Wednesday 18 May 2011

Editorial: Children in the wringer of extreme parenting


Once again it can be so easy for people to be swept away with a news story and its sensationalist import or the public outcry that accompanies it as it relates to morals, values, standards, traditions or trends.

One such case was the report about a mother who administered Botox injections to her 8-year old daughter to help manage the wrinkles and a better chance at beauty pageants.

It is almost beyond belief that a child would have such an early introduction to cosmetic augmentation for beauty and vanity purposes other than for medical reasons.

The child has now been taken into care but this public and singular issue hardly addresses a more fundamental issue.

I first saw this when the news first broke but only decided to comment on it when the custodial situation arose through a posting on Facebook.

Unhealthy competition

Pageants are more than a rite of passage within the American hinterland, there has been many cases of children being provocatively dressed up and made up almost as adults.

In essence, there might be the desire for the child to compete, participate and maybe win, but it gets sinister when one notices the kind of competitiveness that children are thrust into by parents wanting to compensate for their failures through the forced and aggressive pursuit of the success of their wards.

However, this not only a malaise of as it were failed parents, even successful ones appear to demand even much more of their children as characterised by another mother, Amy Chua who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which depicts how she pressed her children to excellence with grueling hours of study, practice and unspeakable punishments.

Affected children

That story is then contrasted by the experiences of children who have been through such parental grilling for excellence in a long article written for the New York Magazine titled Paper Tigers - What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?

Showing that a life of constant competition in academics, sport or the arts does not necessarily produce a well-rounded social being even though they might be high-flyers after a fashion.

Handling life

The real issue is a lot deeper than Botox injections and the earlier this kind of unhealthy competitive spirit is curtailed for children to just grow and act at their own pace within their own natural capabilities; the world would become more cut-throat and those at the risk of losing will dare to kill to win.

Success should be celebrated but failure should not precipitate into the termination of hope or opportunity, the variety of life should allow for both the humility of victory and the ability to concede loss without bitterness or the vilification of those that have excelled us.

Parenting reviewed

Every parent should encourage their children to be the best they can be in a healthy and properly nurtured environment of example, inspiration, mentoring and most of all interactive communication – the line must be drawn where the child become an externalisation of the parent rather than a uniquely able person with a clearly defined personality with goals defined by an outlook that is not constrained the singularity of the parent’s particular purpose.

One would hope that this makes parents realise the difference between gentle persuasion and shoving their wards into any situation as proxies of their personal aspirations – that is the broader issue with Botox simply being symptom.


The Parent Dish website broke the story - Eight-year-old beauty pageant Botox girl taken into care, a review of , Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” appeared in the New York Times – Books section in January 2011 and the riposte to such an upbringing by children who had been through the wringer of extreme parenting appeared in the New York Magazine under the title Paper Tigers - What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends? In May 2011.

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