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Friday, August 10, 2012

A South Asian Parenting Dilemma: Push or Foster? (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

    In the Basnyat household, whether to push or to foster our children’s development is a constant topic of discussion. My husband, who has an interesting background of spending a good chunk of his formative years in the United States (former diplomat’s kid) but also spent much of his childhood in Nepal, and then came to the US for college. He decided to hang out here ever since, get married and raise a family. The whole nine yards! He plays for the Push Team.
    I, as a Nepali-American who primarily grew up in America and not to mention with an extensive Psychology background, am playing for the Foster Team.  We both want our children to do well academically, have good social relationships, and lead healthy and happy lives. However, by no means am a Tiger Mom and he a Wolf Dad.  Physical punishment and scolding are out of the question for us, but praise is a favorite strategy.  We truly want to take the Best of Both Worlds Approach (BBWA) in our parenting.  To the best of my knowledge, this is not an actual theoretical paradigm, but this is how we describe our multicultural parenting style.

    The BBWA is also the reason why we have this parenting dilemma. Had we simply chosen one path (Eastern or Western) to parenting, we would not have to debate so much.  Given our personalities, ambitions, and professional backgrounds, there is no end in sight for these debates. Every time he says something to the effect of “we have to push the kids to reach their potential” I quickly offer a myriad of word choices like foster, cultivate, support, encourage, etc. to replace “push.”  This is how our discussion may sound like.

The Academics

Husband: “I think it is important for him to do practice work (Math, Reading, etc.) outside of his homework.  The kid is really smart and we need to push his limits to see how far he can go.”

Me: “Yes, he is smart and I also want him to excel, but I don’t feel pushing is the best way to accomplish this.  He is so young and at this point, learning should be fun and enjoyable so he would want to do it more rather than get frustrated and avoid it.” Sometimes, I may pull one of these stunts. “At this developmental stage, it should be about the process of learning not so much the product.” I mean, really, who could argue with a point like that?

The Sport

Me: “I am really concerned about the time he is spending in soccer.  He seems too tired to do his homework or get any down time.”

Husband: “He loves playing soccer and he needs all the practice he can get to be better at it. He has so much potential.”

Me: “He does love to play and he is good at it.  How about we stick to one sport at a time so it’s not too much for him or for us?” My husband agrees. It does not always work this way.

The Musical Instrument

Husband: “Shouldn’t he be playing an instrument like a violin or clarinet by now? You used to play the violin.”

Me: “They start in third or fourth grade. He’s only in the first. I started in the third grade and there was too much pressure so I gave it up in junior high. I really don’t think that kind of pressure is good for him.”

Son: “I don’t want to play anything I have to blow, it’s too hard (he's asthmatic). I want to play the violin or the drums.”

Husband and Me: “No drums! Maybe a violin or guitar, we’ll see.”  To be continued...

    So, you can see from above how the Push vs. Foster discussion may transpire in a parenting conversation. I feel we do not have to “push” our kids into anything and thereby run a high risk of this pushing backfiring on us.  If you are skeptical, try this experiment at home: have your significant other stand in front of you and you push him or her from the back.  What happens? Although Physics was never a strong suit of mine, but I believe this is called Resistance.  In Psychology, we call it Rebellion.  This usually is not a pretty phase and I will use all the strategies in my parenting toolbox to avoid this parent-child dynamic.   

Do you believe in pushing or fostering your child to reach their potential?


  1. Ha! I thought I was more of a Push parent but I think my husband and I have a good balance. Ultimately we want our children to be happy and successful. Trin

  2. Trin: I agree, it is very much about a "good balance" when it comes to our kids. Thanks for your comment!