Thoughts on Confucian Parenting

Confucius (Kong Fu Zi/K’ung Fu-tzu, from 551 to 479 B.C) was a Chinese philosopher who focused on human morality and right behavior, had tremendous influence on East Asia culture. He viewed education not merely as the accumulation of knowledge but as a means of self-transformation. He promoted social harmony by stressing education.

Cultures strongly influenced by Confucianism include Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled by Chinese people.

Value Education

For Asian parents, especially for Chinese parents, Confucius teaching formed the foundation of childcare and education. By Confucius’s thought, a person does not become a competent human being unless educated through deliberate efforts. If a child does not behave well, it is his or her parents’ fault, because it is the parents’ responsibility to teach the child.

Most of Chinese parents put a lot of effort on their children’s education; they sacrifice their own interests to give their children good education, wherever in mainland China, Taiwan, or the United States, a lot of parents spend all their weekends to take their children to different classes, such as piano, dance, swimming etc.. Some of the parents even sell their house or use their retirement money, in order to pay their children’s college.

High Expectation on Academic Achievement

In Chinese long history, education has been valued. Most of Chinese parents usually have high expectation on academic achievement to their children. They encourage their children to get good grades and go to Ivy League colleges. They believe to help their children to be ambitious, set big goals is good for them to maximize their potential. As the quotes, “aim for the stars and maybe you will reach the sky”.

However, not every child is good at good grades, when their children come home with bad grades, if the parents treat their children too strictly; they will be constantly criticizing and yelling at their children for not meeting the high standard. Parents themselves also get too stressful and counter all these negative emotions, like anxiety, anger, confusion and frustration.

On the other hand, academic capability is only a part of a child’s life. Some students with good grades entered a college but being lack of many other capabilities, such as common sense have hard times in college life, even their future life. Some successful people have not gone to a good college at all, while they keep constantly learning and made great achievement.

Filial Piety

Filial piety (Xiào) is one of the most important concepts in Chinese culture, which is one of the virtues to be cultivated. It means a child should love and respect for his or her parents and ancestors, not be rebellious to his or her parents and even when pointing out and correcting his or her parents’ mistakes should be in a courtesy way.

On the other hand, filial piety also consists of total and unconditional obedience, an unquestioned compliance of parents’ whishes. This originated from Confucian thought on the tradition of hierarchical where those who were older in generation and in age were superior over those younger in generation and in age.


Traditional Asian families placed great emphasis on training children to behave properly and to be obedient, which has conflict with children’s development of their individuality on exploring; as a result, it damages children’s creativity.

Because of Filial Piety, parents do not like their children speak out their opposite opinion, do not like their children to argue with them intentionally or unintentionally; they want their children to be obedient. When their children come home with bad grades, the children already feel bad enough, while the parents keep scolding them, do not give them a chance to express themselves. Stressful children (especially teenagers) and stressful parents end up fighting with each other in different ways.

Communication is two way process. It is very important to let children have the freedom to speak to their parents without being judged, so they are not afraid to talk to their parents. Parents should listen to their children without interruption, by listening more, talking less; parents will understand their children more. By the parents and the children understand each other more; parents will achieve an effective parenting.


Some parents overprotect their children. Although their intention is good because they want to protect and help their children from heart, and they really are trying their best, however, they monitor their children too closely and over control their children, especially on teenagers. As a result, their children were trained to behave properly and have no chance to experience failure and no capability to learn from failed experience, while this is not the case of real world. Parents just can not protect their children forever.

Another thing we notice that some mothers constantly stayed close to their young children and providing physical caring rather than considering their emotional needs. Although they met their children’s physical needs, they did not allow their children to explore. In general, compared with American parents, traditional Chinese parents did not encourage their children to be independent or participate in exploratory activities, especially involves in a risk of physical injury. Some people think that Chinese prefer balance to adventure. Others think these restrictions on physical activity are based on the Confucian principle of final piety, which greatly emphasized discipline and proper behavior. It is common that the traditional Chinese children are allowed much less of freedom and autonomy compared with American Children.

Harmony society, harmony family and harmony personal life is the ideal goal of Confucius wisdom.

To learn more parenting skills, please refer to Happy Child Guide, My Out-of-control Teen and great parenting books.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Confucian Parenting

  1. In order to nurture modern and international talent, we need to integrate Chinese and Western values, Confucius’s thoughts are the most important part, which have had impact on Chinese education. It is certainly worth for us to study and understand thoroughly his wisdom and limitations.

  2. Although Confucius was living in BC, because of his self-learning ability and engagement in life-long education, he accumulated a wealth of academic and practical experience in education.

  3. Indeed, Confucian education to Asian is not new, as it affected many countries in Asia. In China, it almost penetrated into every family.

  4. In order to nurture modern creative talent, we should respect for individuality and use incentive-based learning. From this aspect, I think education in the West does better than the East.

  5. I agree with you. In fact, I think that it is the same with Confucius’s theory, which is educating each child by his individuality.

  6. I agree with you! Education itself should be different because of different individuality at different place and different time, but family education should cultivate the child’ individuality and the basic ability so that it will benefit children for life!

  7. “The teacher’s guidance is based on the student’s thinking. After giving the student a hint, the teacher should let him or her think about it again in order to let the student understand more. Confucius’s educational methods include three ways, which are from shallow to deep, from easy to difficult; from one’s own situation to extend to others’; think about both ends, and attack heretical one.”
    I think the modern family education should also respect for the child’s thinking, after let the child thinking then step-by-step guide him or her, which is an effective way.

  8. The main educational thought of Confucius: “step-by-step guiding, teaching by individuality, combining learning with thinking, reunifying knowing with doing”, which also follows the natural law.

  9. After reading the article, I feel that I really need more information on the topic. Could you suggest some more resources please?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *