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Author Topic: 'Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" (WSJ) Please comment on this article  (Read 27433 times)
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« on: January 13, 2011, 05:32:34 PM »

Hello, I came accross this interesting and perhaps controversial article.

I am raising my son in the U.S. but being from Europe, I am not as squeamish with tough love as many American parents. Still, I expect my own approach to be a little less strict. Anyway, I am not passing judgement one way or the other, but I am very interested to hear from Asian parents regarding whether what the author describes can truly be considered typical in their culture.


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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2011, 06:57:20 PM »

I'm not a Chinese mother but I can give you some of my thoughts. I just heard about the Chinese parenting the other day on the Today show.
Honestly, I do think that you can keep your child from giving up other then putting them down and feeling like mud. Granted this might roll off of some children's backs but not most.
I remember watching a season of the Biggest Loser. There was an Asian girl on there. Her story was that she had a younger sister that died tragically, from I believe drowing or something to that effect. The parents way of dealing with it was blaming her. So therefore she took the personal insults as well personal and began binging and eating until she became obese.  So then the insults from her parents of her being fat commenced. Making matters all the worse.
It wasn't Bob or Jillians tough love with the exercises that finally got through to her. It was a moment when Jillian showed her softer side and let her know " No, it wasn't your fault. It was a tragic accident but you were just a small child and no it wasn't your fault. I believe in you." Those words were what got her through it and finally on to losing weight and becoming a more functional person in society.

I know personally growing up in a house with an abusive stepfather, being called names, told that we should be seen and not heard did not help me be a more superior person. It only broke me down and now as an adult have self esteem/confidence issues. I always felt like what I did was never ever good enough.

I also have to think about the high suicide rates that the Asian cultures always have.  I can't see how trying to glamorize verbal abuse (which what is is) could ever be a positive thing.
There is such thing as teaching your children to never give up without calling them garbage. Parents can demand better grades from their children withougt calling them uselss and worthless. I do expect my daughters to get good grades. My 1st grader had a B in math and I told her I would like to see an A. That she can do it and I know she can. As for my 13 yr old with a D in math at the moment I told her the same. i want the grade up when I get the report card. That I know I could see an A from her as well. I never had to verbally abuse them and every day I hear, Its almost report card tiime. I'm working on getting my grade up mom. 
In the end my children respect me but I'm also loved. I'd rather go through life knowing my children loved me rather then hated and despised. You only get one chance to be a parent and I'd rather love my children, nuture then, help them work harder because I know they CAN do better . Then to know when I die that I'm despised.

But those are my thoughts.  I'm not squeemish on tough love, my family is Polish and German. So no problems there. I don't mind dishing it out. But at the same time abuse is abuse no matter what package you put it in.


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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2011, 07:14:57 PM »

I have to say that I agree a lot with the previous post. Although I do think we should encourage our children to not give up and be the best that they can be (which is not necessarily the best in the class) I do believe that this can be done through positive reinforcement. Is that not the whole philosophy of the Suzuki method - the children are praised for achieving each level and that praise encourages them to succeed with the next. Come to think of it, that is the philosophy of ALL early learning advocates (or all the ones I've read about, anyway).

I do believe that there is a time to be strict, or say things that might be unpleasant, such as telling an overweight person that they really do need to lose weight (though it is possible to do so in a caring way without being insulting) but I can't imagine any situation where I would call my son rubbish or stupid. That is just wrong and psychologically damaging.

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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2011, 07:31:03 PM »

Hi from a newbie to the boards (but an experienced parent)...

I can definitely see the issue some would take with Western parenting.  I think there has been a systematic weakening of children.  I think the expectations and standards for children are extremely low (I thought that 18 years ago when I first became a mother and it's definitely more true now!).  And I think there are benefits to some "immigrant parenting" as she called it in an interview.  However, I think the abusiveness that happens in some of those homes and the horrible outcomes (mentioned above) are considerations to be avoided!

But I think there is a balance to be met (btw, I absolutely adore the idea of balance!).  I have been (and will continue to be) a very strict parent.  Strict doesn't mean harsh, rude, abusive, mean, etc though.  I simply believe we can expect so much more of our children, give them opportunities, help them succeed; but we can do it in healthy ways, modeling behavior we would like to see them emulate.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2011, 07:33:50 PM by momagain » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 07:56:54 PM »

I don't think there is anything superior about using verbal abuse as "motivation." And the author herself has gone away from that type of parenting (as she explains in her book, because everyone who reads the article is going to run out and buy the book  rolleyes ) I agree that we need to hold children to higher standards and not let them quit at the first sign of difficulty however there are much better ways of going about it.

