Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Chinese Mother Theory

Maxabella beat me- and very eloquently- to raise a fascinating article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, an excerpt from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It's about a style of parenting- and the Chinese-American author, Amy Chua, points out it isn't exclusively a Chinese style- whereby parents expect the utmost from their children. As I commented to Maxabella (excuse my laziness in the cut-and-paste department), I'm half-interested to read the book and I couldn't decide how much of the article was tongue-in-cheek. I agree with the "assume strength, not fragility" strategy, but there were points at which it went too far (Lulu's Piano Saga, for one). Pick your battles, and live your own life. Certainly children need parents' time invested in them, but maybe they also need to see their parents have a sense of perspective.

Postscript: there is a great response, also in the WSJ.


Maxabella said...

I also thought the piano business was extreme... but I suppose that was her point. How do we know which 'battles' are the most important for our children? I'm never sure!

The thing that most resounded for me (and I'm not sure this came out enough in my post) was their approach to the whole 'self-esteem' business. That it is always there and is polished by achievement. I agree with that. I think we Westerners have got self-esteem all wrong, I really do.

I could never parent in this way, but I think there is a lot of merit in much of it. I will definitely be thinking this over for a long time to come and incorporating a little more 'never give up' attitude in my own parenting. x

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

I struggled with this book, this theory. I want the best for my girl, but am not sure that the Chinese way is the way to that. The part about her daughter gnawing on the piano made me wince..

Still, it could be that my daughter lags behind while others achieve...

_vTg_ said...

"how do we know which battles matter to children?" True- but equally I think there is a fine and balanced line between children knowing that achievement matters, and staking their whole self-worth on an outcome.

I have to read the book, but from the essay I thought that it was a shame it was written at the extreme end and pitched so strongly on ethnicity as to separate "Chinese parenting" from everyone else. She did of course qualify it, but....

What I DID like was the idea of parents investing in their child's achievements. My mother had the time and enthusiasm to help me with spelling, language vocab, library research and other school exercises and I know it helped me do better. I was a little dismayed to hear a mum say, almost proudly, "I'm not pushing X to learn letters", the implication being that a 3yo who can write letters is a Bad Thing. I certainly didn't force Big Bro to learn letters, but I certainly let him know that I am available for as much help as he wants and cheering him along when he tries. Maybe it's about passing on academic values- if parents let their child know they think highly of achievement then the child does too. Time will tell, though I'm not expecting to see my kids in Carnegie Hall!

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