American Parenting: Are We Getting It Right?

Yesterday I read an article in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal titled, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” The subtitle read, “Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids?”

Of course it grabbed my attention. I'm the mom of three pretty typical American teenage children (ages 19, 17, and 13). The writer of the article is Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of several bestselling books. I'm pretty sure she plays an instrument very proficiently as well. Ms. Chua, who is Chinese and married to an American, has two daughters who were never allowed to do the following:

  • 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 activites
  • Get any grade less than an A
  • Not be the number 1 student in any class except gym and drama
  • Play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • Not play the piano or violin.

Before you gasp in horror, as I did when I read this, let me share with you a few statistics that were included in the article. Every three years, the Program for International Student Assessment tests 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science. The latest tests were conducted in 2009 in 65 world economies.

The top score in all three categories was Shanghai, China. Hong Kong and Singapore scored in the top five in all categories.

The United States scored 17th in reading; 31st in math; and 23rd in science. Not so spectacular for the world's super power country. Why are we so far behind?

Many Americans might buy into the stereotype that Oriental children are just smarter than Western kids. Not so, says Ms. Chua. She believes it all comes down to parenting styles. In her article, she shares that Chinese mothers believe their children should be the best students, and that academic achievement reflects successful parenting.

Chinese parents spend almost ten times longer every day drilling academic activities with their children compared to Western parents, whose kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

Ms. Chua asserts, “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 critical 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.”

Whoa. I read that and began to feel like a real loser parent.

My kids spend plenty of time watching TV, playing video games, trolling the internet, and hanging with friends. They smart off more frequently than they should, and they are probably wasting a good bit of their time and talents.

We guided them toward certain extracurricular activities and insisted they try several things. But if they hated it, we didn't force them to continue. We have provided academic support, challenges, and expectations. But by the time they reached middle school, we figured that self-motivation needed to kick in. We didn't stand over them as they did homework.

There were consequences for bad grades earned from laziness, but we didn't hover to ensure stellar grades. We certainly gave a lot of praise when they got them, but no financial or material rewards. We see the value in intrinsic motivation and natural consequences.  Maybe that's naive.

One of the most startling differences in Chinese and Western parenting styles is the Chinese parent's use of shaming as a means of discipline and motivation.

Ms. Chua never doubted her parent's love when her father called her “garbage” for being disrespectful. She called one of her own daughters the same thing. Chinese parents can call their kids “fatty” if they need to lose weight. They will say, “you're lazy” or “you're stupid and a disgrace” if they aren't making straight A's.

She has noticed that “Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem” and that Chinese parents are not. Chinese parents “assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they (their children) behave very differently.”

According to Ms. Chua:

  • Chinese parents demand perfect grades and believe that their children can get them. If they don't, the parent assumes that it's because the child didn't work hard enough.
  • The solution to substandard performance is for the Chinese parents to excoriate, punish, and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and improve from it.
  • Chinese parents believe that their children owe them everything, and subsequently, children must repay their parents by obeying them and making them proud.
  • Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences.
  • Chinese parents see this parenting style as extremely caring because it provides their children confidence and the skills for success in life. They would give up anything for their children.

In fact, says Ms. Chua, “many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly.” Ouch.

As I read this article, I experienced a range of emotions — from shock and indignation to respect and, yes, a bit of jealousy. Every parent wants their children to be smart, talented, successful, respectful, and confident. But at what price? It would be interesting to hear from Chinese young adults who have recently emerged from this strict parenting model to see how they feel now that they have some perspective.

For my own part, I realize that even if I had the fortitude and desire to parent a la the Chinese model, my children would be aberrations in their American culture.

Rather than building their confidence, they would be strange outsiders in an already socially competitive American teenage landscape. I seem to recollect that as a teenager myself, fitting in was pretty much my primary goal in life. And somehow I survived and became successful in life in spite of that.

Perhaps our kids aren't the most successful students in the world, making the top scores on international tests. They could certainly do better. Our educational model could be more creative and competitive. Parents could get more involved and foster higher academic expectations for their children. We do need to do better for them in many regards.

That said, isn't it just as important to allow our children to think for themselves and even fall on their faces a few times without commandeering their entire academic and social journey?

