Thursday, January 20, 2011
I was horrified to read WSJ article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" - on two very different levels. One - I know a number of Chinese female teenagers well and the view from the other side is that the parenting style is awful for them - but Two that I was very disappointed the WSJ would publish something so inflammatory and without substance. A week later it is still the most popular article on the WSJ so maybe they are trying to compete with the Huffington Post and be sensationalist to drive traffic?
My children go/went to a school in San Jose that is more than 75% Asian (Chinese and Indian). It's rated one of the best academic schools in California and has tough standards and a rigorous academic curriculum. It's not true in all cases but the school does have it's fair share of "chinese" mothers who are as Amy Chau describes in her opinion piece.
I'm a Western mother. I have treated my children as adults almost their whole lives (very old school British - making little empire builders). I push them, and am demanding, and have been known to take away video games, and the car, based on grades but overall I believe the best and the brightest adults come from building confidence, independence and self esteem early.
I have had young Chinese girls at my house talking about the experience of being raised the way Amy describes. Name calling, high control, forced piano etc. led to low self esteem and a desire to get as far away from the parent as possible, as soon as possible. Several chose schools thousands of miles away despite being accepted into UC Berkeley. The mentality of a prisoner - loving the jailer because of the control but desperately wanting to break out. There's a risk the high control and drilling turns out what the colleges call "flat kids" --high grades, high performance skills, little creativity -- but what I find sadder is how often I saw the lack of joy in the kids. It's sad to watch a student play piano with great skill but no joy, when the night before she's had dinner with you and opened up about her mother and the bullying, lack of trust and respect she feels.
I have had my fair share of battles with my kids but I fundamentally believe in treating my kids like adults and making them independent of me.
And based on their friend's experiences -- when I do get tough the worst insult my kids have thought of to throw at me in the past couple of years is "you're turning into a Chinese mother!" They know how hard it is to be their friends sometimes.