What Not to Say to Your Kid
29 Jun 2006
Browsing at the new Zhongshan Park Carrefour’s book section, I discovered this book called 父母不该对孩子说的100句话 (literally, “100 Sentences Parents Shouldn’t Say to their Children“). Since I didn’t grow up in China and I almost never watch Chinese TV, I really don’t have much of an idea of what Chinese parents say to their young children. So this book caught my attention. Some of its content is easy to anticipate, but at times also offers tidbits of social insight or even some cultural humor. I’ll share a few of the ones I found interesting (but I’ll spare you the book’s child psychology counseling).
1. 你是从垃圾堆里捡的 (We found you in a trash heap.)
I thought the stork bringing babies was kind of weird, but it’s better than this alternative. The crazy thing is that it seems that the majority of young people in China today are told this by their parents as a joke! They think it’s funny, and the kid believes it. Unbelievable.
2. 你就这成绩以后扫大街去 (With grades like this, you’re going to be sweeping streets someday.)
Apparently in China being a street sweeper is worse than being a garbage man. I think the guys that wash out the septic tank trucks down the road might envy the street sweepers, though.
3. 你怎么这么笨 (How can you be so stupid!)
4. 你的脑袋里长草了 (You’ve got grass growing on your brain.)
Chinese caustic creativity.
5. 你看看人家的孩子 (Look at the other kids.)
One of my Chinese friends has told me that she believes that Chinese parents’ constant comparisons between their children and other children are the single most damaging thing to Chinese children’s development.
6. 千万别得罪老师 (Whatever you do, do not offend your teacher.)
Ah, Confucius would be so proud.
7. 别动，等你长大再帮我 (Don’t move. You can help me when you’re older.)
8. 你的任务就是好好学习，其他的别管 (Your job is studying. Don’t worry about anything else.)
This is why modern Chinese kids never have to do any chores or help out around the house in any way.
9. 妈帮你去说对不起 (Mommy will go say sorry for you.)
Yeah, you wouldn’t want your kid to realize he is responsible for his own actions.
10. 我没本事，咱家就看你的了 (I don’t have any real skills. Our family is depending on you.)
No pressure, though.
11. 当心，摔下来我可不管 (Be careful. If you trip, I’m not going to help you.)
Is this supposed to teach independence?
12. 那么难看，你还喜欢 (You actually like something this ugly?)
Sometimes kids need to know they have horrible, horrible taste.
13. 你哪有钱去捐款呀 (Like you have enough money to make a donation?)
14. 你在等我表扬你吗 (Are you waiting for me to praise you?)
Sometimes teaching modesty goes a little too far.
15. 那个人真不是东西 (That person is nothing.)
16. 没事，反正没人看见 (Don’t worry, no one saw us.)
17. 不准失败 (You may not fail.)
18. 你问我，我问谁 (You ask me, but then who do I ask?)
I can’t help but find the thought of saying this to a child funny.
19. 闭嘴，小孩子问那么多干嘛 (Shut up. Kids don’t need to ask so many questions.)
Ah, nipping curiosity in the bud at a young age. This helps prevent the later problem of ingenuity and/or problem-solving.
20. 别问这些不要脸的事情 (Don’t ask about such shameful things.)
Is he asking about the garbage heap, maybe?
21. 你怎么不明白我的苦心呢 (Can’t you understand how much I’ve sacrificed for you?)
The Asian parent guilt game! Gotta love it.
22. 早知道这样，当初就不该生你 (If I had known you’d turn out like this, I never would have given birth to you.)
Clearly, we shouldn’t be too hard on Chinese parents. They have a tough job, and they’re imperfect just like the rest of the world’s parents. But here’s hoping some of these sentences become less common in the future… for the children. (OK, sorry, I’ve never used that phrase before, and I had to do it just once.)