Thanks Amy Chau For Making Me Feel Inferior

I don’t remember the exact tweet that lead me to this discovery, I just know that my mind has been reeling ever since.

The discovery I am referring to is an article on the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua titled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.

Even the title makes me bristle.

In the piece Chua talks about the difference between “permissive Western parenting” and “demanding Eastern parenting.”

It is an article filled with explosive content.

Chua, a mother herself, addresses the belief system and tactics used by Chinese mothers to raise successful children. She discloses that her own children have never been allowed to do the following:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a play date
  • 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.

In essence, the article basically states that Western parents do not have as high a standard for our children, thus producing more mediocre children. An excerpt, “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… Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them.”

As a mother, I am truly conflicted here. While I certainly admire the tenacity of the “Chinese mother,” (her stereotyping, not mine) I also can’t help but question their children’s mental well being. Especially after reading the author describe an altercation she had with her 7-year-old daughter Lulu during which she screamed, insulted (“I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic”), physically restrained (“Lulu punched, thrashed and kicked”) and refused to let her even go to the bathroom during a multi-hour piano practice of “The Little White Donkey” by the French composer Jacques Ibert. By the end of the night her daughter had mastered the piece.

Despite her despicable tactics (my opinion) this article does cause me to wonder about my own parenting.  Am I pushing my children to their full potential? Am I too laissez-faire about their life choices and childhood? Am I too permissive? Too lazy? Too self-indulgent?

Am I cheating my children out of greatness? Or am I raising well-rounded individuals not dependant on academic achievement to feel worthwhile?

Please take a moment to read the article. What do you think about her mothering philosophy or her take on the “Chinese mother?” Are we “Western mothers” lacking?

14 Responses to "Thanks Amy Chau For Making Me Feel Inferior"

  1. John Doe
    John Doe 5 years ago .

    As an career educator, let me clarify a few things, first of all, the ‘Chinese Mom’ saying is but a, saying. Then it goes: 1) The whole difference is between active parenting and wait-and-see-what-will-hatch from that egg parenting. For East Asia culture, a child has never been seen as a gift from the superior. Raising up a child is the parents, as in plural form, responsibility. 2) Amy Chua is definitely not a typical ‘Chinese Mom’. Born and raised in the US, I seriously doubt whether she could speak any Chinese, despite her dazing achievement in and out of academic career. 3) The education system in China may have its own issues, but the one in the US are bringing the future of nation on the edge of a cliff. The recently published international students measurement for the first time includes a city of China in the chart, and they dwarfed every other countries and areas in the whole world. The city was Shanghai, the most modernized city in China, and mind you that education wise, the worst in China for understandable reason. When you get rich, you are less motivated to learn. That symptom is not constraint to the western world. 4) A typical Chinese Mom is not as strict and diligent on their children education, at least the stereotyping has it that way. With its immense population density, Japanese society often see more severe competitions among peers for better kindergartens, all the way through to better colleges and better graduate schools. But wait a minute, even Japanese are feeling insecure. They just imported tens of thousands of Indian Moms for their “more” rigorous early education as reported by the Time Magazine. The Japanese are desperate in fear of being left behind. So the moral of the story? Wake up American Moms!

  2. JennieG
    JennieG 5 years ago .

    First, let me just say thank you for leaving such a long thoughtful comment. Truly, I read it through a couple of times to let it sink in. Second, I must agree with you on the “wake up call.” I have two very distinctly different children – one who is gifted insomuch as he gets As without trying. The second has severe ADD (like his mom). He has been tutored and put through a rigorous summer reading clinic since he entered 2nd grade. He also has an IEP and an early morning math program each day. I often worried about pushing them too hard but in reality, I really haven’t. This article didn’t OUTRAGE ME as much as it propelled me to rethink the time I spend (or don’t spend) with my children working on their schoolwork, etc. I don’t want them to be left behind. I also don’t want to destroy their psyche. So I need to find a happy medium for this family. The article, and your comment, really has me thinking…

  3. Amy Phillips
    Amy Phillips 5 years ago .

    Amy Chua is nucking futs. Seriously. Suicide rates among Chinese and Japanese dwarf those of the United States. And wake up American Moms?! To what? To a more kid-centric society than we already have? no thank you. Maybe wake up to other countries are getting ahead. Since you feel that way, I assume your child is being taught in China, Japan, or India? No? Then, exactly, what should I be ‘waking’ up to? Maybe I should ‘wake’ up should my child can get in to Harvard. But, wait, a recent study found that for an undergraduate degree, where you go school doesn’t matter in terms of future incomes.