For me, Kahlil Gibran offers the most sound and elegant advice on parenting from his book The Prophet:

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Please share your thoughts about parenting styles in the comments. If you would like to read the full Wall Street Journal article by Amy Chua, please click here.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 32 comments
  • The Vizier

    Hahahah Barrie,

    I enjoyed reading Amy Chua’s list of not to dos for her kids. Coming from a typical Asian background myself, I can relate to her mentality easily as I have seen it happen all around me in my life. Of course, Ms Chua might be a little on the extreme end here, but it is not unheard of for me.

    Now I do not have kids, but as a child who grew up in an Asian setting I would like to say a few things. While I have seen many top achievers produced because of Ms Chua’ style of parenting, it can be stifling because she is of the mentality that parents or mothers know best. She should really watch Tangled. But more importantly, Chinese parents are simply too focused on material success. They rule with fear and push the kids forth so what the kids achieve may lack a deeper motivation from within. Unless by some quirk of fate that their children have developed a healthy spirituality, somewhere down the road, the kids are bound to have an existential crisis when they realize that the lives they are leading are not necessarily the lives they want to live. They might find to their horror that mothers do not always know best. And in truth, who can say with absolute certainty that they know better than anyone else in this world?

    Chinese parenting style produces results. But are the results what the kids want or the parents want? Of course, Chinese parents will argue that worldly success and earning lots of money is the most important thing in the world. And this is what they firmly believe. But the best intentions may sometimes do the worst harm. If parents think they know best and think for their children all the time, then what will the children do when their parents are no longer around?

    I believe that a balance has to be struck. That Chinese parents should not impose their wills on their children. Instead they should try to understand their children’s unique talents and nature and give them a purpose or reason to fulfil. By getting the kids to want to achieve their dreams on their own, they grow up to be more healthy human beings anyway. And most importantly, the relationship between parent and child is not so distant and stiff. I have been lucky not to have such strict parents. This means that I had to think a lot more for myself and take responsibility for my life. That is not a bad thing in the long run. Grades are not everything.

    The relationships between Western parents and their kids have a closeness that typical Chinese families sorely lack. This is hardly surprising given the difference in parenting style. I don’t think there is a right or wrong style, just that Chinese parents should pay a little more attention to the emotional wellbeing of their children and that Western parents might have some room to be a little more firm with their kids.

    I love Kahlil Gibran and your well chosen quote on children. He sums up precisely the approach that Chinese parents should moderate their parenting style with.

    That is my two cents. 🙂

    Irving the Vizier
    .-= The Vizier´s last blog ..The 7th Step of the Vizier =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insights Irving. Yes, the existential crisis part seems like it would be inevitable. Lots of inner turmoil mixed in with outer success. I imagine this parenting style must be hell on both parents and child for the strong-willed teenager. I do wish our (American) kids had a more classical education, with less focus on technology and more focus on music and the humanities. Every new gadget that’s introduced is another potential distraction. This is a hard battle for American parents when our kids’ role models are athletes, rock stars and celebrities. Sadly, our culture is not structured to support the Chinese education model, much less the uber strict parenting style.

  • Farnoosh

    Barrie, how interesting you wrote about this! I shared this article on Facebook after my husband emailed and told me if we have to do it we are going to adopt the Chinese parenting style – and I’m afraid I love the Chinese parenting style even though it has flaws, I think the flaws are in the direction I am willing to accept versus the typical (and typical means NOT everyone ;)) Western style of raising a child. I think most of all, I like to instill respect and a sense of authority of a parent over a child until the child reaches a certain age because whether they like it or not, children do not know right from wrong and someone has to control the reins and for me, I can’t stand children having control over the parents…and I cannot for a second tolerate spoiled children….so if I had to choose, I’d go with Amy Chua but then again, what do I know? I don’t have children and I may very well think differently if I ever do…
    .-= Farnoosh´s last blog ..Crushing Travel Barriers- Your Quick Thoughts =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Farnoosh,
      So nice to see your lovely face in the comments! It is wonderful to have children who are respectful, obedient, and high-achieving. But a real rude awakening for me came when my toddlers became young children, and I realized that each of them came with their own distinct personality, emotions, and learning styles. It is very hard to enforce one parenting or educational model on all kids. With one of my kids, all you had to do was look at her when she misbehaved, and she shaped up. Not true with my other children. There has to be some amount of flexibility and subtle movement in parenting. Parenting young children does require a more authoritarian approach, but I don’t think shaming should ever be part of that. Consistent rules and consequences with regular follow-through usually does the job.


