Titled, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," this essay is actually an excerpt from her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She makes a lot of generalizations about Western and Asian parents, summed up like this: American kids are behind because their parents coddle them and so they never live up to their potential. Chinese (as well as Indian, Korean, and most children of immigrants) excel because their parents expect them to, force them to, and will not allow anything to get the way. No parties. No drama. No sports.
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." By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out.
You can't watch too much of the news without hearing about how American children are falling behind and how it's the schools' fault, the teachers' fault, George Bush's fault, Barack Obama's fault. Chua would contend it's the parents' fault.
I have no idea what to make of it, but I do find it funny and her style is tongue-in-cheek enough for me to take it to heart as more of an interesting cultural insight and less of a how-to manual on parenting.
In my line of work, where we often expose Americans to other cultures, I find myself routinely chanting "It's not wrong, it's just different" - a key principle for any cross-cultural traveler to try to believe. I had to chant it to myself the whole time I read this article.
It is a reminder that no culture has it right. We all parent and educate out of our cultural beliefs and there's enough wisdom and crap mixed into those beliefs to shock onlookers from another world.
My (Indian) husband absolutely disagrees with my (very American) embrace of mediocrity. In my defense, I don't embrace mediocrity because I'm lazy, but because I'd rather know and do a lot of things I'm interested in, rather than one thing really well. To me, mediocrity sounds like an interesting opportunity to try something else. (And sometimes I'm lazy.)
For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it's a misunderstanding on both sides. 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.What about you? When you read this essay does it anger you or do you relate? Or like me, do you giggle because you've seen the good and bad of both "techniques"?