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Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

You've probably seen or heard how Chinese kids that get straight A's in school, play the piano like a pro, and start prepping for med school in kindergarten. But how do they get to be so ambitious ... so driven?

Well, it's because Chinese kids have Chinese mothers. Amy Chua explains why Chinese moms are superior in scorched earth, no holds barred, extreme child-rearing techniques:

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic
success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams. [...]

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, "Hey fatty—lose some weight." By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of "health" and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her "beautiful and incredibly competent." She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

Amy - a professor at Yale Law School and author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," a book about raising children the Chinese Way - explains the 3 big differences between Chinese and Western parental mind-sets in this intriguing article in the Wall Street Journal.

See if you agree: Link (Photo: Erin Patrice O'brien/WSJ)


Just one remark : by "Westerners", you mean here American, or, well, err, Unitedstatian. (though it might be quite the same in English-speaking Canada)

I am not sure at all that here in France or there in Germany it works the same way. Parents can get much more exigent, depending on how they were raised.
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This is absolutely ridiculous. I lived and worked in Taiwan and China for a couple years, studied Chinese for 5 years, have spent more than half a year living with different Taiwanese families, and have as many Chinese/Taiwanese friends as I do "Western" ones.

Let's address a few things:

1. Children raised with more academic pressure have less opportunity for creativity. Sure they may practice "creative" hobbies like musical instruments (indeed many Chinese/Taiwanese parents consider musical ability essential to being well-rounded, and of course it does have benefits), but the focus is definitely on meeting expectations and not on artistic or creative exploration.

Although I can't prove it, I think it's VERY reasonable to assume that there is a connection to the "shanzhai" and knock-off culture in Chinese industry and the culture of mental rigidity surrounding Chinese education systems and beliefs about child-rearing.

2. Corporal punishment is often considered acceptable in Chinese/Taiwanese families. Of course no one can make an objective judgement about the morality of beating one's children, but that's exactly my point. It's subjective. Just like rigid domination of a child's academic behavior is subjective, thus the PREPOSTEROUSNESS of saying one way is "superior" to another.

3. Amy Chua so blatantly lumps together and makes presumptions about the "norms" of Western parenting, it's honestly astonishing that anyone could take it seriously. Oh right, silly me, I forgot that Western parents all have fat kids because we're too sissy to be mean or abusive. What was I thinking.

4. Chua acts like Chinese parenting creates more successful children, but it's absolutely (and rather idiotically) overlooking the facts that-

A: MANY IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR FAMILIES IN THE U.S. HAVE A CULTURE THAT ENCOURAGES HARD-WORK.

B: TONS OF CHINESE PEOPLE (in China) GET BAD GRADES, DO DRUGS, ARE CRIMINALS, ARE CONTINUOUSLY DESTITUTE, etc. etc. etc.

This whole thing reminds me, horrifyingly, of Ann Coulter. "Let's saying something really polemic, borderline racist, and totally mindless, so that I can sell my crappy book and make a lot of money." Woohoo. Please people, think before you buy that book, and think before you accept some bombastic, pretentious person's beliefs (even if they have a J.D. or PhD).

If anyone would like to defend this foolishness, feel free to email me at hello@anopencircle.com, or leave another comment here. I'm committed to doing my best to prevent the world from getting any dumber.
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Strict parenting is hardly new, or only a "Chinese thing". I grew up with German parents and although presented a bit differently, it was still basically the same thing "only the best is good enough".

Unlike the human rights challenged Chinese, sports, dating, creative thinking, freedom of expression was also encouraged with the same "best or nothing" type attitude.

Although I believe the concepts started a long time ago in a galaxy far far away....

"do, or do not. there is no try."
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@An Open Circle: This.

Also: personal experience time.
Of all the Chinese or half-Chinese kids I grew up with, only one was ever pressured this way by her mother. It got so bad that she would have panic attacks when she wasn't top of her class; she developed deep psychological issues due to the pressure in college and eventually cut all ties with her family.

