The Wall Street Journal printed a book excerpt from the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother this weekend, suggesting that Chinese mothers are “superior” to Western mothers because Chinese mothers’ solution to “substandard performance” is “always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” According to author Amy Chua, this type of parenting is not only acceptable but commendable.
In spite of the general US consensus to shy away from stereotypes, there are numerous studies conducted that have shown marked differences between Chinese and Western parenting. One study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, showed that almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way.
Part of her ‘superior’ parenting included numerous activities that Mrs. Chua’s children are not allowed to do, including: attend a sleepover, have a play-date, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, play any instrument other than the piano or violin.
In addition, they are not not allowed to: get any grade less than an A; not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama and not play the piano or violin. “Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences,” Chua explains. She even says that calling one’s daughter “garbage” if they get bad grades or “fatty” if they’re fat is a good thing, because bad grades are garbage and skinny is superior. So it’s an act of love: “Many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly.”
- Do I have to play the piano? I think I have trumpet lips!
“But what about a child’s happiness?” you Western mother might ask. How kidsfeeldoesn’t appear to be relevant in this style of parenting, since it’s assumed stereotypicalsuccess and personal fulfillment are interchangeable, or at least that things like happinessare too vague and frivolous (“Western”) to consider. It also appears that there is no consideration for deciding what their children can and cannot do or become. Is it reasonable to force every Chinese child to play an instrument…and determine which one or two they can play? Is it emotionally healthy to call children names, like ‘garbage’ and ‘fatty?’
I don’t know about you—but I I’ll pass on having a musical virtuoso or brainiac in order to have a child who is genuinely happy, in touch with his feelings, doing what he loves to do and becoming who he is meant to be. And, well…if he turns out to do it all? Well, he’ll have to do that on his own…without having me calling him names and restricting his activities.
- Who will they be allowed to become?
Enjoy your kids!
What do you think? Is this kind of parenting superior? How does it compare to your style and beliefs about parenting? Please feel free to comment below.