On Saturday, January 8, 2011, The Wall Street Journal published this article by Amy Chua: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”, which is an excerpt from her recently published book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
This controversial article has had a viral effect across the Internet and, as of this posting, has generated 4,119 comments – some agreeing and some disagreeing with Chua’s Chinese method of mothering.
The first paragraph of this article lists the activities Chua’s daughters were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• 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.
When I read just this portion of the article, I thought, wow, those poor kids do not have much of a childhood. But as I continued reading, I realized there was some method to Chua’s motherhood madness, and I definitely recommend reading this article in its entirety.
Chua compares Chinese motherhood to Western motherhood in a variety of ways. She gives an example of how she pushed and pushed and pushed her daughter to play a difficult song on the piano. Her daughter threw fits, but Chua persisted in making her practice. Her daughter hated her for it, but when the piece finally clicked and her daughter got it just right, they went back to having a happy mother-daughter relationship.
In response to this example, Chua writes, “Western parents worry a lot about their children's self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't.”
Chua’s methods seem over-the-top extreme for many Westerners, but I think she makes some very good points. My parents were never as strict as her, but I do believe they set boundaries and had a good balance between allowing me to be an individual while pushing me to be a better, successful person. As a kid, I remember I occasionally threw fits before going to swim practice, but somehow my mom always got me to pack my swim bag and get me to the pool. After I finally got to the locker room, surrounded by all of my friends, I was fine and I enjoyed the practice. Swimming became the most important activity of my childhood and I'm very thankful that my parents pushed me and did not allow me to quit just because I threw a few tantrums.
That is just one of many examples.
Questions: What do you think about this article? How does your mother compare to Chua's idea of Chinese motherhood?