January 10, 2011

Happy Chinese Mother’s Day.

On Saturday the Wall Street Journal ran this article written by Yale professor Amy Chua that finally explained why Chinese kids are so much more successful than American kids.

I’ve often wanted to ask this very question to the Chinese couple who live down my street, but they never come to our annual block party. They have one son, their third and only child. The first two were girls and they don’t seem to be around. It’s almost like they disappeared the day after they were born. The son however is definitely alive and withering. I see him walking down the sidewalk carrying his violin case, his head always bowed in concentration, depression, or pure fear that his mother is watching and disapproving of his posture. He is a portrait of such…joy…it reminds me of a dirty puddle filled with torn, sun-faded candy wrappers.

Okay, so maybe he doesn’t look that happy, but according to Amy Chua a child’s happiness is secondary to their aptitude, which is precisely why Chua says children raised by Chinese parents are better prepared for the future than children raised by “Western Parents.” Chua expounds that Chinese parents accept nothing less than excellence while Western parents are pushovers when it comes to their children’s academic performance.

I never knew parents were categorized by nationality, or even hemispherically. I always looked at a mom or a dad as just that, a mom or a dad. It never occurred to me to add the classifier Chinese or Western. But, according to Amy Chua, Chinese mothers are more successful than Western Mothers at parenting, which Chua says is proven by the fact that children raised by Chinese parents are better at math, violin and piano than children raised by Western parents.

Chua is no stranger to stereotypes, nor is she afraid to cast them. In her article, which by the way is titled, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” she says Western parents “seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly;” that Western parents give up too easily when trying to teach their children something difficult; and that Western parents will eventually blame the school if their children are struggling with a subject rather than hold themselves or their child responsible. I know a lot of parents, Western parents that is, and, well, none of them fall into Chua’s gross generalizations.

Chua brags that her daughters were never allowed to play any other instrument other than the violin and piano, and in fact they were never allowed to not play the violin and piano. Chua is very proud of not giving her daughters any choice in picking or discovering their passions. Hopefully their passions are getting all A’s, having no social life, and having no opinion.

And cheers to Chua for being so unapologetic about her Chinese mothering model that many might think a wee bit austere and perhaps even abusive. For Chua, and hopefully her children, it works. Since Chua has made such a strong distinction between Chinese mothers and Western mothers perhaps there should also be a separate Mother’s day for Chinese mothers. We could call it, Chinese Mother’s Day.

Children from Western parents typically give their Western mothers things like Western flowers, Western chocolate, and we take them out for Western brunches (which is sometimes Chinese food.) Thanks to Chua we know that children from Chinese mothers excel at math and musical instruments, but she didn’t say whether children raised by Chinese Mothers are good gift givers so here are a few gift suggestions for children raised by Chinese Mothers to give to their Chinese mothers on Chinese Mother’s Day:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder medication.
  • A gag ball to bite in case she accidentally gets the urge to praise you.
  • A dictionary that doesn’t include the word “Creativity” (extra points if you can memorize the entire dictionary, you know you can do it, in fact there’s no excuse for you not to be able to memorize the dictionary, if you don’t memorize the dictionary you’re garbage!)
  • Toys to give to you so she can then threaten to take away said toys from you if you don’t get all A’s.
  • A scale and fat pinchers to inspect your weight and BMI.
  • A year without tears or even ideas.
  • Pop IQ tests to spring on you on a slow Sunday morning.
  • An alphabet book with every page ripped out except for the first one.
  • A simple card that says, “Mom, I owe you EVERYTHING!
  • Her childhood back, because maybe then you could have yours.
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