Mother of the Year

Amy Chua is the mother from hell, and proud of it - or at any rate she has a book to sell. Excerpt from her WSJ article:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

.• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.


The tactics used to enforce this discipline were somewhat drastic, including insults, threats, starvation, and putting the children out in the cold - most the of things pimps use to control their stables, short of forcible rape anyway - or perhaps I exaggerate - but how hard is it to torture a seven year old into submission, anyway. This style of parenting makes just as severe demands on the parent as on the child - hours and hours of attention to every aspect of their child's life. All worth it says, Chua, because when they succeeded they got praise and "love" - pimps know that trick too.

Chua is a Yale Law professor, as is her husband. He isn't Chinese though, and it doesn't seem like he is fully onboard the education-by-torture bandwagon, but is evidently too weak or uninvolved to effectively protest.

Her article has attracted quite a pushback, from child development experts to other styles of mothers, to Chinese mothers with other styles, to victims of Chinese mothers. Plenty of other, mostly Chinese or other Oriental mothers, take her side.

Alice Wang, writing in the Yale Daily News, isn't one of them, and thinks that products of Chua's Confucian style education are suited only to be mid-level bureaucrats. Meanwhile, Chinese education officials interupted their celebration of Shanghai's triumph over the world in educational testing to worry that their system crushed initiative and creativity.

Christine Lu tells the sadder story of her older sister, raised in the same kind of Chinese home who went from triumph to triumph to suicide at age 30. Lu adds:

As a responsibility to herself as a "superior Chinese mother", I think Amy Chua should do a bit of research outside her comfort zone and help readers understand why Asian-American females have one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. -- I bet many of you didn't know that. I didn't until after the fact. It'd make a good follow up book to this one she's currently profiting from.

Chua is now reportedly taking a softer line, and claiming the WSJ did her in - I guess by choosing the headline "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" though it seems to me that she still wrote the article. Lu seems to think it all helps promote the book.

Chua claims that her children are happy, creative, and independent, and they like her. It certainly could be true.

Many say that it's obvious that she loves her children, and I see no reason to doubt it. Some kinds of love are pretty toxic though. I keep remembering the reformed dog fight promoter who said how much he loved his fighting dogs.

I will give her one point, though. I think its ultimately better for parents to be involved in their children's education than not - even, sometimes, way too involved.

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