Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

AlmondAlmond 1,427 Posts
edited January 2011 in Strut Central
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html
Over the last couple weeks there has been a barrage of commentary in response to Yale law professor Amy Chua's book "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." The above link will take you to an excerpt. I'm surprised not to have seen it on SS yet.

Chua discusses her own Draconian parenting approach in order to starkly highlight the differences between Eastern and Western parenting styles. She posits that the Western approach, in which the self esteem of the child is considered of utmost importance, has created a nation of wusses, while the Eastern style involves pushing children because their parents believe that they can succeed despite the discomfort of a 3-hour piano lesson with no bathroom breaks.

I think her article is interesting and while I feel her personal approach is def extreme, I do agree with her to an extent. However, the article does perpetuate the model minority stereotype (thoughts, Manny?).

Discuss.

  Comments


  • DB_CooperDB_Cooper Manhatin' 7,823 Posts
    Manny been had goin' off about this on teh Facebooks and interwebs.

  • I liked Eddie Huang's In Defense of Chinese Dads from http://thepopchef.blogspot.com/

    When my restaurant got a zero-star review from the New York Times, my mom roasted me in an e-mail according to Chinese Mom Tradition. Everyone loved it. So recently someone sent me Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and they wanted my feedback: Do I think Chinese moms are, indeed, superior?

    Well, I like my mom and her shape-ups, but if it weren't for my dad, I would have been destined to a life of violins and Izod shirts. Chinese moms love buying Izod because it's cheaper than polo and people laugh at you, but for the record, looking like an ass clown and not having friends definitely doesn't help your SAT scores.

    My dad is the homie in the photo with a snap-back Magic hat. (Like father like son.) He tried to be a Chinese mom and break my spirit, but it never worked. When he decided I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he put me at the top of a hill and told me to pedal fast. For three hours, I looked like a human egg roll falling down the hill. My mom came out and saw me bleeding all over the place so she powdered me with a bottle of yunan baiyao. It was settled that day that my dad couldn't teach a crackhead to spend money. So teaching became my mom's domain.

    Like a lot of kids, I grew up really not liking my dad. But when I was around 8 years old, my dad left home by himself and set out for Orlando, Fla., to make a living. He worked two jobs at Steak & Ale and L&N Seafood at the same time. After the first month, he opened his own: Atlantic Bay Seafood and Grill. Your dad bootlegged DVDs? Deuces: My dad bootlegged restaurants.

    Once Pops left, I really missed him. Even though he was irresponsible, he was hilarious. My mom was always responsible, put food on the table, made sure we weren't cold, but she had no jokes! I remember when my mom had my dad beat us up for getting "B's." She'd stand on the side saying things like, "I was the salutatorian at my high school, and I didn't even speak English!" My dad would try to school us about the importance of good grades and we'd cry back, "Dad wasn't a salutatorian!" And of course he would respond with something like, "This f*cking belt was a salutatorian!"

    My mom wouldn't let us watch R-rated movies, so of course when she went on vacation, Pops rented "Coming to America" and put the "Royal Penis is clean" scene on loop. He said, "Boys, in Taiwan, girls don't give it up. But in America, you have an opportunity. It's OK to have sports sex. Just for fun, you should practice as much as possible." I'm not paraphrasing. This was the quintessential Louis Huang breakfast speech. I have to give it to the man, he was a bad teacher, but that one night he had a plan when he rented "Coming to America."

    By the time my mom came back from her vacation, my name was Eddie (or, if you're the government, Edwyn) and my brothers and I were reenacting scenes from the movie. Of course, my mom got in an argument with my dad about having a united front and being irresponsible, but he'd wink at us and let us know he had it under control. The best part was that he'd prep us for the showdown. He knew she'd go off, so he would have my brother Emery and me stage remorse by telling us that he was going to call us stupid rice buckets (fan tong). Afterward, we'd have to eat vegetables, play piano and practice kumon so that our mom wouldn't go nuts. But we knew if we did all that, he'd let us watch WWF and practice DDT's on our youngest brother, Evan, when she wasn't paying attention.

    My dad wasn't a dad at all. He was our older brother, and it's exactly what I needed. He encouraged us to be friends with all different kinds of people. He worked with Haitians and Mexicans at the restaurant all day and told us to respect everyone. The head chef he trained and hired was Jamaican. In a lot of ways, he was the most futuristic Chinaman I know. He was charged with the task of doling out punishment on us, but his heart wasn't behind it. He loved us whether we were A or B students. I mean, C's, come on, he's still Chinese ... But the point is, he thought we were cool kids and that was enough for him.

