A dear friend of mine, a professor of early childhood education, once said, “All parents want what’s best for their children.”
I know what you’re thinking, “No way! Did you see that crazy mom bribing her screaming two-year old with M&M’s at Target?”
First, that crazy lady was me (you try shopping with a two-year old and eight-month old and we’ll see how calm you are at the checkout line). Second, please smile and look away. The glares aren’t helping. Wait! Don’t even think about trying to talk to the screaming two-year old. A stranger in his face will only make him scream louder. Really – I mean it! Just smile and look away and stop judging.
About the judging – every parent has preconceived notions of what is best for their children. Even fanatical Chinese parents like Amy Chua whom call their children “garbage” and threaten to burn all their stuffed animals, believe they know the ideal upbringing for their children. That is why this book is so fascinating. Chua’s Chinese parenting is extreme and intense, and yet despite cultural pressure, family backlash, and personal sacrifice, she stays committed to her role as part insane-dictator / part loving mother (spoiler alert) – at least until the end of the book.
Chua accurately summarizes the current, popular parenting trend, “Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment.”
Yesterday, at a mother’s meeting, a mom said she believed it was her duty to get out-of-the-way of her child’s growth and allow her to become the person she was meant to be. (F.Y.I. – the child she referred to is three years old). If I got out-of-the-way of my preschooler, he’d eat ice cream and finger paint while watching cartoons all day. If you “got out of the way” of a teenager, he’d play video games all day AND all night while simultaneously texting friends, playing music, and watching TV. This is an example of a true “Western parent.”
Chinese parents on the contrary “believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away,” (Chua). Westerners may frown upon the way Chinese parents prepare their children for the future, but some believe the end justifies the means.
A study conducted by Dr. Florrie Ng as sited in the book Nurture Shockby Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman supports the argument that Chinese parenting is more effective than American parenting at encouraging children to stretch themselves academically by working hard and challenging themselves.
As a teacher and as a parent, I’ve seen the backlash from our nice, cushy, nurturing, endless praising environments. Kids lose their innate self-motivation because they’re constantly expecting a reward after every mundane task and they become easily frustrated. They’ve continuously heard the positive reinforcement of, “You’re smart. This should be easy for you.” Therefore, when something is challenging, they shut down and give up because they are afraid of appearing not smart and not receiving a reward. Chua did not allow her daughters to give up – even to the point of threatening to give her seven-year old daughter’s dollhouse to the Salvation Army if she didn’t play a certain piano piece correctly.
Why am I reviewing this book? If you’re a parent reading this blog, I hope you pick up a copy/ download a copy/ borrow a copy. It will certainly lead you to ponder your own parenting paradigms. In addition, I enjoy trying to work on the computer while Bunder pees on my foot to get my attention. (No joke- he walked right up, stood over my foot, and took aim). Furthermore and more importantly, I’m hosting a book club discussion at my house this Monday night and I couldn’t find any worthy discussion questions online. Here you go Austin Moms – prepared written responses are optional – j/k 🙂
- How has reading this book changed your views on parenting?
- What did you find most alarming about Amy Chua’s methods for parenting?
- Why do you think Chinese parenting is beneficial for children?
- Do you think the Chinese parenting style would work for your children?
- What aspects of Chinese parenting do you use or will you use?
- Why do you think Chua dismissed her parenting style at the end of the book?
- What do you see happening next for Lulu and Sophia?