But she is a vet, so that parenting must have worked.
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Regardless of all the stereo-types in this article and in each of the individual comments on this thread, I'm sure all of you guys can agree that Chinese people are stereo-typically know to be "smart". One person who disagreed with the article pointed out that immigrant culture encourages hard-work. well the article is pretty much saying just that but specifically focusing on mothers as the main reason. yeah there are other points overlooked like.. maybe Chinese kids are more successful and smarter because they don't wan't to disappoint their parents and family reputation and all that. or maybe they're the nerds at school who have no friends so all they have is education to look forward too. Either way none of you guys can deny that Asian's are known for being smart. So the article has some valid points.
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There's a simpler way to look at all this; you will always want your child to turn out like a slightly better version of your own self.

I am a hippie. I want my kids to be free, love peace and people. At the same time they need to do their homework and graduate, with honours if possible.
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NEWSFLASH: Strict rules and high standards can lead to the same self-confidence issues that those soft, lazy American kids got from lax parenting. However, there is word of a ground-breaking concept called "balance" that includes both reassuring kids and building self-image, while also encouraging them to push their limits. More details at 11.
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"Balance" is nonsense. First of all, an option isn't correct just because it's between two extremes. Some people say the Earth is round, others say it's flat, but the best option isn't some "middle ground". It's one of the extremes.

Second, "balance" is subjective. If an extreme amount of time to practice piano is 8 hours a day, then Amy Chua's 3 hours is the "balanced" option.

It's funny how a "balanced" approach is coincidentally the same as what you're already doing.
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As much as this article completely generalises, I can't help but agree with the gist of it.

I am Chinese, as are many of my friends. I went to a 'selective school' for high school, which offer places to 'academically inclined' students, and 80% of us were Asian. My parents had always made it clear that not going to University was not an option - it's quite simply a compulsory part of ones education. I always had tutoring as a child and when I started to tutor, my students were all Asian. Slight difference with my parents was that my brother and I did sports as well as the academic stuff, so it was a rather busy childhood.

And yes, my mum calls me fat! My western friends find it completely unthinkable that my mother would say that to me.
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Getting straight A's and being a great piano player doesn't say anything whatsoever about you, and certainly is not enough to create a well rounded personality. Im not western, neither am I chinese. But I understand where they are both coming from.
I think part of the problem also lies in the fact that we have, as a society, tried very hard to objectively measure everything - progress ,creativity and personality. This is simply not possible or desirable.
And the effect of this has been that certain folks go totally overboard, giving it way too much importance.
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I laughed so hard at this article. I'm Chinese and I agree with what Jo said. Yes, it's a gross generalisation but it does ring a little true. Like Jo, not going to university was not an option but my mum was a little 'western' in thinking and let me not go to tutoring until I was in senior school!

It was my dad who was the one who constantly nagged about my academic performance and my weight not my mum; a thing he does now even though I'm all grown up :)

That all said I don't think Chinese parents are superior - they're just different from 'western' parents because of the upbringing and culture they have. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about a person's weight and how much a person makes from their job on the first meeting with someone which is something that is a big 'no no' in other cultures.

A side note is when 'Chinese' and 'Western' is used they are incredably large generalisations. Shanghai's norms and customs are different to Hong Kong's and Hong Kong's is very different to Taiwain so to say 'Chinese' is to cover a huge group of people. This of course, goes the same for 'western' cultures.

@Le Putsch - I normally think of French and Germans as 'European' but that could be just me :)
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sounds like a lot of physcoBS. Your employer will not care how well rounded you are as long as you can do the job. Unfortunately, that is all that matters in a capitalist society that the whole world for good or for bad (thank goodness) is coming to. Will we loose something in the process? Probably if we think that acedemic achievement stifles creativity, but I don't see it going the other way. If the west/U.S. does not shape up i.e., grades, achievement, etc. then maybe its time to learn another language say Chinese - not such a bad idea anyway - oops something else to learn - what a concept.
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Couldn't agree more with this article. Well, at least thats how my elementary and high school years were like. Used to disagree with my parents way of bringing us up then, or should I say "controlling" us. But, when I looked back now if it weren't for my mom pushing me to be the best i can be back in those years, I wouldn't have been who and where I am now. Same goes with my girlfriends then who have even more "ambitious" and stricter parents than mine. Great jobs, great lifestyle and a good relationship with our parents contrary to what most said that the kids would be estranged to their parents due to the pressure and ridicule from the parents. I guess it really depends on the individual themself, as for us we took it as a challenge for us to push ourselves.
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For pete's sake. Why must an article about how things are or might be done in another country always turn into an ''America/ns suck'' free-for-all? What does one have to do with the other?

