Chinese work-from-home mother makes 'don't ask mum' deal with bratty and overly dependent child

A mother struck a bargain with her son so she could work from home without distraction.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A “don’t ask mum” treaty signed by a Chinese mother and her seven-year-old son to restrict him from bothering her for trivial things has made the news in China after appearing online.

Many internet users said the story resonated with them as complaints about overly dependent children are common among families in the country.

The agreement was drafted by a woman living in Chengdu, Sichuan, who usually works from home, news app Red Star News reported.

The mother, whose name was not released, said she was fed up with her son’s constant demands this month when the boy came home for the summer holidays.

She said he asked her to help him with trivial things so often that she “could not even have the chance to use her computer”.

“He seems to call me at every moment. I can’t focus on my work,” she told Red Star News. “My patience has almost worn out. It’s only the first week of the summer holiday, but I feel I am nearly suffocated.”

Inspired by a child education article, the mother made the treaty last week, hoping the boy could be independent, rather than relying on her to solve all his problems, said the report.

To her surprise, the boy signed it unhesitatingly, the mother said.

The “treaty” governs aspects of the boy’s academic studies and everyday life. For example, some clauses are: when you don’t know how to write a Chinese character, check the dictionary instead of asking mum; when you read a book, immerse yourself in it and don’t ask mum when time is up; check your maths exercises carefully, don’t ask mum; when you encounter difficult maths problems, think independently without asking mum.

The agreement states that the boy should find his own clothes to wear, he should prepare his water bottle by himself, and take mosquito repellent with him, instead of phoning his mother and asking her to bring him things.

“In the face of difficulties, solve it by yourself first. After all, you are not a three-year-old kid,” the words at the end of the treaty read.

It continued: “For those problems that are too hard [for you] to solve, ask your father when he is back home.”

The mother said the treaty has been effective because after it was signed, there were far fewer occasions where the boy asked her for help.

Wang Hongcai, a professor from Xiamen University’s education institute, said the phenomenon of overly dependent children shows that domestic families are prioritising their children’s academic scores, but paying little attention to other areas of child-rearing.

“Children will then develop a habit of relying on parents to solve their problems, big or small,” he told the South China Morning Post.

“This habit will not be changed as they grow up because they feel comfortable in this environment and won’t take the initiative to go out of their comfort zone,” he told the Post.

“Parents’ rearing mode of doing everything for their kids is not helpful for the kids to develop their independence. For the whole nation, it will be a disaster,” said Wang.

Many people said they shared the mother’s frustration. “The same world, the same type of kids,” wrote one person on Weibo.

“My daughter would still call me for help even when her dad is beside her,” another user commented.

“This is a good method. It can train the kids’ independence as well as create a quiet environment for the mother,” one commenter said.

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.