One of the most satisfying opportunities to have in China is to attend some sort of event—a wedding, a school graduation, a birthday party, or even spring harvest. In our country, we miss the boat without having the kinds of celebrations those events create in China, particularly where children are involved.
First of all, color dominates, and it’s usually red, a pure bright red signifying success and joy. But, best of all, is the children are included—front and center—in the happenings, not just as restless observers, but as active participants.
As a result, Chinese children grow into confident adults, able to appear in front of a group with calm smiles—unlike at many events here in the U.S. where children are eliminated from “grown-up” activities, perhaps often present, but not truly participating. Then they get into trouble for “horse playing.”
When in China, I frequently observed children under the age of 12 or 13 who calmly introduced programs, sang or danced without noticeable flaws, and received quiet praise without the “ah shucks” response of many of our children. As a result, they grow into adults without having that aura of confidence and skill that carries them well into their futures.
Perhaps because of that lack of integration, for want of a better word, I have the same “ah shucks” attitude when someone appreciates, approves, or applauds something I’ve done or written or said. My response—because I grew up in an era of “children should be seen, not heard”—my lack of social skills hasn’t been helpful.
I believe—after many observations of a wide variety of social events in China—where children are seriously included in whatever the activities might be, that they develop the social skills of confidence, manners, appreciation, and even joy when included in what we consider adult happenings.
In U.S. audiences, where children are hushed, scolded, spanked even, there seems to be that loss of confidence that carries over into their own adult lives. If children are not included, it is quite apparent that they will become restless, leading to shushings, spankings, and even removal from the scene. Then everyone is unhappy.
When in China, dealing with things domestic and diplomatic, I was always amazed by what I sensed was an unspoken assurance emanating from the people with whom I had contact. After a time, and after attending many celebrations of varying kinds, my conclusion is that we should include more often, isolate less frequently, our children and grandchildren in our celebratory events.
That does not mean we should praise poor performances; we already give meaningless medals for mere attendance at an event, or false recognition for children who don’t really participate, but sit as observers. Now there is a tenor of change working its way through such an emotionally damaging policy. Pictures of children, who realize the medals they just received were meaningless, ripping up the scroll or breaking the plaque, or stomping on the medal, have surfaced in recent months.
Children who don’t realize the lack of value in such empty recognition often falter and fail as adults who face the real world. The results then aren’t good. We need to get children involved like the Chinese do….early and often. And—happily wearing lots of red.