It’s amazing what one article can do but one thing that’s clear is that Amy Chua is going to sell some books. Cha-ching.
- Have you read the article?
- What did you think?
- Agree? Disagree?
Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt that was supposedly a bunch of cut and paste for the sake of piecing together the juiciest parts. And it is juicy indeed:
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. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, 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.
I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.
You should read the entire piece. It’s quite interesting and provocative.
The question is simple:
- Are Asian parents indeed superior than other parents?
- Or rather, is there a “superior” way to reframe that question?
Some random thoughts:
1. Stereotypes are always bad.
Even if there might be an element of truth, in the long run, it suffocates personal identity and freedom.
2. Yes, they are “superior.”
Of course this is true.
Parents that invest, love, encourage, push, empower…are simply better parents. No?
Kids need to be pushed, motivated, encouraged, and pushed even more and that’s what Asian parents are often prone to do. They understand the privilege of education and not the entitlement of education. There might be some parents that are so lax with their kids that they need to read this article. There are some parents that are so consumed by the fragility of their children’s emotional stability that they’re unwilling to push:
I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.
Superior parents have high hopes and expectations for their children. They never relinquish the desire for a “better life” for their children.
3. No, they are not superior.
How does one define superiority? How does one define success for a child or person?
Clearly, we can acknowledge that good grades or test scores in themselves don’t guarantee “success.”
The lack of balance and a wholistic vision for life and success.
Education and success grows to be the pervasive idolatry by which all things are measured.
4. My personal experience
Ugh. I can imagine Asian-Americans all around the country being poked, analyzed, and asked if they can speak on behalf of all Asians in the world:
Is this true?
While I believe there are many Asians and Asian-Americans that can understand the premise of the article, one ought to also acknowledge shifts in learning, education, and a higher inclination towards creativity and critical thought in the learning process – both in the West and in the East.
As for my experience: It was intense. I resonated with much of the article.
The academic pressure was pretty brutal in the Cho Household growing up. Sort of a common story especially amongst Asian immigrants – at least the Asian-American friends I hung out with. Ask most 1st or 2nd generation Asian-Americans and they’ll likely understand what I’m talking about. Immigration does some intense things to people. I was 6 when we moved to the States and technically, I had the most time to acclimate and should have been the one to excel amongst my brothers.
My parents were obsessed with our education and “success.” While I did not understand why, I later understood that they sought for us what no one was willing to pursue for them. Because of my parents’ high expectations and their commitment to our education, we all did “well.” I managed to graduate tops in middle school but it was pretty much down from there. Now, I still did very well – but just not tops. I was in the honor society in high school; graduated college in three years…but just not tops which translated to “not good enough.”
Here’s a classic story: During my fourth grade summer vacation, my mother gave me “homework” which was the case for every summer. That summer’s homework was the most memorable…
My homework was to copy the entire set of World Book Encyclopedia – by hand.
I didn’t finish but managed to get to the “S” volume. I ripped out pages when she wasn’t looking and pretty much hated life.
But it was tough not meeting their expectations and not getting my Ph.D. like my oldest brother. That guy is one smart dude. And my middle brother is sharp as well. I simply couldn’t keep up with them.
My decision and conviction to enter seminary and go into ministry brought much pain and anxiety to my parents. I was “ordained” to be a medical doctor. Those were some painful years. But through it all and while not necessarily meeting my parents perfect expectations, it feels so good to know that my parents are now our biggest supporters and advocates. While I ultimately seek to bring glory to my Heavenly Father, it feels good to bring joy and honor to my parents as well.
So, are my parents the best or worst?
They are neither.
They are my parents & I now understand
how much they loved and sacrificed…
But this I know, I’d rather have parents that would have pushed me rather than those that chose not to invest at all which leads me to my final random thought:
5. Don’t make them our idolatries.
The point is simple. We have been given the humble, amazing, and hard task of raising our children so that one day, they continue onward.
Love and invest in your children – contextually and holistically. But simultaneously, let’s not make them or their success the source of our idolatries.