Chewing on Amy Chua….

Opinions are certainly divided on the subject of Amy Chua’s views on parenting. The Yale Law School professor’s recently published book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Portfolio HC Press, 2011), has created a firestorm of controversy (how many have actually read the book?) and articles about her and her views continue to appear, especially after Chua’s article (“Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”) appeared in The Wall Street Journal. As I indicated in a previous blog post, she demands that her two daughters get an A in every class, and spend hours on homework everyday and additional hours practicing piano and violin. She forbids, as a waste of valuable time, sleepovers, play dates, school days, and extra curricular activities. Here daughters are standouts academically and one has performed at Carnegie Hall.

Here are a few representative perspectives:

Chua’s “mothering toolbox” is “shocking,” asserts Patricia Wen in The Boston Globe. “Though her two girls, now presumably teenagers, were standouts academically and musically, with her oldest girl even once performing in Carnegie Hall, her draconian tactics revolted countless readers — including me. I can state, without hesitation, that Chua is not the typical Chinese mother.”

Amy Chua and daughters

Also in the Globe, Gish Jen quotes Chua: “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun untilyou’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence . . . Once a child starts to excel at something — whether it’s piano or math — he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction . . . This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.’’

If it takes “demented drive to get your kid to Carnegie Hall,” says Hanna Rosin in The Wall Street Journal,  “count me out.” She adds, “In pretty much every way, I am the weal-willed pathetic Western parent that Chua describes.” Rosin wants her children to be happy why will, over time, discover their own passions. In the book, Chua admits, “The truth is, I’m not good at enjoying life.” Also in the Journal, Acelet Waldman notes that Asian-Americans have the highest suicide rate among women ages 15-24. Is that a consequence of Chinese child-rearing techniques of shrieking and name-calling?”

In National Review Online, Mona Charen suggests that Chua’s book and its observations have hit a nerve because they “heighten our awareness of how soft and indulgent we’ve become.” Pampered children (obese, lazy, and indifferent) must “compete with more than two billion Chinese, Indian, and other Asian kids who, thorough whatever combination of genes, culture, and technique, are outperforming us.”

My Take?

1. Parents are their children’s most influential role models, at least until the children attend school. For example, obese children tend to have obese parents.

2. Have-Nots work harder and smarter than Haves do because they must.

3. Dissipation is a luxury.

4. Excess is in the eyes of the beholder.

5. Child development cannot be properly evaluated until formal education has been completed, and probably not until 3-5 years after that.


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