Monday, 17 December 2012

Parenting and Anxiety

So what do all these have to do with anxiety?



Well, it is obvious that such acts mounts the pressure, stress and anxiety level of the teachers - and they role in society now is not only to teach but babysit kids.  They now not only need to handle textbooks but also hostile parents and irresponsible kids.


Next, the parents are always in anxious and cautious mode, as on top of the normal routine work they are doing, they have to plan ahead everything for their kids, take care of every small parts in their lives to make sure that nothing can harm them, and ensure they have not missed anything that other kids are doing so that their kids are always on track and in front of others.  They may feel even more stressed on exam days and more anxious about the results than their kids, and such pressure last from kindergarten till university.

The Kids

How about the kids?  At this point of time, they may not feel much anxiety, but it all begins when they start to grow up.  Unluckily, being kids of monster parents have resulted in their poor mental health.  They will start feeling the stress when they start failing to reach the high hopes and expectations of their parents while academic stress arises.  A anxiety spiral will then be formed when stress grows as school work becomes more and more difficult and the social responsibilities and burden becomes more and more heavy.  This in worst case may trigger suicidal ideations.

Just a few figures sharing (thanks to Karen!), of a poll held in Sepetember in Hong Kong, of the 300 students being interviewed, 49% experienced anxiety, 42% admitting their reliance on their parents, 33% felt their lack of abililities in taking care of themselves and 31% expressed difficulties in decision making and chose escaping as solution.  The numbers surely speak it all - and this is a classic display on the outcomes of Helicopter/Monster parenting.  This hints that almost half of Hong Kong kids may be experience anxiety from school work, and this is indeed a serious social problem.

This below flow chart is a good summary of and helps to explain the flow of anxiety to the kids, brought by Monster Parenting:

This chart even suggested that the spiral continues once the originally kids become parents on their own, they would not want their kids to repeat they failure in lives and hence have more control over their kids by becoming Helicopter & Monster parents themselves.

Is this possible?  I am not too sure but there are surely chances.  The worst of all is the level of stress and anxiety multiples from generation to generation, and as such trend expands further out, this will become an extremely serious social issue.

So just a small reminder to all parents, especially existing or potential monster/helicopter parents - know about the facts and figures, find out the best parenting style that suits your family the most (not only your dreams on your kids but most importantly, their dreams), match up your expectations with reality and your kids abilities and be a wise mum and dad.  You are in charge of this Anxiety spiral and it is for your to decide.

Lastly, let me share with you a funny little comic on "good" parenting:

Good luck.

Monster Parents in Hong Kong (2) - "Primary School Chicken", "Kong Kids" and "Princess Syndrome"

Following from the last blog, I wish to talk about new terms that evolved in Hong Kong from Monster parents.  Let's first look at a short video on an example of "primary school chicken":

In the video, you may see a kid, 7 years of age shouting loud in a shopping centre in Hong Kong at his parents because he felt that he was forced by his parents to go out for shopping against his own will.  If you have paid attentions to the video, the boy was extremely emotional and yelled to call police on his parents, totally out of control.  On the other hand, his parents failed to react, and control the situation, allowing the boy to create a scene.  This video was largely spread on internet and the boy was labelled as a typical "primary school chicken" or "Kong Kid".

So what exactly do the terms mean?  Please take a look at this diagram:

"Primary School Chicken" or "Kong Kid" refer to kids in Hong Kong, mostly born after 1990, who are not able to take care of themselves (even for very simple tasks such as taking care of personal hygiene, tying up shoelace, crossing roads, etc.), overly rely on external such as maids, grandparents/parents, as a result of over-protection from Monster Parents.

To many parents in Hong Kong, their kids are not only "dragons" but are also Prince and Princess.  Some believe that the duty of the kids is mainly to absorb resources and they tightly scheduled their kids' timetable with school work, cram schools, extracurricular activities, language and/or music instrument classes, so to make their kids "talented" and "outstanding", and it is parents' responsibilities to take care of the rest.  As an outcome, the over-protected kids lose chance to organize their own lives, failing to interact with the actual social world, and eventually cannot live a minute without their parents.

