Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Did anyone read about the Asian-American Yale law professor who wrote a book about how Chinese mothers' parenting techniques bring up successful children?

Here are some of the things that Amy Chua wrote about:

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.

No doubt her education background gave her enough sense to say that she's using the terms 'Chinese parents' and 'Western parents' loosely.


And that's not all.

First, 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.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child "stupid," "worthless" or "a disgrace." Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child's grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher's credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)

While I agree that this method has created many successful people, I have to disagree with the approach, based on my own experience. Granted, I'm no specialist, but I do believe that her approach wouldn't have worked with me.


Growing up, my parents did send me for lessons in swimming, piano, and several others. But they have never demanded that I practise for 3 hours! But as I had not exhibited much interest in any of the lessons gradually I stopped altogether.

I do not regret those aspects, although sometimes I do wonder what would happen if I had become more of a master of one thing instead of a jack of all trades.

In school, I was never pressured into performing- I don't ever remember my parents being disappointed with my results. So long as it's my best, they accepted it; with the exception of one time when I needed a pep talk to pump me up.


And I do think that I've turned out fine- completed my first year in university, about to enter my second. Don't do drugs, haven't been in jail or been arrested. I'd say that's a pretty good thing, don't you think?

A child needs to be loved by their parents, to know that someone at least has their back.

What about you? What do you think about this parenting technique?
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