Why Chinese Mothers are NOT Superior (aka Why Chinese Fathers are Not Needed)

Amy Chua with daughters Louisa and Sophia

Yale Law Professor Amy Chua recently released a memoir called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Talk about cheesy titles. Essentially, it was about the so-called “Chinese” method of raising children that was very strict, and why it was superior, as her Wall Street Journal essay (Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, Amy Chua in WSJ, Jan 8 2011).

Essentially, it’s how one clever woman is playing the race card in on offense, in a sly way to keep tension from building while generating debate and getting her lots of money and attention. This book would be nothing but for the hype generated by these racial insinuations.

If you want the details on the no sleepover, no dates, trashing your children, threatening to burn your children’s toys, forcing them to take either piano or violin and not settling for As in school, you can read the WSJ link above or the multitude of other related articles like this one from Canada’s Globe & Mail (Why Chinese Parenting is Best, G&M Jan 11 2011).

Note again the racial insinuation in the title.

That’s because its supposed “self-deprecating” nature that was in good jest, according to Amy, is all hear say and not backed up by anything but her opinion. She is presenting an argument on what isn’t “visible”, concentrating on what is, which is the successful products of the method. But how many have been failed by the method and had their lives ruined, and who will never be known?

In a nation of over 1 billion people, with at least hundreds of millions elsewhere around the world, you’re bound to be able to find a few successful examples. Amy says this in the WSJ essay:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.
They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music
prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too.

Really? I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that. I’ve heard people marvel at the various Chinese kids full of academic talent, but never as a whole of the race or nation. Besides, have you seen the state of China recently? Sure, they have a booming economy, but any nation might if it had a billion people. I challenge that it could be a lot more so that I’m actually disappointed in the Chinese economy. I think if Canada or America had a billion people, we’d make the Chinese economy look mediocre. And how many prodigies do you think we would have if our populations were multiplied enough to get us each 1 billion people? The Chinese also pull stunts like artificially controlling the value of their currency to help the economy boom. But what lies beneath that booming economy? There’s still a lot of censorship, poverty, lack of basic education, especially for women who are supposedly these “superior Mothers”. Get a good sampling from Xinran’s book, The Good Women of China. The book with the nasty truths is banned in China, by the way.

The people of China were raised by their Mothers. If their Mothers and method of parenting were so superior, how come they are not the envy of the world to become?

I have not known enough Chinese kids raise in Amy’s suggested manner to have a scientific sample to back up my conclusions about the method, but from what I’ve seen, they tend to turn out more socially dysfunctional and awkward than anything else! Even with their success, they are still awkward and only happy and comfortable inside some world of their own. A lot also got burned out along the way. A few successful cases were among the bunch I have met, but I would need a magnificent margin of error from my sources to validate Amy’s point.

Not surprisingly, even the Chinese aren’t behind her claims (WSJ Jan 15 2011). The majority of people who opposed it are in the middle class who are now raising children of their own, having seen what the method had brought for them and their country. They’re disappointed by it and turning to more free-wheeling ways of raising their children. If you want evidence to oppose Amy’s point of view, that’s about as good as it gets. The products turning on the methods used to raise them from disappointment of the results!

One final problem I have with Amy’s stance on the book is that she didn’t write the book in a “self-deprecating” nature, as she claimed, from the tone I saw in various excerpts made available. Sounded pretty serious like she were really trying to make a case to me. She’s clever to do this to alleviate criticisms while slyly pushing her agenda and making a lot of money while at it.

Amy uses her two daughters as examples of success of the method. Great sample size! She also didn’t follow the method to a T. Shame on her. You’d think with how strict her Parents had been, she’d know better than to deviate!

The way she argues, I would not be surprised if she addressed all cases of failures as the inability of the people to properly execute the method. She didn’t, and yet her kids didn’t turn out to be failure.

To be fair to Amy, she did acknowledge quietly that the method she offered were probably common among a lot of immigrants, and not just the Chinese, except for the two instrument choices of piano and violin. But there wouldn’t be nearly the same hype and money generating opportunity if she had just said immigrants rather than Chinese, which she is in part and can claim to know something about rather than having to do a full study for all immigrants.

If you ask me, there is no superior Parenting technique. There are just too many variables at play, from your child’s favoured learning style and personality, to your personality (you can’t get away acting what you aren’t), to the culture around them (values of the culture) to the environment around them (resources, people, social trends, etc.). Psychology has nothing to support Amy’s claims, but rather all opposing them, like how children tried better if you told them they did well because they tried hard, as opposed to telling them they sucked, were bad, were naturally talented, etc. However, it has nothing more definitive than that, either.

The topic of Parenting method is one that is vague and debatable, at best, and that was Amy Chua’s brilliance to capitalize on with her racial claim of Chinese Mothers and parenting being superior. The actual claim Amy makes isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, with about as much truth as Why Chinese Fathers Are Not Needed.

There’s hardly a mention of her husband in any of these articles, and where there was, like in the WSJ article linked at the start, he opposed her views. If she only realized that, she could have subtitled the book that way, generate even more controversy and make even more money! 🙂

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