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Chinese Mothers: Theory and Practice

Chinese Mothers: Theory and Practice

There was a recent article in the WSJ by Amy Chua detailing the superiority of Chinese mothers. “[The author was] using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. [As s]ome Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents qualify too.” Basically, being a Chinese mother entails never letting one’s child “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.”

I think there is a lot to be said for being a strict parent; it certainly isn’t easy to discipline a child. However, the world Chua describes seems absolutely unpleasant for all parties involved. I can only speak on the receiving end of child-rearing to say that I don’t think I would have made the choices I did if I was solely focused on parentally-defined success. Furthermore, my time at schools like NYU & Cornell have led me to encounter the products of these types of “Chinese mothers.” Most of these children, upon coming into contact with things like alcohol and having to engage in social behavior, don’t always fare well. Also, I suspect it might also be hard to be satisfied with oneself, despite a high GPA, since there is – naturally – always room for improvement.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.



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I'll ask my mother if I can post a comment.

While in college, I actually knew several students who were products of actual Chinese mothers of this sort, and all with one exception, were serious binge drinkers, all were anti-social types. I've known others since then, and had friends and co-workers who relayed experiences with now adult, children of such types of Chinese mothers, and I can't help but believe that these people are content, happy and stable. I've read the article, and can't believe Ms. Chua, she's living on another planet.

My son recently graduated from an intensive, complete immersion Mandarin Chinese course of study.

I have been known for being strict with my kids as they were growing up — we were the "mean" parents who enforced the rules, didn't let underage drinking or drugs at parties held in our house, and for having a high bar for achievement for our kids. Weekends were for homework, extracurricular self-study, mandatory chores and THEN fun.

My older three, who are now grown and doing well in the world, thanked me for our adherence to discipline and standards, even though at the time as teens they resented our "uncoolness".

My son said his Chinese teachers called me a "Tiger Mother" because it is clear that he was raised in a home with expectations of a strong self-driven work ethic and discipline. This was the first time I had heard this explanation.

That being said, even by Chinese standards, Ms. Chua is over the top, bordering on abuse.

Rather than complimenting her as a "Tiger Mother", a term of admiration in Chinese culture, she's more like the Sino version of Mommy Dearest.

From first hand knowledge I know at Harvard when many students shop a class and see a majority of Asian students in the class they drop it. It would just take too much work to get a good grade in that environment.

When I was young the Jewish kids I knew went to Hebrew school on Saturday. I was just happy I didn't have to go. Many of those same Jewish kids went on to be very successful adults. Now in a place like Ithaca, NY the Chinese community has Chinese language classes for their children on Saturday. On Saturdays some kids are hanging out at the mall or playing video games. Other kids are learning a second language.

There are more children studying classical music like violin or piano in China than there are children in the United States.

Asian families tend to regard education very seriously. Homework is the responsibility of both the student and the family. Many times Asian families do homework together until it is all complete.

Correct me if I'm wrong. Doesn't Cornell, like the California state higher education system and other schools, have a limit to the number of Asian students it admits so as to leave room for other students.

My brother-in-law works for a very large high tech electronics company. The vast majority of their new electrical engineering hires are Asian, South Asian or European. Native born non Asian Americans are a very small minority of new hires.

When was the last time you saw a fat Asian?

Chua, possibly, has never lived in China. If she had, she'd know that lots of Chinese parents purchase their children way through because, as China becomes wealthy, Chinese parents are buying all the toys that Western parents do for their kids, including good grades. The average Chinese kid busts his butt all through high school and copies his way through university. University is a coast for them cuz all the energy is expended getting there.

Viator, I've seen lots of fat Asians … in China.

I'm not sure if my trackbacks are reaching you. So here is my thoughts on this article:


I've seen a lot of chubby Asians – including some on my campus (I teach at a small liberal arts college in Upstate New York).

One of the things that amazes me is parental faith in childhood genius. It's one thing to expect and force your children to work hard, but not all of them have what it takes to do more than be competent piano players (note that I didn't write 'musicians') or scientists. On the other hand, if you don't take 8-10 years of lessons you'll never even be very competent….

When I was in grad school in Atlanta I taught the Greco-Latin-Roots-of-English unit at a Chinese enrichment school. You know, most of their other classes were Mandarin language and Chinese culture courses, and mine was classic SAT prep. Those were some hard-driving parents (and they paid well), but far from all of the students were driven.

I read that article and I can tell you it is greatly disturbing and I find this mother not a little abusive. I wonder what this Yale Law professor would have done if she had had a child with a learning or developmental disability to raise. After reading this woman's view on child rearing and how ignorant she actually is I can honestly say that my oldest son who has aspergers syndrome and wants to apply to law school will not be applying to Yale if this inadequate human being is the level of educational professional that they employ. But then again the law profession isn't exactly welcoming to those with disabilities is it in the first place, ironic don't you think considering they are the ones charged with protecting the civil rights of the disabled.

I don't see an issue of setting a high bar for your kids, matter of fact I think it is a good thing. But, this takes that to a whole new level.

We are talking of the country that rank 95 th in GDP per capita? And were 60 m were killed. Many of the as part of a a campaign to get rid of the baggage of custom