      Shaming is a big part of upbringing in all Asian cultures. It is HUGE in Iran. Yes, I hated it too but in some ways, it works. If a kid is ashamed of being fat or dirty or just rude, then maybe they will straighten up. I can imagine that children are different and the upbringing may need some adjustment from one child to another, though….! I have a feeling you have done a superb job raising your 3 beautiful children, Barrie….and mine are all theory, remember, as I do not have children…and at this stage, no plans to have any. Maybe I’ll try things out on a puppy thought ;)!
      It IS nice to come here and see you! I have missed you and hope you are doing great and that things are going very VERY well for you, dear Barrie. Big hug!
      .-= Farnoosh´s last blog ..Taking Back the Reins- Guilty Feeling Begone =-.

  • Galen Pearl

    This is a very interesting post, especially because I have some experience with both sides of this parenting debate.

    I suppose I find myself right in the middle. As background, I am a white American mom with five kids, a mix of adopted and foster, from various ethnic backgrounds (including Asian, Arab, and African American) who came to me at various ages. They range in age now from 18-25. In addition, I have lived in Asia and have several Asian friends with children, so I am somewhat familiar with the Asian style of parenting you describe.

    I say I am in the middle because I am probably slightly more on the American side when it comes to academic expectations, and solidly more on the Asian side when it comes to behavior expectations.

    Regarding academics, I always expected my kids to do their best, but I was not concerned about their grades per se. If they were doing their best, including getting help when needed, keeping up with their assignments, studying before other activities, and so forth, then I was satisfied. I encouraged them to explore a variety of subjects and to follow their own interests. I did not allow TV or recreational computer use during the school week, and phone use was limited to after homework, but I supported sports and other non-academic activities.

    As for behavior, well, as my daughter wailed one time, “Why do you have such high expectations for me?” I thought my expectations were pretty basic for being a decent human being. Different perspectives.

    My kids always had chores and had to help out at home, including my two autistic sons. They didn’t get all the things their friends had, and I was strict about certain privileges and freedoms. I was probably stricter than a lot of other parents, but not so strict that they were completely out of step with their peers. Friends were always welcome at our house and seemed to enjoy coming over.

    I spent a lot of time with my kids. We had family night (pizza and a video) once a week. I hardly missed any sports event during all their years growing up. We read together and played together. But I never tried to be their friend. I was the parent.

    Either because of or in spite of me, or a bit of both, or neither, they all have turned out pretty well, though not without some bumpy times along the way. Does that mean I think my parenting approach is superior? No, it means I’ve been blessedly lucky. Like any parent, I’ve done the best I could, and, like any parent, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I have friends with similar parenting styles whose kids have had serious problems (like I did when I was young–I was every parent’s nightmare!), and friends with very different styles whose kids turned out fine. So go figure!
    .-= Galen Pearl´s last blog ..Giving Ourselves Permission =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Galen,
      Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences. I am amazed by your loving commitment to your children and to being a foster parent. My parenting approach has been similar to yours — perhaps stricter than the average mom in our community, but certainly not as strict as the Chinese model. I think the community you live in also dictates some of our parenting decisions. It is very isolating for both parent and child to raise them in a way that is completely out-of-step with their peers. It’s a fine balance.

  • Evelyn LIm

    I wish to thank Irving for alerting me to this post. He probably knows that I’d have my thoughts on this topic, as a Chinese parent to two girls of ages 8 and 10.

    I would like to first share that even then, my family is not considered a typical one. My husband, while he is Singaporean, is of mixed parentage – both Chinese and American. So our parenting style is a blend of the East and West, drawing a greater influence from the Chinese. Additionally, we have chosen alternative paths that deviate from the traditional way of living. More likely, almost every decision is made consciously and not in blind conformation to what society expects or follow what everyone else is doing.

    Moral values, discipline and treating our elderly with respect are important. Studies is also important. I confess to spending a fair amount of time teaching my children. And yes, my children have violin lessons. However, these are “highly recommended” because we felt that there other benefits derived from playing music and sitting for grading exams. Then again, while it is common for other parents to turn their children into musical geniuses at young ages and therefore compelling them to take their exams at breakneck speed, we don’t insist on any time lines. However, we do recognize the positive benefits of letting my children take music exams, because doing so offers a sense of accomplishment.

