Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Raising Babies in China

Commenting on how other people raise their children is a dangerous game especially when you don't have your own. It's doubly dangerous when my sister is half way through a pregnancy with her first child. Still, it's interesting to see just how different children are from country to country and to attempt to do some amateur pattern matching with the child raising methods.

One thing I've seen in many countries is that parents rarely give in to a screaming child. A screaming child in China faces mockery. I've seen little kids running and then trip and fall on a concrete floor and start to cry. All the adults laugh at them and the kids shut up almost immediately. Similarly, I saw a child spill his food on the floor. He cried for a while but his grandmother ignored him completely and eventually just told him to shut up. In the West it seems that most crying children attract the attention of every adult.  I see a lot more crying in the West. I guess consolation is a pretty nice reward for crying.

Another thing I've seen a lot in places like China is that parents carry their children more. In Canada we've developed these elaborate baby carrying devices; strollers that contain more technology than many 4x4 vehicles. Parents wheel their babies around in insulated cocoons. In Guatemala, most parents carry their young children around in a blanket thrown over the shoulder. The kids seem to find it much more comforting (and stimulating) than being wrapped in blankets in a dark hole.

In China, toddlers are often carried around in wicker baskets with two shoulder straps to make a backpack. The baskets have a little seat in them but the kids are often standing up and looking around. I've seen little kids carried around for hours while mom cooks, does chores, and chats with people. They seem to love the stimulation and it keeps them from wandering around and putting forks into plugs or pulling things off the counters.

A final big difference I've seen in China has to do with toilet training. Chinese parents aren't much into the diaper thing, the theory being that keeping a kid in diapers too long just teaches them to be comfortable in poopy pants. This must then be untaught. Instead, Chinese kids have pants with a flap on the back, and they are taught at a very young age that if they need to go, they just open the flap and go. Very young children have a flap which is always open. Apparently you can teach a kid to squat at a much younger age then you can teach one to use a toilet without falling in.

This is, unfortunately, a bit gross because teaching context is difficult. I've seen kids shitting on the floor in restaurants and pissing on the sidewalks. Today at the bus station somebody was holding a pooing child over a garbage can. I'm not sure that I think this is very sanitary. Of course, I've seen Chinese men pissing on he streets too. Maybe the habit is hard to unlearn.

Last week we watched in horror as the toddler where we were staying took a dump right outside our sitting area. As we were discussing who would clean it up the family dog came along. I've seen dogs fed some delicious treats before, but apparently few of them are quite as good as a still steaming pile of warm diarrhea. The floor was spotless, but the dog became a pariah for the rest of the trip.

1 comment:

Visual World said...

Now we all understand here at work why one of us witnessed a woman holding a small child over the sink to pee!