The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, March 09, 2012

The price of parental strictness.

Chinese parents are traditionally known for what would be regarded as “strict parenting”, in Western eyes. Indeed, some parents of Chinese origin have become famed for their regimented style of child rearing. Yet, there is a price to pay for strictness, a profound psychological price to pay.

Recently, two twelve year old Chinese girls, from Zhangzhou, in mainland China, Xiao Mei and Xiao Hua committed suicide in a bizarre pact. The girls left suicide notes in a cupboard which spoke of a desire to travel back in time to the Qing Dynasty (from 1644 to 1911) and seemed to indicate that they thought that death would achieve this, for them. The suicide pact came into being when one of the girls lost the key to her house and was afraid of being punished by her parents, for doing so. She decided to commit suicide, rather than face punishment. Her best friend heard about this, and couldn’t bear the thought of living on without her friend – so they both decided to kill themselves at the same time. They elected to do this, by jumping into a pond.

Now, what struck me about this tragedy was the reaction amongst the Chinese people. There has been an uproar blaming time travel TV shows for the suicides. They seem to believe that the children were somehow acting out, in imitation of such shows, in which people are propelled back into the past, when struck by lightning, or have a car crash. My personal thought on this is that the critics of the TV shows are seriously missing the point. These two girls did not die because they were imitating TV shows. They died, because they were TOO SCARED OF THEIR PARENTS. These girls were killed by strict Chinese style parenting. One of the girls was so frightened of her parents’ reaction to losing her house key, that she decided it would be better to die, than to face up to her parents. So, this tragedy is much darker than it appears. It is not about the delusions of two young girls, unable to distinguish reality from TV fictions...but it is about the psychological stresses they had been placed under by strict parents. Had their parents been more loving, more kind, more warm, more forgiving, more welcoming, I am certain that both these girls would still be alive today.

China should be re-examining the way it raises its children, in the light of this tragedy – not the nature of its TV shows. Children who felt loved and secure, with their parents, would not be so scared of them that they would prefer to die, than to face up to them, when something unfortunate had happened. These two girls were, basically, killed by their parents. Had their parents been less strict, they would be alive, today. It is that simple.

What makes this all the more tragic and puzzling is that China has a one child policy, so it is likely that these girls were the only children of their parents. If so, it seems even more tragic to me, that they should have been parented in such a strict manner, that they would rather die than face their parents’ wrath. Why did their parents need to be so strict, when they had but one lonely child to look after and raise? What would have been wrong with being warm, supportive, loving and flexible instead?

If a child fears their parents, then something is seriously wrong with the way those parents are raising the child. These children were in fear – and that fear led to their deaths.

From the reaction of the Chinese people and their misattribution of the problem to TV, I very much doubt whether the Chinese people will learn anything from this. However, there is a lesson here, for anyone who reads my blog: raise a child with love, not fear, for in love, they grow; in fear, they die, slowly, or quickly, but surely.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:40 PM 


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