Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Chinese Mother Redux

13 Jan

It’s Day Five of the publication of Amy Chua’s essay “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” on Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and it’s still the number 1 read, emailed, and commented article on the WSJ website.

Her article continues to roil passions on all sides and now with the release of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, reviewers have had a chance to read the book and give their opinions.  I’m a notoriously slow reader and thanks to the power of social media, I’ll just provide this link to a review written by Jeff Yang, (he’s a friend of a friend).  It’s well written and hope you enjoy his insights.   

I promise this is the last time I’ll blog about her. 

On a related topic, I had mentioned the documentary “Race to Nowhere” by mother-turned-filmmaker Vicki Abeles in a previous post.  I found out that my local public high school will be screening this documentary on March 1, 2011.  It’s about the pressures that high school kids face today in America.  I’m excited to see it and will give a “review” on this blog afterwards.  So stay tuned.


Thank You Amy Chua

12 Jan

Amy Chua’s essay in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) about Chinese parenting has struck a collective nerve with a jolt not unlike the one you experience when the dentist probes your sensitive teeth during an examination.  To date that article has generated over 3,500 comments on WSJ’s website.  Will it reach 5,000 comments before this dies down?  Bookies are standing by waiting to take your bets.

Seriously, in the interest of full disclosure, I have Ms. Chua to thank for the record number of visits to my blog.  Thank you all for reading my two cents’ worth and for your many comments.

For better or for worse, her article has already affected the way I parent:

I allow my daughter to watch TV and DVDs as long as she finishes her schoolwork and studying.  I also allow her to play her iPod music when she’s doing homework (I do have misgivings about this one but that’s another story).  So today being a snow day in our area, we all woke up to a more leisurely pace.  I just treasure snow days for giving us a break from our busy lives.

My daughter puts on a Taiwanese DVD to watch while she eats breakfast.  It’s a typical soap opera: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy gets cancer and amnesia (what are the chances?), girl marries someone else, boy is cured of cancer and amnesia, blah, blah, blah.  In real life, amnesia does not happen that often but apparently a high percentage of it occurs in Taiwan.

I ask her about her plans for the day and she tells me about the homework she has.  Thanks to Internet connectivity, her teachers can assign additional homework on snow days and they have.  She then turns her attention back to the Taiwanese soap opera and continues to watch it even though she has finished breakfast.  I hesitate and frown, feeling like I should tell her to stop watching and get going.  Then I realize exactly what is going on: Amy Chua is making me question my parenting decisions.

Perhaps guessing what was on my mind, my daughter says to me, “You know, it’s just as important to relax too.”

Thank you Ms. Chua.


Chinese Mothers

10 Jan

Amy Chua’s essay in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has unleashed a firestorm of comments in the blogosphere.  At last count, there were over 1,700 comments and growing on the WSJ site and many people are forwarding the essay to friends and family and re-posting it on Facebook and other social media.  With its deliberately provocative title “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” she compares Western and Chinese parenting strategies and offers a hair raising example of how she got her daughter Lulu to master a difficult piano piece.  Ms. Chua herself is extremely accomplished – Yale law professor – and is coming out with a new book, her third, about how to parent the Chinese way.  No doubt the publicity from this controversial essay will help launch the book on the bestseller list.

At first I couldn’t decide whether she was being tongue-in-cheek in exaggerating the strictness of her rules and overriding her children’s preferences and being their taskmaster.  But as I read on, I realize that she was completely serious.  Her analysis of why Chinese and Western parenting methods vary is uncomfortably accurate and I would add, a matter of cultural differences.  Under her analysis, I would be considered a Western parent, even though I am first generation American of Chinese heritage.  While I don’t parent the way she does, I am familiar with how the Chinese method works, having seen variations of it.

Such extreme methods do seem to produce results.  The Chinese pianist and successful international recording artist Lang Lang had a tumultuous relationship with his father who relentlessly pushed him to practice hours on end. He acknowledges that he missed part of his childhood because of all the practicing but believes that was what it took for him to be where he is today.  A piano teacher I know of (not of Chinese ethnicity) who likes to yell and threaten her students turns out award-winning young pianists each year.

But I worry about those kids for whom piano or violin is just not their thing and no amount of pressure from parents or teachers will change that.  Ms. Chua’s parenting philosophy will not brook allowing children the freedom to find their own interests and passions.  And she harbors an unfortunate cultural bias against sports and drama, both activities that can do much to build up character and confidence in children.

I also worry that our society’s over-emphases on achievement and performance comes at the expense of character building.  Learning from mistakes and setbacks, figuring out how to overcome obstacles, and raising gracious children who possess integrity, should receive equal attention.  I don’t want my daughter to grow up believing that her self-worth is tied to performance, but rather that she is worthy and loved because of who she is, her personality and character.  But I can just see Ms. Chua sneering at that.

There’s so much more I could explore about Ms. Chua’s essay (e.g. does it perpetuate stereotypes? Do Americans feel threatened by Chinese success?) but I wanted to get my two cents worth out there today.  I welcome your thoughts and comments.


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