Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior
In the article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua, we hear about her experiences with the Chinese way of bringing up your children, and how this has affected her and her family. In the beginning of the text, we are told that the writer, Amy Chua, is a professor at Yale Law School and that she has two daughters. Furthermore, we hear that she sees herself as a so-called “Chinese mother” (l.22). Chinese mothers do not necessarily need to be Chinese, but it is a term to describe a very strict parent with unusual ways of educating their child. A Chinese mother is, in contrast to a “Western parent” (l.25), very focused on their children’s behavior and academic level, and therefore they devote more time to educating their children, compared to Western parents. This type of parenting is what Amy Chua describes throughout the article. In this paper, I am going to analyze and comment on her article. Part of the paper’s focus will be on how the writer engages the reader and on possible consequences of Amy Chua’s methods of upbringing.
Amy Chua has two daughters, Sophia and Louisa, and their childhood is very different to many of their friends’ and classmates’. They are not allowed to have play dates, attend sleepovers, watch TV and other things considered fun. Instead, they have to focus on academic skills such as playing the piano and being the number one student in class. At first, this might seem strict and a bit harsh, but Chua argues that when children get good at something the tasks and exercises become fun and exciting to do. Furthermore, she claims that by making children work hard and long on something, and with success, it builds up their self-esteem and confidence more than anything else does, “This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more”(l.52-53). So as a result of this coercion, her children are not only happy about what they have to do right now, but also what they have to do in the future.
Another point Amy Chua mentions in her article is the way that Chinese mothers are able to talk to their kids. According to her, Chinese mothers can get away with saying things that Western parents cannot. To exemplify this point, she uses an example from her own childhood, which seems similar to Sophia and Louisa’s. Apparently, Amy Chua was disrespectful toward her mother, which resulted in her father calling her “garbage.” This caused Chua to be ashamed and regretful of what she had done. Because of this experience, the writer also used this word with her own daughter when she acted without respect. To Amy Chua this is perfectly normal, and it seems that she is very happy about the fact that she is able to say exactly what she means, “Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word…”(l.66.68)
Amy Chua explains why Chinese mothers are able to get away with this way of bringing up their children. She argues that the general understanding in the Chinese families is that the children owe their parents everything. Therefore, they have to make a great effort to “repay” their parents by making them proud and happy. Moreover, the Chinese mothers believe that they know what is best for their children, which is the reason why they cannot do “normal” kid activities. This is what Amy Chua has based her method of upbringing on, and she really does believe that this is the best way to act towards your children. However, her husband, Jed, is of another belief. He is, what Chua calls, a Western parent, and he actually does not believe that the children need to repay their parents. “They don’t even choose to be born. It’s parents who foist life on their kids, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide for them. Kids don’t owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids” (l.108-110), he once told her. Nevertheless, it seems that Amy Chua has the last word when it is about the kids.
Amy Chua is successful at engaging the reader and she manages to capture the readers. This is done by creating a contrast between the Chinese mothers and the Western parents, where the assumed audience, as primarily Western, gets a little provoked by her critique of Western child rearing. However, this is not enough to make the reader hate or dislike the writer, but it is enough to pique the reader’s interest. Furthermore, she is good at using attention-grabbing examples that emphasize her postulates. All in all, this makes the article very exciting to read, and you do not get bored in the reading process.
When reading this article, the reader, on one side, gets a feeling of a very cold and military like home, where they do not care about each other’s feelings and interests. This feeling is emphasized by the way that the writer speaks to and acts towards her children, which, as mentioned earlier, is very different from the “normal” or Western way. On the other side, Amy Chua does actually seem to have a sensible reason to her method of upbringing. When talking about how her youngest daughter had a hard time learning a new piece on the piano because her fingers could not handle two different patterns, she proves that the “Chinese method” can be successful in some situations. By forcing her to play the piece over and over again, she actually becomes able to play it to perfection, and she gets so excited about it that she forgets all about the hard and excruciating work. It says in the text, “The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts. Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it” (l.153-155) and “Mommy, look—it’s easy!” After that, she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn’t leave the piano.”(l.161-162). These quotes are examples of two things that are in favor of the Chinese method of upbringing. The first thing is that Chinese mothers are willing to make a huge effort in the process of helping their children. To Amy Chua, this meant to work day and night in order to have her daughter play that piece. The second thing is that Chinese mothers believe that “not-fun” activities become “fun” when you are good at them. In this case, Louisa, understandably, hated the learning process, but she loved it when she mastered the piece. It made her want to play it again and again. Furthermore, you should remember that the writer is a professor at one of the best universities in the United States, and therefore you should think that her methods, in some way, were scientifically proved.
Even though there are parts of Amy Chua’s method that seem reasonable, it is easy to find other parts that are much more illogical and unreasonable. Moreover, it is possible that some of the methods and tricks would have a negative effect on the children in the future. A consequence could be that the children’s mind is so controlled and delimited that they do not want to pursue their own dreams and ideas. In many of these Chinese families, the parents choose the occupation of their children, and it is very unlikely that the children have a say in their futures.
As far as I can see, Amy Chua certainly has some interesting points, but overall I really do believe that it is the Western method of upbringing that suits children best. In this method, children are able to fulfill their dreams, and they are allowed to experience all sorts of activities and thereby learn new things every day. On the other side, reports show that Chinese school kids on average are doing better in school than for example European kids. If this is reason enough to treat your children like “garbage,” I do not know. Yet, one thing I am sure of; every parent does whatever he or she thinks is best for his or her child.