Source: Jerry Wang / Unsplash
The desire to raise “star” children is not new, but a significant number of parents in China have managed to raise their offspring to a new level. “Jiwa” education, as it is called today, increases parents’ fear and can also be expensive.
The name is derived from decades of untested medical treatment in which humans are injected with chicken blood to stimulate energy. “The literal translation of ‘jiwa’ means to pump children with chicken blood (to motivate them to study),” explains Dr. Xuan Li, Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University Shanghai. “If we translate it less literally, we can understand it as if we are making children be successful – to be the best.”
Dr. Li and Dr. Lixin Ren, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at East China Normal University, point out that Jiwa upbringing is similar to, but different from, tiger mother or helicopter upbringing. What is particularly noteworthy in Jiwa education is the parents’ strong moral sense of responsibility to help their children succeed, and the strong emphasis on the academic aspect of child development, which is very different from tiger education, which is parental power and authority stressed about children. Dr. Li says, “The term Jiwa parenting is imbued with a strong sense of stress and anxiety for parents who feel the need to motivate their children without even agreeing to like it or enjoy it themselves.”
A nationwide study in China’s Blue Book of Children reports that 60.4% of Chinese children ages 3-15 participated in extracurricular education programs, with academic tutoring consuming the majority of the time. According to The Global Times, the trend has seen many parents sign up their children for costly tutoring because they feel pressured to do so because other parents are doing the same. The state newspaper and National Public Radio say parents fear their children will fall behind if they fail to register.
The investments made by the Jiwa parents in tutoring their children are substantial. The BiPartisan Report, a weekly news bulletin, suggests parents spend 25 to 50 percent of their income on complementary education, most of that on private after-school academic tutoring, which has become a multi-billion dollar business in China .
The Chinese government is taking action against private lessons
As part of extensive regulations in many sectors described in the Washington Post, the Chinese government banned for-profit tutoring companies. The State Council and the Communist Party have stated that they believe that by severely restricting the number of programs they can not only curb educational inequality but also increase China’s low birth rate.
The relaxation of the country’s infamous one-child policy, which became a two-child policy and is now a three-child policy, has had little effect. The idea behind the new rulings is that parents will have more disposable income and more children to increase China’s birth rate if they don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money on expensive tutors. The cost of raising children, especially in China’s urban cities, is high and unaffordable for many parents.
President Xi Jinping’s actions are also unlikely to affect those who can afford private tuition. “Jiwa parents will no doubt find ways to circumvent the new regulations,” notes Dr. Ren, “especially parents who are very concerned about the future economic security of their children.”
Fear of falling behind
Dr. Ren, who researched the effects of after-school activities on preschoolers, told NPR, “Every time I hear the word ‘jiwa,’ I feel very intense feelings of anxiety, stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. [There is a sense among parents] I have a feeling that if I don’t move forward, I’ll fall behind. ”
In the studies of Dr. Ren and Dr. Li with preschoolers, it was found that increasing participation in extracurricular activities might promote children’s cognitive and language development to some extent, but overplanning the children could decrease the benefits of extracurricular participation or even have a negative impact on the child’s development. They indicate that parents’ performance expectations tend to increase as the children get older. Jiwa parents are crowding out almost all of their school-age children’s free time by scheduling hours for extracurricular programs, primarily tutoring. Parents who follow this approach tirelessly invest time, money, and energy to make their offspring successful.
Will “Chicken Blood” parenting come to the US?
So will this parenting trend prevail here?
“There are specific aspects of the culture and social realities in China that may have taken this advance to extremes. Chinese parents believe in effort rather than talent and see education as a path to higher education and social mobility, ”said Dr. Li.
Important reading for parents
“While helicopter parenting describes intense involvement in all aspects of children’s lives, Jiwa parenting primarily refers to deep involvement in a child’s learning driven by parents’ high expectations of their performance,” she adds.
Dr. Li and Dr. Ren remind us that the intensive parenting approach is not new or uniquely Chinese. Parents around the world and in the US have often adopted this approach without realizing it. Think of: American middle-class parents who send their children to Japanese kumon programs, Chinese courses, or Russian math camps, or Korean parents who send their children to endless full schools.
But that doesn’t mean it’s good for children or parents when so much emphasis is placed on academics. That’s just one aspect of a child’s development and their chances of success.