Solving grand-parenting problems in Mainland China


The global trends point to the emergence of a generation in which labour mobility and hard life situation make it difficult for parents to stay with their children and provide the much needed parental care and guide as was before. Increased mobility of labour in China, stemming from the rapid industrialization taking place in the region, requires intensive labour provision and full-time job attendance. Coupled with the hardening living conditions in Mainland China, parents (father and mothers alike) are often forced to work extra hours to provide enough for their families need (Chen et al. 2014). These factors accord very little time for parenting. As a result, parenting is majorly a responsibility of the grandparents. A matter of concern with grand-parenting is the discord developed through these practices. Quite often, problems such as conflicts of parenting interests, the disconnect between parents and children (alienation) arise leading to discord. These observed discords form the core concern of this research.

This research details the outcomes and analysis of an interview the researcher conducted with a family Chinese family with both parents in the workforce and spend a little time with their children. The grand-parenting strategies are therefore seen as an easy and successful way to bring up children in Mainland China. Besides, most of the parents today are products of grand-parenting and thus believe that by parenting using an iron fist, the children with gain be aligned smoothly to good morals and strong academic excellence. However, the societies have changed rapidly, and the influence of globalization is quickly changing parenting practices from an apprenticeship perspective to a learned approach that every parent desires to achieve (Chen et al. 2014). With the societies gaining contact with each other and the communities becoming more integrated, parenting techniques adopted by the Chinese parents needs to move from the traditional tiger parenting systems to a more holistic helicopter parenting suitable for the modern societies.

Background of the children and their family and the special circumstances

Mr. and Mrs. Chen have two children aged 12 and 8 years old. The family lives together in a small estate, located a few kilometres east of Beijing. Wang Chen is the first born and the only son of the family while Ming Chen is the last born and the only daughter. Mr. Chen is an employee at a local steel manufacturing company as a salesman. Currently, Mr. Chen is in charge of coordinating the company’s sales within Asia. For these reasons, Mr. Chen travels a lot and is often engaged in conducting and coordinating market exploration and analysis as well as evaluating the performance of their products in different Asian markets. When at home, Mr. Chen is often engaged in his laptop, analyzing sales and products performances for positioning. To avoid disturbance, especially from his daughter, Ming, who is so fond of him, Mr. Chen prefers locking himself in his reading room to concentrate on his work. Mr. Chen is a very hardworking employee of the company and has bagged several awards. His recruitment to the company five years ago has seen him rise in positions to become the sales director in charge of the Asian continent. His employer, Mr. Chan indicated in one of the awards that Mr. Chen is a blessing to the company, particularly for his exemplary performance. Mr. Chen is so impressed with his work and wants to put every effort in running a successful career.

Mrs. Chen, on the other hand, serves as a clerk at a flower company located on the North Eastern outskirts of Beijing. Although the distance is far, Mrs. Chen prefers to stay at their home since renting another house would be more expensive. She travels to and from work daily, except on Saturdays, by train. Most of the times, she has huge piles of files requiring her attention to moving to the next level. Getting a job in Beijing is very difficult, and so, Mrs. Chen devoted herself solely to give her best on the job to avoid demotion and worse still, dismissal. She is often engaged from the time she reports to work to her departure. She gets home late and has to leave early to get to work on time.

Mr. and Mrs. Chen are so concerned about their children, especially their academic lives. However, they are often not available to supervise their children’s education lives. Mr. Chen’s mom and Dad are solely responsible for the children’s welfare when their parents are away since they are retirees and stay in the same home. Due to his numerous engagements at work and occasional flights abroad, Mr. Chen has very little time to spend with his children, but he is glad his father is around to provide the needed fatherly support. He also encourages his wife to be extra cautious about the children’s school work and performance. Whenever he is on vacation, Mr. Chen spends much of his time teaching and supervising his son and daughter’s school work. Both Mr. Chen and Mrs. Chen tolerates no joke when it comes to matters of academics. However, since they are away much of the times, these responsibilities are performed majorly by Mr. Chen’s parents who are old and too compassionate towards the children. Their leniency has made then the darling of Mr. Chen’s children.

Over time, Wang and Ming have developed a fear of their father and dislike for their very demanding mother and tend to lean towards their aged grandparents. They prefer to spend much of their time with their grandparents and sometimes see their mother, only for a few hours on Saturday mornings when Mrs. Chen has to look at their week’s classwork and supervise weekend assignments before dashing out to shop for the week. Mr. and Mrs. Chen believe that only through excellent academic achievements, will their children attain the best quality of life. They always remind their children that if it were not for their hard work at school, they would not be capable of providing the good life they are enjoying presently. Discipline is paramount in Chen’s family, typical of the Chinese traditional families. Respect has to be observed based on age and instructions are forcefully entrenched downwards and age-wise. Although Chen’s parents also demand discipline and respect, they are less strict than the Chen, thus their fondness with the children.

