One of the most famous traditional Chinese Idioms is “mèng mǔ sān qiān”. The literal translation is “Mencius’s mother, three moves”. Mencius was a famous Chinese philosopher during the Song Dynasty. His father died when he was really young so he lived with his mother.
Since they had very little money or close to no money they were living close to a cemetery. His mother began to notice that Mencius would talk like or act out the funeral processions for fun. After seeing this, his mother realized this wasn’t a good place to bring up his son so they moved. This time they moved to a place nearby a very noisy market. It was a vibrant market filled with merchants hawking their goods. After a while, Mencius began to do the same. Mother Meng decides this is no place for her son. Discard their financial troubles, she took on extra work and paid more money to live next to a school. Mencius naturally began to imitate the behavior and study habits of the students.
This reminds me of a friend I knew. We went to different high schools but met through a mutual friend. He was living in a neighborhood known as the “Beverly Hills” of Asians. All the rich Asian immigrants would buy or build a mansion in this neighborhood and leave their children with the mother or a close relative for schooling. With the unlimited allowance and lavish lifestyle, children were not focused on schooling but rather on partying. When I met him he had already been in the States for 5 years and still couldn’t barely speak a word of English. Things got bad for him when he started hanging out with a bad crowd and got into a lot of trouble with law enforcement. His parents finally realized how severe the problem was and decided to move him to Ohio. The first couple of months i would get calls from him telling how bad and boring it was. There was nothing to do, no parties, nobody speaks Chinese and it was driving him absolutely bananas. Fast forward twenty years later he is now a successful man who spoke perfect English (with no accent), college graduate and with an MBA and working for a big financial institution.
We are all affected by situational influences. We live our life in a social context, considering and reacting to the events and conditions surrounding us. In human experience, thoughts, feelings and actions are shaped by the social environment (pp.353) We learn how to interact with other in order to fit in or be accepted This comes naturally because we all seek a sense of belongingness. Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow listed “belongingness” as the third most important motive after physiological and safety needs. One’s closeness to others is vital to one’s survival and well being (pp.355) Of course not everyone can be like Mother Mencius. Sometimes choosing our social environment may be out of our control but we should always try to associate ourselves with a positive environment or as close to one as we can.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.