    I remember in third grade, a kid named Edgar pushed me down in the lunch line at school and said, "Chinks get to the back." My dad had taught me the meaning of the word when I was young. I knew exactly what that kid was saying to me. So I took his arm and slammed it in the microwave. From that moment on, my life changed. The teacher bugged out and locked me in the principal's closet. I went to a new school, but some kids had heard what I did and I was stigmatized as a deviant. Everyone treated me like a crazy person when all I did was stick up for myself. I ended up going to six schools in six years, but my parents had my back. They still beat me if I got B's, but if it was a fight that got me kicked out, they always said, "You're too good for that school." They knew that my brothers and I were the only Chinese kids at every school we went to (except one) and they didn't want me to roll over for anyone.

    Life isn't about A's, making National Guild or paying back your parents. When I got my first paycheck as an attorney, my mom demanded a Judith Leiber bag. I bought it. To this day, my dad hasn't asked for anything. I love them both. But my point is this, Chinese moms and the Model Minority Chinese kid get too much play. For every National Merit Scholar (my brother is a National Merit Scholar who failed gym and then won the Fantasy Writers of the Future Award), there's a kid who beat up your honor student, won the Zora Neale Hurston Award, opened Baohaus, and there's a Chinese dad who had his back.

    None of this would have happened if my dad hadn't let me live. The day in high school he found out I was doing E, he didn't bring out the belt. We rowed out on a lake. I thought he was gonna end me like Fredo, but he talked to me like a man. He made it clear: This was my life. I'm not doing this for anyone but myself so if I wanted to be self-destructive and break the Model Minority stereotype by ruining my own life, it didn't prove anything to anyone.

    I was so conflicted. I wasn't like the white kids, I wasn't like the Chinese kids, I was just me: a self-destructive teenager who knew he wouldn't live up to anyone's expectations. I had posters of other unwilling individuals all over my room: Allen-I, Chuck Barkley, Mark Twain (for real, had that) and Big Sheed. I was a fan of those brothers, but what did they do for me? Charles Barkley was right, he wasn't a role model. My pops was my role model, and he was my biggest fan.

    Amy Chua, you make great points about how kids need to learn a work ethic. They need discipline, they need practice, they need repetition. (Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" has your back there.) Your lack of political correctness is brave, honest and welcome. My mom pretty much had the same approach, and I owe a lot to moms like you. But there needs to be a balance. Booker T. Washington needed W.E.B. Dubois; Hulk Hogan needed Andre the Giant; and sometimes a chink wants his homies to stay over and play "Mortal Kombat."

    Asian American women 15 to 24 lead in the highest suicide rate among all ethnic groups, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Model Minority stereotype is a problem and perpetuating it just makes life harder for those of us who don't want to be gunners and work behind the modern great wall (cubicles). Some of us aren't cut out for the Ivy League, but it doesn't mean we can't be successful in our own ways. A lot of us find our way late. It took going to law school, working at a firm, and hitting rock bottom for me to finally rid myself of Asian Expectations.

    But what did I do after leaving the law? I came back to my roots, repped my family, our food, and did what every Chinese mom wants their kids to do: I bought Judith Leiber bags. Did I do that because my mom had me play piano? Did I do that because my dad put the belt to me? No, I did it because I'm proud of who I am, who my family is, and what our people eat. There are a million Amy Chuas pumping out Ivory Tower Lap Dog Asians but there's one Louis Huang and he had a Money Gettin' Chinkstronaut Like Me.

  • faux_rillzfaux_rillz 14,343 Posts

  • AlmondAlmond 1,427 Posts
    Good article, Garcia. While I agree with Chua's underlying message that Americans have deviated from the work ethic of our Founders and have consequently become soft, especially in terms of education, she unfortunately uses an outdated stereotype as the vehicle to deliver her Battle Hymn. Asian and South Asian Americans are often lauded for their successes in academia, but the MM stereotype masks the problems that exist in any underrepresented demographic. The MM label is in a sense a reward for good behavior and quiescence in the American political and cultural sphere, in my own opinion as a first gen American. Second and third gen kids need to start getting into more trouble and show that an Asian with brains is more than just an "ivory tower lap dog."

  • AlmondAlmond 1,427 Posts
    Good article, Garcia. While I agree with Chua's underlying message that Americans have deviated from the work ethic of our Founders and have consequently become soft, especially in terms of education, she unfortunately uses an outdated stereotype as the vehicle to deliver her Battle Hymn. Asian and South Asian Americans are often lauded for their successes in academia, but the MM stereotype masks the problems that exist in any underrepresented demographic. The MM label is in a sense a reward for good behavior and quiescence in the American political and cultural sphere, in my own opinion as a first gen American. Second and third gen kids need to start getting into more trouble and show that an Asian with brains is more than just an "ivory tower lap dog."