    What Ms Chua said about traditional Chinese parents is true. However, we don’t agree that this is the best way to go in building confidence, helping them with creative skills or in building a loving family. We believe that there are better ways of doing things. Most certainly, we show care by being there for each other and plenty of hugs, kisses and positive affirmations.
    .-= Evelyn LIm´s last blog ..Shift Your Current Scarcity Paradigm =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      You sound like a wonderful parent Evelyn! I agree that music lessons are important and can help a child with other academic achievement. Music lessons should as least be introduced to children so that they have the exposure at a young age. In America, our kids have so many options for extracurricular activities. It’s hard to be proficient at one thing if you are involved in four or five activities — which seems to be standard for American “soccer moms” these days. Both of my girls focused on ballet. My oldest did become proficient and is dancing as a trainee with a professional company. After many attempts at various sports, my son has settled on music (guitar, drums, synthesized) as his passion of choice. But he came to that on his own. He had the talent to be an athlete, but not the interest, and no amount of enforcement was going to make that happen. Kids have these amazing passive-aggressive tricks up their sleeves!

  • Diana

    Ms. Chua can do what she wants. It’s a free country. A shame based, authoriarian parenting style that is short on play and individual creativity and long on discipline, and well, shame, may raise scientists but kills a huge part of the human soul that it seems the whole.

    Some highly productive people spend their entire lives trying to rid themselves of the anxiety and fear of shame based parenting.

    Who the hell can determine if the piano or the violin is the correct instrument for a child? Kill their social lives completely by excluding them from “Oklahoma?” Not allow appropriate social interaction and development by forbidding sleep overs, and in essence ostracizing children, making them grow up in some kind of synthetic vacuum where the only value is that that the parent places on them while their own thoughts and musings play no roll at all?

    It’s only my opinion. But all Ms. Chua’s “parenting” technique is doing is making the next generation of psychotherapists rich by guaranteeing them a plethora of young adults so knotted up and removed from their own “gut” instincts that the ledge of a roof or the depths of the analyst’s sofa will seem like the only sensible life options.

    I am no fan of thousand-activity-internet-driven-protect-our-children-from-every-disappointment standard American parenting but if this is the option, bring it on. Ms. Chua’s technique is soul killing.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..imperfect centering- the lessons of the pottery wheel =-.

  • Diana

    Sorry, I got too emotional and cut that first paragraph off. It should end… that the whole purpose of living a human-centered life is relegated to a position of worthless.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Diana,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is definitely an emotional topic, and I’m sure Amy Chua must have known that it would spark a good bit of debate when she wrote the article (actually an excerpt from one of her books). I can’t imagine raising my children without play, creativity, and some level of personal freedom and decision making power. There was a separate companion article that talked about how many Chinese parents are beginning to adopt more Western parenting styles. I think the debate is good and reinforces, as least to me, that balance and common sense are essential.

  • Danielle

    I went to elementary thru high school in an area with many ethnicities. The traditional Chinese (and most Asian) children I knew who were raised the way of this article were very smart, always at the top of their class, never missed an assignment. However,t hey were all lacking one really important thing in their life: I never can recall hearing them laugh. I mean that belly laugh that makes your sides ache later on.

    When I am cooking dinner and I hear my children (all three of them) having that raging belly laugh, I know I am probably going to have a big mess to clean up later, but I cannot help but laugh with them, not even knowing what they are doing. My favorite sound EVER is my childrens laughter. It won’t be when they are named Valedictorian, Honor Roll, First Chair in Violin, when their name is called to graduate from Yale or Harvard, or is named President of the United States. It is their Belly Laughter!

    By the way- One of my children plays the bass guitar and the other plays the drums, because that is what they wanted to play, and they TOTALLY ROCK! Take that China!

      Barrie Davenport

      Your reply made me smile! Laughter, fun, and joy must be part of the mix. It doesn’t matter how accomplished or wealthy you are if you can’t enjoy life. Rock on to you and your talented kids!

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  • Lori Petro

    Interesting discussion. I personally think there are less damaging alternatives to instilling self-discipline and academic success but this is obviously a cultural chasm that is not going to be bridged by one debate.

