Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I post an article about the Parenting styles of Chinese mothers, a topic that has received a lot of press recently.

I have thought about this topic extensively, given that I have a young son.

I wish to elaborate on my views and experiences on the topic of parenting, in particular the cultural influences and values that tend to have an overwhelming impact on our parenting styles.

But first an article on the topic that has been in the news of late.

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By Amy Chua

In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua describes her relentless determination to make her two daughters successful by raising them in a strict fashion, contrary to what she sees as modern American standards of permissiveness and mediocrity. In this excerpt, she starts to explain her parenting philosophy.

Part One

The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.

The Chinese mother

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 #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 also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Westerners are far more diverse in their parenting styles than the Chinese. Some Western parents are strict; others are lax. There are same-sex parents, Orthodox Jewish parents, single parents, ex-hippie parents, investment banker parents, and military parents. None of these “Western” parents necessarily see eye to eye, so when I use the term “Western parents,” of course I’m not referring to all Western parents—just as “Chinese mother” doesn’t refer to all Chinese mothers.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

This brings me to my final point. Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother. This is so wrong. Unlike your typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.

9 comments:

joe said...

Hello,

My name is Joe Pinzone and I'm a casting producer for a TV Show. We are looking for families that have some sort of issues with their in-laws because of a difference in cultural background. I wanted to know if you could repost this information. This documentary style show will try and help bridge the gap between in-laws. There's also compensation involved with families featured on the show.

If you have questions, please contact me at joepinzone80@gmail.com or contact me at 212-564-2607

joe said...

Hello,

My name is Joe Pinzone and I'm a casting producer for a TV Show. We are looking for families that have some sort of issues with their in-laws because of a difference in cultural background. I wanted to know if you could repost this information. This documentary style show will try and help bridge the gap between in-laws. There's also compensation involved with families featured on the show.

If you have questions, please contact me at joepinzone80@gmail.com or contact me at 212-564-2607

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Arya samaj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. F said...

I love the premise of your blog, and have been reading some of your posts. I secretly wish my husband would blog about his Eastern wife :)

Anonymous said...

Hello,
What is an Anglo male? From reading your blog it seems you are australian. I've never heard of this anglo thing and it makes the blog very confusing. I thought maybe you are from east anglia in England.
Thanks
Jen

Shameme Adams said...

Hello!!,
Well it is a fascinating topic, but i think once you marry someone from another culture somehow you adopt some of that culture into you too!. My Mum was white, my Dad Asian (the other way round to you two)!1 lol and so i saw this happen with them!!!. Mind due not that my Dad was around but you know i still saw it happen with my Mum. I think you two look SOOoooo adorable together :D and i hope so much all works out for you!. I would adore to stay intouch with people who share mixed-marriages and if you both would like a new pal then feel free to email me anytime, it's shameme.adams@gmail.com

Bye for now!!
Shameme

Arya samaj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dui lawyer in arizona said...

Excellent blog. I read some of yours recently.

Sociable

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?