There are some interesting replies on a Quora question about this

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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2011, 11:38:04 PM »

I only have a moment to reply and have to say that I didn't find her argument compelling nor did I see her back up her claims with any research.  I only skimmed the article so perhaps I missed something.  When it comes to motivation I recommend the following articles:

There was a third related article that I can't find now.  It was another Po Bronson piece about a Chinese psychologist who repeated Dwecks studies on praise and motivation in China.  The results were quite different: children praised for effort did not perform better.  Bronson's conclusion was that because Chinese culture views hard work as a fixed trait, either you are born a hard worker or you are born lazy, that children didn't believe they could improve and gave up just like the "smart" kids in Dweck's studies.  ETA My conclusion is that all the negative labeling that Chua talks about in her article, calling kids lazy or garbage, is just as detrimental as the excessive praise Americans shower on their children.  Stop labeling and evaluating your kids and they will perform better. 

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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2011, 12:09:22 AM »

I think she is abusive.  I do not want a genius who is not socially adjusted.

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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2011, 04:55:12 AM »

Interesting article.  Especially the paradigm that Chinese children are indebted to their parents.   Here in America, it is common for parents to express their desire to "give" their children a better life.  Maybe it would be better if we expected our children to earn a better life.  I expect my children to behave well and they fulfill this expectation because they know I will not accept anything less.  I can't explain why this is so, other than my mother always expected the same from me.  But I haven't given much thought to how my expectations influence my kids academic performance.  My daughter is well ahead most kids her age, but my son is classified and is performing below grade level.  I wonder if changing my own expectations would help him achieve.  I don't believe in unrelenting drills. etc.  I really do want my children to find a happy balance in life.

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« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2011, 11:08:43 AM »

dont know about Chinese mothers being superior, but some of the ppl in Hong Kong can really be a little crazy. My colleague's daughter 6 year old, attending primary one in Hong KOng. There are 4 subjects, maths, english, chinese and general knowledge in which she scored  above 90% in all subjects.. and you have the teacher telling her mum,, she is doing okay, still have room for improvement, I hope she doesnt go anywhere during Christmas holiday, she should stay home and do revision..



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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2011, 12:30:19 PM »

Okay - so many many things but rather than turning this into an essay I'll narrow it down- I guess this was the thing that struck the worst chord for me....
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

The problem isn't that westerners have the wrong idea it's that they don't know how to implement it. The Chinese way has many many generations of tradition and experience behind it so that all things being results orientated their methods work and work well - it is the cost of these methods not the results that concern me - for every student who comes first one must come last an unfortunate situation for a child of results orientated parents because you could be getting 98% and still not be first.

Westerners are still finding their way they have vague ideas and most parents just kind of float along many stumble.

Imagine if every Western parent took on board the Doman method of teaching through joy and teaching early - no child would ever be at a point where learning was difficult or hard work they would be constantly experiencing small successes or small hurdles that are overcome one after the other encouraging them to continue on their path.

And this is where the "Western" or shall we say "Doman" method wins out - because these children will love the process of learning - not the end results. The beauty of this is the acceptance of "failure" not as the inability to succeed but the end of a path during which many valuable lessons were learned that can be taken on the next journey to ensure you are one step closer to success.

Far less depressing and far more encouraging of creativity and ingenuity those traits that separate us from animals. The ability to imagine that things could be different and the ability to use ingenuity to make it so.

Us Westerners have been behind the Chinese for many years but we have caught up in so many ways. Those of us who are doing the ground breaking with new parenting methods and teaching methods have an obligation to pass on what we have learned to the next generation then one day our methods will have as many traditions and generations with years of success as the Chinese.

When this happens the Chinese methods will look as primitive and backward as the cane and writing lines looks now in western schools.

(PS - Please forgive the use of Chinese and Westerners here, I hate that kind of stereotyping but it is difficult to refute this article without it and I don't have the time to spare to work my way around it - it is certainly not meant to be offensive - if it makes you feel better replace it with group A and group B).