  • Options
    Almond said:
    Americans have deviated from the work ethic of our Founders

    I just have to point out that for some of the Founders "work ethic" consisted of "telling the slaves what to do."

    I'm 1st generation Harpo-American and the folks from the Old Country had such a great respect for the work ethic of Americans that they had a term for them/us. It's "narrabacks." I really hated that word when I was a kid, but now it makes me laugh.

  • AlmondAlmond 1,427 Posts
    BobDesperado said:
    Almond said:
    Americans have deviated from the work ethic of our Founders

    I just have to point out that for some of the Founders "work ethic" consisted of "telling the slaves what to do."

    I'm 1st generation Harpo-American and the folks from the Old Country had such a great respect for the work ethic of Americans that they had a term for them/us. It's "narrabacks." I really hated that word when I was a kid, but now it makes me laugh.

    Touche on the slavery aspect. I was referring to something that Chua wrote about how the Founding Fathers prob never got to have the slumber parties and play dates she keeps her children from attending. In essence, she was equating "Chinese" values with good ol' fashioned American values.

  • edulusedulus 421 Posts
    http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2011/01/tiger-mothers-are-superior-here-is-why.html

    This basically covers my feelings on the matter. Then again, I am a Korean male, product of a tiger/Chinese mother who is about to complete a phd in a science.

    Ironically (?), I have never dated an Asian, maybe I am subconsciously avoiding women like my mother.

    Also, to associate it purely with ethnicity is a bit misleading, being the child of immigrants shaped my upbringing more than the culture that my parents left behind.

    The second half of this article http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_1_nyc-koreans.html sort of illustrates that point.

  • bassiebassie 11,710 Posts



    Asian American women 15 to 24 lead in the highest suicide rate among all ethnic groups, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,032 Posts
    That latter stat isn't quite accurate I think since I believe Native Americans have an even higher rate for the same sex/age profile. This said though, it's a big cause for concern in the Asian American mental health community. One of the graduates of my grad program, Eliza Noh, has made this the focus of her research.

    In response to Almond's original question, I've addressed the book (sort of) in two posts to the Atlantic's site:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/01/notes-of-a-native-tiger-son-part-1/69748/
    http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/01/notes-of-a-native-tiger-son-part-2/69923/

  • IIRC, doesn't this have less to do with them being Chinese or South Asian (or whatever other ethnicity you pick), but more to do with them being immigrants from a certain socioeconomic background? I recall reading a paper a while back analyzing some of this stuff, but most of the details have completely slipped my mind. The thrust of the paper was that immigrants obviously must be highly motivated people to just pick up stakes and move their whole family to a new country where they may not even speak the language, and this helps to explain (at least in part) their disproportionate success when compared to average North Americans.

  • Options
    mannybolone said:
    That latter stat isn't quite accurate I think since I believe Native Americans have an even higher rate for the same sex/age profile. This said though, it's a big cause for concern in the Asian American mental health community. One of the graduates of my grad program, Eliza Noh, has made this the focus of her research.

    In response to Almond's original question, I've addressed the book (sort of) in two posts to the Atlantic's site:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/01/notes-of-a-native-tiger-son-part-1/69748/
    http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/01/notes-of-a-native-tiger-son-part-2/69923/

    I've been enjoying your work there and had no idea it was you. Wild.

  • Brilliant marketing / timing. Especially in light of the news of Shanghai students taking top honors in international standardized tests.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/education/07education.html

    I couldn't help but notice that Finland was consistently near the top of all the lists. I can hardly wait for the book on the Finnish mother - lol. It would be a dry, feel-good tutorial about stay-at-home dads and breastfeeding and not pushing too much rote education before the age of 7.

    As in - a lot of things work.

  • AlmondAlmond 1,427 Posts
    mannybolone said:
    That latter stat isn't quite accurate I think since I believe Native Americans have an even higher rate for the same sex/age profile. This said though, it's a big cause for concern in the Asian American mental health community. One of the graduates of my grad program, Eliza Noh, has made this the focus of her research.

    In response to Almond's original question, I've addressed the book (sort of) in two posts to the Atlantic's site:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/01/notes-of-a-native-tiger-son-part-1/69748/
    http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2011/01/notes-of-a-native-tiger-son-part-2/69923/

    Thanks for sharing, Oliver. I've read a lot of articles in response to Chua's book and I find that much of the non-Asian sentiment is along the lines of "she has a point, but at least my own kids are happy," whereas the sentiment of Tiger Children cites the MMM and the fact that Chua, herself a second-gen American, only perpetuates the stereotype and basically takes two steps backwards for many Asian Americans.

