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Chinese Mothers Don’t Subscribe to Left-Wing Parenting Tactics

Posted By Suzanne Venker On January 12, 2011 @ 1:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | Comments Disabled

I’d be curious to know what my old friend — we’ll call her Leeann — thinks. Leeann is a Chinese mother of three who lived in my town temporarily while her American husband was completing his residency. After three years, she and her family moved away.

Like many Chinese women, Leeann was petite, with smooth skin and silky hair. She was also a perfectionist who was constantly – and I mean constantly – comparing herself to other people. Leeann was a great girl and a great mom, but her insecurity consumed her. No matter what I said to try and get her to stop comparing herself to others, she continued to do so. It drove me mad.

This constant need to make sure you’re good enough seems to me an inevitable result of a Chinese upbringing — at least the kind Amy Chua describes in “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” the cover story of this past weekend’s Saturday Review in the Wall Street Journal. In her article, Chua gives new meaning to the word strict. American parents may be hopeless in this regard, but Chinese mothers, well, let’s just say they have a different approach. In a nutshell, they scream, berate, and belittle their children. Writes Chua,

Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, ‘Hey, fatty — lose some weight.’

Chua also called her daughter Sophia “garbage” once when Sophia was disrespectful toward her. Can’t get much more opposite of American parenting than that.

Then there are the household rules. Ms. Chua has two daughters, and they are not (and have never been) allowed to:

• have a play date

• attend a sleepover

• watch TV or play computer games

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

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

At face value, these rules seem insanely severe — but then I, too, am considered an overly strict parent, though for different reasons. (The only reason I am, though, is because American standards are ridiculously low.) That’s where Chinese mothers are superior to American parents.

As Chua points out, Americans’ obsession with young people’s self-esteem — a phenomenon begun and wholly embraced by the left — is absurd. We’ve spent the last three decades walking on eggshells around children both in our schools and in our homes, afraid that any comment that may make kids uncomfortable will ruin their self-image.

It won’t, of course. Dealing with uncomfortable feelings or realities — like the idea that a child may not good at something, for example — is how kids develop character. Indeed, American mothers routinely tell their children they’re great before their children have done anything to prove their greatness, which does nothing but produce inflated egos. As reader George Huber wrote in the comment section of the online version of Chua’s article,

The author’s attitude is obviously draconian, but the sad truth is that American families suffer from a horrible dearth of discipline and guidance. Underachievement is the norm. One of the few endeavors we excel in these days is finding new ways to waste time. Our children wallow in pop culture – they are often bored, miserable, and lost. We tell them they can be anything they want to be but don’t help them internalize the habits that lead to success.

But that’s the end of where Chinese parents have an edge on American parents. Two additional distinctions between Chinese and Western parenting, according to Chua, are that Chinese parents believe their children owe them everything, and Chinese parents believe they know what’s best for their children and thus override their children’s own desires and preferences.

This kind of parenting may indeed produce greatness — Chinese kids outpace American kids in academics and musical prowess, for example — but it’s also cruel. The result may be an accomplished adult, but one who’s also insecure or even miserable inside. The problem with Ms. Chua’s approach is that the emphasis is on outward success. As my friend Leeann told me more than once, money and prestige are very important to the Chinese.

These are sad goals indeed, and American adults are guilty, too. But we don’t generally raise our kids to believe they’re trash if they aren’t number one.

Chinese parenting is terribly flawed, as is American parenting. Good parenting is about being reasonable and fair. It’s also about demonstrating tough love, not wishy-washy, feel-good tactics.

That’s something Americans and Chinese can both stand to learn.

Suzanne Venker is co-author of the forthcoming book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say (WND Books). Her website is www.suzannevenker.com.




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