Not every Chinese or French or German person turns into a brilliant human being with nothing but good qualities. You can go to the best schools and still be a jerk. You can also go to a mid-level school and still be a success. Whatever.
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Working hard and getting good grades does not equal success. More and more it just enables you to be a good conversationalist as you take the next customer's order. We need to focus on being kind and loving people, not constantly trying to get more stuff. To that end, these Chinese mothers spoken of are complete failures.
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I'm guessing the success is due to the hours of practice, structure, and high expectations rather than the shaming and name calling. You can force a kid to practice for hours on end, go to tutoring, etc, without emotional abuse. Besides that, good grades don't always promise a bright future. Americans are still the world super power in terms of economy, whereas Japan has never quite been able to pull themselves out of their recession. The Chinese economy.....well, that's a thorny issue in and of itself. There are American billionaires and Chinese busboys. Plenty of folks in between. I agree the self-esteem movement is nonsense, but I'd like to see concrete evidence that shaming practices make the difference and not all the other factors.
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I was raised by a Chinese mother, and pushed me to excel in school and at piano. She never had anything positive/loving/empathetic to say to me, and treated me with extreme resentment and hatred. I have since cut all ties with her and have never felt so free and so MYSELF. I no longer consider myself to have a mother. That person was merely a 'surrogate'. Sure...Chinese mothers are 'great'.
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"being a Chinese mother entails never letting one's child...not be the No. 1 student in every subject". All fine, I guess, if there is only one "chinese" student in the class. But what if there are 10 such students in the class, each of whose parents demand they be the "no. 1" student?

What if this approach were to be widely adopted by parents of all cultures, so that two thirds of the students had parents demanding they be "no. 1"? Only one student would reap the family praise of achieving that status, while the rest would be degraded as "garbage" for the rest of their lives.....
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Wow, what a terrible book. I hope no one buys that crap.
My mother is Korean and def wasn't afraid to tell me I needed to lose weight. Hell, now she even tells my husband.
She could def be lumped in to this woman's generalizations, except replace Chinese w/ Korean.
And guess what I did whenever I got pushed? Rebelled rebelled and rebelled some more.
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I want to stress that Amy Chua is not your "average" Chinese parent. Rather she's an exception. Most Chinese parents are not like her. I know because I'm Chinese. My mom was not like that, nor were my grandmothers. And for sure I'm not like that to my kids.
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Wow. It sounds like someone needs approval from her peers very badly. Let's see, your husband disagrees, your friends disagree and your children obviously disagree with your methods. Let's all say this together, inflated ego and massive superiority complex. I would think a smart person would realize that if you raise your kids as if they lived in China, but they do not and probably never will, they might become adults who are out of touch and out of step with the American culture in which they live, and will probably be shunned for their inability to relate to anyone who is not exactly like their mother. What happens when your girls wake up one day and realize that your parenting forced them into an isolated, esoteric corner of Western society populated only by the descendants of Chinese immigrants, where everyone is an intellectual and a virtuoso, but no one knows how to change a tire or make small-talk. How do you say, Mid-Life Crisis, in Chinese? The next time everyone around you is disagreeing with your methods you might consider that writing and publishing a book about how right and how great you are is an extremely transparent coping mechanism. And one that only works if you live in New Haven. If you want to help your kids survive in America, teach them Spanish and don't be too surprised when you see that Violin for sale on Craigslist. Great thinkers, like great doers, are born, not made. Chance plays a great role. Living begets greatness, not listening to your mother. If you are going to restrict your children to a life comprised solely of your direction, then I hope you are the smartest person on the planet, free of all flaws, and eternally correct in your judgments.
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thanks chau for encouraging the "model minority" stereotype.
this does a huge disservice to the asian community - i especially hate how she lumps all asian groups as chinese.

every family is different, but my mother was very much like chua herself. my eldest sister is schizophrenic and another has bipolar disorder. i'm not drawing any conclusions between my crazy mom and the mental health of my sisters, but her rigidness and incessant calls for perfection definitely exasperated their conditions.
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I can accept that pushing a child beyond their limits might be detrimental in more than one way, but why do so many commenters consider creativity to be opposed to academic achievement? In my experience quite the opposite is true.

