Amy Chua with her daughters. Photo from The WSJ.
There's a column in the Wall Street Journal by writer Amy Chua that I've been going back to for the last 3 days because of the reaction it's been getting on its comment thread. It's entitled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. Really, that is the title. I want to give her cheeky editor a high-five. Thank you Bambi for sending the link. Interesting is an understatement!
So far, the column has garnered more than 3000 comments, and counting. Lots of not-too-happy commenters there, many of them Asian, particularly Chinese. Some of the comments I'm reposting here:
I'm glad my mother didn't raise me up like this. She's always just wanted me to be happy with what I decide. If I've made a wrong decision or a mistake, she encouraged me to clean it up and right my wrongs. So what if your daughter can play the Little White Donkey perfectly, she could have been doing something more productive with friends, while developing her social skills and gaining her perspectives at the same time. Like the old Chinese saying, "One would find a teacher among three friends". I sincerely hope that you will allow your daughter to have more play time. No boyfriends, no dates, that part I can understand. But no sleepovers, no school plays, no A minuses? You have gotta be joking. So you are just trying to shove your kids into the stereotypical mold that we are trying to get out of -- nerdy, anti-social, cold, nonathletic, etc
How about taking your daughters to the Salvation Army or Wheeler mission, to give back to the society? We are by far one of the worst groups in regards to charity work and donations.
And no, not all Chinese mothers are like this, and thank God!
I never thought I would say this, but Ms. Chua should be ashamed. Asian American young women have an abnormally high suicide and depression rate, and according to those who study the phenomenon, most of that has to do with fascist parenting. It is utterly irresponsible and, frankly, disgusting, to ignore that in a piece highlighting and promoting that style of parenting. I sincerely hope that her daughters get counseling and help if they need it (and based on this piece, they just might).
This article should be titled "Why Psycho Mothers Are Superior." There are weird people in every culture, and trust me, this woman is not normal in any culture.
Of course, it's best to read the article yourself and see how it strikes you. I'd really like to know if you think ordering your kids to get straight A's (A- unacceptable), or motivating your child with statements such as hey fatty, lose some weight constitute superior parenting. Her style of parenting may produce people who make lots of money, corporate-types, academics, doctors, lawyers, and music proteges. But while it's great to be rich, work in a top-tier corporation, be a doctor or lawyer, there is more to life... What if your child wants other career options? What about loving your work and being happy and fulfilled?
Look at her explanation as to why Chinese children in America never, ever get Bs.
If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.
Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.
And if the child is a little emotionally vulnerable to being excoriated, punished and shamed? Perhaps that's just not acceptable as well.
Another thing that glares at me: I think Amy Chua holds little value for creativity, imagination and inspiration. The kind of sparks that hit a young Bill Gates when he was allowed to play with computers, Martin Scorsese when he watched his first good movie, Michael Phelps when he hit the pool, Jose Rizal when he created his first comic stories, Einstein when he was allowed to layoff rote memorization to figure things out for himself.
Me, I believe in imagination and creativity. Yes, kids have to learn to persevere and persist. Definitely, life can be a struggle and kids need to learn how to deal with it and work hard. But no, I am not "overriding their preferences" as Mother Superior prescribes so that they can "learn to love" what they are "supposed" to.
It is possible to put in a good days work, even struggle with it, but at the end of the day, be happy about it. Because we chose our own path. Because we were inspired to get there. Not because a strident, perfectionist, screaming mother told us we should.