Teaching independence

Now, I’m American, maybe this has something to do with it, but I feel as a parent it is my duty to teach my child how to be independent. My daughter was only 4 months old when we taught her to go to sleep by herself. Learning to feed herself is what I’m working on now. It is coming slow, but if it is finger food she has it down.

I bring this up because as I was buying dinner for the family on the way home from work yesterday, I saw something that really disturbed me. I’ve been in Taiwan awhile, and most of the usual oddities of this place don’t phase me anymore (beginning to feel normal, actually), but I was mesmerized with a sick curiosity when my eyes became transfixed on this sight and my jaw must have been sagging to the floor while I was trying to take this all in. What did I see? I saw a father feeding his son, who had to be at least 9 years old, like I feed my 9 month old daughter. The plate was in front of the boy and the father was straddling a chair perpendicular to the boy. The boy wasn’t armed with any utensils, only the father, who was using his chopsticks meticulously to put a fine variety of eats on to a spoon after which he patiently waited for his son to open his mouth and lean forward (as my baby does) and then shoveled it in his mouth as if the boy were incapable mastering that kind of hand to mouth coordination himself. I sat there and watched in a daze as this repeated itself over and over again. My brain desperately tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Was this boy developmentally disabled? I could only conclude an almost definite “no” after I observed the boy was behaving quite normally and had a backpack from a buxiban. The only conclusion I could come up with was either this boys parents had not yet taught him these basic skills of self-sufficiency, the boy was incomprehensibly spoiled by the father, or the father simply enjoyed feeding his 9-10 year-old son.

After searching my memories, I determined that I’d seen this before, but always children much younger, maybe 3-5 years old. Even at that age, kids should be feeding themselves in my opinion. I guess I would like to know if anyone has noticed this as well, or have similar stories. Maybe you can offer some more insight into this. I talked to my wife and she was quite amazed too, so I can’t believe it is a cultural universal in Taiwan. Of course, there is always the chance that his father was just having fun doing it, but come one, he was in business get-up, I have a had time believing he has the time to do this. Anyway, I wouldn’t be caught dead feeding my 9 year-old like she were a baby.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.


This is actually quite common and also a topic of discussion among the parents in the cityplaygroup at times. Personally, living with the grandparents, we see it here in the house everyday. My son is two and very good at feeding himself. His cousins, four and six years old, were looked after by grandma and do not feed themselves very well. Neither were encouraged to try things out when they were little and now have little motivation to feed themselves when grandma is in sight. It is interesting to me that they go to school for 9 hours a day, can write many Chinese characters and are better at math than me, but they can’t really use a spoon, put on their socks, or tie their shoelaces. The ideas of what is important are quite different between myself and my husband, and the rest of the family.

I did ask grandma about this feeding thing and she agreed it is not really right but laughed and said if they feed themselves it is very “ma fan” - they are slow, they drop their food, and lose concentration. In my son’s case, he knows he has to feed himself and eat at a reasonable pace or his food-loving parents will eat the goodies! For him, self-feeding is a matter of survival.

BTW, I was in Guangzhou a few years ago and was really surprised to see teenage boys in a fastfood joint being fed by their parents. They couldn’t/wouldn’t even hold their own hamburgers!

No, trust me, it has nothing to do with you being Amarican. I assure you, there are other countries across the Atlantic or elswhere, where parents have the same idea of teaching their kids to be independent. :laughing:

Now, you really got me curious, how did you do that? 4 months old? That’s a trick I wish I had in my bag back then.
Anyways, coming back to the being independent point, I totally agree with you, I have seen many times parents with their kids sometimes over 10 years old doing things I wouldn’t think of, like feeding them etc…
But in all fairness, I have seen worse in the western world, like mom or dad out with the little one on a leash :loco: :astonished: :astonished:

JW, let her walk and explore; let her play and get dirty; let her eat some dirt and boogers; let her balance on rocks by the river; let her pets and play with animals. Set loose boundaries and sooner or later, through her own independence, she’ll hit them and you’ll then wonder “Should I have let her get so independent so fast?!” :slight_smile:

What I find/found most important was to play with my son while he was exploring his boundaries. We would talk about why something wasn’t a cool idea, like throwing rocks at dogs, or running in a parking lot, or throwing water balloons in the house.

Our son’s independence is now like a singe fireman holding a firehose; sometimes out of control and a bit over his head but still hanging on to the hose, and sometimes very capable of aiming properly and hitting the target with no problem.

JW -
I saw the same thing in a noodle house with a Mother and a boy who looked to be 12 - 14 yrs old. Just this past Saturday.
I was absolutely amazed. I also watched to see if their might be a physical/psychological reason discernible for this behavior. Nope, the kid looked/acted right as rain; drank his own beverage and had a Game Boy with him.
I thought this was truly revealing as to a possible cause for the late or absent adult maturity/responsibility development in many Taiwanese males.
I asked our 11 yr old what he thought about it.
He replied “Thats weird, but I see it a lot.”

[quote]I asked our 11 yr old what he thought about it.
He replied “Thats weird, but I see it a lot.”[/quote]

It’s cool that he answered you. :wink:

[quote=“jdsmith”][quote]I asked our 11 yr old what he thought about it.
He replied “Thats weird, but I see it a lot.”[/quote]

It’s cool that he answered you. :wink:[/quote]He speaks quite well. now. Sometimes without our prompting. And he says the darnest things sometimes.

(reference to that book that guy wrote)

Hmm. At least Taiwanese boys will learn to tie their own boots when they go off for national service at the oh so tender age of 21. HK having no military to whip a bit of maturity into guys here, most are incapable of wiping their own asses.

I’m an adult and I have guy friends only two years older than me that have tried to cut my food into pieces for me. They do this, and yet, at 30 years old still have no idea how to wash their own clothes. :unamused:

Now, you really got me curious, how did you do that? 4 months old? That’s a trick I wish I had in my bag back then.[/quote]

It was pretty easy actually. Put her down in the crib, and predictably she would cry. We’d wait 10 minutes or so, then go in and comfort her, never picking her up, and then go out again. She would cry again, so repeat the previous steps. After a time or two she would fall asleep. Each night she would cry less, until eventually she would go down and then put herself to sleep. Now, for naps and bedtime we just have to put her in her crib and she will do the rest. Now we think something is wrong if she makes a noise during the night.

Back to topic, I’m shocked so many others have seen the same thing. I guess I missed it. I think it is part of the “Little Emperor Syndrome” a lot of boys get here from being spoiled by their parents and grandparents. I’ve never seen any girls being fed by mom and dad. Does anyone know what the mentality is behind this behavior, because to me this does nothing but hurt your kid. I can’t see an up-side.