The idea of "cannot live without assistance of others" have created yet another term in Hong Kong, so-called "the Princess Syndrome", where teenagers (mostly girls) often complain, become judgmental, self-centred and arrogant, and automatically expect people around to take care of everything in their lives.  Below is a good video describing the characteristics of "Princess Syndrome":

So how does it all happen?  Let's go back to Monster Parents in Hong Kong, as they are the roots to these new terms.  There is a trend in Hong Kong that Monster Parents tend to blame the teachers for literally everything - shall the kids misbehalf at school, at home, even in the public, it is the teachers' responsibilities as they have failed to teach them politeness and discipline.

In their mind, their parents are always right, even if it was their kids who started fights, or bullied others, their kids must have done so for a "good" reason.  Eventually, the kids feel that they are always right - shall they dislike anything in school, they will complain to their parents and their parents will stand up for them, fight for them, confront the teachers - making them real "prince" and "princess" at home, at school or even in public.

Have you seen any "Primary School Chicken", "Kong Kids" or "Princess Syndrome" around you?  Let me know.

For those of you who wish to know more about monster parents in Hong Kong, please take you time and watch the below videos:

Part 1:

Part 2:


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Monster Parents in Hong Kong (1)

We have talked about parenting in the US, the birth place of "Helicopter Parenting" and Japan and Korea, the countries that made "Monster Parenting" famous.  How about Hong Kong?

Let's start from a picture showing how different grown-ups sees " bring up kids" as:

top (from left to right): Society's view, Grandparents' view, Employers' view
bottom (from left to right): friends' view, parents' view, reality

This picture is not an accurate display (in fact more of a ridicule), but it is trying to show how "bringing up kids" can mean to different parties - some see kids as "King at home", some as "troublemakers", some as "warmth and love", some as "violence" and some believe that kids require intensive care.

Let's have a look at a short video to see another side of parenting:

This video displays some of the voice of monsters and/or helicopter parents.  Here is a summary of the things parents in Hong Kong would often do for their children:

1) send them to play groups or preschool cram schools - to get in front of other kids;
2) enter competitions, collect as many certificates and trophies as possible for kindergarten interviews;
3) playing English (music, radio, movies, cartoons, etc) since child's birth so to advance their language skills;
4) choose class subjects (from primary schools to university) and extracurricular activities that they find suitable for their kids;
5) provide 24 hours of care and protection to avoid their kids from making mistakes.

The picture and video are both conveying similar messages:

1) Parenting plays a very large part in life of Hong Kongers;
2) Adults seem to have a lot of worries for children in society.

Besides, there is an obvious trend that Hong Kong people tend to move things forward for their children.  In other words, parents prepare things ahead of times, so that when their kids get to the right age, they will already be well-equipped.  Indeed, even education has put everything forward for children.  The things I was studying in year 2 and year 3 as a kid, my cousins might have already covered them in year 1.  Things kids are learning now are much more difficult and complicated.

And this is why parents in Hong Kong are very sensitive.  Similar to Korea, they compete with their kids - the achievements of their kids means everything to parents - and sometimes the kids can be a show-off for them - "my kids are better than your".  They also want to send their kids to the top schools in town.

However, there is a critical difference - Hong Kong parents are trying to send their kids not to the best universities but to the best kindergartens/primary schools!!  The school network in Hong Kong is very unique.  Unlike Korea and other countries, Hong Kong is a city of high population density and little land, and students do not necessarily go to the local primary/secondary schools.  For the top primary/secondary schools in Hong Kong, many of them either are directly linked together or have close relationship with each other.

As Hong Kong only has 8 universities, to get into unis in Hong Kong, parents must first get their kids into the top primary/secondary schools for a good chance to get into universities.  This means not only the university entrance exam is important, but also the entrance interview to primary and secondary schools are of same level of importance to parents.  This explains why, as displayed in the picture above, the society has mixed feelings towards "bringing up children" and why parents spent so much effort to make their kids "the golden child".  Being parents in Hong Kong therefore can be extremely stressful anxious.

Here is a video clip, reporting that some parents are spending some tally $13,000 each month in order to send their kids to the best primary schools:

The below newspaper clip is another typical example that reflects the anxiety of Hong Kong Parents:

This is an advertisement, probably prepared by some typical parents in Hong Kong.  Let me translate the ad into English:

Recruiting for Family Teacher

Job Content:
1) Teach and educate (the child) all aspects of life from getting off bed to going to school.
2) Intensive Mathematics, English, Putonghua (all teaching materials prepared by teacher), piano teaching/training.
3) Train (the child) self-care skills, politeness, obedience, self-discipline.
4) Monitor work of maid at home.

