and adopted the Western way myself. Nowadays, the scarcity of grandchildren may exacerbated the spoiling issue in China. Spoiling has always been an issue for children, whether brought up in Eastern or Western culture. The Eastern culture is not only characterized by spoiling: Shanghai has the world’s highest score from the Program for International Student Assessment and Chinese kid is much less likely to abuse drug or alcohol, and more likely to play piano. Part of the success I believe is to due to the unwillingness to attribute just any behavior problem to some forms of mental disease or syndrome as in US. My conclusion is that Chinese grandparents are great at infants but not suitable for toddlers and up.

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