    Drills, less social activity, denying emotions and using shame may cause academics to rise simply because that is what is culturally acceptable in China. Studies have shown African-American children often grow up to have less “shame” or bad feelings around spankings than do kids of other ethnic groups – mostly because it is so culturally acceptable. However, how kids raised with Chinese parenting styles fare in America may be a different story.

    While Ms. Chua may find no harm in her upbringing, the fact is that it informs her parenting choices, her interpersonal relationships and her ability to manage her fears and stress. It is not WHAT happens to us so much as HOW we integrate our experiences into our adult lives.

    Ultimately we are all unique, some may suffer emotionally and some may not. I have faith that parenting styles are moving toward a focus on relationship and not simply a reflection of our unconscious dreams and fears. “Good” Parenting is not measured by how well our children perform but by how well they live, serve and change the world.

    Lori Petro
    Parent Educator, TEACH through Love
    .-= Lori Petro´s last blog ..Nov 17- TEACH through Love- Conscious Parenting for Progressive Parents =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      “‘Good” Parenting is not measured by how well our children perform but by how well they live, serve and change the world.”
      Amen to that Lori! Thank you for your sensitive and insightful comments.

  • Megan

    I first saw this article in my email from Bloom. I’ve thoroughly read both this article and the WSJ article: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior: Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?”

    I must say that I’m floored at Ms. Chua’s self-superiority. I am not Chinese or Chinese-American; however, I grew up in a household that I would definitely call strict following many of the rules the author sets forth for her children. Ms. Chua’s method seems downright draconian to me. What gets me the most is the subtitle of her article refers to creating “happy kids;” however, she provides absolutely no evidence that her kids are, in fact, happy. I would select the word obedient.

    Ms. Chua’s own recollection of fighting with Lulu over playing a piano piece as being successful dropped my jaw. I’m glad that I don’t have to threaten or physically fight with my daughter for hours on end to get an evening of cuddles or instill a sense of accomplishment. As an adult, I remember similar fights with my parents and I absolutely do not look upon them with any fondness.

    I’ve learned (the hard way) that academic and financial success are so NOT the key to my own happiness. While I have picked up some valuable insight from Ms. Chua, but more of what NOT to do. And Ms. Chua, you can have your “superiority.”

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Megan,
      Thanks for taking the time to read both articles. I was stunned by the Lulu incident as well. It reminded me of Teacher trying to force Helen Keller to eat with a spoon rather than her hands. It may have been necessary in Helen Keller’s case, but I don’t think you have to break a child’s spirit to get them to perform by a certain age. Lulu would have eventually learned the piano piece without the scene. Who cares if it was at 7 or 17?

  • Michelle | Bleeding Espresso

    Great post (and thanks Diana for pointing me here); The Vizier above hits on the heart of the matter for me — it’s all about how a parent defines success. I don’t have children, but I can say with some conviction that I would consider myself a successful parent if I manage to raise a happy, loving, respectful, generous child who actively and strenuously pursues her passions from the time she is old enough to have them until the day she leaves the Earth. These are the things that I have learned to be important, and they would be what I would seek to teach my child.
    .-= Michelle | Bleeding Espresso´s last blog ..My One-Word Theme for 2011- Now =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Well said Michelle. Your future children will be fortunate to have you as a mother. 🙂

  • Frugal Vegan Mom

    Well, I’m not a parent yet (at least for about 6 more weeks I’m not…), but I agree with Lori, it’s not about measuring performance.

    I don’t see why so much emphasis is placed on grades and being “smart”. In the first place, you have to ask how well the grading system actually measures intelligence.

    Besides that, when did being smart ever made someone happy or a better person?

    I don’t think I’ll put too much emphasis on grades with my kid, but would put a lot of emphasis on treating others well and being responsible for your actions. I really couldn’t give a shit if my kid ends up living in a tent with hippies somewhere, as long as they’re happy, being financially responsible, and not doing anything destructive to society.
    .-= Frugal Vegan Mom´s last blog ..Pregnancy Week 33 – and – social lives as we get older =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      As Martin Luther King stated, it is indeed “the content of your character” that really matters. Treating others well, being responsible, and a being a good and happy person go a long way toward success in life. Congratulations on your pending journey into parenthood. As you can see, it is fraught with joy and frustrations!

