Our two Hyde boarding schools, recognizing that in character development, parents are the primary teachers and the home the primary classroom, developed an extensive program for our domestic parents on campus, and go to China to address our Chinese parents there.
Our in-depth work with parents and families has taught us that American and Chinese parents could learn much from each other.
We Americans endlessly try to reform our education system without success, struggling with problems like class size, teacher quality, student motivation and discipline.
But we have seen Chinese schools that produce top students internationally, with as many as 50 in a class, lined up in rows, listening intently, religiously doing homework in schools operating without disruptions.
They are able to accomplish this because 1) Chinese students are thoroughly prepared at home for the school experience, and 2) the highest demands for standards at school are set by parents at home.
So essentially, while Americans tend to hold schools accountable for student performance, Chinese students know their parents primarily hold them accountable for school performance.
However, Chinese schooling and thus parenting is heavily influenced by the Gaokao, (their college entrance exam,) which tends to greatly overvalue rote learning and thus the quality of obedience.
So Chinese and American societies have child-rearing strengths to offer each other.
We find Chinese teenagers who come to Hyde to prepare for American universities begin to emulate American values by expressing their unique potentials -- initiative, creativity and enterprise -- and become far more confident individuals, leaders and attractive candidates in careers beyond college.
And we believe if American parents would begin to emulate Chinese parents in terms of preparation, discipline and expectations of children regarding school, American students and schools would also experience a powerful transformation.
We parents could learn from the Chinese parents' absolute insistence of their children's best. Very few of us are willing to go to the same lengths. I was on the receiving end of that experience with my stepfather.
I was a poor student in school, flunking geometry, when he took over my instruction -- the most frustrating learning experience I ever had. His constant question "why?" sent me to my room many times until I could answer correctly. I eventually began to understand math and realize -- I could think!
Like my stepfather, the great strength of Chinese parenting is this: no effort is made to gain children's love, only their respect. If you get children's respect, you will get their love. Seek their love, and you get neither love nor respect.
Children depend upon us to prepare them for life. Quite bluntly, from birth on, their deeper love for us depends upon how well we prepare them for life, a goal centered on helping them realize their best selves and achieve self-sufficiency.
I spent much time in my room growing up, because my stepfather was always finding fault with me. I don't recommend that, but in life I grew to truly love this man, who taught me the value of discipline, integrity and commitment. My mother was the core of my growth, but I wouldn't be where I am today without my stepfather's relentless pursuit of my best.
Very few Americans today parent like my stepfather or the Chinese. Why? Because today's parents want a "relationship" with their child, and they fear a relentless commitment to their child's best will damage both the relationship and the child.
Actually, wanting something from the child can negatively impact him or her at a deep unconscious level. The child comes into this world fearing abandonment, which, over the years, slowly transforms into a fear of becoming an adult, which is mainly allayed by how well children have reached their best and been prepared to be self-sufficient. For this, they have to thank -- or blame -- whoever raised them.
This is why China is such a strong family culture. Children know their parents were dedicated to helping them realize their best and self-sufficiency. Their children both love and respect them for that.
We would raise incredible children if we did the same over here, since they would also be endowed with American individuality, initiative, creativity and enterprise.