Job Requirements:
1) at least 3 years of kindergarten teaching experience.
2) level 8 piano skills.
3) with knowledge of Child Psychology.

Working Hours:
Mon-Sat, 8am to 1pm

This may sound ridiculous, but this is a good example of Monster/Helicopter Parent in Hong Kong - high expectations, demanding but uncompromising attitude.  What do you think such phenomena can bring to kids in Hong Kong?  In fact, new terminologies such as "primary school chicks", "Kong kids" have become slang words in Hong Kong reflecting such kids.  This will be discussed in the next entry.

Monster Parents - the South Korean way

There is a world wide boom on the so-called K-pop culture say Psy's Guinness-World-Record-breaking popularity and their outstanding electronics especially the success of Samsung products, the world is now paying attention to Korea.  However, not many would know that behind their fame and glamour, the bitterness each and every Korean need to face at least once in their life time - the University Entrance Examinations.

Before I get into the topic, I would like to share a few videos and pics about stress in Korea...

1) the "High Expectations Asian Father"video - video made of South Korean actor Jeon Mu-Song's image, a popular actor who often play the father's roles on TV dramas, is a sample of stereotypes about Asian parents' desperation to excel their children in academic fields.  Here is a sample of such video:

2) A video showing the importance as well as the stress faced by high school students in Korea, on exam days - parents commonly go to work late, cities become quiet and tensed, students moral high and breath-taking atmosphere, just to make sure everything goes great on exam days:

3) Pictures of parents praying for their children's success in the exams:

We all know Samsung, Hyundai, LG.  But what we do not know is the people in the companies.  Or I should say, we do not know how Koreans get into these companies.  They are popular, yes, but unfortunately, they are the very few companies in Korea that is supporting the popularity of the country in the world (putting aside their entertainment industry).  In other words, being able to get into the companies is literally everything for Koreans.  What gets them into the companies?  Good universities.  And there are only less than 10 universities that can "almost" guarantee a place in these companies.  If you fail to get into one of those, it is believed that he/she is stuck in life ever since.  And What gets them into the companies?  Yes, it is the University Entrance Examinations.

This simple fact has already summed up why there are monster parents in Korea - both economically and socially - or I should say, they "almost" have no choice but to become monster parents, for that seems to be the only way for the family to climb to the upper tier in the society.  It is so important that a poll result showed that 100% of Korean parents want their children to go to university.

And what comes next below in the ladder?  It is cram schools, or "hagwons" in Korean, which parents, being the driving force for their children's success, will make sure that their kids are all well covered.  Not all the students want to take cram classes at night - but under such competitive environment, the parents will not let that happen as they know kids from other families are all taking them.  Their kids cannot be behind or disadvantaged - so it is not purely by choice or need to study at cram school.  It is almost, a tradition.  Statistics show that an average family spends 16% of their income annually on cram schools, which is equivalent to 2% of the Korean national GDP.  This is how serious this battle is, not only for the students, but also their parents.

A day for students in the exam year is fairly simple - school, study, sleep.  Class starts from 7am till 4pm, then followed by cram school and self study till 10pm or 2am, and few hours of sleep and it all starts again.  The parents will help them to construct their timetable to make sure every moment is utilized for study, and teachers will do the same at school.  Parents will also design the best food with highest level of nutrients to ensure their kids are always in healthy and intelligent conditions.  Stress, anxiety is obviously great, and it keeps repeating itself for the 365 days.

As a result, survey shows a fifth of Korean secondary school students claimed that they felt tempted to commit suicide.  On average 200 actually do so each year, successfully.  The stress and anxiety maximize on the exam day - below is an abstract of the seriousness of the day, as reports from "" describes:

"The day before the exam, the schools are emptied of all material, and all reflective surfaces are covered in the classrooms to prevent cheating. Students must bring their own lunches that day, because the school cafeteria doesn't want to be blamed if the food makes a student feel sick and do poorly. No one, including the teachers, can go in or out of the school that day. No food delivery, no leaving to get food...  But some things are a bit too extreme. Teachers can’t wear perfume or wear clothing that might distract the students from their test. Supervising teachers must remain in one place for the whole exam; if you walk around too much to check for cheating, a student might complain that it distracted them. If a student is sick, other students can complain on or blame the sick student for distracting them."