  • Timaree (freebird)

    I read many years ago in the Wall Street Journal that when all that testing is done it turns out we test all our kids where the other countries test only the kids who can pay for school or who are heading down the college track. That is what lowers our score so much.

    Just remember, creativity has long been America’s strong suit rather than going strictly by the book and being followers. We are a nation of entrepreneurs who need to be able to do things differently and so our ways fit us and theirs doesn’t. There is always a good and bad side to everything and I think we do better than most educators think when they look at the test scores. Enjoy your kids and the opportunities and challenges of the sports and games and wider world view that you provide them. At least here in America we are not looking for robots. The experiences of being on teams or developing their own interests will serve your kids in the long run.

      Barrie Davenport

      Those are reassuring points you bring up. I didn’t know that about international testing scores. Americans have always been mavericks, and I guess we are doing something right since we are such a high achieving country. In the long run, it comes down to what works for an individual family between parents and children. There are many ways to skin a cat!

  • Marci

    Interesting article Barrie.

    I do think we have become overly anxious about our kids and sometimes treating them like they are fragile. I’m all for natural consequences and letting them learn from their own mistakes.

    I think parents have the answers yet all too often defer to the experts. And, I think kids have some of their own answers too, even when we don’t like them 🙂
    .-= Marci´s last blog ..7 Guilt-free Ways to Create Energizing Goals =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Marci,
      I agree — letting kids experience natural consequences is a the best way to teach them. It’s so hard for parents to allow that to happen, but if kids are micro-managed and protected through their young years, they won’t have the necessary coping skills when they get older.

  • Ava

    Take a look at how things are in our schools, and the level of drug abuse and rampant promiscuity among our teens, and you may see that our ‘loving’ “creative” kids are really self indulgent lazy slobs who live at home until they are 30, can’t get or hold a job and are convinced that none of the rules apply to them. Sure, there are successful kids, but it is not because of the american parenting style, it is in spite of it. When the Chinese call the astronomic US debts they hold, we will see how effective our parenting has been.

      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Ava,
      I think that may be true of some teens, but not most. Parental involvement, support, and leadership are essential to raising successful kids, but I don’t think it takes the level of control that Ms. Chua asserts over her kids’ lives. As the old saying goes, “you give kids just enough rope to hang themselves.” It is a constant dance between parents and children, knowing when to give them freedom and when to exert authority. Of course, young kids need more and older kids should need less, but all children need to have some sense of control over their own lives — just as adults do. I think wise parents constantly strive to find this balance.

  • Drusillah


    I stumbled on your post, and it is very interesting. My upbringing from my one parent was similar to the Chinese culture, and from the other parent was the Western method. I hated the authoritative style, and wished for a closer and warmer relationship. Being called names is horrible to me, and I think it has put down my self-esteem very much. It depends on the country that the family lives in, the child’s personality (I took the words to heart), and how the rest of the family and environment behaves. Personally I am supportive of something in between. Loving our children and letting them make mistakes (because they need to take responsibilities on their own, it’s their life), but also not let them loose to do whatever they please. I think instilling values from a young age and teaching them about life’s lessons can help them later on to take on the reigns without the parents’ intervention and pushing. I am still battling with my unhappiness for my childhood, but I hope to overcome it one day for me, and for my future family.
    .-= Drusillah´s last blog ..Post A Week Challenge 2011 =-.

  • Aviva

    Of course Ms Chua, doesn’t allow her girls to attend playdates or sleepovers, after all if they were exposed to “regular” families, they may rebel, and Ms Chua may lose her control.
    I was born to an eastern european family, and while not exactly the same as a chinese upbringing, the similarities rang very familiar. The constant insults, not being allowed to sleepover friends homes, these are things that my sibling and I will never forgive our mother for.
    Ms Chua, in an interview, states that she is married to an american jewish professor who was raised in a more laid back home, but reached equal success. I warn Ms. Chua’s husband, that one day, his daughters nay come to resent his passiveness, in allowing his wife to create the ‘controlled’ home life described.
    A Harvard degree is not “across the board” certification for expertise on parenting, much less anything else. It simply may mean you test well, not that you are grounded or sane, or even intelligent.
    The chinese, while, shown to excel academically, let’s remember live in a closed fearful communist society, where free information is tightly controlled. Those that left that society to live in freedom, quickly forget, and install the same atmospheres in their own homes.

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