    I’ll say it again, Amy Chua is nuts. Here book is entertaining as it is the ramblings of a crazy person.

  4. Steve Roy
    Steve Roy 5 years ago .

    While it’s obvious that chinese children are more disciplined than other cultures, the more important question is whether they are happier?

    From the sounds of it, no. American children are spoiled fucking brats, mine included, but turning their houses into labor camps isn’t the solution.

    Are chinese people intelectually superior to us? I think so, but who gives a shit?

    Life is about experimenting, having fun, learning, having meaningful relationships, and being passionate.

    When we are not given those options, it’s incredibly sad.

    These chinese children will never get to experience their own childhood. So sad…

  5. DiPaola Momma
    DiPaola Momma 5 years ago .

    I find that article both repulsive and interesting. Sort of like Britney spears….hummm is that ironical :)

  6. Angelmom
    Angelmom 5 years ago .

    As a mom of three happy and successful kids – 23, 20 adn 8 – I have to say that I was floored by this article. First of all, not all Chinese mothers are as insane as the one in this article. Secondly, if superior means that you’ve produced miserable, unhappy, low-self-esteemed but over achieving children, then great. Perhaps you are superior. My three children are bright – know how to ski, play tennis, snowboard, enjoy music, sing, dance, ride a horse, and each has their own area where they excel. We never had a strict life though I had lessons for all of them – and playtime was always balanced with work time. In fact, most of what children learn from society they learn first through play.

    So no, I don’t think Chinese mothers are superior. The type that is described in the article raises children who overachieve to please their parents, are treated like dirt and grow up with low views of themselves. It is nothing short of awful – and they struggle everyday to feel that they are okay.

    This article put Chinese mothers back about 40 to 50 years.

  7. Pamtastic
    Pamtastic 5 years ago .

    Yowsa! Ive been away from blog land for awhile…what a post to return to! I’m not sure if my parenting methods are right but i think that I’ll stick with them…hers sound exhausting to monitor and I’ve got enough to do!

    ps…looking forward to catching up and keeeping up on your blog!

  8. Klaus
    Klaus 5 years ago .

    It’s a simple question. What would you rather have? Not “your child/tool”, but you… personally.

    a) A Blue Ribbon from a Piano Competition if you were lucky enough to inherit genes from a Yale professor and a lot of guilt, shame and disappointment if you’re not

    b) A Childhood

  9. JennieG
    JennieG 5 years ago .

    Childhood. Definitely.

  10. JennieG
    JennieG 5 years ago .

    Thanks Pam! And yeah, I’m sticking with my parenting as well. At least her post inspired me to take the hard line on small things. As for the rest of it… she can keep her techniques. And save for her kid’s therapy.

  11. JennieG
    JennieG 5 years ago .

    I have talked to so many “Chinese raised” folks since writing this blog and they all say that their childhood was fairly miserable. I just don’t understand why people continue to judge their children based on achievements. Seems so wrong. Achievements are subjective in my opinion.

  12. JennieG
    JennieG 5 years ago .

    Steve – every time I read your comment I laugh out loud. “Turning houses into labor camps isn’t the solution.” Classic!

  13. JennieG
    JennieG 5 years ago .

    Amy, tell me how you REALLY FEEL girl. :) And I agree – more kid- centric? No thank you.

  14. anonymous
    anonymous 5 years ago .

    just want to say that, as an asian-american brought up through a similar but more lenient parenting method, amy chau is a crazy bitch.