There seems to be a weirdly pervasive misconception in our (American) culture that creative pursuits spring out of leisure, not hard work. But you can rest assured that Michelangelo spent very few days lounging in his condo, sipping pinot noir and staring at a blank canvas.

My sister teaches fashion design, and she's told me that a disproportionate number of her most successful students are Asian females. We can't draw specific cultural conclusions, but Chua's references to the Asian-American immigrant community's generalized work ethic hardly implies a suppression of creative outlets.
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I'd be interested to know about Chinese fathers. I work at a childcare center in the US where the majority of kids are Chinese, and while some of the mothers seem strict (or strict by "Western" standards), I've seen a ton of fathers who are wrapped around their daughters' little fingers.
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I completely disagree with Amy and will definitely not do a single thing she’s doing to her kids. People all around the world have their own way and one can never say that their way is the best.

I refute that Chinese moms are better compared to 'westerners', if that was the case, the Chinese would not be migrating in hordes to the Canada and the US. They’d be great where they are. Creativity never comes from repetition and strictness. These are teachings of the past.

As a boy, my parents struggled to find, what I could do best and what I really wanted. They went all over art, literature, medicine, physics and history with me. They never forced me into what they thought was right. And I love, and respect them for it.

I won't comment any further as this article is a waste of time.
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I really don't think "Chinese Moms" are too different from "Type A" moms - there are dozens of them in my daughter's preschool (all non-Asian). I like Hsiao-Ching Chou's idea of "a new generation of Tiger Mom" - moms who grew up with a Tiger Mom and are now trying to balance the Eastern and Western approach to parenting with their own kids. It's in this article:
http://www.redtri.com/are-chinese-moms-superior
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I'm Chinese-American and I grew up with parents like Amy. While I have multiple degrees and am considered successful financially, I considered myself terrible lacking in creativity. I also find it difficult to just relax, enjoy life, and appreciate all that I have. I feel enslaved to a drive to achieve and plagued by perpetual insecurity. My husband, on the other hand, was raise in that encouraging fun environment. As a child, he played D&D, tons of video games, had sleep overs, and tons of independence. Guess what, he ended up graduating from MIT and became Vice President of a large company much earlier than I. I would call this article "garbage" and I hope no one uses it as a good example of parenthood.
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why no sleepovers?

anyway, parents like her contribute to anorexia and bulimia. Her daughters may be able to take it but did she think of other children?
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Kids need to be encouraged, nagged and to be dealt with strictly and with discipline at times, to be sure.

But try or wish as one might, you cannot ever get back your childhood. Riding your bicycle at 9:30 PM on that longest day in June and then catching a jar full of fireflies, spending snows days sledding, building snow forts and oddly-shaped snowmen, sleeping over (but mostly talking and laughing about the opposite sex) and if, you're lucky enough, feeling wonderfully sick to your stomach and tingly all over during that first teenage romance.

I think good parents can foster an environment where these once-in-a-lifetime experiences can happen as well as serious application to academics, music, sports, and other activities. I'm not saying it's easy, and a child may get off track now and then, but it can be done.

When those 18 years are up, they are over forever. There are no do-overs of childhood; to use another cliche, you cannot go home again. The best you can hope for is that you want to go home again.

If you want to be a pianist in a world-famous orchestra, or an Olympic ice skater, you almost certainly have to give up a good part of your childhood. And for the vast majority of kids, getting into an Ivy League school requires straight A's in hard classes and really good SAT scores. The cost in time, and maybe in peace of mind and soul, can be quite high, though.

Rosebud?
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