Hey, thanks for sharing with me that Wall Street Journal article about "why Chinese mothers are superior." I'm torn about it because there are definitely merits to both "Western" and "Eastern" styles of parenting, and of course, there's a wide spectrum of sub-styles under each. Personally, I just hope that we keep working and trying to be good parents so that our kids will grow up to be happy, healthy and successful individuals.
But what about you -- what do you think of the article?
Dear Ina Ng Aking Mga Anak,
I shared that with you because in all my years reading the Wall Street Journal online, I've never, ever seen an article which has garnered as much comments as it has in such a short period of time. So I'm glad you found it thought-provoking.
|(From WSJ.com: Amy Chua with her kids.)|
In any case, one thing I know is that it's really tough to be a parent. It's particularly more difficult for me: I didn't grow up with a father because, as you know, he died when I was just a baby. So, yeah, it's very difficult. I mean, you're always wondering whether you're doing a good enough job for the kids, being there enough, preparing them well enough for life, shielding them enough, exposing them enough, letting them find their own selves enough, educating them enough, disciplining them enough, pushing them enough, hugging them enough, showing them we love them enough, etc. And that's just for starters!
So you're right: We can only try to do our best. And I'm just actually thankful that you're there to serve as the Ilaw Ng Tahanan, among the many other things you do for our family.
By the way, I think the following poem on parenting by Kahlil Gibran, the third best-selling poet of all time behind only Shakespeare and Lao Tzu, is instructive:
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 childrenGot a question for The Filipino? Email him now at email@example.com.
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.
NOTE: This is still a developing story so I will be posting updates on this topic in the comments section.
Here's Prof. Chua in her appearance at The Today Show:
Q: How do you know you've achieved global immortality and rare celebrity status?
A: If you've had an animation clip made about you by Taiwan-based NMA.
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The Filipina's Take
(15 January 2011)
(15 January 2011)
After reading several articles that discussed the essay, I was left with a very ugly feeling about our very sensationalist American media which obviously put together controversial parts of a book in order to get increased readership by portraying a very explosive angle, regardless of how different it is from what the author originally intended.
The huge number of comments is obviously caused by so many factors. One thing I noticed though is that the most passionate comments came from females. Maybe some will say that women are catty by nature, but it’s obviously more than that. (Actually, without having to open her mouth or write, I’m sure Chua was already making a lot of women feel much less accomplished and small. After all, she’s a fit, good-looking working mom, an Ivy League graduate with a great career as a law professor, who writes books on the side and claims to spend a lot of time with her kids; now, she's also portrayed as having a “superior” parenting style, too?)
It's tough to be a woman in today's modern world. As discussed in an academic paper entitled The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, a study found that “[t]he increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions [for women] have led to an increased likelihood of believing that one’s life is not measuring up.” In other words, women today are faced with ever-increasing pressure to do well across several fronts, which leads to additional stress and unhappiness. Whether intended or otherwise, Chua’s article, despite her subsequent disclaimers, actually makes things worse for some women because it now introduces a purported superior parenting standard that they somehow need to measure up to.
Without reading the book and just judging from the articles and blogs I read, I can say that Amy’s story actually shows the challenges of a parent who was raised with a different set of values ("Chinese") and was faced with the choice of embracing the values of another culture, i.e., those of the larger American society. And by writing about the stark differences of the two “competing” philosophies, Chua, through the article, may have inadvertently hit women belonging to several camps: the stay-at-home moms who now have to contend with another “role model” whom they feel they will inevitably be compared to; the working moms who already feel guilty that they are not doing enough by their kids or spending more time with them; the Asian women who hate their Asian mothers for subscribing to similarly strict parenting techniques; the permissive moms who are already tired of being lectured to for being unable to control their kids; and the other so-called Western moms who are now probably feeling some pressure to rethink their fundamental values. And with China having an economy growing blindingly fast and seemingly accomplishing modern feats which shame the US, Chua’s timing could not be worse for these women. It’s almost like being in a kindergarten playground with a kid sticking her tongue out saying, “See, you’re not good enough!” It's almost not surprising that Chua is getting death threats!
Because each culture comes with its unique traits, passions, values and set of priorities, stereotypes are legion. But these stereotypes, by definition, are not entirely unfounded. Personally, I’ve seen Korean parents, known for being hard-nosed when it comes to academics, shuttle their children to after-school learning centers so that their kids can do extra assignments and stay ahead of the curve. I’ve witnessed a white suburban father, who, to many Asians, represents that baseball-obsessed Caucasian, yell at his 5-year-old in little league, calling the boy an ‘a--’ because the child appeared to have a very low attention span on the field. I’ve seen African American parents, thinking of sports scholarships and pro careers for their kids, shuttle their pre-teens between basketball and football, as well as travel across the country to watch their sons play in tournaments. I’ve seen parents who choose to coach just so they can dictate the number of practices and have better control over picking the team rotation so their kids are paired with the better players. In other words, I’ve seen parents of different colors bend over backwards for their kids because they valued something which they wanted to impart to their children, hoping, like all parents do, for their children to get ahead of their competition.
I do see merit in being strict and teaching your children the value of hard work and perseverance. I also subscribe to the notion that there is no skill that cannot be learned over time; with enough practice, one born without talent can match someone with inborn talent. And I don’t think it helps parents when we take our kids to, say, baseball and at the end of the season, all the kids get a trophy just for participating, ostensibly so that they don’t lose their morale. Whatever happened to giving trophies only to the most valuable player and certificates of participation to the rest?
As a parent, if you don’t teach your kids that it’s not good enough to get a B, what happens when they get their first job and realize that rating, ranking and pay are dependent on their performance? Do you just sit back and encourage mediocrity and hope that they will always just fall in the middle of the pack? Or worse, see them come back home to you because they got fired for underperformance? At that point, it’s already too late.
My point, of course, is that you can’t expect to do well without putting in any effort. Of course, I don’t subscribe to the extreme techniques because I think that at some point you have to strike a balance. Of course, there’s room for creativity and allowing the children to explore other activities. After all, if you want to instill the passion for music, piano and violin are not the only instruments; if they were the only ‘right’ instruments and everybody only played them, none of us will ever enjoy the orchestra. If no one was allowed to go to school plays, none of us will enjoy West End or Broadway musicals.
In any case, being a mom is very difficult, period, and no matter what parenting technique you subscribe to, there will always be a criticism that you will find. We all want the best for our kids and to a certain extent there is a tendency (knowingly and unknowingly) to mold them in our ‘own image and likeness’. In some cases, there is also the burden and hope that they can improve on our lot. The fact that we bother reading about other people’s parenting styles indicates that the topic is important to us, at least enough to look at the debates out there, perhaps hoping to gain a nugget or two from them or get some validation that we are doing something right.
When I was pregnant with my first child, everyone and her grandma were quick to share their opinions about everything, and somehow the advice just never stopped coming, even well after the kids were born. The best advice that I got was to listen to what the other person has to say, think about my personality and own unique ways, and then decide to use or discard the information received as necessary. Because at the end of the day, decent parents will indeed do what they think is right to care for their kids' needs and equip them with the tools and skills they will need for the future. Beyond this, parents can really only just hope that they will end up fortunate enough to have raised happy, healthy individuals who have a good sense of moral, ethical and social values.
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