Article: Why Chinese Mothers are Better - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 05:20 PM - Thread Starter
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This has to be the most anti-AP thing I've ever read. It frankly horrified me. It's a mother proudly describing what she says is the "chinese" way to raise a child. (I don't know about that--I live in a neighborhood with a lot of Chinese immigrants and they all seem incredibly attentive and affectionate towards their children). She describes - proudly - telling her daughter she is "garbage" and making her stay at the piano - no breaks for water or to go to the bathroom - until she learned her recital piece. She says Americans let their children quit too easily and implies her daughter never would have learned the piece without such harsh measures (which I strongly doubt).


Interested to hear you all's opinions:

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#2 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 05:46 PM
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I thought it sounded just awful. :(

Susan -- married WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005), who started out unschooling and have now embarked on the public school adventure.
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#3 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 05:47 PM
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I don't think I could cope with a relationship with her.


The piece had me going every which way.  She'd start with something that I could find some agreement with, but then twist it until it was unrecognizeable to me.  She also makes a lot of assumptions about parents who disagree with her, as if there are only two types of parents "Chinese mothers" and "Loser parents". 


I absolutely help my children and push for mastery.  I want them to excel.  I expect them not to be lazy, and to do things to the best of their ability.  But there is no reason on earth I need to make them feel like garbage, or call them garbage, in order to do that. 


It's sad, too, the feels that there are only two types of people in the world, the "A people" an the "losers".

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#4 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 05:50 PM
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Sounds more like someone who read fictional accounts of Chinese parenting.


Hmm, although it occurs to me that the book where the person had a "time-out" that was 1/2 an hour of kneeling on bathroom tiles was actually written by a Korean.


But wasn't there something similar in one of the Joy Luck Club stories?


Okay, actually reading through the article, I think what's going on here is the same phenomenon that showed that being spanked more often did less damage to kids' psyches. Basically, when spanking was a thing that happened to everyone, all the time, it wasn't that big a deal to the kid (mentally). But when spanking was a huge deal only for the worst offenses, being hit made a kid feel like scum.


So in a culture where everyone is getting hours and hours of drilling and work, it probably feels like not being loved if your mom lets you play. Whereas I suspect the interviewee's children are going to rebel hard when it comes time to raise their own kids.

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#5 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 06:01 PM
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A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.


Well, since we are talking about stereotypical Chinese parents and stereotypical Chinese kids... I have to ask, what gangs are the authors children part of? Yes I'm kidding, because we all know that stereotypes are rarely accurate. And really? Not allowed to get less than an A or not be the number 1 student? How does she control that one 100%? No one child is going to be that perfect, no unless you are pushing them beyond what they are capable of and close to an emotional/psychological breaking point.


My kids goals are the be the best they can be, not to be better than everyone else. There are so many problems with being better than everyone else that I don't even know where to start.


ETA: Bet my DD could out do her kids in violin and piano... Just a random parental brag, but DD has a genetic musical aptitude and love of all the instruments that she plays on her side.

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#6 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 06:25 PM
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It's sad, really, because she has such a narrow view of "success" in life. Apparently, emotional intelligence, physical aptitude, social skills, and artistic talent are not on her radar. Only things that can be memorized. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that being well rounded and having a wide range of experiences are huge factors in being "successful."

Who cares if a kid is great at math or the piano--if they can't think outside of the box and be creative with it, that skill isn't taking them anywhere. Let's hope no "Chinese children" have a learning disorder or go into a class that grades on a curve! I was in classes in college where the professors set out how many students were going to get which grades, before the tests. Everyone in the class could have gotten above 90% on the test, and still some of them would have failed, based on those grading curves. I have also heard of more student suicides when there are families like this, for fear of their parents seeing them as a "failure." Things are not so clear-cut as the author wants to believe.

I think she's also way off on understanding Western parenting, too, and her few anecdotes aren't very generalizable. We don't think our kids are fragile, we do push them and have high expectations. That's an American tradition, to believe and teach our children that they can become more than we are.
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#7 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 08:15 PM
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I think the author is making some pretty wild assumptions in her article. I live in China, am married to a Chinese man, and teach Chinese high school students. There are just as many "losers" (as she would put it) here as there are anywhere else.


Yes, there is a cultural attitude here that says it is ok to insult your children, to use physical punishment, to shame, etc. But for every child that thrives under that sort of parenting (and some do, I suppose) there are just as many who don't. I have students in my high school classes who take exams and turn in blank papers, perfectly willing to get a zero. I have kids who smoke in the bathroom at school, who text constantly, who, when I take them to the computer room will be playing World of Warcraft or Counterstrike as soon as my back is turned. And aside from that, there are plenty of Chinese mothers (and fathers) who are kind, who don't hit, who practice gentle discipline, who do not force their children to be math geniuses or musical prodigies (and don't even get me started on the elitism of the woman in that article. Here, in actual China, how many parents do you think can really afford pianos?How many students still don't have the opportunity to go to high school, much less college?).


Not only is her article not particularly accurate, she also has an extremely close minded and narrow view of success. Notice she doesn't mention whether or not these children are happy? She seems to think happiness is inconsequential, which is sad. I think this sort of article is a bit of a reaction to the idea that modern parenting has become too child centered and that we should go back to the "good old days" when kids did what they were told, etc. I saw this article reposed elsewhere and the reaction was surprisingly positive.

