And much as I hate giving the writer more press, it's not an option to say nothing as, dangerously, she proselytizes to others her "Chinese mothering" strategies. Her piece opens like this:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• 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
• not play the piano or violin.
Oh look, that's my childhood. No, really. Point for point, that is my childhood.
And you know, for a long time it worked. My parents had one daughter acing calculus in tenth grade. Another graduating top of her class. True, school's not that hard when you have Nothing Else to Do.
That was a number of years before I tried to step off a bridge, though.
So here's the thing: I thought about writing a lengthy rebuttal to this article but you know, it's not all that. It's not even all that original. Model minorities have been playing the support role in this Save the Doomed Western Family drama for some time now.
Moreover, if you're reading this column, odds are you're already thoroughly familiar with the potentially horrific effects of Chua's parenting style. It's all around you in your community, and you have friends who are falling apart. But perhaps you are currently too traumatized to explain, for other people's benefit, why they should not purchase and follow her childrearing manual.
If so, I'll try to help by providing a few pithy rejoinders.
Rejoinder number one: It's a high-stakes gamble.
Sometimes this gamble pays off in the long run. And when it does, as another blogger's response has pointed out, it makes you rich. Neurosurgeons, corporate attorneys, and investment bankers have plenty-rich parents, you betcha. And let's be honest here, Asian America does have a disproportionately high number of MDs, JDs, and MBAs. Like I said, school's not that hard if.
But sometimes you lose this gamble, and when you lose, you lose big. Because you've gone all-in. Left the kid no room to make friends, no identity outside of your ambitions, no tools or skills with which to make his or her own decisions in life without you -- and no margin of error.
You have raised this kid to believe that the kind of kid who fails at something is not the kind of kid you want. You have most likely said so to him or her, in no uncertain terms. If you can't have a child worth rubbing in your friends' faces, you'd rather have no child at all. And, your kid believes this of you. Because -- not every day, and maybe never all of you -- but in some part of your heart it's true: you would throw your child away.
Kids can't be bluffed, you know. The threats only work if, in some terrifying corner, you mean them.
As others have pointed out, Chua's kids are still young.
Which leads me to rejoinder number two: We'll see.
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p.s. Thanks to our readers for sending the article this way.
Comments, questions, or stories can be posted below -- or sent privately to Sam at aamms[at]hyphenmagazine[dot]com.
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