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superior.

January 9, 2011

The article of Saturday morning seemed to be the WSJ’s Why Chines Mothers are Superior. It’s written by a mother of two daughters and describes what she sees as the major differences between “Chinese mothers” and “Western mothers”. The author is, of course, of the “Chinese mother” sort. I’m waffling at about 50% agreement on the overall idea.

The part I am in agreement with is the effort that “Chinese mothers” put forth in order to see their children succeed. Putting in the time to tutor your kid, helping them with homework, making them practice, knowing their friends, going to their activities – that’s good parenting. Being involved in your child’s life is a good thing. Similarly, taking responsibility for how well your child does in school and not automatically blaming the system – also good. And ultimately, will probably result in the kid doing pretty well in school.

But I’m not so much in agreement with the idea that as a parent you should attempt to control your kid’s life. See, I don’t think playing sports or acting in a school play or painting is any different from playing violin.  Imagine if Chinese parents really liked sports. You would end up with some kick-ass athlete kids (they’d probably get picked on less in school too). Instead, though, you end up with semi-prodigy musicians, who will most likely give it up after college or shortly after. I played sports; I participated in the school play; I went to sleepovers and had a boyfriend. And I still got A’s and honors and played piano. I don’t think enforcing weird social restrictions is really necessary. And in fact, there are so many restrictions (like not having a boyfriend) that are impossible to enforce. Especially by high school, if your parents are that restrictive, why wouldn’t you just break the rules? Maybe I’m just too Western?

I wasn’t raised this way, but it seems to me that this parenting style would seem to create an environment where you have to be obediently and unquestioningly happy and successful (according to your mother’s measure). If they fail, if they act out, if they want to be a theater major – they’re faced with shame, disappointment, screaming. And you either constantly fight back or you put your head down and power through. Should childhood be something you have to “get through”?

side note: I also disagree with a significant amount of her self-esteem argument. Sure, “Western parents” might be too soft. But Asians are still one of the highest suicide rates (after Native Americans). And if super skinny was universally attractive, I’m sure we’d be leading the eating disorder rates as well.

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One comment

  1. Interestingly, this article has stirred up quite a discussion on a Chinese mailing list that I am on. Most of the opinions from Chinese mothers are “I don’t treat my child like Chua did and my child turns out just fine.” Personally, I think the risk of psychological trauma is over-rated. We all have our emotional scars here and there, just like our physical scars. But we function just fine, mostly. And I think it’s better that we were held to a high expectation by our parents and yelled at when we didn’t meet it, than having no scars and never being called a fatty, yet grown up to be 280lbs and spilling my waist over the armrest into the middle seat 22B.



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