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#8 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 08:38 PM
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I think that because this is an excerpt from a book (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is apparently a parenting memoir - and according to one review, while her older daughter was very much the "model" daughter, apparently the younger daughter challenged and fought her alot)... anyhow, we may be missing something from the larger context.  She seems to be painting both "Chinese mothers" and "western mothers" with a very broad brush, but it's hard for me to understand - to what end is she making these generalizations? 


I think that sapphire_chan's point about context is good.  Behavior that is normative for your culture is rarely traumatic.  My mom had me kneeling on rice and holding books for what was probably hours rather frequently.  Over stuff like practicing the piano (I never got very good), doing my homework (still working on being organized!), not doing the dishes (I don't do them every day, but I do hate the mess).  And while I don't think it's a good memory, I don't resent her for it.. oh I resent her for other stuff, lol, but not the bizarre punishments - but only because I understand that it was normative for her.  At the same time, I do not see myself using these kinds of disciplinary practices with my daughter because we live in a very different context.  I contemplated it, but as I've gotten to know my daughter, I realized that I can hardly imagine doing it.  But my mom very much shared Chua's idea that she needed to push us to achieve the best because we were capable of the best - and that her duty of love was to shape and guide us rather than leaving us to flounder.  And if she had to beat us to get the point across - it would be shirking her most sacred duty to falter.  I did not like it.  At times I've felt it was just- what was.  Other times, felt it was unfair.  In most ways I think my feelings are no different than most of my friends raised in a more mainstream american way.


Anyhow, there's very much an ethic of a more interdependent type of society, the kind where you never "grow up and move away from home" - you stay in the ancestral home or your husband's ancestral home - and definitely a legacy of Confucianism. 


This article made me think about how it's hard to repudiate the fundamental perspective of my mother's mothering - I'm sure it's hard for everyone.  I think about it alot... and in the end I think I don't repudiate it, even if I'm not sure how or if I could carry it on.  I do often think that our secret, third culture of no homeland will die out with me.  I'm not sure whether that's good or bad.  I do know that I am a lot less close to my mother than I think would be ideal because of this difference of perspective.


edit:  I also want to foreground that I think it's a common phenomenon for immigrants and children of immigrants to live in a third culture that is a hybrid of the ancestral culture as it was -almost like a snapshot - at the time that they left, and the new and changing mainstream they live in.  But there's no such thing as "true" culture of anything, since it's always changing.  But being in this "culture bubble" almost makes you more resistant to change because you are outside of any mainstream to change with.

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#9 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 08:45 PM
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I read the article too and felt very sad for her children.  Someone elsewhere mentioned that the suicide rate is very high for these "stereotypical" Chinese children.  Everyone wants to see their children succeed, the definition of success just differs.  For me, it is less important that my children have high profile careers or excel as musical prodiges than it is for them to know themselves and find true happiness.  She said that her father called her garbage and it caused her to try harder to live up to his expectations and to not dissapoint him again (paraphrased), so she calls her girls garbage because it motivates them.  My mother called me garbage frequently and she may never know how deeply it hurt, but it left its mark.  It never motivated me or drove me to try harder.  I will NEVER call my children names like that.


I was struck by her reality and the reality of those living in China too, like a pp mentioned.  When parents can barely afford to feed themselves and their children, how will they afford musical tuition or even school fees?  I get the distinct impression that outward appearance matters more than anything else to her.

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#10 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 10:53 PM
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From Lao Tzu, in Tao Te Ching


"Thorns spring up when an army passes.

Years of misery follow a great victory.

Do not conquer the world by force, for force only causes resistance.

Do only what needs to be done without using violence."


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#11 of 15 Old 01-08-2011, 11:13 PM
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well, that was horrifying. i'd rather be a loser parent with a happy, well adjusted mediocre child than a Superior Parent with a neurotic overachiever.

January 2011
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#12 of 15 Old 01-09-2011, 02:18 AM
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Please keep our User Agreement in mind, specifically no name-calling, when posting regarding this article.  

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#13 of 15 Old 01-11-2011, 01:45 PM
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Interesting and sort of horrifying at the same time. I do think that it's important to remember that the author is writing a book, and using "examples" to make comparisons...I can't imagine that she's actually suggesting that these are some sort of best parenting practices.  She's using extremes to illustrate the contrast, which is stark but not all that useful IMO.


I think her statement to the effect that the Chinese "assume strength" in their children is especially interesting.  As AP parents, I think that's one of our goals too--we build up the child, secure him, attach him, so that he draws on our strength when needed.  Which is obviously different from expecting a child to be born with it and maintain it despite being degraded and humiliated.  But I guess that's the point she's making.

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#14 of 15 Old 01-14-2011, 05:52 PM
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The author interviewed on how the WSJ article did not accuratly portray her book or the parenting journey she experienced: 

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#15 of 15 Old 01-15-2011, 06:55 PM
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Thank you *so much* for posting this. The article appears to be a hit piece on Chua and I am very glad, for one, to be set straight. I'd like to read her book. It sounds interesting.

Originally Posted by Maluhia View Post

The author interviewed on how the WSJ article did not accuratly portray her book or the parenting journey she experienced: 

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