Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

Have you read Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, the Wall Street Journal article that is everywhere online?

It’s written by Amy Chua, a genuine Chinese mom. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief excerpt:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I found this article really interesting, partly because it brings up some elephants in the room that you just aren’t supposed to talk about, although you’d have to be an idiot not to notice:  why are the Chinese/Japanese/Indian (as in from India, not Native American) kids usually much more successful academically than white kids? And why do black kids do worse than all the others? I have observed this time after time in my kids’ schools. You can’t help but wonder … is it something genetic (that thesis is way too non-PC and controversial)? Cultural?

Amy Chua believes it’s totally cultural, and I found it fascinating to peek into her parenting methods. While it does sound harsh overall, I think she has some really good ideas (lack of TV, making kids work at things that on their own they just wouldn’t). I find that the way she makes her kids keep at things until they’re successful refreshing, actually. As a piano teacher, I can’t tell you how many kids quit when it gets a tiny bit hard. My hunch is that for several months they can “wing it” without practicing, but when they do need to put forth some effort, they become discouraged/bored/supply your own adjective. Then they quit because it’s just “not fun anymore.”

I agree with her contention that Americans are way too concerned with kids’ self esteem. I find myself falling into this frequently:  I’ll want to tell my child something, but am afraid I might do damage to their fragile psyches. Is this wise, or wimpy? I was by turns appalled and amazed by Chua’s assertion that her own parents had called her “garbage,” and that she wouldn’t hesitate to call her daughter “fatty” if she thought she should lose weight.

Apparently, this method “worked” for Chua – she’s a law professor at Harvard. She does however admit to being a Type A personality. Would a more laid-back child wilt under this type of parenting?

I don’t know, but the article is full of food for thought.

5 thoughts on “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

  1. I’ve been hearing about her on tv. I think her methods have a lot going for them. If you were around all the lazy shiftless kids I am, her methods sound like a stream in the desert. She’s getting results and I’ll bet her kids will rise up and called her blessed!

  2. I do think that most kids would do better with a little less emphasis on “self-esteem” and a little more on “self-respect.” There’s very little to respect when you’re special “just because you’re you!” That said, it gets harder and harder to motivate children, the older they get – ideally, they should get to a point where they can be, what? self-motivating.

  3. Mrs. Chua is certainly thought provoking! I think many Western parents would gain from using some of thses techniques. She points out that kids do not enjoy things unless they are successful at them, but becoming successful takes a lot of hard work and practice. So, the better you are at math, piano, etc., the more you will enjoy it! I think my parents did a great job of making sure we were “the best” in our class. They also made sure we knew we were not like all of the rest of the kids (and that they wouldn’t stand for mediocre results).

  4. This is very interesting. I was raised by a Japanese step-father and we had high standards in the family. We were taught about honor, respect and doing our best always. My middle sisters are the big achievers of all of us kids. Because of how I was raised I tend to think that child rearing methods popular today are wimpy. It really annoys me how society beats parents down making us feel we are harming our kids’ self esteem. I like what Toy Lady said about “self-respect”…she has a very good point.

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