I’m sure by now a lot of you have read the article by Amy Chua’s “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“ in the Wallstreet Journal. I have read this before we had started this blog, and have had thoughts and comments on this article that I wanted to share. So I figure I would throw in my two cents here now.
I really don’t intend on giving out tips on parenting, since I’m not fortunate enough to be a parent yet. However, there are certain things regarding on the article is written that doesn’t sit right with me.
This article has touched on some controversial topics regarding the parenting strategy of “Western Parents” and “Chinese Parents”. These terms was used to represent the extremes of the “permissiveness” or “strictness” of parenting, respectively. However, the objective could have been expressed without bringing in race at all. Even within the article, she have pointed out that there are parents of Chinese descent that do not fall within the defined “Chinese Parents”, and same goes for the “Western Parents”. The argument she had presented in this article wouldn’t have been any weaker or less meaningful without bringing in race. The only thing it would have lost were possibly the flashy-ness for making a “good” news story.
As a scientific (social science) piece, the article lacks objective evidences to back up her claims. Many of her claims, seem to me, can be considered as the over-extension of her personal experiences or second hand information to a much much larger group known as “Chinese Parents”. At the very least, she had not clearly presented whether or not she is presenting objective evidences rather than subjective evidences. Not only is this misrepresenting of parents of Chinese descent or even those represented by her defined term “Chinese Parents”, it also perpetuate, and possibly create, an unnecessary stereotype about Chinese parents. Again, It would have been sufficient to classified into Western and Eastern Parents, even better Permissive and Strict Parents, and nothing would have been taken away from the article.
However, since Dr. Amy Chua decided to classified the group as “Chinese Parents”, I must say I feel a little bit offended, as a person of Chinese descent, at the stereotype she has portrayed of “Chinese Parents”, especially those of Chinese descent. She has listed 3 major differences between Chinese Parents and Western Parents.
Quoting from her article:
“First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. …Chinese parents aren’t. …”
“Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children.”
“Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences.”
Firstly, I would like to think all parents worry for their children’s well-being, physical, mental, and emotional, it’s part of the maternal/paternal nature of animals which we humans are a part of. Secondly, I think Dr. Chua has misunderstood Confucius philosophy. Confucius believed in love and respect, the child do as the parents said because the child love and respect their parents, not because the parents feels like the child owes them anything and forced it upon them or the child feels they owed their parents. The notion of such a “parental debt” did not appear in the untranslated version of Confucius (i.e. in its original language) I’ve read, so I think there may be a bit of a misunderstanding somewhere along the line. Thirdly, all parents would think they know better than their child. And hopefully it is true, the extra 20-30 years of life the parents have on this Earth over their child have given them more knowledge and wisdom than that of the child. I would think that since parents instinctively care for their children that they would try to pass on their wisdom and try to guide them down the right path.
But all in all, thank you Dr. Chua, for making us Chinese Parents or “would-be” Chinese parents look so great even though you are only remotely Chinese according to Wikipedia; at the same time, making parents like Dr. Rubenfeld look bad by bringing race into an issue where it doesn’t belong.