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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2011, 02:52:13 PM »

My question though is do all Chinese parents really parent this way? There is someone who always goes against the fray so to speak. Do all Chinese parents agree with this method?


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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2011, 01:12:09 AM »

Hmm.. I can't speak for the majority of the Chinese but I am Malaysian Chinese residing in Hong Kong, and the Chinese I knew from Malaysia and Hong Kong, do not parent that way. Not in my mum's generation, ( I was not brought up that way, my mum dont call me names,, like garbage or anything like that, though my sister called me lazy bum ). If there is any harsh way in the Chinese parenting , that would be overscheduling. I've met people who schedule their kids to 7 extra curricular activities in a week. Once the kids get used to those lifestyle they actually enjoy it, but the problem is, these kids might not know how to handle boredom and think of things to do on their own.
But the average overscheduling is tuition, and music one or two,, and sports one or two..


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« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2011, 03:30:05 AM »

I really think in the end its all about expectations. What do we as parents expect from our children?
I see that parents from the US tend to worry about making their children happy at all times. It is possible to achieve balance.
Of course I like to see my children happy BUT I do expect my children to get good grades in school. I expect them to be courteous to their friends in school, and respectful to adults at all times. I expect my children to behave no matter where we go(which they do and I can take them anywhere without problems), I expect them to work hard when I give them chores or responsibilities. Failure to do so results in lose of privileges. My list can go on. But I can teach my children to enjoy doing it what it is they do, and I can teach them that life can be enjoyable once their responsibility is completed.

Once US parents learn to realize that making children responsible for the things they do and expecting them to do the very best that they can. Then things will change.
At least those are my thoughts on the matter.


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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2011, 03:49:48 AM »

I have no expectations of my child - I would never put such pressure on him.

He is responsible for his own decisions and I am responsible for setting a good example and providing him with the knowledge and means for making good decisions.

A difficult concept perhaps but one that is working extremely well. I too have an angel who I can take anywhere, who has good manners, who helps his mum and dad, who is happy and who academically, physically and creatively is well ahead of his peers.

He does what he does because he chooses to do so. I will never fear that his behavior or choices will differ if I am there or not because I am not the dictator of his behavior. I will never fear that he will be lead astray because I know his thoughts are his own and his decisions are his own. He doesn't do things because someone else wants him to or worse still tells him to he does them because he has decided to. He might decide to do it to please someone else or something similar but the decision is still his. I will never take that right away from him even if it means a less easy path for myself as a parent.

Provide children with good examples and knowledge and they will work it out. If they can work out the phonetic code to the English language understanding right from wrong is a simple task - especially with good examples provided daily.

It is very easy to see children as something we need to control and their lives as something for us to sculpture but too many times I have seen (hundreds and hundreds of students over many years of teaching) that expectations and forming your child's life and setting them on the right path and other such things "for them" leads to misery and battles.

Our fears, our desires, our fantasies, our expectations etc are just that "OURS" not theirs. They must find their own way and that starts from day dot.

I doubt many parents have the ability to resign their fear at loss of control to follow such a method but I wish they could as they have no idea how easy it is and how joyous the results.

Just a quick question Tracy4 - do you expect your child to be respectful to adults that are not respectful of them? At all times is a dangerous statement. Firstly respect is a funny word - we should respect everyone and everyone's rights adults, children, animals, insects etc etc but I will use it here in the sense I believe you have meant it.

Respect is not deserved by adults simply because they are adults - I know many adults who I truly hope my son does not respect - respect is earned and is difficult to give to people who have none for yourself.


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« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2011, 02:37:07 PM »

I will have to read the article a few more times, but one thing I have to agree with, not necessarily as a Western habit only, is that people assume fragility and inability of children at all times.

I do not agree. I think it is important to assume strength and capability of your children in virtually all instances.

Sadly, I know for a fact that "hey fatty, lose some weight." or "your lazy, get up and work." are not nearly some of the worse things that parents say to their children. I have heard preschool age children curse one another out fluently, (where do you suppose a 3yo learns to say "Shut the f*** up, you a$$h*** before I bust your dumb a$$ wide open!!! You stupid b***h" ? I have a hard time believing that the parents are unaware that a child uses such words!)

I have been in the store and a woman might curse at her child and threatened violence about 10 times and based on the fact that the children are usually unperturbed by it, I know it isn't anything new.

