Friday, January 14, 2011

"Chinese parenting"? Author Amy Chua says it's "superior"

I'm sure you've all heard about The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a Yale professor. It's all the buzz in the blogosphere and in the media. Why? Because in her book, Chua claims "Chinese parenting" is best. Is it? From excerpts of her book (I haven't read the whole book, only excerpts online), in raising her own two daughters, she belittles her children as a way of getting them to achieve.

In her book, Chua also says the "Chinese mother" believes, among other things, that an A- is a bad grade, that your children should be two years ahead of their classmates in math, that you must never compliment your child in public, and that the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal (and that medal must be gold).

She says that she's raised "successful kids" by never allowing her children (now both teens) to do certain things. They were never allowed to: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, participate in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than violin or piano.

Aside from the watching of TV and playing computer games (I think kids these days have too much screen time anyway so I am actually in agreement with that one)

I believe in setting high standards for my children, and I want them to do their very best at everything they do. I myself was raised in a Chinese household when as a child, I was not allowed sleepovers or playdates. My parents rarely complimented me on anything. I was expected to get As, to be on the honour roll, and to win awards at the end-of-year school awards assembly. So I grew up in a similar environment to the one Chua advocates.

But in raising my own children, I've deliberately chosen to go another route. I guess, to use Chua's terms, I'm raising my children in the "Western way." Why? Because as a child growing up, while I knew in my heart that my Chinese parents loved me, I often felt like I was never good enough; I lacked confidence; I never questioned anything; and whenever anyone was the least bit nice to me, I would blindly follow them (not a good thing if you're an impressionable teen who is preyed on by more opportunitistic people). And all these crippling insecurities followed me well into adulthood.

We as parents have the right to choose our own child-rearing styles -- as long as what we choose is healthy and not dangerous to anyone including our child. I think a lot of people would find Chua's methods definitely unhealthy and in some ways dangerous.

Isn't there more to raising "successful" children than high grades or winning medals? At least for me and my kids, there is. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think Amy Chua's parenting methods are horrifying and in some ways, child abuse!!!!!!! So I will happily take your way over hers thank you

Anonymous said...

What is Amy's definition of "successful kids"? They may be achievers and academically inclined; but, how is their emotional well-being? The psychological aspects and the effects it has on children by using such strict methods should also be evaluated.

Emma said...

I agree with both of you. She said during an interview with Meredith Vieira (Today Show) that her method of parenting was always presented with love first. But does "love" use abusive and insulting language?

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking she is awfully lucky her girls have turned out the way she intended. It would be easy for things to go south and her girls to have rebelled in ways I'm sure she doesn't even want to think about. How can you be loving and insulting at the same time? For some kids the insults and the pressure can be too much and they will find a way out or to end things.

Emma said...

Hey, Anonymous. Thanks for your comment. For me, having grown up in a similar environment, what people saw of me on the outside never told the story that was going on inside of me. Outwardly, it appeared I had it all together. Inside, there were a lot of broken pieces. Her parenting method seems to value superficial achievement over the psychological/emotional well-being of her children. Aren't our families supposed to be the safe haven for our kids? The place where unconditional love and comfort abound?