Problem and analysis

From the narrative provided about Mr. Chen’s family, the parenting approach adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Chen can be classified as ‘tiger parenting’ describes in Chua (2011) memoir. Excellence in academics is a demanded fact for the Chen’s. Failing even in a few math questions would result to quarrels from Mrs. Chen and occasionally, a beating from Mr. Chen. Simple mistakes often result to scolding and occasional beatings save for the intervention of Mr. Chen’s parents sometimes. These descriptions suite the classification of ‘tiger parenting’ exercised by Amy Chua as recounted in his memoir. The main problem stemming from Mr. Chen’s family case study is the strict tiger parenting conditions which are not congruent with the present Chinese one-child one family policy.

According to Lo & Liu (2009), the one-child one family policy has introduced a new paradigm of parenting as most parents move to helicopter strategies as opposed to the typical tiger strategy common to the Chinese system of parenting. A common problem with the tiger parenting style adopted by the Chen’s is its inability to dig deeper into the children’s specific concerns. The style believes that forced under power and authority; all children can realign themselves to the positive expectations of the parents including the ability to excel in class. Commonly noted, children have different capabilities, interest, and desires which also contributes immensely to defining their individual paths socially, academically and professionally. The tiger parenting techniques are totally incongruent with the modern societies, especially within the context of the one-child one family policy in China where rich families have resorted to giving their children all affordable comfort and luxuries.

As opposed to the tiger parenting systems which involves the application of force and power to ensuring that the children comply sufficiently with the parents’ directives and requirements the helicopter style is lenient about these (Lou, 2010). The later approach looks keenly into every child’s individual needs to assess and address them at a personal level. This enables the respective parents to address the children’s individual needs successfully and sufficiently. As Lou (2010) observes the aspects of globalization and international awareness is quickly and surely shifting parental guidance from a strict traditional style to a more liberal perspective. Children tend to copy and adapt a lot of traits from the people they consider as role models. These can be people older than them or their peers. The external environment has a lot of influence on the children’s behavior, expectations and wishes, some of which are beyond control through the tiger way (Kim, Wang, Orozco-Lapray, Shen & Murtuza, 2013). As a result, learning the specific needs and desires of each child. According to Wang, Orozco-Lapray, Shen & Murtuza (2013), the helicopter parenting style has achieved most success in molding the behavior and enhancing children’s social and academic growths by drawing them closer to the parents. These observations are congruent with Lou (2010) assertions that to know one; it takes close association through friendship. This involves developing a strong relational bond between the parents and the children. Contrary to these, the tiger approaches accords no time or opportunity to learn or associate with the children leading to misunderstandings, alienations, fear and rejection between the parents and children.

Programs and services suggested

To rectify the situation described in Mr. Chen’s family, it is important that adjustments are made to prevent the problems such as rejection, fear, alienations, dishonesty, etc. from arising. To achieve these, the following programs and services are recommended in this report concerning the scenario.

Triple P-Positive Parenting Programs: Triple P-Positive Parenting was developed by the University of Queensland, Australia to provide a multileveled approach to parenting (Sanders, 2008). The program is designed primarily to improve parenting quality by improving positive effects such as the well-being of the children, family relationships and entrench benefits to the larger community. The program provides intensive training to parents to improve their confidence and confidence in raising their children. It involves availing evidence-based parenting information and intervention mechanisms to the parents to enable them to cope with the changes occurring in the societies around them (Sanders, 2008). This training, therefore, equips parent with adequate information enabling them to view the world in a completely different angle. As such, they can address the changing needs of their children sufficiently and help to align these needs with their education and social goals. Triple P-Positive Parenting Programs have been used extensively and successfully for more than 25 years to train and equip parents with the modern dynamic parenting approaches as opposed to the traditional tiger parenting styles.

Promoting positive parenting practices through parenting education: This approach was proposed by Zepeda, Varela and Morales (2004) in an attempt to develop good parenting techniques that can enable parents to manage their daily chores easily alongside their parenting roles. This program equips parents with the necessary knowledge to enable them to learn their children by giving them the opportunity to grow and nurture their skills. It involves identifying the children’s skills and potentials and helping them to develop their career and lives around these skills, talents, and potentialities in different areas. Although the learning is passive for the parents, the parents are required to play an active role in nurturing their children. This approach reflects the helicopter approach in various ways.


To conclude, parenting has become one of the most important factors in the world today. The lives of the children revolve entirely around the parenting techniques adopted by the parents at every level. Grand-parenting techniques are a common practice in Mainland China as the majority of the parents were raised in this approach. However, the bulk of changes occurring in societies today, including China, have brought in a myriad of challenges which have rendered tiger parenting systems, typical of the Chinese parents, quite irrelevant and unsatisfactory. As evident in the case study illustrated in this research more integrated and effective approaches such as the helicopter parenting systems needs to be embraced. These can be entrenched successfully through programs such as Triple P-Positive Parenting programs and Positive Parenting Practices through parenting education.



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Lou V. (2010) Life satisfaction of older adults in Hong Kong: The role of social support from      grandchildren. Social Indic Res 95: 377-391.

Lo, M., & Liu, Y.H. (2009). Quality of life among older grandparent caregivers: a pilot study. J   Adv Nurs 65(7): 1475-1484.

Kim, S., Wang, Y., Orozco-Lapray, D., Shen, Y., & Murtuza, M. (2013). Does “tiger parenting”? Parenting profiles of Chinese Americans and adolescent developmental           outcomes. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 4(1), 7-18. Doi: 10.1037/

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