Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tiger Mum Amy Chua not representative of Chinese parenting - moderation the best policy

The controversial book has thrown up more uproar. The is no one single Asian / Chinese mothering style.

I suspect Amy Chua with all her impressive qualifications is really a "banana" mother who tried to resist the overly relax parenting style and strived to summon some of the good old traditional parenting style.

 She came with her parents at a young age to America and thus is considered a westerner in all her ways but she values the cultural traits and values that her parents had inculcated in her. I believe she is married to a Jew as she had threatened her youngest daughter with no Hanukkah if she did not put in all her efforts.

Seriously! Do you actually believe it was hell all the way? Amy Chua must have exaggerated and spiced up her stories and presented them tongue-in-cheek.. I can't believe any Chinese parents living in western countries would do all those horrible and evil things to their kids they love. Child abuse? The jury is out there.

Arguments for

The average kids are alot tougher than you think. They should be trained to be tenacious and able to take hard knocks in life. Kids are kids. If you let them be, they will choose to have the easy way. Do they know what is good for their future? Children given too much freedom don't know what they want to do. Parents need to identify the children's strengths, encourage and nurture them to bring out the best and push them to realise the full potential. The hard fact is there is no gain without any pain.

All these talk about self esteem is ridiculous. This make belief self esteem that democratic parents give to young children too much freedom. Don't western horse breeders break the animals before they could be trained and do useful work? Do you know what sort of military training commandos and marines go through before they can considered the best fighting force? Don't make our kids "si-sis".  Most children who have endured strict discipline masters in school and at home actually turned out be quite grateful when they realise the benefits from hindsight.

Kids growing up in western societies have a lot, in fact, way too much freedom ...not only of choices in studies, free time and ample cash to spend. If not properly guarded and given a structured life, they will slack and eventually lose out to kids from families who know how to guide their young ones. Statistics have already indicated the poor performances of American and European kids as compared to kids from Asian countries like China, Korea, India and Singapore. Economic competitiveness is sufficiently important to merit our attention for the long term viability of any country, the government and citizens included.

I have personally known of some parents who have raised successful kids who are either forgetful or in denial. They tried to hid the fact that they had been strict enforcers of draconian rules on curfews, long hours of studies, music lessons, exam coaching, and no boyfriends or girlfriends. I challenge those who claim that totally non-Asian parenting produced high rate of success to come clean with how they deprived or provided for their children during their growing up years.

If you build up children's ego with undeserving praises, it will turn them into spoilt brats and delay the problems. When the time comes and they find study or job opportunities lacking, they will grow up and learn about life the hard way, a rude shock that shatters their big ego.

Consider this likelihood that being lenient may not be helpful, it's just hiding and postponing the harsh realities from your beloved kids.

How to land your kid in therapy : Why obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods --  A therapist and mother reports  (by Lori Gottlieb)

Arguments against

On the other hand, not every child could take the rigour and stringent regime. It could make or break different personalities. The difficulty is finding out the unique characteristics of your kid to get the right balance of prescriptions. There is not one certain fool proof way in parenting, arguably, the most challenging process in one's life time.


There's no simple answer to parenting. I think the author was deliberately overstating her case to make a point. In the end, there's no single answer I guess. Every child is different and needs an approach tailored for him/her. But a couple of common sense principles probably hold no matter what - set clear and firm parameters. Within those parameters, give kids the leeway to explore and discover. The tough part is figuring out the parameters."

Chinese parents themselves have taken issue with the book. There are disagreements with her methods among the Chinese community, not just in areas where Chinese assimilated with western and indigenous cultures, but in East Asia where Confucianism has strong influence on family relations.

Parents would give up anything for their children and do not love them any less regardless of their cultural backgrounds.  The results of many "western" style parenting are cut both ways, just like the Tiger mum method. Children growing up in relaxed environment learn through trial and error, a mix bag of good experiences, hard knocks that go into lessons in life. To be sure, not everyone is academically inclined, musically talented, or motivated to make it to the roll of honors. But hey, I think they have a happier childhood, more interesting personalities and social skills. Success depends on networking and good fortune as well.

The main setback is making up for lost time. If most of us have an average lifespan of 70 years, each individual should come across opportunities to make up for lost time or errors in our upbringing. Parents too have chances to make amends. It is just a matter of working harder in later life to catch up. Again, the outcomes vary.

Finally, not every child is the same. Some improve and thrive under pressure. But there are a minority who will break down under stress. Parents must be sensitve to their children's needs and not push over the limits. What is the ideal balance? There is no magical formula. We have to try and find out what suits us and our children best. There is no one size fits all formula. Parents must be perceptive to know what parenting style suits each child. Some children may not understand and think that parents show favouritism. 

Chinese and Jewish parents have very much in common. A broad stroke judgemental casting the good and bad of East versus West and which is better is too simplistic.There is no easy solution and a challenge to find the right balance. You reap what you sow. Let us see who has the last laugh. You don't know till you reach old age.

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