BACK AT IT: Day 119, Thursday December 26 2013

Christmas already seems like it happened weeks ago. We are back at work now and I had my Harry Potter class, which is often a hit or miss. It went alright today but I have vowed never to give (the students) prizes if they are out of their seats. They are greedy and grabby and all want to spend an hour picking out the one they want, only to run back and change it later (crying and complaining that the thing they’ve changed their minds that they want is now gone).

They call it the “Little Emperor Syndrome” (or empress in some cases), and some days it does feel like every chinese child is a spoilt brat. Chinese children of today are trapped between the traditional parenting views of their grandparents, and the western- influenced styles their parents have begun to adapt. China has very rapidly shifted from the large family culture of the past where children were considered a financial asset, to a small family culture, where children are considered an emotional asset. (Goh, E., & Kuczynski, L. (2009).) This shift has been named the “4-2-1” phenomenon, as in four grandparents, two parents, and one child. The grandparents come from an generation where it was seen as ideal to remain distant from children, and to lead by example. The parents of the new generation were born into a changing world, and in many cases they seek to have a closer relationship with their children. (Goh, E., & Kuczynski, L. (2009).)This rift between the two generations can leave a lot of gaps in the parenting styles and a lot of children in China are clever enough to use these “loopholes” (as they were referred to by one child in the study conducted by Goh & Kuczynski (Goh, E., & Kuczynski, L. (2009).)) to get their way. Hence that leads us to our “Little Emperors,” not explicitly “spoilt little brats” but the combined result of large cultural shifts, disparity in parenting view points, and, well being “too smart for their own good”.

We met Nate’s friend Lawrence after work, and he took us to hot pot for dinner, a traditional Chinese meal that’s kind of like fondue. You have a pot of boiling soup broth in the middle of the table, and all sorts of raw vegetables and meet. You put the veggies or meat into the broth and wait for it to cook, then pull it out with your chopsticks and dip it into delicious sesame sauce. We’d never experienced hot pot so Lawrence ordered it the traditional way.

Eventually a big round dish with a tall narrow tube coming out the top and fire spewing out of it was placed on the (table). Trays of beef and lamb were brought to us, the meat cut paper thin. Lawrence and his friends dumped one of the meat plates in the boiling water and told us to wait. More food was placed beside us, spinach, bok choy, mushrooms, fish balls, tripe, tofu… each a heaping plate that looked a meal on it’s own. When the meat was cooked we pulled it out with chop sticks and dipped it in sesame butter with sweet chilly pepper sauce to give it spice. It was delicious and a hot pot kit is now on my future house’s wish list!


Goh, E., & Kuczynski, L. (2009). Agency and Power of Single Children in Multi-Generational Families in Urban Xiamen, China. Culture & Psychology, 506-532. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from

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