The title of a new book by Amy Chua, a Yale law prof, guaranteed to create more conversation about parenting methods than any other book in ages. I read an excerpt in last week’s Wall Street Journal, and today, three different reviews.
Readers will either love or hate her story of how she’s raised her teenage daughters. From an Amazon marketing blurp: Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do, have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin.The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.
A few more excerpts:
• Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting.”
• Chinese parents understand nothing is fun until you’re good at it.
• I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.
Chua’s book-based Wall Street Journal piece titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” is clear and provocative. I told the GalPal it would receive a record number of comments. So far it’s received 3,500 including this excerpted one by Angela Zhou:
Chua generalizes a lot. Not all Chinese-American young people are academic and musical all-stars. She’d probably say that’s because they don’t have true Chinese mothers. Despite problems with the excesses of her parenting methods, there’s no denying it’s as clear and provocative a description of a distinctive approach to parenting as has appeared in a long, long time. For me, the main take-away is that parenting excellence takes many forms. That notion of varied excellence sounds simple enough, but many people have a hard time embracing it, as if parenting is an acultural zero-sum game.
Put differently, if the destination is competent, caring, self-sufficient young adults, there are as many routes as there are small groups of people in the world. Chua puts it this way, “All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.”
The essay is thought provoking and deserves a careful reading.