Well, I am the daughter of Chinese parents, which I think gives me some sort kind of authority on this issue. The opinion article by Amy Chua, which came with the incendiary headline, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” appeared Jan. 8 — almost two weeks ago — right before her memoir from which the article was adapted was released. People are still talking about it.
There are ranges of opinions. Among them is the question whether Chua actually represents the modern Asian approach to parenting. While angry “Westerners” quickly defended their own parenting style of nurture and leniency, some angry “Asian” parents say that Chua most likely represents overachieving, suburban, upper-class elites.
Indeed, there is a stereotype of Asian parents that closely resemble what Chua describes in her WSJ article — if not her book. Also, testimony from former Tiger Cubs reveal that such parenting techniques were also used on them.
I myself was not a Tiger Cub. My parents always expected me to do well in school and wanted me to be the best I could be. I was gently pushed. Questioned whether going to hang out with friends was worthy of my time. Disciplined when I was out of line. Unfortunately, I never won (meaningful) awards. I wasn’t valedictorian (my school didn’t even have them!). And now, instead of being in medical school developing cures and becoming a rock star doctor, knowing that I will buy a multi-million dollar house in a gated neighborhood within the next five years, I am goofing off in China working for a “two-bit website” that doesn’t care for or respect my informed opinions.
But I’m also just one example. There is this story in the Global Times, which appeared not long before Chua’s Wall Street Journal article (excuse the crass headline). How’s this for Tiger Parents?
For parents who love him more than anyone else on earth, they sure had a funny way of showing it to Sun Liang.
They began intensely monitoring Sun at age 5 when he started painting and calligraphy, lashing him with a leather belt whenever he failed to meet their exalted expectations.
“Life is only meaningful for those who achieve real success!” they shouted at Sun, and “You’re screwed if you can’t stand out from the common herd!” whenever he failed to ace an exam.
There were screaming arguments and physical fights, suicide attempts and nagging feelings of never being good enough. Now there is backlash from the now-grown children, which in the article takes the form of an “anti-parents” support group on a popular website.
Am I the best I can be? Is anyone? I don’t think so. I think that would require a lot of effort, and I’m fine with not being the best I could be. I think my parents are too. Do I still want to be better? Of course. But at a certain point, the happiness-per-degree-of-betterment ratio starts to get less and less, and soon it’s just not worth hours upon hours of non-stop effort.