chinese parenting, not so “superior”

Amy Chua, the mom who boasted that Chinese parenting is superior, in her new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was in Seattle promoting it. According to the local news, a Queen Anne area bookstore had invited her to do a reading. I glimpsed part of the report, the most significant aspect of it, I think.

When the Wall Street Journal ran its 2 page article on Amy Chua and her philosophy on parenting, I was left with the impression that she was fiercely and adamantly in support of her arguments. So I was surprised, pleasantly I might add, to learn that she ends Tiger Mother acknowledging that she might have gone too far. It seems being hated by one of her daughters made Chua realize that she had to back off from her unrelenting, authoritative mothering. Her daughter couldn’t withstand the barrage of demanding abuse. Good for Chua, knowing and admitting that she needed to change her ways for the sake of her child, and their relationship!

In an interview with Oprah, Chua retracts part of what she’s strongly upheld, deciding that perhaps she went too far.

O: What is the single thing you wish you’d done differently?

AC: I wish that I’d paid a bit more attention to the individual personalities of the girls, their temperaments and needs. I wish I’d realized earlier that parenting cannot just be one size fits all. 

Two moms were briefly interviewed during the broadcast. Both disagreed with the severity of Chua’s mothering style. One in particular, a Chinese woman raising 2 young daughters, disputed Chua’s portrayal that all mothers of their race parented like her.

One thing is true, however. Amy Chua has had one heck of a publicity ride. The controversy stirred up a lot of national attention, even in the blogosphere. I noticed a number of posts on wordpress.com, which spoke of the brouhaha swirling around her. So it seems all’s well that ends well. Chua’s book will go on to make the New York Time’s Bestseller’s List. Parents of the world will close ranks in their common goal to raise upstanding citizens. And best of all, Chua’s daughters get a well-deserved break from all her harassing.

chua’s come over to the “dark side,” hooray…hugmamma.

“tiger mother’s parenting,” minuses and pluses

In today’s Wall Street Journal, several responses to Amy Chua’s parenting methods were identified in “Letters to the Editor.” Here they are:

Winston Chung, M.D. of San Fransisco writes: While I am impressed by Amy Chua’s tenacious parenting…I am concerned with her black-and-white message. A Machiavellian approach to achievement and a Confucian-influenced parent-child dynamic may have contributed to rapid growth and prosperity in China, Japan and Korea, but it comes at a price. As of 2009, World Health Organization statistics indicate that China has the highest rate of female suicide in the world. Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in all industrialized nations and Japan is not far behind. Asian-American adolescent girls have the highest rates of depressive symptoms compared to all racial and gender groups. As someone who works in child and adolescent mental health in the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, I have seen some of the consequences of the relentless drive for success, and I encourage families to consider balance. We in the West could benefit from increasing our resilience and diligence in Ms. Chua’s manner, but it is just as important that Eastern parenting styles adopt values that include healthy social development and loving relationships as measures of success.

Kai L. Chan of New York writes: Although the way Ms. Chua raised her children may be typical of many high-achieving Chinese families, there are many Chinese families who live quite the opposite life. According to recent Census data, the majority of Chinese people grow up in low-income households, and within this group children typically do not play musical instruments or devote many hours to homework. I grew up in a very poor Chinese family in which none of my siblings completed post-secondary schooling. I was arrested twice as a teenager and dropped out of high school before eventually finishing at age 20. However, I did go on to earn a doctorate. Because the “superior Chinese mother” stereotype is so ingrained into society, few outreach programs target at-risk Chinese youths. Some of my childhood Chinese friends are now in jail or are drug addicts because people in authority always thought our households resembled Ms.Chua’s.

Audrey Lengbeyer of Annapolis, Md. writes : I, too, was not allowed not to play the violin or piano, was not allowed to be in the school play, was asked why I lost two points when I brought home a 98, and was grounded if I got any grades other than As. I was a nationally competitive violinist and enough of a math scholar to be courted by multiple Ivies and top conservatories. But at what cost? When my parents called me garbage, fat, lazy, selfish and myriad other tough-love names, I heard them loud and clear. I heard that my value was measured in my conformity to their preordained requirements for a cookie-cutter, high-achieving daughter. As an adult I have struggled to overcome the feeling that I don’t deserve love and loyalty unless I perform well. My relationship with my parents is still frigid and distant. Now that I’m a mother myself, of three joyful and unique daughters, I would be heartbroken if they grew up unable to turn to their parents in their most difficult moments.

