Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Are Chinese mothers superior?

We all know that our Chinese parents have a reputation are particularly stricter and demanding. Just this week an article on the Wall Street Journal by a Chinese author Amy Chua has caused a stir amongst the Asian American blogoshere. The outline of the article basically says that the reason why 'Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids' is simply they were given the traditional Chinese upbringing. Thus this 'tough love' technique is what makes Chinese children to be academically high achievers. As oppose to Western parents, no matter how strict they are are always considerate of their Children's self esteem and 'respect their individuality'. As the author mentioned she even calls her daughter 'garbage'. They'll take it to the extreme to even yell at their kids and basically make them 'feel like garbage' if they fail to achieve anything below grade A. Now this surely crosses the line of emotional abuse. But to Amy forcing these values onto the kids is a method of good parenting.

To some extent I can see certain relevance to Amy's account on Chinese parents and there elements of truth to it. However it's not as simple as diverting it into the so-called 'Chinese' and 'Western' approach. I see this as the characteristic of poor immigrant parents who wants to push their children so they have a better future that are different to their parents. In a sense it's a legitimate reason. But for arguments sake I'll just follow her dualistic categories.

It is true that the 'Chinese technique' of raising kids can produce high achievers. We can see this in the statistics. However even with all of that there's no guarantee that it will work on all everyone and at the same time I know many who have achieved success without any intervention from their parents. I can testify that with real life examples. As parents trying to push their kids to have academic achievements will totally constrain other important aspects of personal development such as self-esteem and self-confidence, which is equally as important beyond the academic life if not even more. The pressure being placed children and young adults can take it's toll, as it drove many to commit suicide or suffer mental breakdown.

In the end we need to ask ourselves what is the definition of success? Are these definition of success being placed on by their parents will automatically lead to a happy and fulfilling life? Everyone has different aspiration and passion that we want to pursue, it's no good when parents try to forced us into a path that go against our natural ability. After all those hours of studying may get you a high earning job (I say may because there's no guarantee) or practising your musical instrument can get you a lot praises but it doesn't make you a better person. Many will become lost as they become adults because they are too used to being dictated by their parents. You may look back and ask yourself what was all that for?

Of course emphasising on education is not a bad thing, but balance is the key to raising healthy children. Academic success isn't everything. In the end 'Chinese' mothers are not superior than 'Western' mothers or vice versa. Nor is it fair to confine them with these characteristics.

I heard that the author Amy Chua (who I've never heard of before) has just recently launched her new book. Maybe the provocative article was done as a publicity stunt to sell more books. Well it probably has worked for her.

Here's a really good post from a blog that counteracts Amy Chua's article:

Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy/

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