Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Superiority Complex

The Wall Street Journal published a controversial article this past weekend entitled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. The article was written by Amy Chua, a second-generation Chinese American, mother of two and Yale law professor who provided the recipe for breeding straight A students who are music prodigies. At last count, the online version of the article had prompted close to 4000 comments. On the whole, the dialogue it incited is interesting. Naturally, some of the reaction is angry and some of it is funny. I particularly enjoyed Wendy Sachs' response in the Huffington Post, considering Chinese Moms vs. Jewish Moms.

Though the article went viral, my source was not my computer. I heard about it on Saturday when one of our daughters happened to pick up the Wall Street Journal and start reading this particular article. She was mesmerized. She felt awful for the kids described in the article who could not have playdates or sleepovers or go to summer camp; who couldn't participate in a school play (I'm not sure if this particular child of ours will ever be in a school play but she reserves her right to participate); who couldn't watch television. She ached for the kids whose mother called them garbage and fatty. I confess to having had a visceral reaction to some of these points as well. Still, I chose to focus on the interesting and thought-provoking nature of the article and Professor Chua's parenting style more than anything. Chua's parenting borrows from the Gladwellian approach (as in Malcolm) that suggests anyone can become good at anything if they put in the time and work really hard. I reminded our daughter how much I believe in her, including her ability to do well in school and we both agreed this is a happy point to glean from the article.

All told, I think my kids are relieved to hear that even if Professor Chua is doing everything right, which almost necessarily means I'm doing everything wrong, I'm comfortable with the parenting choices Jeff and I make. Usually. I don't know how any parent can be certain they're making the right choices all of the time but I do know that we make the choices we believe to be best; choices we feel we could defend if necessary. At the core of every decision affecting our children is tremendous love for each of them and profound belief in each of them. Despite the altered mindset, I have no doubt that Amy Chua also believes she is making the best decisions for her children; that she loves and believes in them fiercely and unapologetically. To be sure, none of us has all the answers and I appreciate Professor Chua's honesty. It's okay to point out the differences in approaches and mindsets, to recognize that sometimes culture and tradition play a role and to learn from one another. Parenting is tough - it no longer takes just a village; rather it takes a global community.

Rarely does this happen but I have a single favorite book about loving my children and a single favorite book about believing in them and helping them explore themselves and their potential. For love, I am a huge fan of Sam McBratney's classic, Guess How Much I Love You? Big and Little Nutbrown Hare get me every time!

Nothing sums up the belief I have in the potential of each of our daughters like Dr. Seuss' Oh the Places You'll Go! As difficult as the road ahead may be, I have every confidence that each our three beautiful daughters will find her own path and she will move mountains. This book always reminds me that I can do anything too!

As far as Amy Chua's article goes, let me be clear - for the sake of my own children who will read this and wonder if it means I'm banning playdates, sleepover and summer camp - I believe that a child is so much more than a grade on a test or a report card and my personal belief is in the importance of nurturing and raising a child to be a whole, independent, capable and responsible person. I believe in creativity and I really do believe that everyone is special in their own way.

1 comment:

  1. every one who knows your kids knows that you and Jeff having the right parenting choices