Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chinese Mothers—and Why America Hates Them

Don’t even think about messing with them:
Prof. Amy Chua, and her award-winning daughters.
A really fascinating article in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, which I missed: Written by Yale Law School Prof. Amy Chua, it’s about the parenting styles of a Western mother and a Chinese mother.

Chinese mothers are tough! As Chua writes,
[E]ven when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.
The simplistic analysis is that Chinese mothers such as Chua are Evil Incarnate—she writes (rather shockingly) of how at a dinner party, she discussed how strict a parent she was, to the point of not only making the other guests uncomfortable, but actually making one of them cry. 

But as she writes,
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.
Chua is right: Nothing good is easy—and true creativity only comes from mastery. Anyone who’s ever done a sport knows that you can’t hit a home run first time at bat: It takes tens of thousands of strike-outs, before you finally connect for a homer.

Chinese parents have enough respect for their children to not think that they are made of glass—so they push them, and push them in things that matter: Academics, arts, sciences. Whereas Americans treat their children as if they were soap-bubble fragile, and so therefore never demand of them anything at all—not even a modicum of effort even in the most basic things that any functioning human being ought to know.

After a few generations of this timid, pathetic sort of upbringing, you get what we have in the United States: A people who are lazy, slothful, and mediocre.

So much of American parenting—and American society—is all about not making the sacrifices necessary for true excellence. Not making sacrifice in order to achieve true mastery, and thereby succeed. Not making the sacrifices today for the benefits of tomorrow.

Worse, it’s all about making the kids “feel good about themselves”—hell, it’s about making everybody “feel good about themselves”. If these coddled people constantly fail, their failures are excused and explained away, and never corrected. These coddled people—these Americans—who all “feel so good about themselves”—are never ever called by the name that they have earned: Losers.

And then these losers act so surprised that the Chinese are winning . . .


Prof. Chua’s last name was erroneously spelled “Chau”—it’s been corrected. 


  1. I wish my dingy children would read this. they complain all the time how hard I am on them. Now you've given me something to compare myself to. thanks..

  2. GL,
    Nothing new there for the 6.2 billion rest of us.

  3. Gonzalo,

    The blogosphere is abuzz about the article, and it does have a point-we do have a large population of entitled worthless lazy-asses (although how many of them share Ms. Chua's daughters' biologically high IQ is up in the air.)

    There is a flipside. After 18 years of such an upbringing, you get regurgitation machines incapable of real initiative or creativity. Hence, China has a lot of drones making iPhones, but nobody inventing them. Our system does not thrive on the Confucian Mandarin meritocratic model, where your value is determined by how closely you can recite the classics or how cleverly you refer to them; it thrives on innovation and risktaking, which are not valued by Ms. Chua's culture. Furthermore, she seems to have liberated herself of some of those qualities that give her culture resilience-gratuitously cutting off your husband's nuts in public is definitely NOT a traditional value.

    Finally, Ms. Chua never seems to ask the obvious question: if a traditionally strict Chinese upbringing is so beneficial, then why did her parents choose to come to the US, with its lax standards? Presumably, China or Taiwan would have built a paradise on Earth by now-the overwhelming majority of their citizens having the benefit of such an upbringing. Why does China invest their money into our (admittedly retarded) society, instead of into their own development?

  4. In the late 70s, while attending college in Ohio, I had an acquaintance of Chinese ethnicity who came from a large Thai family (nine siblings) that owned one of the largest jewelry wholesale businesses in Bangkok, Thailand. He and his brothers and sisters were all sent to US colleges with only one dictate from their father -- do not return until you have earned a doctoral degree in a discipline of your choice. At that time he was working on his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. One day I asked him how he was going to use his education when he returned to Thailand. He replied that he would work in his family's business with his brothers and sisters, and would have the title Doctor, which is more formal and commands more respect than the standard Thai title of Khun; this to fulfill his obligation to his father and family. My father, the son of a Maine potato farmer, who had earned a MSEE degree and the rank of Colonel in the U.S Air Force was more concerned that I achieve self-determination.

  5. Europe is exactly the same way. Now I'm not saying that Prof. Chau has all the answers. Giving kids such extremely limited options for excellence isn't going to work out in most cases. Sure, they may be quite good at playing the piano or violin now. But they might have been virtuosos on the cello/oboe/bass guitar/nose harp -- and now we will never know.

    I think my parents had the right balance: they didn't force me to excel at one of their hobbies (or things the neighbours would be impressed by), but they did teach me to excel at something. Anything. Didn't matter if it was academics, judo, powerlifting, DJing, ... Just pick something and try to become great at it.

  6. The last name is misspelled here - should be Chua not Chau.

  7. I'm not as bright as the rest of you over at WSJ but I'll tell you one thing. I'd rather live in retarded America than in commie China. For all the brainiacs they produce, they can't produce a society which is free and where running water is not a luxury. I'll stay here and Miss CHOW can go over there. How you like them apples, Miss CHOW!!!

  8. I can't tell if the last comment is a genius attempt at sarcasm or the real thing, so I'm just going to pretend it's the former.

  9. Oh Uh, Who alerted the Retards about this site?
    Josecito sounds pretty legit. May I suggest you visit Sarah Palins website and not meddle in matters of the "Brain"

  10. They are winning?

    Last time I checked they were giving us all of their labor and produced goods for credits on a computer screen that they will never be able to cash in.

    Who is stupid now?

  11. Dear "B":
    The Chinese come to the US because it's become the "Planet of the Apes".
    Like Charles Heston said: 'If they are all like this, we'll be kings of this planet in six months'.

  12. She thinks she's doing what a typical Chinese mother does over in China? Hahahahaha. Wait till those "little emperors" grow up.


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