My parents beat me and my older siblings with poles, hoses, belts and paddles on more than a few occasions whenever we did something out of line, they didn't curse but they'd scream and yell and call us names. My parents are kinder to my younger siblings, almost letting them grow up wild...but they are doing more to parent them in a less black and white manor.
Growing up my closest friends were cursed at and derided whenever their mother was upset with them.

Neither my parents nor my friends mother are horrible people, they did some abusive things yes, but I love and respect my parents of my own volition, not cause they think that I do...I'm proud to see growth in them as parents and able to witness first hand the things they did wrong with the 2nd batch of kids and see them working harder for the 3rd "batch" and I have vowed to be a better parent for my children than my parents were to me.

My parents are humans and humans are notoriously falliable. My parents afforded us many things and did try to give us a lot of good things and if I were to write an essay about one or two of the times when we were corporally punished along with my parents general philosophy as they explained it to us, people would want my parents arrested,

but if I wrote an essay about the more common, more pleasant experiences; the long car trips accross country, the days when my father kissed my head and told me he loved me for no reason what so ever, or the days I'd ask him a question while he was working and he'd spend 45minutes minumum helping me to understand, or the month my dad sat down and studied algebra together because I struggled so much, or how I once fell in a ditch and busted my knee and my dad carried me all the way to the house (we have a big yard) and patched me up and told me a storie, or how my dad threw big parties for us at every chance possible or how he hosted more than 16 kids at our house over the summer and came up with a regimented schedule of activities that included outings to go swimming, movies, roll skating and musuem. Or how he kept a dozen bikes well as go cars around so that everyone would have something to ride.

Youd think I grew up in a fantasy land paradise. The truth is it was neither heaven nor hell being me as a child. It was life.

I have intense and extreme people for my parents so it only makes sense that I had an intense and extreme lifestyle growing up. My parents spent tons of money on giving us things and never tried to hurt us.

So I don't want to condemn or judged based on this one article.

Being blunt isn't necessarily bad, and each family is absolutely entitled to their own values for sure. It is important to call things what they are to a certain extent. I know that many cultures, east and west, are culturally what in America is considered rude, but in truth is just frankness or bluntness.. If they are fat, they might introduce themselves or they friends might introduce them as such and "fatty" isn't cruel to them. It is a fact, so coming from that mentality, saying "Hey, fatty, lose some weight." isn't demeaning.

I think I would like to raise my children with an emphasis on personal best and always being their best. With high standards and expectations and the idea that life is constant refinement of ones self.

It isn't about controlling others but yourself.
Respect yourself and be courteous to others at all times no matter what, and to follow the silver rule: Do not do unto others as you would not have done to yourself.

I want my children to have knowledge and truth and wield them as the ultimate tools that they are and to feel confident in their ability to defend and support THEMSELVES.

I want my children to be pacifists, intellectually, socially and physically. But I believe that pacifism is only an option for competent, confident, warriors.

It is important to at some point for children or youth to take positive action and responsibility for themselves, no matter what their parents called them. Yes, it is hard, but no it's not impossible and its not nearly as hard as many people would pretend. I know of many youth and young adults who are struggling to overcome the way that they were raised and to better themselves. Many of them started at 11 or 13 to begin changing themselves, so its not an "adult" thought. It is a self aware thought.

My own thoughts on raising and parenting in general is that We should raise our children to leave us. To thrive without us.

There are many ways to achieve that goal and some children need a firmer hand, while others simply need verbal prodding some children would really rather get a spanking than a lecture most if not all, need some definite structure imposed in their life.

I don't have to raise Lulu, I do not know Lulu she might be extremely headstrong and need a lot of structure and discipline, she might not respond to a spank but hate the idea of being lazy. You have to raise each child individually and you must consider that childs various environments. It might be like water off a ducks back to her, or simply something to motivate her and she really won't be "scarred" by being called lazy.

I have a brother like that, and I'm the only one who can get through to him because no one else understands him. Having him accomplish something. forcing him once is really good for him becuase he has little self esteem but is brilliant and the confidence he gains from my forcing him to a breakthrough is well worth the effort of getting him there.

After all, think about what would have happened if Anne Sullivan hadn't been so unyeilding with Helen. If she hadn't forced her through the doors of enlightenment....

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