Simmie Moore of Aiken, S.C. writes: Predictably, Amy Chua’s article will be received with howls of protest by the professional enablers of under-achievement and their minions. And the Western parents, trapped in their own extended adolescence, will be defensive and in denial. The truth is, raising a child to be accomplished and outstanding is much to be preferred to raising a “well-rounded” mediocrity leading a frantic life of desperation.

Tim and Betha Millea of Davenport, Iowa writes: Our heads are nodding enthusiastically in response to the recent articles regarding America’s “wussification” and the superiority of Chinese parenting philosophy. Although our Irish Catholic parenting approach was not as rigid, we spent many years knowing that we were “the only parents” who did not allow TV on school nights, videogames in the house or regular dating until the senior year of high school. Yes, there was angst and argument, but we all survived. Parental hidsight is not 20/20, but we have been quite content with being “the heavies” during our children’s formative years. Coddling does not prepare them for the real world, and the constant whine of “it’s someone else’s fault” is a psychological virus that infects them for a lifetime. High expectations for performance and behavior combine to help form a confident, focused adult.

I think most of us will agree that the Millea’s found the right balance about which Dr. Chung spoke in the opening response. Children need guidance for sure. Our 24-year-old daughter still looks to us, after weighing all her options, for that final, small nod of agreement. Values and guidelines instilled very early on, and maintained through adolescence, does indeed groom children for citizenship in society. Uncluttered minds make for organized lives, in the best sense of the term. Wending their way through life’s jungle can overwhelm, and undermine. So help them we must. But abuse them, physically, mentally or emotionally, we must not. They, after all, are US, not yet all grown up.

for balance in parenting, huge hugs…hugmamma. 

not without glitches, chinese parenting

Read a review of Amy Chua’s recently released book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. Clare McHugh, editor of All You magazine writes

Asian parents are renowned not only for attempting to steer their children in the right direction but also for exerting such impressive control over them that young Asians excel in almost every area of worthwhile endeavor. Can we all learn from this example? Can we move from merely spouting off to shaping prodigies? Can we get our children to achieve more, misbehave less and revere us all the way to a sunny graduaton day in Harvard Yard?

McHugh explains that Chua answers these questions in her new book, which details how she raised her own two daughters. She admits that doing so while living in the West, far from her support system in China “is incredibly lonely…You have to go up against an entire value system–rooted in the Enlightenment, individual autonomy, child development theory and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” McHugh finds the author “endearing,” for her ability to candidly speak of “her excesses and poke fun at herself.”

Notwithstanding Chua’s moments of self-deprecation, she remained a “determined taskmaster.” Fearful that her daughters would exhibit the same bad characteristics as other pampered and decadent American teens, Chua insisted they perform physical labor like trucking ” ‘overflowing laundry baskets up and down stairs, garbage out on Sundays, suitcases when we traveled.’ ”

For one of the daughters, however, being pushed to eat caviar while dining at a restaurant near Moscow’s Red Square, was the proverbial “last straw.”

Somehow that demand triggers in the 13-year-old girl a true American-style teenage outburst featuring thrown glasses and I-hate-you’s ricocheting around the room. After this shocking display of disobedience, Ms. Chua concludes that she needs to relax her hold and grant the girls a modicum of independence. 

That gave her daughter new-found courage to dial back daily violin-practices to only 30 minutes, while forbidding her mom any input. But Chua is able to find solace in the family’s 2 dogs, with whom she has a great relationship. 

I don’t make any demands of them…or their future…For the most part, I trust them to make the right choices for themselves. I always look forward on seeing them, and I love just watching them sleep. What a great relationship.

In the end, McHugh suggests that Chua is like “millions of other parents…standing on the sidelines of our children’s lives, proud, anxious observers trying to offer useful advice.” And it seems, another dog may be in the offing, to bring her even greater comfort.

not so different after all…hugmamma.