    Dwyhajlo, I'm not sure if you mean all immigrants or just immigrants of high socioeconomic status (you said "certain" SEC status). Some might be highly motivated, but others might just be more willing to take a risk, and I don't think that's the same thing. Not all immigrant groups experience the same level of success in the US, nor are all groups positively received. Just look at the current, heated immigration debate. The primary reason the US grants immigration rights is for family unification. It's pretty common for young people in India to try to get married to someone outside of the country in order to get a green card as a ticket out (read: brain drain). When I visited India, striving to emigrate was a common shoot-for-the-stars goal, much like wanting to attend an Ivy League school. It's a goal you are "expected" to have, whether you are "motivated" or not. Oliver mentioned the 1965 Immigration Act in which some immigrant groups were favored more than others in terms of the human capital and potential monetary benefit they would bring to the United States. The term "techno-bracero" was coined to describe this phenomenon.

    Ironically, Chua isn't even an immigrant, yet she speaks on behalf of many. I'm troubled by the fact that she throws the word "Chinese" around loosely to describe a huge number of ethnic groups, while failing to acknowledge the vast differences across those ethnicities. It's as if Chua's version of Asians is shaped by American stereotypes, as she herself never experienced a Chinese upbringing in China. In my own experience as a first-gen American, I find that immigrant parents' notions of the motherland are often frozen in time; while their home nation progresses, their own notions of the culture are petrified in the era in which they immigrated. The diaspora, thus, can end up being more conservative than the home culture.

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,518 Posts
    That's a lot of reading you all.

    Are you all old enough to remember when the Joy Luck Club came out?
    It was a bit of a sensation.
    Every Jew I knew was saying, "My mom is just like Amy Tam's."

    Almond: "In my own experience as a first-gen American, I find that immigrant parents' notions of the motherland are often frozen in time; while their home nation progresses, their own notions of the culture are petrified in the era in which they immigrated."

    My mom came to this country when she was 12.
    Not only does she remember her homeland as it was, she remembers it the way a 12yo would.
    She also thinks her parents poor parenting was the way all Austrians parented, "In Austria a parent would never tell a child they loved them". And stuff like that.


    "???Chinese mother??? is not about the Chinese ethnicity; it is about a certain mindset present across all different races."

    I am going to make broad generalizations here.
    In my neighborhood there are a lot of recent immigrants from Mexico and south.
    Also a lot from Eastern Europe.
    The parenting styles are very different.
    One group tends to spoil their children and have very child centric households.
    The other group tends to have a combination of benign neglect couple with a demand for scholastic excellence.

    The Eastern Europe immigrants have mostly moved out of my neighborhood now. (Replaced by East African.)
    They tend to be aggressively upwardly mobile and striving for middle class respectability.
    The Latinos tend to remain in the neighborhood. My impression is sending money back home, and achieving a new full size pick up truck, is more important to them than other middle class trappings. Those doing well tend to stay in the neighborhood even as they purchase or rent better homes.

    I'm not sure if I have a point, accept perhaps, some immigrants have tiger moms, others, not so much.

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,518 Posts
    I had always thought that parents showing a united front was important.
    After reading Eddie's piece I realize that parents undercutting each other is important.
    I am glad that my dad was able to balance my mom.

  • bassiebassie 11,710 Posts
    mannybolone said:
    That latter stat isn't quite accurate I think since I believe Native Americans have an even higher rate for the same sex/age profile.

    I guess it's how the research/stat is defining "ethnic"?

  • Big_StacksBig_Stacks "I don't worry about hittin' power, cause I don't give 'em nuttin' to hit." 4,670 Posts
    LaserWolf said:

    I am glad that my dad was able to balance my mom.

    My mom was/is as dogmatic and controlling as a parent can be. Thank goodness that dad was the cool one, so that I could grow up reasonably well-adjusted. Incidentally, for those not in the know, my mom and I are Black.

    Peace,

    Big Stacks from Kakalak

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,032 Posts
    Moms getting thrown under teh bus!

  • Big_StacksBig_Stacks "I don't worry about hittin' power, cause I don't give 'em nuttin' to hit." 4,670 Posts
    mannybolone said:
    Moms getting thrown under teh bus!

    Hey Manny,

    I love my mother, don't get me wrong, but our temperaments have never meshed from day one. I'm very much the independent, self-determined, intellectual, open-minded, and carefree type, and in combination with her dogmatic, controlling, and neurotic/anxious nature, it was a recipe for fireworks.

    Peace,

    Big Stacks from Kakalak
Sign In or Register to comment.