Dr. Tao Wang seeks to fill a void in China’s childhood development by hosting programs educating parents on how to raise their children.
After spending an hour in an office with Dr. Tao Wang, it was abundantly clear that his passion for educating is second to none. Dr. Wang, a faculty member of TU’s education department, was raised in what he calls a “typical, traditional Chinese intellectual upbringing.” With his background, he had many reflections on his experiences as a child. This drives his desire to study psychology and childhood development. A seventh-generation teacher, Dr. Wang first received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in China in human developmental psychology. Later, he would attend Harvard to receive his doctoral degree, and join the TU faculty in 2005.
Dr. Wang recognizes a very unique challenge in Chinese parenting. Traditional Chinese education is “strict and very authoritarian” and often “oppressing.” The country now maintains a one-child policy. With the change, he sees parents switching from one extreme to another; spoiling becoming very prevalent as a result, “yielding huge social and family problems.”
“The parents give the most important education. They impact young lives profoundly, yet it is ironically universal that they are the least trained of educators,” says Dr. Wang. He goes on to explain that “the child’s brain is chiseled by the early parenting, and their later success is largely dependent on the earliest developments.” In the States, there have been many wonderful parenting programs since the 1970s, according to Dr. Wang, but China was missing similar programs.
Seeing the void in China’s educational system, Dr. Wang began lecturing in 2008 during in his summer and winter breaks. His lectures have been given in over ninety cities in China. One of these lectures lasts three hours without a break, yet he explains that “Chinese parents are the best, most eager students” he has ever encountered.
“Once you become a parent, you have this unreal motivation,” he says.
With the help of the early education center, Gymboree, he has given a lecture to a class of 1,600 people, absolutely free to the public.
Dr. Wang saw a necessity for continued support, stating, “Sometimes I couldn’t leave the theaters because of the number of parents who had questions.” To satisfy this demand, he began a blog in 2009, now with over 300 articles and over 500,000 page hits. The lecture series grew so popular, he would go on to write it in book form.
Published in 2012, his book, “Discipline and Love”, focuses on parental education combining the optimal scientific education while addressing the human level of how to discipline a child with love, loving a child with discipline and incorporating traditional Chinese concepts. It has now sold over 100,000 copies and was a nationwide bestseller in China in 2013. His main approach to the topics is through traditional Chinese philosophy. Dr. Wang says that it is to take “two conflicting components that can compromise and work together to yield the best result.” He then displayed the example of “yin and yang.”
In 2013, Dr. Wang began a more systematic training. Even after the lectures and the book, Dr. Wang says parents still have many practical problems. So he began to recruit families for a 3-day workshop. The training would last for 10 hours a day and involve 30 families. He would then visit each family to observe their interactions and guide them for two to three hours per family. Because of the importance of grandparents in Chinese families, Dr. Wang observed differences not only with the children, but also in the interactions with the adult’s own parents.
In 2016, Dr. Wang took an early leave for the year to train 120 families. The gratitude of the families is wildly apparent from the stacks of photographs that the families sent to Dr. Wang on his birthday. Some families even compiled fully printed books of their families’ pictures with poems and letters displayed among the images. He was astounded that “children would remember [him] from two, three years old.”
Dr. Wang’s smile while discussing his research displayed the immense satisfaction that his work brings him. His passion was clear from the start of our discussion, making it pleasantly easy to converse with him about the research. While not having plans to bring the lecture series to the U.S., he has taught the lecture once in the states at his church.
“The University of Tulsa has been so supportive of my research,” says Dr. Wang at the end of our interview, emphasizing the importance of the university and the education department’s backing and his gratitude for it.
Dr. Wang teaches a course on early childhood development that covers both the theoretical and the practical areas of his studies. An incredibly wise and caring man, Dr. Wang shares his years of experience in the classroom setting and makes each minute of lecture worthwhile