Friday, January 14, 2011

Chinese moms could use a healthy helping of unschooling. And maybe study the Urhu too.

Seriously, this is coming from a place of compassion for these mothers, because I've been there.
I'm referring to the recent article by Amy Chua, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, which is causing a sensation around the internet due to the author's positing, to Western minds at least, brutal child rearing techniques-Chinese mom style.

I sympathize with the author because although I'm not a Chinese mom, I do have those tendencies.

I'm the first to admit that when my kids were little I tried many times to force them to practice their instruments-using bribery and threats.

Honestly, I'm betting we all feel like forcing our kids to do stuff they don't want to; "Just shut up and do what I tell you to do you."

But if you truly hold with this model then for heavens sake, give the job to someone else to do.

Like the teacher or the benefactor, or the mentor. Not the parent.  Never the parent. There is far too much at stake when a parent takes on that role.

What saved me (and my kids)? Unschooling.

I still struggle with the urge to impose my values, but I am reigned in by a stronger belief- that every person should own their life.

Supporting your child, helping them to not 'give up' when the going gets tough,as Chua says- and denigrates Western parents who she thinks quit too easily- is one thing. Forcing them to follow YOUR (the parent's) interests and values, (for their own good,naturally) is another.

If as Chua states, this is is how to raise 'successful' children then I would suggest we redefine what success means: and on whose terms.

Many people have pointed out (in response to this article) that as an ethnic group, Chinese women have a disproportionately high suicide rates:

Tragically, it could be that these young women have given up hope- sorry. Their mothers' hope. What could be worse than enslavement?

Chua concludes:

Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment.
 By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.
Ironically, while I agree that for the most part "Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging their true passions," they don't go far enough. Schooling gets in the way.

While I'm with Chua (and other Chinese moms) that the best way to protect children is by "preparing them for the future.. and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence," we part ways when it comes down to the methods.

And for the most part, as far as I can see, good parents, Chinese or Western want the best for their child; but both Chinese and Western parents still want their definition of what is best for that child.


Amber said...

Yeah, I couldn't help but jump straight to digging up info on adult satisfaction/suicide rates when I first read this article too. Sure they can shred the violin but at what cost?

Kelly said...

As usual, you've hit it on the head. Great response.

Jingle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rfs said...

@Amber and Kelly-thanks for the comments. I think that once we become fixated on a thing, no matter what, the outcome is tainted negatively with the residue of that fixation.That is the cost I think you are speaking about Amber. I wonder what her daughters have to say?

Anonymous said...

I'm a prof at a local college and every new semester, when I look at the list of names for the new students and I see Chinese names I feel trepidation. The parents spend huge amounts of money to send the kids over from Hong Kong and basically what happens is that they can't manage the change. No parents to tell them what to do-they don't know how to handle it. They are not self directed at all; they stick together in clumps and will not participate outside of their group. And they will go to no ends to get the grade-they cheat. The end result is more important than the process. Often it is all too much, and they'll drop out of the program. Disheartening.

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