This story proves a few things.  It is the social and economical issues that "encourage" authoritarian parenting in Asian owing to its academically dependent society structure.  The society response with the existence of monster parents, which is demanded by the circumstances.  But unfortunately, they become one of the key elements in mounting the stress and anxiety level of not only the students, but also the parents and teachers.  This is surely a cautious sign for the counties, but ironically, this is also one of the factors that contributes to the success of these countries.

So what is right?  What is wrong?  Is it the ideal way of parenting?  Or it is just the way life is for the many Asian countries?  This is worth thinking.


Leonm, E. (2010). High Expectations Asian Father. Know Your Meme.  Retrieved December 4, 2012, from

Simon and Martina. (2010, November 19). Teaching in Korea: Korean Exam Day. Eat Your Kimchi. Retrived December 4, 2012 from

The Economist Newspaper Limited. (2011, December 30). South Korea: the one-shot society. The Economist, 401, 105-110.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Asian Parenting - from Authoritarian to Monster

Picking up from previous entries, US Developmental Psychologist Baumrind found Authoritative Parenting the most suiting parenting style while Frost stated that Helicopter Parenting and Attachment Parenting, etc. are the new trends in US parenting. However, in other studies, in Asia, Authoritative Parenting may not be suitable.

Psychologists Chao R. and Tseng V. in their research found that Asia parents are relatively more diverse in parenting style, but Authoritarian parenting seems more successful to their children. This can be explained by both social and economical factors.

In social context, Asian children are more interdependent to their parents as the social-culture is rooted from the parents. Respect and the notion of "Filial piety (, xiào in Chinese)" is often put as the most important value for Asians, which make their family structure more fixed and roles of each family member more defined. As a result, the parents tend to have more control or power of control over their children, which builds up the authoritarian parental system.

The word 孝 comes from the picture of elderly holding hands of the boy, in other words the combination of the old and the young, symbolizes the unseperated relationship of the two.

From the economical view, the economic status in Asian countries contributes to the parents faith in "hoping their sons to become a dragon" (望子成龍), which in other words, long for their children to succeed in life as their optimal goal as parents. Such can be evidenced in the popularity and high dependent on cram schools (even from preschool age, this will be discussed in upcoming entries) and better success in schools in terms of results. Chao commented that Authoritarian parenting is the key to their success.

American Author White named such mothers "education-oriented mothers" (教育mama) for their overly assertive role in monitoring their children's education. This eventually shapes the existence of Monster Parents, and they have been criticized for being “selfish to be induced into giving up their freedoms for motherhood”, suggested Leonard Schoppa, a professor who has spent time studying education and social stress in Japan.

In the next few entries, I will discuss on the development and influence of the notion Monster Parents in Korea and Hong Kong in further details.  Stay tuned.


Chao R. 2001. Extending research on the consequences of parenting style for Chinese Americans and European Americans. Child Development 72: 1832-1843.
Chao R. 1994. "Beyond parental control; authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training." Child Development 45: 1111-1119.

Schoppa, L. J. (2006). Race for the exits: The unraveling of Japan's system of social protection.Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Tsuneyoshi, R. (2004). The new Japanese educational reforms and the achievement "crisis" debate. Educational Policy, 18, 364?394.

White, M. I. (2002). Perfectly Japanese: Making families in an era of upheaval. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Parenting Styles in US - from Authoritative to Helicopter (2)

Besides these four basic parenting styles, in recent years, new parenting styles have emerged in the new generation. Tracey Frost, CEO of has replaced Authoritarian parenting with three more definitions:

1) Instinctive Parenting
Using the same style of parenting as they have been parented and taught as children, "go with your gut" style which is usually affected by the parents' own upbringing.

2) Attachment Parenting
Aiming to build strong emotional bond between parents and children, sensitive, very responsive to children's needs, opposite to uninvolved parenting.

3) Helicopter Parenting

As mentioned and explained in previous blog entries, it refers to parents who hover their children like helicopter, worry much about their children's safety and security.  Helicopter parents tend to maintain tight control of their children, from choosing food with most nutrients, education safety, school grades bargain, extracurricular activities, help children do academic projects, and in some extreme extent, help them to negotiate job terms and salary level. 

