Hit TV Show Highlights Dads' Roles in Childcare

  • January 13, 2013
  • By Wang Huanjun
  • Editor: Leo Yin
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Hit TV Show Highlights Dads' Roles in Childcare
Taiwanese singer, actor and professional race car driver Lin Zhiying and his son Kimi on Dad, Where Are We Going?, a popular TV show aired on Hunan TV. [s1979.com]
Hunan TV's new program Dad, Where Are We Going? has become hugely popular since it debuted in October. The program invited five fathers, who are all sports and entertainment celebrities, and their small children to travel together to complete certain tasks. During the trip, the program captured how the five pairs handled each obstacle, with many touching moments being captured on camera.

The show has been a hit with viewers curious to see how celebrity dads treat and communicate with their children and how they bond with each other in the absence of mothers.

The show's subject, fathers' involvement with their children's upbringing, has become a hot topic of public discussion.

Lack of Fathers' Involvement in Kids Education

While mothers have traditionally been more involved in child-raising than fathers, there is now overwhelming evidence that a fathers' involvement in a child's upbringing makes a very positive difference.

In the first episode of the hit show, the five dads are confused about how to take good care of their children, to some extent suggesting that many young fathers perhaps have no confidence in spending time alone with their children and meeting all their care needs.

According to an online survey conducted by web portal Sina.com, 60.7 percent of the 1,988 respondents said that children these days lack fatherly guidance.

"Fathers can have a different influence over their children than mothers," said Lan Jing, a teacher from Beijing Normal University. "They serve as male role models for boys, and girls often want to win their father's recognition. So it's crucial that both mothers and fathers take part in raising their children."

But for many young parents, time is a major barrier to being more involved with their children.

Experts have suggested that fathers establish a daily routine with their kids, including setting a time for their children's homework during which they can be there to support and provide help. It's also important for fathers to make it a point to have at least one meal a day with the family and make the most of any bedtime routines.

Professor Liu Xuyi from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that the behavior that fathers model for their children also influences their children's beliefs and ideas because little children learn by imitating adults.

Learning from History

More than half of the netizens polled said that parents could benefit a lot from learning about Chinese traditional views on child-raising. They particularly mentioned Zeng Guofan (1811-1872), a renowned scholar and official during the late Daoguang Period of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

Although Zeng spent most of his time away from his family, his letters back home to his children and younger brothers have become famous for their sound advice on proper behavior. Many of his concepts on child education are popular with today's Chinese parents, including reading classic books, being frugal and doing chores. His child-raising methods are particularly relevant to today’s busy fathers, who like Zeng, spend most of their time away from home.

"I am now reading Zeng's family letters on children's education," said one father, who is the general manager of an advertising company. "Zeng was also away from home all year round and I want to know how he educated his children."

"I think parents can benefit a lot from Chinese traditions on children's education," said President of Hunan Writers' Association Tang Haoming. "Zeng educated his children on how to become good people through his letters and when he spent time with his children he would instruct them to read classical books and behave well."

According to Zeng, the purpose of education was to acquire wisdom from books instead of getting an official position, which was the equivalent of a prestigious job in ancient China. Children should be instructed that the first aim of pursuing studies is to "have lofty ideals, insight and persistence".

"But now parents put too much material emphasis on their children's education," Tang added.

Child experts have said that parents need to build a relationship based on equality and mutual respect and not impose their wishes on their children.

In Zeng's family letters, Zeng urges his young children to do household chores as part of their daily routine, even though they had servants who could do the work for them. This was because he believed doing chores would improve their physical and mental well-being. Zeng attached great importance to cultivating his children's sense of independence.

New "Babysitter" Poses Challenge to Parenting

The rise of the information age has posed a new challenge to parenting, with more and more children becoming adept at using cell phones, tablets and computers. For many parents, an iPad has become the ideal way of keeping children quiet and entertained.

But education experts have warned that excessive use of electronic products may result in shortsightedness or addiction to video games and the Internet.

Electronic products have become the new 'babysitter' but undue attachment to them may not be healthy for a child's growth. A recent survey showed that nearly 80 percent of children reacted emotionally after their iPads were taken away by their parents.

"Children also have needs and video games can meet some of these needs," said Lan. "Parents should find an alternative, such as outdoor activities, to reduce their children's addiction to electronic products."

Forum on Fathers' Role in Childcare

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences recently organized a forum to discuss issues involving gender roles in families, fathers' roles in childcare and the media's roles in children's growth.

"With social progress, the traditional role of a father is changing from provider to nurturer, which is one of the reasons for the success of the TV show Dad, Where Are We Going?," said Secretary-General of the Family Research Center Zhang Liang.

"The program revealed that fathers also played a big role in child-raising and I hope fathers can get more involved in their children's education," commented Xu Anqi, another official from the center.

Head of the Institute of Sociology Yang Xiong pointed out that the scope of family education has been narrowed due to the reduced family size caused by China's family planning policy. It is important that both mothers and fathers are active in child-raising in order to bring up healthy, well-balanced children.

The attendees also suggested that the government and companies should create favorable policies and regulations to enable fathers to have more time for their children, such as giving fathers paternal leave and adopting flexible work schedules.

(Source: Guangming Daily/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)

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