12 January 2011

US Parents Too Soft?

If you are a new parent and want to be freaked-out about the competitive nature of parenting, read this essay from the Wall Street Journal:
...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.

... when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.

.... rote repetition is underrated in America.

...I once (called my daughter) garbage ... when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early....

...Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." ...

...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 understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

-This essay is excerpted from "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua

In response to this on their parenting blog:

....My parents... were very low pressure. There were few mandates to do homework, get As, or practice our instruments for my brother, sister and me. ...we were in school plays, were allowed to watch TV until we “were blue in the face,” my mom jokes, and we attended plenty of sleepovers and playdates. Our kitchen was so stocked with junk food (and our TV had so many cable channels) that some of our friends preferred to hang out in our basement as we were considered a “fun house.”

So how did my parents’ laissez-faire parenting style turn out? My brother, sister and I all enjoyed school, got top grades and went to Harvard or Yale. Although I was never great at music, my brother and sister became top-notch musicians, and my sister even sings professionally. The three of us are doing just fine career-wise in financial services, journalism, education and music....


Archer01 said...

The letter from the Chinese mom just sounds crazy to me. I consider myself a somewhat strict parent but nothing like that. Okay so maybe she has two extremely well performing daughters, but to what end? I mean what's the point? I agree we should try our best and excel in things that we enjoy and contribute to society and be productive. But life is also meant to be lived and enjoyed. I don't see any of that in these girls' lives. It's really quite sad.

Radarman said...

If you don't have time to read the book, the long article in Sunday's NYT article tells more and include's Chua's concession that other ways may work better in other cultures. But there is no doubt that she and her daughters are close. Worth the time.