It has been said that the popularity of technology products such as cell phones and the increasingly competitibe society that has lad to the boom in helicopter parents.

As Frost suggested, parenting style is no more restricted to the four as it shifts from generation to generation. She suggested it is important to bring the family together and create family time. Below is a short video of her talking about parenting style:

How Family Ties Affect Children (click on the link!)

In upcoming entries, I will begin to discuss more on the impact of such parenting styles, especially Helicopter parents.


Baumrind D. 1966. Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.

Baumrind, D. (1991). Effective parenting during the early adolescent transition. In P.A. Cowan & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Advances in family research (Vol. 2). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Maccoby EE and Martin JA. 1983. Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen (ed) and E. M. Hetherington (vol. ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed., pp. 1-101). New York: Wiley.

McGolerick, E. (2011). Definitions of Parenting Styles [Parenting / Parenting Tips & Advice / Parenting Advice & Columns]. Retrieved from

Steinberg L. 2001. We know some things: Parent-adolescent relationshgips in retrospect and prospect. Journal of research on adolescence 11(1): 1-19.

Steinberg, L.D., & Silk, J.S. (2002). Parenting adolescents. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (2nd ed., Vol.1). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Parenting Styles in US - from Authoritative to Helicopter (1)

Following recent trends of Parenting Style in Japan, which can be a good representative of the oriental, I would like to write on US parenting style to compare the two.

In the US, parenting plays a very important role in child development.  Educators, psychologists, researchers have been studying the relationship between child development and parenting styles for many years.  They have nicely categorized parenting, depending on characteristics of the different styles.

Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist who studied on parenting styles and their psychological effect, and have developed two aspects of parenting, namely "Parental responsiveness"- the degree parents respond to the children's needs and "Parental demandingness" - the extent parent expects responsible behavior from children. 

She suggested three parenting styles (Baumrind 1966):

1) Authoritative Parenting
A balanced approach of parenting, encouraging, allow engagement in discussions, promote self-caring, with a good balance of "demandingness" and "responsiveness".

Stress Level: moderate
Risk of Anxiety: low

2) Authoritarian parenting
Emphasises a strict, restrictive and punitive style, controlling, high level of obedience and discipline, with high "demandingness" and low "responsiveness".

Stress Level: high
Risk of Anxiety: high

3) Permissive parenting
indulgent and passive parenting style, set few boundaries and rules, promotes emotional warmth, weak in rules and discipline enforcement, with low "demandingness" and high "responsiveness".

Stress Level: low
Risk of Anxiety: moderate

In the 1980's, researchers Maccoby and Martin added "Uninvolved Parenting" to the styles:

4) Uninvolved Parenting
Place almost no demand on children, show no warmth, pay minimal attention to their needs, basically uninvolved in parenting the children.

Stress Level: minimal
Risk of Anxiety: unknown

Here is a comic display of the few types of parenting:

There are many, yes. All these styles measures the closeness and level of attachment between parents and their children. Of all Baumrind has suggested, she found Authoritative Parenting the best parenting style of all as it captures a good balance between "demandingness" and "responsiveness", which fosters the healthiest family relationships with the most successful child outcomes.

Before I finish off this entry, please have a go at the link below (if you are parents) which is a site that provides a little test for your to find out your parenting style.  Enjoy and have fun! 

Test: What's you parenting style? (click on the link!)


Baumrind D. 1966. Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.

Baumrind, D.  (1991).  Effective parenting during the early adolescent  transition.  In P.A. Cowan & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Advances in family research (Vol. 2).  Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Maccoby EE and Martin JA. 1983. Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen (ed) and E. M. Hetherington (vol. ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed., pp. 1-101). New York: Wiley.

McGolerick, E. (2011). Definitions of Parenting Styles [Parenting / Parenting Tips & Advice / Parenting Advice & Columns]. Retrieved from

Steinberg L. 2001. We know some things: Parent-adolescent relationshgips in retrospect and prospect. Journal of research on adolescence 11(1): 1-19.

Steinberg, L.D., & Silk, J.S.  (2002).  Parenting adolescents.  In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (2nd ed., Vol.1).  Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.