BY PAM LOBLEY
NOW THAT'S FUNNY
The piece is actually an excerpt from Amy Chua's new book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", a memoir of her struggle to raise her two girls the Chinese way. Ms. Chua insists that she did not choose "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" as the title for the excerpt; that was done by an editor at The Wall Street Journal. She says she doesn't believe that one way of parenting is superior to another, and that she was forced to come to terms with her own strictness when her youngest daughter rebelled at 13.This gist of the article is that Chinese moms raise stereotypically successful children because they believe in their kids and are super tough on them. Some things Ms. Chua never let her two girls 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.
Yikes! My two boys play the saxophone, the drums and guitar. What a couple of losers.
Ms. Chua describes riding her kids relentlessly, including berating them and calling them names ("garbage") when appropriate. The two girls are teenagers now, and I don't think they've been admitted to Harvard yet, but I'm sure they will be. This is the goal of Chinese mothering: musical mastery and Ivy League acceptance.
It's also incredibly stereotypical. Ms. Chua seems to have cast off all worries about political correctness and cheerfully embraces the cliché of the hard-working, success-obsessed Asian. If the season of political correctness is over, and it's OK to speak in ethnic clichés again, then I'm looking forward to some more upcoming parenting articles:
Why Italian Mothers Are Superior: My kids stop by every Sunday, fix the toilet and then stay and eat some of this food I keep cooking.
Why WASP Mothers Are Superior: My kids are always on time for dinner at the club, they know how to hire and manage a household staff and they can (usually) hold their liquor.
Why Redneck Mothers Are Superior: My kids never go hungry as long as there's a squirrel in the backyard.
Ms. Chua makes some interesting points about Western style parenting: that we don't set the bar high enough for our kids and are soft on discipline, and that we are too worried about their self-esteem.
I guess its all about how you define success. If perfect grades and an Ivy League school are success to you, then you might try Chinese mothering. I don't think I will. I don't really care about the Ivy League thing. My parents went to Purdue University (that's in Indiana) and they are two of the smartest, most interesting people you'll want to meet. I know many people who went to Ivy League schools and they are no better off than the rest of the people I know.
Plus, I don't want to berate my children. Well, that's not true. I do want to berate them – when they leave their muddy shoes in the middle of the living room, or when they wear the same hoodie for 5 days in a row insisting it doesn't smell. But I don't berate them, and I hope I never do.
I do agree with Ms. Chua that we should be holding our kids to a higher standard and toughening up on discipline. And I'm going to get right on that, just as soon as they turn off the TV.
Pam Lobley writes the "Now That's Funny" column. Sign up for her mailing list at www.pamlobley.com.